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Inflammation and infection

One of the recurring themes of this book is that we take in things from around us, then make them our own so that they become useful to us. This is how we build up our body and develop our personality. As we grow into adulthood, the body needs to change constantly. During an inflammation, great changes take place. So it is no coincidence that childhood is the time in our life where we experience the greatest number of fevers. Hippocrates saw the inflammation process as a digestion of diseased material in the body. The raised temperature helps this digestion process - the diseased material is 'conquered', and then what remains of it can be adapted to fit the needs of the body. What can not be adapted will be discharged or expelled. This, of course, is similar to the breaking down of food in the digestive tract, which enables absorption and integration of the useful parts of food into our body. Food that can not be transformed to benefit the body is excreted.

It is important to distinguish between inflammation and infection. Inflammation is in general a healing process (this healing process is stagnated in chronic inflammation, of course). When bacteria and viruses are involved, only then can we talk of an infection. Nowadays we believe that infection is caused by bacteria and viruses. It is generally assumed that bacteria and viruses cause disease, but is this actually true? Let's take a closer look at a pimple or spot as an example of infection. This comes about when a grease-producing gland of the skin becomes blocked. When the grease can not be expelled from this gland, it will become prone to infection by bacteria. Infections always happen where bodily substances have come to a stand still. The same thing happens in nature. The mosquito that spreads malaria breeds best in stagnant water. Mosquitos have no chance of reproducing in flowing streams. So, living substance on the verge of expulsion or death becomes the growth medium for bacteria that break down (digest) the organic tissue. This shows that conditions in the body create a breeding ground for bacteria or viruses. Perhaps we can say that bodily circumstances call forth these microbes. In other words, it is not the bacteria that cause the disease! Often these bacteria are living in the body anyway. They can only cause a disease when certain conditions are met. Other factors that influence the course of an infection are, for example: constitution, diet, general state of health, climate and emotions such as fear and anxiety. We could argue that bacteria and viruses help to break down bodily substances that are of no use to us any more. So, we actually might need the help of these germs to transform certain areas of the body. They help to adapt these areas to meet new requirements, and enable us to become more healthy so that we are more able to express our individuality. Viewed in this light, it is important to support the illness-process in such a way that it can improve the situation, rather than to suppress the inflammation with painkillers or drugs that bring down the body temperature.

As a person, we develop our individuality during our lifetime and acquire new skills, understanding and wisdom. We gain these by overcoming struggles in our life. The same applies to the body. As it grows and matures, it needs to overcome certain struggles too, in order to remain a healthy vehicle. These struggles of the physical body should not be seen in a negative light, because they help to transform and adapt the growing and maturing soul. Childhood illnesses not only influence the body, but also the child's personality. Parents often observe that their child has changed after having had measles, for example. He or she might have become more confident and self-aware. In small children, we may notice a sudden leap in their development. They might acquire new skills like crawling, walking, or talking. Look out for these subtle but definite changes in your child, after they have come through an infection.

Research has shown that common childhood illnesses have a protective effect against atopic (allergic) conditions such as asthma, eczema and hay fever. Younger siblings in a family are, of course, constantly being infected by their older siblings, but are less prone to developing chronic atopic illnesses! So childhood illnesses can be seen in a positive light, physically as well as developmentally. It goes without saying that there are always cases when this transformation process turns into destruction, as in dramatic cases of meningitis. This needs drastic treatment, but in general it is important to support the process of illness so that it can resolve itself in a way which benefits your development of body, soul and spirit.

Recommended Reading: Anthroposophical Medicine. An extension of the art of healing. Victor Bott. Rudolf Steiner Press ISBN 0 85440 323 X (translated from the French Medecine Anthroposophique, Un elargissement de l'art de guerir)

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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction

  2. How potentized remedies work

  3. Breathing and circulation

  4. Asthma symptoms explained

  5. The digestive system

  6. The nervous system  

  7. How alcohol affects the nervous system and liver

  8. How opiates act like a dam

  9. Inflammation and infection

  10. Fever

  11. The common cold

  12. Earache

  13. Hints and tips