All bacteria are bad?

Remember Robert O. Young?

He’s the purveyor of only the finest quackery. Note that, by “finest,” I mean the most highly entertaining, the sort of utter twaddle that makes me laugh out loud when I read it. Whether it’s his claim that alkalinization is the cure for basically all disease, his characterizing sepsis as not being due to bacterial infection, his description of cancer as a mechanism to protect the body from “rotten cells” spoiled by acid and liquified, or his nonsensical attacks on Andrew Weil (his being one of the only men who can make Weil look reasonable by comparison), Robrt O. Young never fails to bring home the woo, often in ways that are utterly hilarious to anyone with a modicum of understanding of science and science-based medicine. Unfortunately, that laughter, as intense as it is when I’m reading the latest bit of Young’s woo, dies on my lips when I find out that he’s treated actual patients. Most recently, the death of Kim Tinkham in December made it hard for me to have anything but utter contempt for Young, given that his nostrums had tempted her away from her one best shot at beating her breast cancer.

My dislike of Young aside, I have to admit that the old quack got my attention when I saw in my Google alerts a message about a post by him entitled Antibiotic, Probiotics and Enzymatic Supplementation Is A Rotting Ideology! You know, from the title, I almost thought that Young might have come around to halfway science-based thinking. After all, I’m hard-pressed to think of any exceptions to enzymatic “supplementation” being pure pseudoscience and quackery, given that proteins don’t survive contact with the digestive system. Note that I distinguish “enzymatic supplementation” from the legitimate science-based use of pancreatic enzymes by people who have true exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. When woo-meisters say “enzyme supplementation,” they can mean any number of quack modalities, such as the Gonzalez protocol. Sadly, it becomes fairly obvious fairly quickly that criticizing quack remedies is not what Young is about. Fairly quickly, as in right from the beginning:

Intestinal bacterium and fungi are like parasites – they feed on your energy and eliminate their acidic wastes or enzymatic juices inside you leaving you sick and tired.

There is NO such thing as good bacteria or good fungi/yeast. They are the remnants of what use to be healthy organized plant, animal or human matter. They are the evidence of a sick body, a sick mind and a sick spirit. Bacteria, yeast, mold, algae, mushrooms and their waste products called enzymes are born in us and from us.

There’s so much wrong in these two brief paragraphs that it’s hard to know where to start; so let’s just start with Young’s claim that there is no such thing as good bacteria, fungi, or yeast. In fact, most of the bacteria, fungi, and yeast that inhabit our bodies are either beneficial or neutral; our digestive systems wouldn’t function properly without the bacteria that live in our colons. They’re responsible for breaking down some polysaccharides, starches, fibers into forms that can be absorbed. Without these wee beasties, there would be a lot of the components of our food that we’d have a hard time absorbing. They even produce some vitamins and facilitate their absorption.

But that’s not all. The normal gut flora play a major role in preventing infection by crowding out pathogenic bacteria. That’s one reason why antibiotics can result in severe diarrheal diseases. They kill off the “good bacteria,” leaving the “bad bacteria” to proliferate. They can also stimulate the development of the gut’s mucosal immune system. Truly, it is a symbiotic relationship between us humans and our bacterial flora, which colonize our guts shortly after we are born and stay with us for the rest of our lives.

Not that that stops Young from writing:

Does the pool of water need bacteria, yeast or algae to stay pure, clean and healthy? And yet these organisms are found in stagnant putrefying water. They are found at the end stage of what use to be healthy organized plant, animal and human matter and now born out of decaying, putrefying, and rotting matter in their own enzymatic acidic waste products or urine.

Bacteria, yeast, mold and algae are the symptom of decaying matter NOT the cause of that decay. The idea of ingesting these biological transformations comes from a sick polluted gut/mind.

Enzymes are the waste products or urine from decaying matter. All antibiotics are enzymes derived from decaying or rotting matter. For example, penicillin is an acidic waste product or enzyme from the yeast penicillium. When you ingest any antibotic you are ingesting an acidic waste product of fermentation. It is a poison. It is an acid. And it will compromise the delicate pH balance of the gut, the blood and the tissues which are all alkaline.

Ah, yes, the “stagnant pool” analogy. I should have remembered! Young is a follower of Antoine Béchamp. He’s a germ theory denialist. Béchamp, as you may remember, was a contemporary of Louis Pasteur who proposed a competing hypothesis for the cause of infectious disease, which he dubbed the pleomorphic theory. The concept he championed was that bacteria do not cause disease but are rather a manifestation of disease. In other words, diseased tissues produce bacteria, arising from structures that Béchamp called microzymas, which to him referred to a class of enzyme. Béchamp postulated that microzymas are normally present in tissues and that their effects depended upon the cellular terrain. Of course, as we all know, ultimately Pasteur’s ideas won out based on evidence, experimentation, and clinical observation, relegating Béchamp to more or less a historical footnote. In fairness, it should be remembered that, 150 year ago, it wasn’t entirely clear who was correct, Pasteur or Béchamp. Given the technology and tools of the time, it was not a trivial matter to determine where bacteria arose, although it didn’t take long before experiments and methodology were developed that pretty much put Béchamp’s concepts to bed for good.

At least, until they were resurrected over 100 years later by quacks like Robert O. Young, who opines:

You don’t get old you mold. You rot. You decay. You become the very bacteria, yeast, fungi, algae and mold you are creating with your acidic lifestyle and diet – which includes the ingestion of morbid acidic matter and their acidic enzymatic waste products.

And the medical and health care world calls the ingestion of these morbid transformations and their acidic waste products called enzymes, nutrition!

Young is someone who’s expert at sounding as though he knows what he’s talking about with regard to science, but it’s an act, a sham. His misunderstanding of biochemistry and physiology is epic. He doesn’t know what an enzyme really is. He doesn’t accept what scientists have accepted for well over 125 years, namely the germ theory of infectious disease. He thinks he understands metabolism and acid-base physiology, but makes nonsensical statements about them. He makes even sillier statements about gastric physiology:

In the mouth, the salivary glands start secreting sodium bicarbonate, to raise the alkalinity of the food and to neutralize or buffer the food enzymes or acids. The process of alkalizing the food continues in the stomach as the stomach lining releases sodium bicarbonate to alkalize the food. Yes, for every molecule of sodium bicarbonate produced to alkalize the food you ingest a molecule of hydrochloric acid is also produced. But, the hydrochloric acid never touches or should never come in contact with the food you eat. The sodium bicarbonate produced in the lining of the stomach rises to meet the food as the hydrochloric acid falls into the gastric pits of the stomach away from the food. Hydrochloric acid is the WASTE PRODUCT of sodium bicarbonate production and will destroy the life or electron potential of the food. That is why you find residues of hydrochloric acid in the stomach after the food has taken up all the alkaline sodium bicarbonate and left for the small intestine. The hydrochloric acid in the stomach is the evidence that the food has been alkalized and is on its way to the intestines for transformation into stem cells and then red blood cells. The primary site for stem cell and red blood cell production is in the crypts of the intestinal villi.

Uh, no. Epithelial cells lining the stomach don’t secrete nearly enough bicarbonate to neutralize the hydrochloric acid in the stomach; it’s not until the duodenum that the GI tract secretes enough bicarbonate to neutralize all that acid. It’s not the function of the bicarbonate-secreting cells in the stomach to neutralize all that acid, anyway. Their purpose is protection; they secrete bicarbonate ions and mucus to protect themselves from damage from the acidic environment, which is essential for converting the gastric enzyme pepsinogen to pepsin and for activating pepsin as a proteolytic enzyme. Young also has a rather odd view of how the body absorbs its nutrients from food. He seems to think that somehow food is magically transformed into both stem cells and erythroblasts:

As the food enters the small intestine in a liquefied alkaline state it falls into the crypts of the intestinal villi to be transformed into the new stem cells that will become the new erythroblast, and the new erythrocyte or red blood cell. These new cells are then taken up into blood circulation via the portal vein and the inferior vena cava to the heart for oxygenation and general circulation.

Funny, but I was always taught in medical school that hematopoiesis took place mainly in the bone marrow. And what’s all this stuff about food being transformed immediately into stem cells and erythroblasts? On a metaphorical level I suppose that’s true (sort of), but that doesn’t appear to be what Young is saying. Even more depressingly, since I had never heard this claim before, I did a bit of Googling. Take a look at what I found when I Googled “erythroblast production intestinal villi.” It’s truly depressing. The number one link is entitled Where Do Your Red Blood Cells Come From?, which states in its first paragraph, “In spite of what the vast majority of the medical community believes to be fact, my research indicates that the primary location for red blood cell production is NOT in your bone marrow.”

Hmmm. This guy sounds a lot like Robert O. Young.

Be that as it may, there’s lots more where that came from, which is truly depressing. As quacky as he is, Robert O. Young has lots of company.