Most of us do not know much about Bulgaria because it was a communist country within the “Iron Curtain” of the Soviet era. Since the downfall of communism and the switch to democracy, it slowly but surely rose up from being a poor country to one that is developed enough to qualify for inclusion in the European Union, which it did in January of this year.
After being inaccessible for so long, it is now being “invaded” by European tourists. The resort cities of Varna and Burgas on the Black sea coast are favourite vacation and convention destinations. The beaches are lined with hotels and resorts, and at this time, they are all full.
While the standard of living is still below us, its rapid pace of development and the inflow of tourist dollars mean that they will catch up with the rest of Europe very fast. So if you want to have a holiday by the Black Sea or ski on the mountain slopes near Sofia ( in winter ), do it now while it is still relatively cheap.
The capital city, Sofia, is nestled at the foot of the Vitosha mountain, which is a popular destination for skiing and other winter sports. In fact, last winter, it was one of the few ski destinations that had enough snow while the rest of Europe languished from the effects of global warming. I visited the ski resort at the mountain top, but as it was nearly summer, there were only patches of snow to remind us of its true identity.
I also discovered that Bulgaria is rich with healing natural springs and refreshing mountain streams. The capital city Sofia is in fact sitting on a huge mineral water source. Some of the hotels have swimming pools and spas that are fed by the natural spring water below their foundations. These health-giving natural springs are responsible for the rich and nutritious fruits and veggies which are produced in abundance here.
Bulgarians eat a lot of meat, cheese and yoghurt. But while most meat-eaters are less healthy and have shorter life-spans, Bulgarians are known to have a longer life expectancy. Their secret lies in the healing natural springs, and the special bacteria that ferment their yoghurt.
Bulgarian women are arguably the most beautiful on this planet. They have perfect features, a mixture of European geometry, and Eastern mystery. Bulgaria is at the eastern part of Europe, bordering Romania, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey, and its people have the combined features of the Slavs, Greeks and Turks. They all look like stunning Eurasians. And they are obsessed with beauty. No wonder this small country of only 8 million people is the home of some of the best cosmetic surgeons in the world.
Since I can’t talk too much about pretty girls in this column, I will instead tell you the story about the Bulgarian bacteria.
THE BULGARIAN FRIENDLY BACTERIA
Dr Ilya Metchnikoff was a Russian naturopathic physician who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his discovery of how our white blood cells fight infections. Later in his life, he set out to find the secret to longevity. He noticed that people who lived in the Balkan mountains and ate a lot of yoghurt lived much longer than others. His study concluded that it was the friendly bacteria ( probiotics ) that gave them longevity. He reasoned that the good bacteria displaced the bad or pathogenic bacteria from their intestines, and thus reduced their exposure to infections and toxins, which in the long term, affects overall health and lifespan. This good bacteria is called lactobacillus bulgaricus. No prize for guessing where it originated from! Over 500 different probiotics have now been identified.
But 100 years ago, he was ridiculed for his theory. Even though he was a Nobel laureate, the doctors and scientific community rejected his concept of auto-intoxication, whereby food which is not adequately digested is not absorbed, but instead become fermented or putrefied by the “bad” bacteria, producing toxins, while multiplying the bad bacterial population. This leads to poor health, diseases, cancer, and a shortened lifespan.
We now know that he was right. Studies have shown that probiotics are essential for our health from birth, and throughout life. Probiotics not only maintain the health of the intestinal tract, but also the genito-urinary tract and the skin. Probiotics reduce bronchitis and asthma in children, and can prevent or treat a variety of skin diseases.
Meat eaters who do not chew their food enough, and do not have enough digestive enzymes ( either due to old age, or due to not eating enough raw foods ) are most vulnerable to chronic poisoning from bacterial putrefaction. Poorly digested starches and carbohydrates, on the other hand, become bad through fermentation. It is not difficult to understand why colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer. It must be related to the continual exposure of the colorectal linings to toxins, just as exposure to cigarette-smoke toxins cause 90% of lung cancers.
While naturopaths and nutritional healers have been recommending probiotics since Dr Metchnikoff’s discovery, it is only in the last few years that our doctors have accepted this and are now prescribing probiotics supplements, or using probiotics as therapy. Better late than never!
THE GIFT OF HEALTH
The first gift that a healthy mother gives to her child that is delivered normally is a dose of the good bacteria as the baby passes through her vagina, provided that her vagina is healthy. The friendly bacteria that maintains the health of the vagina was in fact the first species of probiotics identified in the human. Lactobacillus vaginalis was discovered by Dr Doderlain, a gynecologist, and so the bacteria is often called “Doderlain’s bacteria”. This bacteria, together with the antibodies passed by the mother in the womb, and the antibodies, immunoglobulins, transfer factors and other immune boosters in the colostrum and milk, are crucial to the newborn’s health and defence against infections. Mothers with infected vaginas, on the hand, give their babies bacterial, yeast, fungal and parasitic infections as the welcoming gift to this world.
7 CHANNELS OF DETOXIFICATION
Dr Metchnikoff’s brilliance had also contributed to another important discovery. He realized that the body would recycle toxins that it cannot excrete until it can be neutralized, or an alternative excretory route is found. The body excretes wastes and toxins through seven major channels, and if any of these is compromised, then the waste or toxins that are exclusively or preferentially excreted through that channel will be sent to other organs or channels in an effort to find the way out. Sometimes the preferred channel is functioning, but is overwhelmed by too much toxin, and the excess toxins are sent to other routes as well. If necessary, the body even uses the slow-growing hair and nails for excretion ( eg. heavy metals ).
The liver is our main detoxification centre. It is also a busy processing, manufacturing and storage centre. It filters and denatures toxins, and disposes the safer by-products through bile or blood, to be distributed to the excretory organs. It extracts ingredients from absorbed food to be converted to essential raw materials for cell structure and cell function. It stores glycogen, fats, vitamins and other nutrients for distribution when needed. It also manufactures substances that cannot be obtained from food
The lungs bring in air and oxygen, but also excretes carbon dioxide and traces of other chemicals when these are not adequately got rid off by the other channels. While qigong breathing is usually relaxed breathing, regular deep breathing exercises are also important so that all the lung cells participate in the exchange work, and no wastes are accumulated in any lung alveoli for long. Particulate matter that get into the respiratory system are also got rid off by the currents created by the cilia of the cells lining the passages, and by phagocytes ( white blood cells that engulf the particles or germs ).
The blood is the main distribution medium in the body. It brings oxygen, water and nutrients to all the cells, and collects wastes and carbon dioxide for excretion or detoxification. It also has a formidable army of immune cells and immune antibodies which are ready at all times to respond to injury or invasion. However, the presence of excess toxins can overwhelm the defence cells, or even alter the very nature of the blood chemistry unfavourably. Blood flow and clotting behaviour may be compromised and problems can ensue. Excess “bad” cholesterol, free radicals and an increased clotting tendency will cause atheromatous plaques to form in response to inflammation to the inner linings of arterial walls. When this happens in the coronary arteries, you will get ischaemic heart disease, and may end up with a heart attack. Exercise improves heart health, and blood circulation.
The lymphatic system is the circulatory system outside of the blood vessels. Its main function is as a filtering and vigilance ( defence ) network for the immune system. It prevents invading organisms, foreign substances, toxins and cancer cells from spreading too far. However, many cancer cells have the ability to penetrate even the healthy lymphatic defence, and the unhealthy one will fail to stop anything. Lymph flow is passive so regular exercise is important to have a good lymphatic circulation.
The skin is the largest organ, and have important excretory functions. Wastes are excreted through the continual shedding or dead skin cells, and especially through sweating. Certain substances, including some addictive drugs, can be effectively removed from the body through sweat. That’s another plus for exercising, or you can go to a sauna. The most comfortable and efficient sauna is that which uses far infra-red lamps.
The kidneys are filter all the blood circulating in the body and excrete most of the wastes and toxins that have been absorbed ( through ingestion ) or injected into the body. As it concentrates the toxins, chemicals or minerals during filtration, it itself is exposed to the toxic or other deleterious effects, and many end up with kidney disease because of this. Kidney stones are a common problem. Diabetics are prone to kidney failure as the overworked kidneys are themselves poisoned by the high sugar levels. It is important to drink enough fluids daily to ensure that your urine is not too concentrated, and protect your kidneys from harm.
Finally, the colon is the most obvious elimination route. It actually gets rid mostly of ingested stuff that has not been absorbed yet. The trillions of bad bacteria in the intestines ( especially the colon ) ferment and putrefy the undigested food and produce toxins that can be reabsorbed into the body. This is particularly so in unhealthy people with the “leaky gut” syndrome where the colon lining is defective and poisons that should remain in the colon leaks into the body. You should take plenty of fruits and veggies to give you sufficient fibre, and drink plenty of fluids to have an efficient bowel movements. Even exercise helps.
The intestines respond rapidly to qi. Once you are able to command qi, it is easy to get the bowels moving. If you are bloated, you can command the stomach or intestines to work and release the excess gas. Conversely when you have overactive bowels, you can calm them down with your qi. Practise regularly by doing the qi massage over your abdomen. Don’t be surprised if you start passing wind!