Dr. Cowan on Vaccines, Autoimmunity and the Changing Nature of Childhood Illness

Story at-a-glance

  • As a general rule, the progression of sickness starts with the development of fever, followed by the production of snot or mucus, followed by recovery. This sequence is all part of your cell-mediated immune response
  • The gel-like water in your cells plays a crucial role in this process. Heat (fever) unfolds proteins in the cell, allowing them to interact with the water, so that when the water cools, it forms a gel that allows the cell to function properly
  • Sun exposure, grounding, infrared radiation, avoiding electromagnetic fields, eating healthy foods and other healthy lifestyle strategies also facilitate the creation of this intercellular gel, thereby promoting health
  • When toxins are introduced into your body, they interfere with the process of creating structured water (its gel form) in the cell. This triggers the disease process (fever, snot, followed by recovery) with the intention of reestablishing healthy gel
  • Vaccines distort your cell-mediated immunity and humoral immunity responses (which can radically increase your risk of cancer), by preventing the activation of your cell-mediated immune response


This is an older article that may not reflect Dr. Mercola’s current view on this topic. Use our search engine to find Dr. Mercola’s latest position on any health topic.

By Dr. Mercola

In this interview, Dr. Thomas Cowan, a practicing physician and founding board member of the Weston A. Price Foundation, shares his perspective on vaccines and autoimmune disease, which is the topic of his latest book, "Vaccines, Autoimmunity, and the Changing Nature of Childhood Illness." The book was an outgrowth of answering a rather simple question: How do we recover from illness?

"When we get sick, there's a very certain sequence of events that happens, which I describe as, 'We're fine, then we get hot, then we get snot, and then we get better.' I've asked myself all these years, 'Why does that happen in that sequence?' That little question made me get into 'What is the nature of fever, and what is the nature of the cell?' Because, in my opinion, we have that wrong …

What's the intention of your body? Once you see that, then you start to see that if you do something to prevent that sequence of events from happening … you're going to end up with something worse happening. In a sense, that's the story of modern pediatrics and health of the children in the United States, and even more broadly, probably in the world.

The thwarting of that sequence is such a problem. That, of course, is tied in with vaccines, because they're a preemptive attack on that sequence."

The Role of Intracellular Water in Health and Disease

While writing "Human Heart, Cosmic Heart" — a book focused on heart function and the mechanics of heart disease, Cowan began investigating the nature of water, discovering that water exists in more than three phases (solid, liquid and vapor). It also has a gel phase, known as exclusion zone (EZ) water. This is thoroughly explained in Gerald Pollack's book, "The Fourth Phase of Water."

"That was crucial to the understanding of the role of fever in vaccines and childhood illness," Cowan says, "Because what I realized is that, first of all, all of the intracellular fluid is in a gel phase.

It's a bit like Jell-O. If you think about how Jell-O is made, you take hydrophilic proteins and you put it in water. If that's all that happens, nothing happens. You have to heat up the proteins. This unfolds the proteins … from a circular to essentially a linear shape.

Then they can interact with the water, so that when it cools, it forms this gel. That process is exactly the same as what happens inside our cells. There are intracellular proteins and there's water. The role of heat … is a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which some people say is the energy molecule, but I would actually beg to differ.

What it does is it binds with the proteins in the cell, unfolds them and allows the cell to interact with water. That forms a gel inside the cell … As a result of the difference between the sodium and potassium [in the cell], there's a charge around the cell, which allows the cell to integrate itself into a whole and to do work. There's literally nothing more important in cell biology than that process.

Over the years, people have [concluded] that it must be because of this sodium-potassium pump in the membrane … But, interestingly, Gilbert Ling did studies on it and showed it would take 30 to 40 times the energy to run the sodium-potassium pump than we have as energy for our entire being, so it can't be the pump. How does this happen?

It happens because the nature of the intracellular gel is like a mesh. The mesh naturally excludes sodium and collects potassium. There's no energy required, except for the ATP to unfold the proteins. Essentially, when the gel is, let's say, the perfect liquid crystal, like the perfect Jell-O, then that's a perfectly well-functioning cell.

The things that create good health so you don't get sick — things like sunlight, earth exposure (grounding), holding hands, infrared radiation, avoiding electromagnetic fields, good food, no sugar — all those things facilitate the creation of this perfect gel, which then, in a sense, creates perfect health."

The Roots of Disease

Cowan postulates that when something happens in your body that interferes with this process of creating structured water (its gel form) in the cell, the disease process sets in, with the intention of reestablishing healthy gel.

When you insert toxins such as arsenic, aluminum or glyphosate, for example, it distorts the ability of the gel to form properly, which in turn prevents healthy cell functioning. "It's like having a screen on your house to keep mosquitoes out, but now the holes in the screen are an inch wide," Cowan says.

As a result, the cell cannot exclude the sodium and it cannot include the potassium. Nor can it properly perform any of its other functions. According to Cowan, to eliminate the toxin, your body creates heat, because by heating up the gel, it gets runny, more liquid. That's phase 1: fever. Phase 2, the snot part, is the detoxification stage. The mucus traps the toxin, allowing it to be expelled from your body.

"That's how we get rid of whatever is interfering with our intracellular gels to essentially keep ourselves healthy," Cowan says. "When you look at children and how they get sick, it's just one process after another. They're growing. They're making metabolic poisons.

They're exposed to all kinds of things. It's part, in a sense, of the growing process to, every once in a while, … do a heating up and a snotting out, a kind of spring cleaning, and then you get on with being a healthy child.

When you see a child who is doing that all the time, and then it becomes … a chronic disease, that's a child who is, A) chronically being intoxicated by all these different influences; doesn't have enough sun, earth, good food and all of those other things, or is B) being thwarted from going through those natural phases. In either case, you're going to end up with chronic disease."

Challenging the Definition of ATP

Cowan challenges the concept that ATP is the energy currency of the cells. This goes back to Ling's studies on the sodium-potassium pump, which showed that this pump acts like a backup generator. Again, when the ability to form this gel, which naturally excludes sodium, is impaired, everything in the cell starts to break down.

If a mechanism involving energy was required to fix the situation, it would be extremely difficult to heal, since your cells are already impaired and are not creating energy efficiently. Were this the case, then illness would be a kind of death spiral your body could not get out of.

"The other thing [Ling] did, which is very controversial ... is he essentially said there's no more energy in an ATP molecule than any other common molecule. [Energy] is not the role of ATP. The role of ATP is to bind to the intracellular proteins and change their configuration so that they unfold and interact with the water to form the gel."

Understanding Your Immune Function

All of this helps explain Cowan's position that all vaccines cause a distortion in the two branches of your immune response — the cell-mediated immunity and the humoral immunity — which in turn radically increases your risk of cancer. Essentially, when you get a viral childhood disease, the virus enters your body and infects your cells.

What this means is it enters the cell and distorts the gel, which triggers the disease process of fever, followed by snot or mucus, followed by recovery. This process involves your cell-mediated immune response, which activates white blood cells and chemicals that attract them to the site of infection, where the white blood cells basically chew up and spit out the infected cells. The byproduct of this process is snot or mucus. As a general rule, this process typically takes five to 10 days, after which you recover.

As explained by Cowan, "The experience of being sick is the cell-mediated immune system becoming activated. The function of that is to clear the virus, clear the dead cells and rejuvenate the gels. Once that happens, you're no longer sick."

Once you've recovered, your humoral immune system kicks in and starts generating antibodies against the virus to prevent the disease process from occurring again, should you be exposed to the same virus later on. "For your entire life, if the cell-mediated comes first and the humoral comes second, you will never have [that infection] again. That is almost a 100-percent foolproof system," Cowan says.

Vaccines Distort Your Immune Responses

According to Cowan, here's what happens when you inject a vaccine, which is meant to prevent you from ever getting sick (i.e., prevent the activation of your cell-mediated immune response) in the first place ...

"Vaccines are engineered to avoid a cell-mediated reaction. Why is that? Because if you gave somebody a live virus and provoked a cell-mediated reaction, you would make the child sick with all the attendant risks of that … The whole point of a vaccine is to not have a cell-mediated reaction, which is the part that clears the virus …

[Vaccines] do provoke a humoral or antibody response, albeit a temporary one. Because without the cell-mediated [response] coming first, the antibody response doesn't last. How do I know that?

Because you have to keep giving booster shots over and over again, or the immunity wears off. Now, you could say the strategy of a vaccine is to provoke antibody responses. That's the strategy.

The other thing that comes into play here is, why don't they give just measles virus in saline? Why do they put all [these toxic additives] like dead fetal cells, glyphosate,1 aluminum, formaldehyde and a whole list as long as your arm of stuff [into the vaccine]? …

Because [a saline and virus solution] doesn't create an antibody reaction. There's no antibody reaction to do anything … so you have to put aluminum or another adjuvant in it.

Adjuvant means 'helper.' These are added to provoke a broad-spectrum antibody humoral immune response. Now, when you look at the definition of autoimmune diseases … they are characterized by an excessive antibody reaction.

That's how we diagnose them. If you have antibodies to antinuclear antibodies, that means you have lupus. If you have antibodies to rheumatoid factor, that means you have rheumatoid arthritis.

If you have antibodies to your thyroid [hormone], that means you have Hashimoto's. At some point, somebody has to ask, 'How come all these people have too many antibodies?' As you know, because I'm a bit of a smart aleck, I'd say, 'Maybe the vaccine program worked.' I mean that's the point, right? To make you have the antibodies. So, it worked."

Autoimmune Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants

The problem with vaccine adjuvants is that they cannot selectively trigger the activation of antibodies against a specific virus. "There's no theoretical way you can give a nonspecific adjuvant and think that it's only going to make diphtheria antibodies, for example. It doesn't work like that," Cowan says. Sure, the diphtheria vaccine, for example, will trigger the creation of diphtheria antibodies since diphtheria antigens are added to the solution, but the chances of it making diphtheria antibodies exclusively is zero.

"So, you have people walking around with nonspecific activation of their humoral immune system," Cowan says. "Yehuda Shoenfeld, editor-in-chief of Autoimmunity Reviews and The Journal of Autoimmunity, who has written hundreds of papers and books on how autoimmune diseases develop, basically says there's a syndrome called ASIA, which stands for 'Autoimmune Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants,' which is apparently going to be renamed 'Shoenfeld's Syndrome.'

He estimates there are 150 million people worldwide who have this syndrome … When you talk about cancer, the reason it's been so difficult to develop an effective cancer vaccine is because vaccines make antibodies. It's not generally speaking the part of the immune system, if even cancer is an immunological disease in the first place, which I doubt. It's probably a metabolic disease.

But it's certainly not a disease of the humoral immune system. If anything, it's an intoxication, which then affects your metabolic function. The detox system is the cell-mediated immune system. The cell-mediated immune system is deactivated, suppressed by Tylenol, Motrin, and antibiotics and just the fact of not letting children go through cell-mediated activating diseases. That's the tragedy of this …

For some reason, medicine in general and pediatrics in particular, have essentially decided to wage war on the cell-mediated immune system. But that's our best friend. That's how we detoxify. If you suppress fevers your whole life, essentially, you're going to have to do saunas when you're older."

Why Fever Needs to Run Its Course

In short, fever facilitates your detoxification process, with the aim of producing a cleaner system. Unfortunately, most parents will rush to administer fever-reducing medicine as soon as their child develops a fever, thereby effectively preventing or interrupting this healing process. A far better alternative would be to administer liposomal vitamin C, which will aid and speed the process, not stop it. Certain homeopathic medicines can also be beneficial.

The story of Coley's toxin is an interesting side note showing just how powerful a healer fever can be. John Coley was a surgeon and sarcoma specialist who worked at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City. In the early 1900s, Coley followed up on a rare case involving a man who was mysteriously cured of sarcoma after contracting an infection and spending four weeks in the hospital with a high fever.

When Coley tracked the patient down, nearly a decade later, he was still alive and well. It turns out he'd contracted erysipelas, a strep infection of the skin characterized by very high fevers and red skin. Coley subsequently spent a number of years infecting people with erysipelas in an effort to develop an effective fever therapy for cancer. Coley's toxin was a combination of the fever-producing part of the erysipelas bacteria mixed with Neisseria bacteria endotoxin.

"He would give this so-called Coley's toxin to people; injecting them once a day … to give them a 104-degree fever for four weeks. There's documentation of literally 1,000 people being cured by this," Cowan says. "Roche Pharmaceuticals developed their own Coley's toxin. It was the first and main adjunctive therapy for cancer in the U.S. — widely popular and widely successful …

[T]he immune therapy was the activation of the cell-mediated immune system with fever, which is exactly what measles does. Interestingly, measles was well-known for actually curing the nephrotic syndrome, which is an autoimmune disease of the kidneys.

If you have nephrotic syndrome and then you get measles, in most of the cases, the nephrotic syndrome goes into remission and never comes back when you're done with the measles.

Of course, once they developed the measles vaccine, they took children with nephrotic syndrome and injected them with the measles vaccine, because they were telling us at the time that the vaccine creates an identical immunity as the natural disease.

I'm sure you can guess what happened to the children with nephrotic syndrome. Nothing. It didn't work. Why? Because it's not the humoral immune system that cures you of nephrotic syndrome. That makes it worse. [Activating] the cell-mediated immune system — and that's like taking a sauna every day, or detoxing — that's what works. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to register."

The Unknown Toxic Backstory of the Polio Epidemic

In his book, Cowan also goes into the toxic component of polio. The polio virus is an enterovirus, meaning it lives in your gastrointestinal tract. It's supposedly been around for millennia, yet there are virtually no recorded cases of paralytic polio in the medical literature until the late 1800s. So, what causes this virus to "turn" on its host? Cowan notes that in two of the earliest outbreaks, which took place in Europe and Vermont, arsenic-based insecticides had been introduced shortly prior to the outbreaks.

It was well-known that this arsenic-based insecticide caused paralysis in cattle. Eventually, it was discovered that this insecticide acts on the anterior horn cells of the nervous system — the very part of the nervous system that polio is said to affect. Over time, this arsenic-based chemical became increasingly widespread, and along with it came the emergence of polio. In mid-1915 to 1918, polio cases were concentrated on the Eastern Seaboard, particularly in Long Island.

Award-winning journalist Dan Olmsted researched the matter, discovering that Long Island was the first place to introduce sugar grown on Hawaiian sugar plantations using a particular form of arsenic for weed control. As it turns out, arsenic concentrates in the sugar, and wherever this sugarcane ended up, so did outbreaks of paralytic polio. Epidemics actually tended to cluster around candy stores.

"So, in order for the virus to cause disease, you first have to have some negative effect on the anterior horn cells, which came through arsenic," Cowan explains.

Another chemical with a particular affinity for the anterior horn cells of the nervous system is dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). And, when you compare the summer sprayings of DDT and rates of polio in those same areas, you find an incredibly close correlation. The more DDT was sprayed, the more polio cases were reported.

Eventually, congressional hearings were held on whether polio was really caused by a virus. Many experts insisted paralytic polio is actually caused by neurochemical poisoning. A study was conducted in which they were able to identify the virus in only 51 percent of cases in which children died of paralytic polio, which means that in 49 percent of cases, the children had no evidence of any viral infection at all.

Hence, paralytic polio cannot be a virally driven disease. "In the early '60s, Rachel Carson wrote the book 'Silent Spring,' and DDT stopped being used [in the U.S.]. That was around the exact same time that the polio epidemic ended. We no longer use arsenic on the fields [and] we don't see paralytic polio anymore," Cowan notes.

More Information

To learn more, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Cowan's book, "Vaccines, Autoimmunity, and the Changing Nature of Childhood Illness." In it, he covers a number of other vaccines, including the chickenpox vaccine, varicella and herpes zoster. He also delves into the corruption of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a variety of other related topics. It's is a real page-turner, and well worth reading even if you've read other books on vaccines.

In addition to recognizing the value of fever in the healing process, another take-home message is the importance of sauna use. If you've been vaccinated, you probably need to take saunas on a regular basis. As Hippocrates once said, "Give me a medicine to produce a fever and I can cure any disease." To learn more about sauna use, and the importance of selecting one with low or no electromagnetic fields and other safety precautions, see "The Many Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing."

+ Sources and References

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