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Maximize Immunity:
And Unleash Your Best Defense Against Illness

by Bruno Comby
(1994) Marcus Books, Ontario. An English translation from the original French book titled Nature Contre Sida. Order from Marcus Books, P.O. Box 327, Queensville, Ontario, Canada, L0G 1RO, phone: 905-478-2201, fax: 905-478-8338.

Review by Kirt Nieft
Copyright © 1998 by Kirt Nieft. All rights reserved.
Contact author for permission to republish.

Bruno Comby graduated from the Ecole Polytechnique, and his respect for the scientific method is clear from his approach in Maximize Immunity. This writing uses a discussion of AIDS as a springboard for an exploration of the theories of instinctive raw-foodism--many of which are radical. The basic argument is that cooked foods compromise one's immune system. The book is 260+ pages and is divided into two main parts (as well as important front and back matter which I will get to in a bit). Perhaps the easiest way to share a feeling for the contents is to briefly annotate the chapter titles, which, unlike many books in the fringe health arena, actually describe well the ideas spoken of in each chapter. ;-)

The first part is 130+ pages and is subtitled "Food and Immunity: We Are What We Eat."

Chapter 1: Starting Again from Scratch. 5 pages of well-reasoned plea to readers, and researchers, to keep an open mind regarding the hypothesis that raw foods have a very symbiotic relation to immunity and health.

Chapter 2: Animal Models. A 28-page review of animal studies which support the possibility that a denatured diet is an important co-factor, and perhaps the major factor, in immune disease, especially AIDS, but also rabies and other diseases. Comby contrasts the diets of wild and captive animals with the average modern human diet. A chart lists many viral diseases, along with the animal populations/diets in which the symptoms can be found, and more importantly animal populations/diets where the animal is a symptomless carrier of said virus. The chapter ends with suggestions for further research on the relatedness of a denatured diet to viral symptoms.

Chapter 3: The Dietary Taboo. 5 more pages dealing with the problems of a paradigm shift needed in order to view the relationship of denatured foods and immunity from a new perspective.

Chapter 4: The Immune System. 14-page primer on the basics of the immune system in relation to viruses, and an introduction of the idea that denatured foods contain antigens which exacerbate the organism's attempt at keeping the house clean, so to speak.

Chapter 5: AIDS--An Immune Deficiency. 20+ page primer on AIDS--it's history, detection, nature, etc.

Chapter 6: Current Treatments for AIDS. 13-page review of the inefficacy and probable toxicity of current approaches.

Chapter 7: What Our Present Understanding Does Not Explain. 8 pages containing 21 questions which are unanswerable within the current viral research paradigm.

Chapter 8: New Light on Viral Illnesses. 2-page introduction to Comby's new paradigm of immunity.

Chapter 9: The "Dietary Theory of Immunity" and "Useful Viral Theory." 15 pages of the "meat" of Comby's radical approach. He states the title theories in less than two pages and then goes on to 42 "corollaries" which flow from the basic "Dietary Theory of Immunity."

Chapter 10: Strengthening Your Immune System. 3 pages of introduction on the importance of the major immunity breakdown co-factors as he sees them: tobacco and denatured foods.

Chapter 11: Taking Steps Toward Healing. 3 pages listing/discussing Comby's 4-point plan (very paraphrased here): (1) eat raw foods chosen by sensory instinct, (2) facilitate elimination/detox, (3) decrease lifestyle stresses, (4) desire to be healed/think positively.

Chapter 12: The Medicine of Tomorrow. 2 pages pondering the future of medicine which, according to Comby, will hearken back to Hippocrates' essentials.

The second part of the chapter is subtitled: "A 100% Natural Diet to Maximize Immunity." It seems clear that the 3 short chapters (10-12) which finish part one are simply paving the way for part two.

Chapter 13: What is Instinct Therapy? A nearly 40-page exposition of the central theoretical threads, and supports, of instincto-therapy in recovering human health. This section ends with a 6-level transition diet which starts with a partial restriction of dairy and ends with an all-raw unmixed regime selected by sensory pleasure.

Chapter 14: Potential of the Dietary Approach. 3 pages of results that might be expected when following a pure instinctive raw-food dietary.

Chapter 15: How to Begin. More theory on why 100% raw is best, and a welcome suggestion of not proselytizing and/or engaging in initial battles with the medical establishment.

Chapter 16: Return to Health--Detoxification. 18-page discussion of detoxing and a support of fasting when no food appeals--ends with three models/graphs depicting how detoxing might happen for various individuals.

Chapter 17: Healing by Pleasure. Less than one page detailing the uniqueness of the pleasure principle in instincto-therapy.

Chapter 18: Gentle Medicine for a Tough Disease. Less than one page attempting to bridge the opposing paradigm of allopathy and holistic medicine--only two paragraphs, but two paragraphs which have not yet been written elsewhere, at least I haven't ever seen them put so well.

Chapter 19: The First Results, and Chapter 20: Patient Testimonials. 31 pages of AIDS case histories and testimonials. Includes an interview with an AIDS patient.

Chapter 21: The Future Dawn. 6 pages of summary, conclusion, and hope for the future.

There are also extensive introductory notes, two prefaces (from French M.D.s), and the usual disclaimers. The book was translated from the French by Thomas T. Rieder of Toronto, Canada. He did a superlative job, or so I assume, being, as I am, unable to read Comby's original in French. Back matter includes an epilogue by (one assumes) an eminent French professor, a glossary of abbreviations, as well as 289 references which range from respected journals to self-published fringe-diet books. Most of the references are a decade or more old and more than a few are from French journals. However, much of what is discussed is effectively unreferenced since very little research testing raw-food theories has been done.

Mr. Comby comes from a physics/mathematics background, and while he is clearly writing for a lay audience, one gets the sense that it is other researchers who he really wants to "reach." He has had other writings published (mostly in European languages, unfortunately) including books on the details of instinctive raw-food nutrition, stress reduction, how to stop smoking, and "power sleep." He is not one to avoid controversy it seems: he has another book out proposing nuclear energy as a large part of the solution to the planet's environmental woes! I have not read any of his other books, but after reading Maximize Immunity, I would like to. Indeed, while reading an exposition supporting nuclear energy, I suspect I would feel like most medical doctors reading Maximize Immunity--incredulous. But I'm off-topic...

Maximize Immunity is easily the clearest rendering and extension of the ideas that have been bandied around since Herbert Shelton (synthesizer of the principles of Natural Hygiene in the first half of this century), and earlier, regarding the role of microbes in nutrition and disease. Instead of the ideological rantings of a T.C. Fry, Mr. Comby presents a level-headed conciliatory prose which encompasses a paradigm that will likely be judged very well by history (if my vote counts for anything ;-) ).

If we go back far enough in history, illness was presumed to be caused by supernatural forces. With the discovery of microbes and antibiotics and vaccines and viruses, science presumed to understand the causative factors in disease and treatment. Today there appears to be an expanded role for genetics to play as a co-factor in many of the diseases not reportedly related to specific microbes or viruses. Yet these medical models neatly minimize any role of the "terrain of the body" in the disease states. We get sick because of microbes and possibly bad genetics, not particularly because our cells or immune system are screwed-up.

On the other extreme we have the Natural Hygienists who are obsessed with the terrain and minimize all microbes as causative agents. According to them, microbes are irrelevant to a healthy body, to the proper terrain. Microbes thrive on wastes which are not allowed to build up in a healthy body. Thus, they say, a healthy body will not succumb to disease. And if a Hygienist does fall ill it must only be a detox event. And if a Hygienist dies young? Well, there's always genetics! ;-)

Mr. Comby takes an even more radical view: that viral and bacterial activity are useful to the organism. Bacteria dispose of metabolic wastes that the body could not get rid of without the microbe's help. Viruses are no longer agents of disease, but DNA updates which are needed to keep pace with the ever-stranger terrain of the body--ever stranger, of course, because of more and more denatured foods and endemic environmental pollution with every passing generation. The classical principles of mutation and natural selection would be hopelessly slow and inadequate to deal with the rapidly changing environment (new foodstuffs and chemicals) in which we find ourselves.

Here come viruses to the rescue. We have landing pads for them on the cells--thus they are not the "invaders" the medical models would have us believe. Viruses are specifically invited into the DNA by the body's overall wisdom. The viruses are necessary genetic "program updates" to help the body maintain its integrity in the novel circumstances of modern life. (And here "modern" means anything after the widespread use of fire and especially after the advent of agriculture.) Such updates must be "infectious" to be useful; they must spread quickly throughout a population to do their good deeds for all.

And if certain viral-directed repair work seems like illness... well, that's just because we keep polluting the terrain with denatured hospital foods. Mr. Comby claims animals eating their native diets are rarely troubled by viruses (and if they are, that it only takes a generation or so to incorporate the new immune system information). So if AIDS is troubling modern humans, the virus may have evolved to help the human body deal with new and ever-more-denatured foodstuffs which muss up our metabolisms.

And, of course, Mr. Comby tells us of AIDS patients who recover perfect health (even from stage two) when they return to a native, sense-selected, unfired diet.

What isn't in Maximize Immunity is two-fold. One: there is no hard-nosed research to support (or not) the "Dietary Theory of Immunity" and "Useful Viral Theory." Just a bunch of anecdotes and some cherry-picked mainstream research which make it all sound pretty reasonable (if one is willing to open the mind wide and say, "Ahhhh" ;-) ). Two: there is no mention of any counterexamples to the radical theories. And counterexamples there are!

Reports leak in all the time about folks eating raw foods by instinct who are NOT experiencing the perfect state of health that those helpful viruses and bacteria should ensure that they have. Long-time instinctive eaters have died of malaria and cancer; they have had chronic funguses; they have suffered greatly from nematodes; and they have resorted to antibiotics after, in one case, five ever-worsening months of staph infection. They have even reportedly grown tumors when they ate too much meat, and dissolved them away when they laid off the meat. (See Brief Recent History of the International Instincto Scene for a brief discussion of these reports.) None of these counterexamples are discussed in Maximize Immunity. Admittedly, some of the more dramatic counterexamples have come to notice after publication of the book, which begs for updating in another edition. The edition reviewed here was updated in 1994 and only notes that there is even more anecdotal support for the theories presented. Nothing about counterexamples.

Mr. Comby is understandably trying to garner some attention for the radical paradigm shift encompassed by instinctive raw-foodism. He writes (and is translated) with a grace and respect for science which is rarely, if ever, seen in the world of fringe nutrition. He appears very open to research which may necessitate severe modification in his theories. He is conciliatory to the institution of medicine. He has written a book which is everything this reviewer could want, except... except, yes, it is overstated and ignores counterexamples. And THAT just isn't very scientific at all.

We can't blame Mr. Comby for not including research specifically supporting instinctive raw-food theories--such research doesn't much exist yet. But I hope any future editions of the book deal with the failure of some folks eating raw foods selected by instinct, without denial. It will be tempting for raw-food theorists to blame everything but their theory for the failings--i.e., s/he was under too much stress, s/he was a victim of decades of mis-nourishment before eating raw foods, s/he had bad genetics, s/he didn't properly choose foods by sensory appeal. S/he didn't properly adjust for the oversupply of modern foods, etc., etc. All of these may indeed be factors--but only factors to be explored, not used as excuses without any research to support them.

I have some quibbles with some of the content. The 10,000 y.a. dating of the widespread use of fire is the youngest I have ever seen and I have looked into the matter pretty carefully (generally accepted consensus in the paleoanthropological community is 40,000 years ago at the very least). Of course, Mr. Comby's theories depend on the presupposition that any mutations that might be necessary to assist in properly digesting and metabolizing cooked foods cannot have occurred in ten millennia. Yet whether we date the widespread use of fire at 10,000 y.a. or 1,000,000 y.a., the utility of cooking will still be debated and (hopefully) carefully researched--a snaggle-toothed arena if ever there were one.

Also, I find there to be exceptions to the usefulness of alimentary instinct which are not much discussed. Indeed, I am sure that Mr. Comby knows more about these exceptions than most anyone else in the European raw-food scene, but he isn't saying much about them in Maximize Immunity. Since he has always been very forthright about these problems, it is surprising that none are mentioned in the book.

Then again, it may be unfair to expect Mr. Comby to engage in a full-fledged discussion of the problems with instinctive raw-foodism in a volume clearly designed to appeal to promote a radical new paradigm to a lay audience. I don't doubt that he would be forthcoming if he were collaborating with other researchers. Indeed, it is the problems and shortcomings of instinctive raw-foodist theory which will likely shed the most light on any useful underlying mechanisms.

Such quibbles aside, rawists finally have a book they can hand to their neighborhood M.D., parents, or university-trained dietitians that reasonably espouses raw foods as central to human health without being combative. If I had an extra $20,000, I would be tempted to mail copies off to researchers across the U.S.A. to get his message out into the university/scientific arena where a serious debate would hopefully ensue. (Instead, I'll write up this review in an obscure fringe-diet web page. ;-) ).

Indeed, Maximize Immunity is only one of two "raw books" (the other being Severen Schaeffer's Instinctive Nutrition) which I could highly recommend to anyone, whether a layperson or a researcher. It appears among the few books which can be seen as proof of the "maturing" of the raw-foods paradigm. Certainly not fully mature or anywhere close, but a big step in the right direction. Whether its clarity will ever be heard from beyond the noise pollution one finds in the idealistic raw books, I don't know.

Bruno Comby's website tells more about his work and other writings.

--Kirt Nieft

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