Writing in 1850, Houghton, discussing the action of the body in disease, said, in the words of Dr. Jennings, "that action is right action." The convulsive and often painful movements of the bowels in a violent diarrhea, such as may be occasioned by a cathartic, is disease. The early Hygienists regarded vomiting, diarrhea in its various forms, biliousness and "morbid discharges from the bowels" as processes of drainage. Nature, they said, has "set up a 'drain' to save the system from dangerous effects that would otherwise ensue . . . In other words, morbid discharges from the intestines mean something, and it behooves everyone to ponder the 'writing on the wall,' and find out its true significance, even at the risk of finding themselves 'wanting.'" It should be obvious to the reader that diarrhea is but a dramatic exaggeration of the normal function of the bowels and that it is designed to remove offending materials from the alimentary canal. It is certainly not something to be cured or suppressed, but should be permitted to complete its work.

Coughing and sneezing each represent an exaggeration of the ordinary or normal process of exhalation. Air is forcibly expelled from the lungs in an effort to dislodge and expel obstructing and irritation-occasioning substances from the air passages. Sneezing is a peculiar action which follows immediately the introduction of snuff or a bread crumb into the nostrils of those unaccustomed to it. It is an effort to relieve the membranes of the nostrils of whatever occasions irritation. Sneezing is an action of the body itself and its ends are constructive. The healthy action of the respiratory apparatus is respiration. In health it does not sneeze or cough; it does not exude great quantities of mucus and, perhaps, some blood; it is not painful. In pneumonia there is coughing and exudate in the lungs; there is some blood in the exudate; there is pain and marked impairment of the healthy function of the respiratory organs. Health is never painful; disease is often exceedingly painful.

Physical suffering is evidence that remedial operations are in progress. If we view the painless indolent ulcer that fails to heal until it becomes acute or evolves a painful stage, we see that remedial operations are, in most cases at least, accompanied by painful symptoms. A slight injury will evolve only slight symptoms; severe injury calls for the development of severe symptoms. While drugs cannot contribute to the healing of torn ligaments and muscles in cases of dislocation, the pain, restlessness, fever, inflammation, suspension of digestion, etc., all symptoms of disease, constitute parts of the healing process by which damaged tissues are repaired. The force of the remedial effort will ever be found to be in exact ratio to the needs of the case.

How stupid to regard pain as a malignant demon that comes unbidden and requires exorcism by the infliction of expurgatorial penalties! Pain is an instructor pointing the way to improvement; it should not be thought of as an enemy. Rather should we recognize as evil the occasion for the pain. The pain itself is but an exaggeration of the ordinary sense of feeling.

The hypertrophy (enlargement) of the tonsils or of the remaining kidney after the removal of the other does not destroy the structural design nor the innate aptitude of the organ to perform its function. Instead, it makes possible an increase or intensification of function, amounting, in effect, to an increase of functioning capacity and an intensification of its protective activities. The enlargements that muscles undergo when subjected to repeated strain are primarily defensive developments. Just as these muscular developments increase the powers of the muscles, so the enlargement of the remaining kidney enables it to do the work of two kidneys and the enlargement of the tonsils enables them to increase their work.

Extra effort is not necessarily disease. One may run rapidly and breathe deeply as a consequence and he may pant, but we do not mistake all of this extra effort for disease. We know that there is also extra effort by the heart and that the blood is coursing through the arteries, capillaries and veins at an extra rate, but the individual so running is not sick. Indeed, we are aware that running is one of the ordinary and normal activities of life. To class exaggerated activity as disease, it must be extraordinary and abnormal.

The question may not be amiss: if the vital structures are actively engaged in building up, maintaining and restoring physiological harmony and integrity and in counteracting and expelling the causes of disease, in what does disease itself consist? Certainly, the depressing causes are not the disease, else would everything that is incompatible with health be a disease. Neither can disease be the effect of remedial action--which is either health or death. The inevitable conclusion is forced upon us that disease is the effort of the living organism to throw off a morbific cause and restore normal physiological equilibrium. Instead, then, of the disease and the vis medicatrix naturae being antagonistic forces battling for supremacy, they are one and the same thing.

After saying that the cause is not disease and the symptoms are not disease, Dr. Walter enumerates a list of symptoms common to various acute diseases--chills, fever, prostration, furred tongue, quickened pulse, restlessness, delirium, coma, stupor, etc.--and says: "There must be something behind to produce all these varied manifestations; and that something is disease." If disease cannot be identified either with its causes or its symptoms, he says, "it must of necessity exist between the two, following the causes and preceding the symptoms. Between the two, then, what do we find? An entity? A real existence? A living thing with bad character and evil disposition? A something having form and shape that can be weighed, measured or observed? Not at all! No such thing has ever been found or ever will be. There is nothing to bridge the chasm but the vital properties of the living organism. The living force acting in self-defense is the only connecting link between the causes of disease and its symptoms.

"Disease, therefore, in its essential nature, is the vis medicatrix naturae-- powers of nature acting self-preservatively. The existence of this vis medicatrix naturae has long been recognized by the most eminent medical men; but they have failed hitherto to perceive its identity with the disease. Their mistake has been in attempting to crowd into the slight chasm between the causes of disease and its symptoms two powerful opposing agencies--the disease on the one hand and the vis medicatrix naturae on the other, acknowledging all the while that both these forces were too indefinite and mysterious to be understood. Which is very true. They cannot be understood, except by viewing them as one and the same thing."