If disease is a remedial effort, why do not the sick recover? The answer to this perfectly logical question is: sick people do get well. They get well in all cases, except three. These are:
It will readily be perceived that these three exceptions, where one or more of them exists, provide ample grounds for occasional failures and if the facts reveal that the sick do recover, except where these conditions exist, our answer rather conclusively establishes the soundness of the Hygienic theory. It is, of course, necessary to distinguish between remedial action itself and the ultimate results of such action. The action is no less remedial when it fails than when it succeeds.
The forces of life are not infallible. Their efforts are not always successful. They may prove abortive, but they are always in the right direction. There may be accidents in these efforts, as when vomiting is vigorous enough to result in a hemorrhage or in a hernia. But these accidents do not invalidate the important fact of vital agency in the case, nor destroy the principle of remedial action. Even should the hemorrhage prove fatal, the vomiting was still a remedial effort. Such incidental effects of the vital struggle (and they are very rare) must be regarded as accidents. We may say, indeed, from a theoretical point of view, that such destructive accidents result because the fibers of which the tissues are composed, not being sufficiently strong and elastic to endure the increased effort or energy of vital action, break. Even death itself may be regarded as a mere incidental effect of the body's great and sublime effort to reach the grand and glorious ultimate in human perfection. "Victory or death" would seem ever to be the battle cry of the living organism when useless and highly toxic substances are introduced into it.
Medical objectors to what they call the "expulsion theory" of disease declare that it does not distinguish between the two opposite conditions of health and disease, but confounds them together and makes them essentially one. For, it was contended, expulsion and rejection are natural and normal processes and as necessary to life and health as they are to disease. In every living organism the two processes of rejection of what is not needful and expelling what is poisonous, etc., goes on ceaselessly and simultaneously and cannot be arrested without danger. Expulsion of poisons is, therefore, coincidental with and an essential condition of health and their retention the reverse--disease.
"Are we, then, to believe that health is disease?" they asked, "and that life is one long-continued 'remedial effort to expel' poisons generated by itself?" The oneness of vital processes in health and disease seems to be a strange idea to the foes of the new conception of the essential nature of disease. They wanted some new, extra-vital and super-physiological force or process to constitute the disease. They seem not to be able to recognize health and disease as constituting a continuum--that is, that the actions of the body in expelling the poisons of disease are more or less dramatic exaggerations of the ordinary normal actions of life.
Our hypothesis of the essential nature of disease, its rationale, is deduced from the principles of physiology. The pathology of the schools of medicine, although growing more and more in accord with physiology, has in the past stood in contradiction of physiology. To date, although their pathology is being brought more and more into line with the fundamental principles of physiology, their therapies have not moved in this direction. They are still teaching in their colleges and practicing at the bedside "therapies" that are based on the old conception of disease as an "attacking entity."
Diseases are studied, classified and arranged into a branch of biological science called pathology, without knowledge of which none are considered competent to care for the sick. Medicines are studied, classified and arranged into another, but false science, called materia medica and therapeutics, without a thorough knowledge of which none are considered equipped to prescribe for the sick. With a knowledge of these two sciences, the physician sets out to conquer disease (really to make war upon life itself) and without knowing what he is doing, counters the very principles he is called upon to preserve.
Physicians are well versed in pathology, but alas! ignorant of the body in a state of health and of the basic needs of the living organism. They are conversant with the chemical constitutions of their drugs and know much of the effects that follow their administration; but they ignore the fact that when these drugs are introduced into the body in a state of health, they speedily reduce it to a state of disease. Their efforts to cure disease, therefore, result in the production of disease. There are several acute diseases that the medical profession classes as self-limited. These are said to run more or less variable or definite courses to recovery. If we can accept the principle that disease is remedial effort, we can understand that a "self-limited" disease is exactly analogous to "self-limiting" digestion. The process of digestion ends when the meal is digested and there is no longer any work for the digestive organs to carry on. In like manner, the remedial effort comes to a spontaneous end when the cause of disease has been removed and there is no longer any need for remedial effort.
An acute disease may properly be regarded as the evidence of a crisis in the affairs of the body. The so-called "exciting causes" of disease constitute the last feather that "breaks the camel's back." The vital organism has been hitherto moving along, accommodating itself as far as possible to its impaired state, until some additional and, perhaps, slight demand made upon it, necessitates, in order for self-preservation, a rearrangement of its activities. Suddenly, as it were, the internal foulness becomes so great that a vigorous cleansing becomes urgently needed and a great eliminating effort results. In this view, there are not many diseases, but many symptom-complexes, each of which represent the remedial effort more or less marshalled in a different part of the body. The unimaginative recognize inflammation in each part of the body as a distinct disease--hence, we have "many diseases." The crisis, which exhibits itself through a multiplicity of symptoms, is a very complex thing. To say that it stems from one cause is too great a simplification for the average mind.
So long as disease continues to be regarded, even if only subconsciously, as an entity, a terrible something that must be resisted, cast out and destroyed, and medicines are thought of as equally positive entities, either prepared by nature or devised by man for the destruction of disease and, so long as the great problem of the devotees of the various systems of medicine is to find a medicine which, when administered to the sick, will destroy or cast out the disease and save the sick alive, just so long will a rational and scientific approach to the problems of human suffering remain impossible.
The absurd notion that organismic convulsions (disease) and weakness are of exotic origin is so crucial to the prosperity of the medical profession that the physician is compelled, in sheer self-defense, to contest with every weapon he can command, the verities that the "diseases" listed in medical nosologies constitute climacteric symptomatologies of sub-clinical impairments of autogeneous origin and that these "diseases" cannot be mitigated or recovered from so long as the mode of life that engenders them continues to be carried out. The physician must, at all times, remain committed to the crotchet that "diseases" constitute physiological miscarriages localized in particular organs--and that the restitution of these organs to their original state is equivalent to the eradication of human pathologies.
When Hygienists defined disease as remedial effort, they had reference primarily to acute disease. Their view of chronic disease is well stated by Dr. George H. Taylor, who said of it: "Nor does it 'still educe good from seeming evil,' by doing a disagreeable, though perchance kind labor; but comes, with bare bones and jagged scythe, to hew by ineffectual inches." It is, however, not nearly as devoid of remedial processes as our Hygienic predecessors thought. Its cause is not, as some of the early Hygienists thought, "inwrought and compounded with the constitution itself," but is an integral part of the daily life of the individual. Chronic disease is commonly characterized by recurring crises, which are only symptoms of struggle, always imminent or present because those who suffer are constantly despoiling themselves. Chronic disease results from chronic provocation.
Hygienists early recognized that the suppression of acute disease is one of the chief causes of chronic disease. When poisonous matter has accumulated in the system to the point where it becomes a menace to life, the body makes a violent effort to cast it out and we have pain, inflammations, fevers, and the whole train of acute diseases. The poisons of the system and the poisons of the physician weaken the powers of the body and we have the less violent, but more protracted agonies of chronic disease. The struggle of the system to cast out its accumulated toxins continues so long as the organism remains alive. Every effort of nature is for health and the symptoms of disease are but the actions or powers of the body in expelling toxins and remedying damages. It is the work of the Hygienist to facilitate these efforts, not by treatments, but by supplying appropriate physiological conditions.