The Occasions for Disease


   Our ancestors said that sickness was of God, but there were also among them those who asserted that it was of the Devil. This is a delusional etiology; it has no relation to reality. The men of science say that it is due to the invasion of the body by foreign entities (germs and viruses), a concept identical with the demon etiology of the past. Hygiene teaches dependence on laws that govern the organic world, that health will be sustained so long as these are obeyed and that disease results from violations of the same laws. It is folly to argue that God is too good to disease anyone by miracle; disease is not the outworking of miracles. It is the consequence of violated law. Neither the Devil nor his imps can produce disease by miracles.

   Disease is a biological process and, like all biological processes, develops and is carried out according to unchanging laws and principles, to violations of which are attached appropriate consequences. Disease, suffering and premature death are but the consequences of the infractions of the laws that regularly govern the processes of life. Thus the causes of disease are knowable and avoidable; hence, we must bear responsibility for our illnesses. The idea of the immateriality and unavoidability of disease, first promulgated by the ancient priest-craft, is still incarnate in the medical doctrine of the inevitability of sickness.

   We hold that, when traced to ultimate causes, all disease is the inevitable consequence of living contrary to the laws of organic being and that diligence in conforming to the laws of life will assure good health. We contend that the great variety of pathological conditions which are evolved by man and the vast variety of causative factors leading to such evolutions are wholly due to deviations from the strict regimen which Hygiene arbitrarily enforces, violations of which are certain to result in pain, sickness and premature death.

   Health and disease are not something extraneously given. They are inherent results. They result from opposite modes of living. We cannot do as we please, for some ways are superior to other ways. Only the superior ways produce superior health. Inferior ways destroy those who practice them.

   The laws of nature are not only stamped into our very being, they are also stamped into our relationships with the whole of life and of nature. It is by our violation of the laws of relationship that we destroy ourselves. We are related to food, water, air, sunshine, other people, other forms of life, etc. We have one type of relationship to food and another type of relationship to poisons. We should know and understand these relationships and be guided accordingly.

   As an entity, a living self-acting organism, man has a certain choice in the way he lives. He exercises autonomy. He can choose to use alcohol or to abstain, to be a vegetarian or to eat flesh, to take exercise or to remain idle, to live in the shade or out in the sun, to dissipate his sex energies or to conserve them, etc. He is free to choose his own way of life, but he is not free to choose the results. The consequences of his choice are "even the fruit of his own thoughts" and actions. Man either builds himself or destroys himself by the manner in which he lives.

   Life is not a matter of "do this," and "don't do that." It is a matter of relationships. If a man gets into the right relationship, everything follows from that. Everything flows from the central loyalty. Health flows from loyalty to the legitimate, disease from loyalty to the illegitimate things of life.

   All living is a curious mixture of right and wrong conduct--of good food and bad, of fresh air and foul, of conservation and dissipation, of cleanliness and uncleanness, of emotional irritation and emotional calm, etc. What we may denominate physiological wrong doing affects the whole organism. Whatever is inimical to our physiological welfare, even if only slightly so, should be recognized as contributing to the cause of disease.

   In obedience to what is apparently an irresistible law, we are compelled to infer a causal nexus or connection between antecedent and consequents that are essentially related. The causes of disease must be sought in the conditions and habits that men make for themselves. Health requires that all the vital functions be maintained in vigor and harmony of development; any failure in these functions marks the initial stage in the evolution of disease. The immediate cause of disease is that actual condition of the individual organism which necessitates the remedial effort. We call it immediate because it is within the organism and actually makes the remedial action necessary. This is a toxic state, growing out of enervation and depressed function.

   Nature has made ample provision for the maintenance of pure blood, provided her laws are obeyed. Four of the principal organs of the body--lungs, liver, bowel and kidneys--are constantly engaged in the work of purification, so that if we would be careful to use only appropriate material and only as much of this as the vital organs can convert and utilize and if, at the same time we refuse to overwork, while cleanliness, proper rest and healthful exercise secure to us an abundant vigor, impurity of blood in a noteworthy degree would be impossible.

   Waste and repair belong to health as well as to disease and processes are carried on easily and comfortably or slowly and laboriously, as the case may be, representing health on the one hand and disease on the other. The process of life is one of continual waste and repair. The organism is made up of the food eaten, water drunk and air breathed, which things become by use changed into substances which are poisonous if retained. The excretions from the bowels, lungs, liver and kidneys are the same substances in another form that we have eaten, drunk and breathed. As we took them in they were capable of sustaining life; but now that they have been used, they have been changed into unusable and poisonous impurities which must be promptly removed.

   We can perform no action and perform no thought without using muscle or brain. In acting and thinking we use substance. Indeed, the ordinary vital action necessary to sustain life uses substance. This use gives rise to waste which must be carried out of the body, else it accumulates and, being toxic, may give rise to disease, or, if accumulated in sufficient amount, will result in death. The efficiency with which bodily waste is excreted is determined by the functioning power possessed by each individual and by any individual at a given time.

   Living and non-living machines have one thing in common: namely, their work uses energy. Everything that tends to exhaust the vital resources of the body lowers its functioning powers and disposes it to the development of disease. When nerve energy is lowered, the weaker parts of the body are likely to falter most in their functions; but all parts are impaired more or less. When the vital forces are maintained at a low ebb, they are frittered away without accomplishing the best results. It would seem that we have a choice between a rapid expression of function (an acceleration of expenditure) with a consequent early exhaustion and the continuance of function (the ultimate aggregation of functioning power that is possible), which conserves the body's functioning span. What is often mistaken for a superabundance of nervous energy or a surcharged condition of the nerves is probably nothing other than nerve irritation, either of a toxic or of an emotional nature.

   Lowered functioning power, a state which we call enervation, inhibits secretion and excretion, resulting in a slow accumulation of body waste in the fluids and tissues of the organism. Medical science does not include enervation in its etiology; it knows nothing of the inhibition of excretion that enervation produces and of the toxemia that results from inhibited excretion. It is busy searching the sun, moon and stars for causes of man's suffering. We say that toxemia, which grows out of inhibition of excretion, is the universal basic cause of disease; but we also say that toxemia has many causes. Toxemia is but a link in the chain of causes and effects. "It takes more than one blue-bird to make a spring," runs the old adage. It takes more than one bad habit to build a fatal disease.

   Inflammation in any part of the body arises out of the same cause--toxemia. The enervation that checks elimination and evolves toxemia may be the result of any enervating cause or any number of such causes. Call the disease tonsillitis, endocarditis, gastritis, colitis, cystitis, metritis, cholangitis or inflammation of the gall duct, pyorrhea, or by some other name--they all rest on a basis of toxemia.

   There is at all times a normal amount of waste matter in the blood stream. This becomes a menace to health only when it is allowed to accumulate above a certain physiological maximum. When it accumulates above this point, the body establishes a channel of supplementary excretion to remove the waste matter from the fluids of the body. In childhood and early life, intolerance is the leading characteristic of the tissues. As a consequence, violent actions, occasioned by slight causes, are seen in children--sudden and fierce fevers, severe inflammations, etc., of short duration are characteristic of this time of life. With the passage of time, the tissues harden and lose their original sensitivity. They do not bear irritation better; they have merely lost enough of their native sensitivity that they act less promptly and less violently. Tolerance characterizes this period of life. Inflammations, fevers, etc., are less fierce, last longer and are less effective in resisting the sources of irritation.

   Once established, toxemia is always established, unless enervating habits are discontinued. The longer toxemia has lasted and the more tissue deterioration has resulted, the greater is the time required for a return to health. Established as a chronic state as a result of the practice of enervating habits, toxemia itself lowers and impairs the functioning of all the organs of the body. Rest and a correction of the mode of living permits the restoration of normal secretion and excretion.

   The immediate (proximate) causes of disease are so intimately connected with the disease itself that the two are frequently confounded and used indiscriminately, but they are really different. The needle in the finger, for example, and the inflammation which heals the prick are different. We need always to clearly distinguish between the condition that makes remedial action necessary and the remedial action itself. While remedial action never evolves without cause, cause may exist (due to toleration) for some time in advance of the evolution of the remedial activity.

   We have now to consider the many ways in which man depletes his functioning energies. It may be said in general that any action, habit or indulgence that uses up energy in excess will lower his standard of functioning power and inhibit secretion and excretion, thus resulting not only in a toxic state of the body, but in impaired nutrition. In this view disease is largely the outgrowth of overindulgence. But it may also result from deficiency, so that we may say that its universal excesses and deficiencies (of which the whole human race is guilty) constitute the ultimate cause of man's suffering.

   The three grand dominating functions of life are mind, nutrition and reproduction. Man tends to permit these three functions to run wild--destroying himself with his emotionalism, eating to excess and going to equal excesses in his sexual activities. When this brings discomfort, he seeks for palliation in poison. We could say that emotionalism, gluttony, debauchery and poison addiction constitute his four greatest offenses against his organism. By ignoring the higher faculties of his mind and leaving them without education, man is made into an eating, drinking and gain-getting animal who lives in his lower senses and is more mischievous and unhappy than the animals because he does not exist to be merely a brute.

   Two reasons combine to cause men and women to indulge in health-destroying habits and practices in spite of their knowledge of the harmfulness of such habits. First, it is erroneously supposed that the most enjoyment is to be gained by catering to the common vices and that, second, however much the body may be impaired by such gratifications, there is a panacea for it in drugs. It is not generally understood and appreciated that every violation of the laws of life, however slight, inevitably lessens prematurely the capacity for normal action and long life, and so of physical enjoyment and consequent mental growth and happiness. If this were fully realized, the delusive belief in the curative power of drugs would soon be numbered among the superstitions that were.

   It is well to keep in mind, in all considerations of this subject, that a large measure of the violations of the laws of life of which so many are more or less habitually guilty, are attributable to wrong direction and social expressions, more than to any overpowering individual tendency to depravity. A country's institutions are capable of exerting a far greater influence upon the physiological habits of the people than may at first be supposed. With its ignorance of relations and conventionalisms, society is forced to entertain a multitude of inefficient and diseased individuals as a penalty for the wrong to which it subjects them.

   Dr. Taylor said: "Having become so perverted in natural instincts and perceptions, people mistake abnormal for normal desires and instead of granting a natural supply of the real needs of the body, artificial wants, to their detriment, are sedulously attended to. Strange to say, when they see that the ultimate results of such a course are evil only, they persistently pursue it--evidently because they care more for the present gratification of a false state than for an ultimate real good, more for animal enjoyment than mental."

   In reality, a great loss of enjoyment is incurred, even in the present, by yielding to the promptings of perverted senses. The idea is erroneous that any sacrifice of enjoyment is required to live simply and healthfully. To the contrary, the plainest fare with a normal sense of taste affords more gustatory enjoyment and this of a higher order than an epicurian diet with a perverted taste. Strict adherence to Hygienic living soon renders the sense of taste normal and its exercise far more pleasurable, so that the sacrifice and loss is only on the side of those who fail to live in harmony with the laws of life.

   Imprudencies in diet are perhaps, often more than anything else, responsible for indigestion, so-called "biliousness," diarrhea, gas, gastric discomfort, "heart burn," and a host of other symptoms of which so many millions constantly complain. We cook and season our foods so that we are tempted to gluttony; we eat the flesh and fat of animals that have been made sick by our methods of caring for them; we glut ourselves on foods that have been processed, refined and adulterated to such an extent that they are unfit for human consumption. Danger resides in certain of the residues of such foods. Surfeit leads to boredom and nausea. An overflow of nutrition would seem to lead to an overflow of development into pathological channels. Can gluttony or intemperance claim a single virtue and is there among us a single phase of character to be admired that has these as its source? We remember the virtues that endear the good, but we cannot forget the vices that deform the bad.

   When a man dies of habitual gluttony, his friends are likely to attribute his death to the "inscrutable ways of God." The "mysterious Providence" upon which they are prone to lay the blame for so much of their suffering is none other than their own folly. Their suffering and premature death is the natural result of their own false ways of life.

   We suggest that the large quantities of lard, butter, sugar, candies, common salt, spices, condiments, which are habitually and almost universally taken, most of which cannot be transformed into structure, are evident and alarming causes of disease. These occasion irritation of the digestive tract, inhibit the digestion of food and cause other troubles that could be avoided by simply leaving them out of our diet.

   The inordinate seeking after cultivated enjoyments, especially those that afford the senses unnatural or abnormal excitations, must, with great certainty, induce a state of organic weakness and cripple the functions of life. We have devised an almost infinite variety of means of affecting the manifestations of life, of increasing pleasure and pain, and thus have multiplied the causes of disease. Disease evolves because we overstep our limitations, because we enjoy beyond our power to recuperate. Our arrangements for civilized living are incongruous and are not subjected to reason.

   Our sensational life, particularly that part of it that affords us pleasure, is permitted to dominate our activities so that life is turned into a frantic search for excitements and thrills that waste our energies. We suffer many unnecessary pains and great weakness because of excessive indulgence in pleasures, many of them artificial. Youth is often thoughtless. The present is everything. To enjoy the present, they will borrow from the future at a most fearful rate. Then, when the inevitable pay-day arrives, they are often unwilling to believe that they have overdrawn upon the bank of life. It is folly to think that because you seem always to have plenty of energy, your supply is inexhaustible.

   In modern society, as Taylor said, men, in their hot pursuit of passion, are impelled headlong into all manner of improper actions (perhaps we should stress the excesses of action as well) and, of course, must pay for their follies by suffering their legitimate results. Ignorant and heedless of these causes of suffering and being taught that their suffering is due to foreign invasions (evil spirits, malevolent germs, malignant viruses), they accept any proffered therapeutic recourse, when ill, and continue the very course of action that is responsible for their functional impairment and toxemic saturation.

   Truly did Taylor say that "it is highly derogatory to man that he permits the preponderance of the lower functions to subject the whole being to their partial (or excessive) and perverted action. He forgets and forsakes the nobleness of nature he possesses in higher capacities. And still further does he mistake in attempting recovery by any system of treatment that omits the important necessity of 'learning to be wise.' Health to all such is but an accident, and its possessor cannot claim any merit in its possession."

   It is probably true, as Dr. Taylor thought, that the benefits and ills of life are more nearly balanced than the cursory observer thinks since, as he said, the capacity for either is co-extensive. But, also, as he pointed out, by knowledge and forethought, we can so order our pleasures that we avoid the ills of excess. Daily we dose ourselves with stimulants (tea, coffee, poisoned soft drinks) and narcotics (tobacco, alcohol and other drugs); we exhaust ourselves by debauchery; we turn our nights into days and carry our activities far into the night and when we have made ourselves sick by such abnormal practices, we permit physicians to convince us that our sufferings are due to germs and viruses and are to be remedied by further and added violations of the laws of life--by poisoning. We support a large army of respectable charlatans who batten off the sick and add to their mischief and misery by dosing them with virulent poisons.

   We destroy ourselves by our work. The "high pressure" principle upon which so many men and women work their brains and abuse their bodies induces an irritable state of the nervous system. The tight, deadly gripping struggle of competition, the whirl of business, the rivalries of trade, the controversies of theology, the strifes of politics, the interminable din of cities, the roar of buses and trucks, the honking of horns, the long hours of toil, the infelicities and discords of domestic life, the exigencies of the weather, the drag of habits that are destructive, all add up to an excessive tax upon the energies of life.

   To work is good, but self-destruction by labor is as wicked as any other mode of suicide. Care, trouble, anxiety, sorrow and irritation of mind exhaust the nervous power. We should resolutely set them aside, get out of them or escape from them. Avoid gloomy conversation and thoughts. Shun repulsive occupation and unpleasant society. Labor, or otherwise exercise, but always in some pleasant way, so as to produce moderate fatigue, but not exhaustion.

   Whether a habit is healthful or unhealthful must be decided in the light of true knowledge, rather than on isolated experience. "It doesn't hurt me," is the rejoinder most frequently made when someone is cautioned against the use of tobacco, alcohol or coffee. The alcoholic habitue says: "Whiskey (or beer) does not hurt me." The smoker says: "Tobacco does me no harm." The young lady who fills up day after day on mince pie and pickles, mustard and pepper sauce, rich pastry and confectionery, and indulges in the fashionable dinners, says, when remonstrated with about her reckless squandering of her health: "Oh, it's so charming and it doesn't hurt me."

   Is it not strange that these same people can often see that these same indulgences are harmful, even fatally injurious to others, but that they will not admit that there is any harm in their own case? The drinker sees every day of his life the wrecked bodies and shortened lives of drinkers--he may even call the other man a fool for getting drunk; the young lady observes many of her girl friends dropping one after another into premature graves or lingering on for years in hopeless invalidism, health, beauty and happiness sacrificed on the altar of perverted appetites--yet she still persists in claiming that commission of the very same follies does her no harm.

   One of the best lessons any of us can learn is that in all essential particulars we are but counterparts of every other member of the human family. We have the same organs and functions, the same basic needs and are subject to the same laws and injured by the same indulgences. If a certain harmful practice is injurious to others, by what rule of reason do we claim to be an exception? None of us ever claim to be exempt from the law of gravity--why shall we claim exemption from the operation of any other law of nature?

   The medical world, having created a host of specific diseases, searches for a specific cause for each of these and fails to recognize the many impairing influences in the life of the individual that collectively constitute cause. Results are never the issue of one cause. They are the issue of combined causes. This is to say, cause is made up of a number of correlated antecedents or factor-elements. One of these is pivotal; none of the others are negligible. Hence, full recovery of health depends upon correcting and removing all of the elements of cause.

   Instead of recognizing the impairment of structure and function as the basic pathologic state which should be corrected as a whole to the end that health may be restored, the various more or less distinct symptom-complexes that rest upon this pathologic substratum are regarded as themselves the primal deviation from the healthy standard and each one is to be cured separately by "specific" treatment. As a result of this loose thinking, the line between cause and effect is blurred or distorted for most people. Developments and events that are only symptomatic effects of the real, basic cause of the present widespread or systemic impairment and degeneration are viewed as major causes in themselves.

   The complexity of results depends to a great extent upon the relative unfitness of the mode of life of the individual. Montaigne speaks of the simplicity of the diseases which affected the peasantry of his neighborhood, of the few complaints from which they suffered compared with the greater variety of diseases, with learned names, with which the aristocracy were accustomed to suffer. This could only mean that the simple vices of the peasantry resulted in simple diseases while the grosser and more complicated vices of the aristocracy produced more complex diseases.

   There was considerable confusion among early Hygienists about how disease is caused. In his masterly work on Human Physiology, the Basis of Sanitary and Social Science, Dr. T. L. Nichols well defines the confusion and differences of views as to the cause of disease that existed among the Hygienists. He points out that there were those who regarded disease as the result of a diminution of the nervous power or vital force (Jennings and Gove), while another group held that the blood is life and the impurity in the blood is the cause of all disease action (Trall). Nichols himself, anticipating Tilden by several years, adds: "But good blood cannot be formed without sufficient vital or nervous power; and good blood is necessary to the healthy action of the brain and nervous system. Here is reciprocal action, each depending upon the other . . . Waste matter, retained in the human system is a materies morbis, and there are many kinds of blood poisoning."

   The results or effects of repeated violations of the laws of life are accumulative--the body's functioning energy is wasted, the organs of excretion overtaxed, the blood becomes saturated with accumulated waste (our predecessors called them "ingenerated poisons"), nutrition or metabolism is impaired--and a condition of the body is reached which necessitates the development of remedial action (a crisis) to throw off the accumulated toxic material. Violations of the laws of being are the last or ultimate analysis of all the causes and are, therefore, fundamental.

   Strangely enough, while men fear all kinds of fictional causes of disease, they appear to have no fear of the real causes. While the real causes of organic and functional impairment are operating to prepare the organism for or to necessitate disease action, they fancy themselves secure; but a little cool air frightens them out of their wits. They dread the crisis, which may be precipitated by an unusual meal, a slight exposure, etc., but fear not the causes that make the crisis inevitable.

   The sources from which great evils arise, like the sources of great rivers, are hardly noticeable. The sproutings of wrong living in human society, when compared with the accumulated wretchedness which results from it, seem as insignificant as the acorn in comparison to the great oak. The causes which operate to produce human suffering and human degeneracy are not often, in their inception and first stages, self-evidently injurious, but, on the contrary, are often insinuating and treacherous. The first effect may seem to be satisfactory and even agreeable. Especially is this true in the case of excesses in the normal things of life and in the case of narcotics and stimulants. When once these latter are indulged, there follows a soothing influence--a sensuous delight--which casts glamour over the judgment and makes the victim happy and contented. As one dope addict expressed it: "Dope makes everything wonderful at first. You are not afraid of anything; you think you can jump over a mountain or be like a Toscanini. But you can't."

   In elevating non-human standards and worshipping non-human images, we have violated the laws of our being and disregarded the oracle of our inner selves. We have compelled the being that is man to bow to standards that belong not to his high status, to submit to regulations and cultivate gross habits that not even the beasts of the field respect. We have spilled rivers of blood in support of the "divine right of kings," for "God and our country;" we have spilled oceans of animal blood that we might eat of their flesh; we have enslaved men and women and exploited them unmercifully; we have marred and scarred the face of the earth in the name of progress; we have departed from the simple, peaceful ways of nature and built a hell on earth.

   Let us not talk of iron chains, nor yet of physical starvation and thirst! What are these but faint types of starvation, the bitterness and the slavery that man creates for himself by his disobedience to the laws of nature? Words are all too weak to describe the suffering man inflicts upon himself. How often is a smile on the face employed to camouflage the canker that is gnawing at the heart!

   Why should a high degree of civilization uniformly produce an exaltation and exacerbation of every form of disease known to the primitive condition of man, while at the same time new ills whose name is legion come into being before us? Why is civilized life fruitful in ill health and the army of the diseased always in proportion to the army of physicians?

   What we are pleased to call the "progress of modern science" has been, in many ways, a health-destroying influence. Scientists have hitched their chariot to the will-o-the-wisp of industrialism instead of the pole-star of human well-being. Thus the control man has gained over nature has been perverted into means of destruction. Our engineers have turned out myriads of labor-saving devices and these have been made to supercede the use and development of the powers of the body and mind. Man is fast degenerating into a puny, undeveloped tender of machines. No longer does the performance of the common duties of life contribute to his development. The consequence is that his powers must languish; they also are exercised in unprofitable and illegitimate ways.

   While scientists maintain a steady stream of propaganda designed to convince the people that scientists are useful individuals and are performing useful functions, they continue to turn out in the form of nuclear bombs, virulent drugs and other agents of destruction, things that will ultimately spell the doom of mankind. Most of their productions are of a destructive character and one is not far wrong in saying that if mankind does not destroy its scientists, the scientists will destroy mankind.

   "It is impossible," wrote Dr. Taylor, "for people to know, with their present habits and prejudices, how much of their diseases are attributable directly to the use of drugs, sometimes as medicines, and often under the guise of aliment; and it cannot be too often or strongly impressed, that everything that is not strictly alimentary, and necessary to form and replace tissues, must tax, obstruct, excite, and wear unduly the delicate organs that are forced to transmit or otherwise dispose of it. How much of the physical lassitude and inefficiency, so much complained of, is owing to the immense and undue labor the body functions are compelled to do to sustain themselves under the burdens forced upon them! These causes are so insiduous that they elude often our ken--while the sufferer has no idea but that he is doing the bidding of the Highest. In diet, no test is brought to bear but that of perverted instincts--in medicine, that of present transient sensations-both equally illusory. Occasionally an aggravated case comes under our notice of disease manifestly caused by medicine, which serves as a marked illustration of our principles."

   However favorable the transient impulse apparently given the system by the introduction of irritating and noxious substances into the blood and other tissues, the body soon loses its "susceptibility" and ceases to respond to their presence. The tissues are literally worn out by the process and are too weak to act at all or can act but feebly. The result may be every nameable disease. Where the people are accustomed to taking much "medicine," there does chronic disease abound. Here, as elsewhere, there exists a relation of equality between cause and effects.

   It is to be feared that the buoyant, springing life of health which cheers one up with an ever sustaining zest in the midst of arduous effort is unknown to the tobacco user. He may have delicious dreams at times amid the intoxication of the weed, but he pays dearly for them in the evils we are numerating. The steady, even flow of joyful health cannot depend upon a hat full of cigars.

   Nature often withholds unheeded warnings, as when she ceases her violent protests against tobacco or alcohol and we are forced to seek for causes through several indirect sources. The ways in which people accustom themselves to the use of tobacco is one of the strongest proofs of its poisonous character. It is only by stealing upon, by a little by little process, and gradually debauching the powers of life that anyone can take it.