HOME    HYGIENE LIBRARY CATALOG    GO TO NEXT CHAPTER


 

The Unity of Disease

CHAPTER XX

   We are confronted with a woman who has been sick for years and has "suffered many things of many physicians." She has asthma, colitis, a gastric ulcer, neuritis, inflammation of the neck of the womb (endocervicitis), headaches, backaches, and does not sleep well. Has she many diseases or is she merely a sick woman? Are we confronted with a number of separate and distinct entities or with varied local states of one systemic impairment? Is there one cause for metritis, another for colitis, another for ulcer, another for asthma and still another for insomnia? If we are going to treat her for several diseases, where do we begin? Do we treat the neuritis first or the asthma? Do we treat the uterus first or the stomach? Do we treat her for a variety of different diseases, each having its own cause and requiring a different treatment; do we farm her out among a variety of specialists, or can we think of all the so-called diseases as having a common cause, as being in other words, successive and concomitant evolutions out of the same persistent and increasing toxemia?

   Do these several so-called diseases arise out of a cause that has existed from the beginning and still exists, the removal of which will permit the body to heal all of its local impairments? The reader, coming for the first time in contact with such a question, may perhaps be puzzled. Instead of treatment, the Hygienist would put the woman to bed and stop all food until she is comfortable and her secretions are normal, after which light eating would be adhered to for some time. The results of this plan of care are such as to justify the conclusion that no form of care that does not have as its most important objective the elimination of toxemia, of intrinsic origin and effect, can give dependable and lasting results.

   A child frequently develops colds. It develops sore throat, tonsillitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, all of which are cured, and soon followed by another cold, another tonsillitis, another bronchitis, and this process continues until chronic disease of the lungs evolves. Or he may develop disease of the stomach, bowels, kidneys, etc. The fact is that, from the outset (that is, from the first cold), the child has not been well. Why? For the reason that the causes of organic impairment have not been corrected.

   All diseases are one. Enervation develops out of wrong habits of living, secretion and excretion are checked and acute disease evolves. These crises are evanescent--the patients get well. They are said to be cured. They pass from under the care of their physicians, but continue to practice the same physical and mental habits that led to the evolution of the acute disease. Another so-called acute disease develops; it soon ends and the patient is again said to have been cured and the same wrong habits are returned to. This continues until chronic disease evolves.

   Physicians are kept busy treating acute diseases and converting these into chronic diseases. They speak of curing these evanescent crises, but they should know that no health is ever returned to until the causes that are impairing it are corrected or removed. Chronic toxemia begins in infancy or childhood with never a complete respite from one or all symptoms. Pathology is a direct evolution out of the impairment of organic or physiological function--a result of the lowering of functioning power by enervating ways of living.

   All so-called diseases are related. They vary symptomatically in keeping with the histological structure and function of the organ involved. Inflammation of the brain gives rise to certain symptoms, while inflammation of the stomach gives rise to other symptoms. The symptoms vary, not because the inflammation varies, but because the organs and functions are different. Even the standard symptom-complexes vary with the individual cases. No two are replicas of each other. They are modified by individual factors, by personal habits, by environment, by treatment and other factors. Treatment is a common cause of complications and intensifications.

   In the common practice of medicine, a "local disease" does not seem to be recognized as a symptom of a general disease. This inevitably leads to a very partial, not to a panoramic view of things. Illness is general, yet there are many localized symptoms and pathologies to which specific names are attached. Each varying symptom-complex is named and treated as a separate and distinct (a specific) disease, but the intelligent student of pathology should know that all pathologies are fundamentally the same. Until the clinicians comprehend the unity of disease, they will continue to go in circles in a symptomatologic jungle.

   Studying all the symptoms that have been so carefully and painstakingly sorted out and compiled into complexes and catalogued as so many distinct or specific diseases; watching the confusion created by physicians of high and low degrees, in their efforts to diagnose and cure, we cannot help but think that a recognition of the essential unity of all pathology would bring order out of all this chaos. Every part of the body is alive and has its own individual life and pathology--hence it is that each tissue or each organ lends its own individuality to pathological developments.

   The folly of creating many diseases out of one is nowhere better illustrated than in the case of the man who has a very severe "cold." He may have inflammation of the eyes (conjunctivitis), inflammation of the nose (rhinitis), inflammation of the pharynx (pharyngitis), inflammation of one or more nasal sinuses (sinusitis), inflammation of the larynx (laryngitis), inflammation of the bronchial tubes (bronchitis), and inflammation of the tonsils (tonsillitis). The layman would say that the man is suffering with a severe cold; the physician, with his penchant for dividing pathology and naming a separate disease after each quarter of an inch of anatomy, would name the separate diseases just enumerated. Instead of a common cold, the man with a headache, running eyes and nose, stuffiness in the nose and difficulty in breathing, huskiness of the voice, soreness of the throat, drainage of the sinuses and coughing and sneezing, would have quite a variety of diseases. Yet, in point of fact, in spite of all the names that would be attached to the symptoms, he would simply be sick. Every so-called disease named above and many more unnamed in this list are but different "local" phases of chronic toxemia.

   A similar picture of the confusion that results from naming the same condition in different locations as different diseases may be seen in colitis. The colon is a lengthy organ with several parts, and inflammation may occur in any of its parts, giving occasion for several names. We will take but two: inflammation of the sigmoid is called sigmoiditis; inflammation of the rectum is called proctitis. There is no line of demarcation between the sigmoid and the rectum. If in sigmoiditis the inflammation extends but a quarter of an inch over an imaginary line into the rectum, the patient would have two diseases--sigmoiditis and proctitis. It may work the other way around. In proctitis, if the inflammation extends a quarter of an inch over the same imaginary line into the sigmoid, the patient has sigmoiditis in addition to proctitis. This same merging of one disease into another may be seen in the heart, in the stomach, intestine and gall bladder, in the genito-urinary tract, giving rise to many so-called diseases. This is mere logomachy. Basically, there is but one disease. What particular organ is affected or what special form the pathology may assume and what special name may be attached to it is of little consequence. The so-called disease is always an expression of one fundamental cause, to which may be super-added a number of complicating supplementary causes.

   It should be obvious that there is no such thing as a specific disease. Every so-called disease is symptomatic of functional and structural impairment and alterations of the body, depending entirely upon the mental and physical activity of the sick individual.

   What we have said of the relationships of so-called diseases is equally true of septic infection--they vary symptomatically with the histological structure and its function. Infection of the brain is characterized by sleeping sickness; infection of the heart is characterized by symptoms of heart disease. Septic infection is an omnific influence and it does not matter from what source it is derived. It may come from a cadaver, from a calf (vaccine), from a focal point--a bubo, a chancre, a ruptured appendix--from putrefaction in the digestive tract, from spoiled food, a cancerous degeneration; its malignancy depends upon the amount absorbed and the speed with which it is absorbed. If its entrance is into the peritoneum, speedy death may result; if it is upon the arm, as in vaccination, it may spend itself locally; if it enters the circulation, sleeping-sickness may result. Its absorption may speed up any incipient pathology. The lymphatic glands of great numbers of children are on the defensive all through infancy and childhood because of gastro-intestinal fermentation and putrefaction. Many of these children evolve tuberculosis.

   The human organism is an indivisible whole and anything that tends to interfere with the unity of its structure or the unity of its function becomes a factor in the causation of disease. What if the symptoms resemble chronic appendicitis or colitis or gastritis or ovaritis or neuritis or arthritis or indigestion or nervousness or sleeplessness or headache or jaundice or heart disease or Bright's disease or a lump in the breast or cancer? What if they resemble any of the acute inflammations, either obscure or out in the open? What if it is thought that it is a surgical case or one that needs psychoanalytic care? Whether the diagnosis is positive or open to question as to differentiation or degree of intensity, the doubts, the fears, the panics can be dispensed with in almost all cases by the simple process of eliminating the accumulated toxins. Recognizing the unity of disease and the unity of cause greatly simplifies the work of caring for the sick.

 


HOME    HYGIENE LIBRARY CATALOG    GO TO NEXT CHAPTER