Hygienic Care of the Sick


   The Hygienic System grew directly out of the effort of men trained in physiological science to create a system of mind-body care, both in health and in sickness, that was founded on the principles of physiology. Contrast this effort, initiated by Graham, to use the principles of physiology as the basis upon which to predicate a way of life, with the effort of medical men to so twist physiology as to make it appear to support their drugging practices--practices which had evolved in advance of physiological science and which are obviously anti-physiological.

   In the care of the sick Hygiene peddles no cures, offers no grab-bag full of therapeutic modalities and has no treatments for sale. It holds that only the elemental requirements of the living organism, the primordial requisites of organic existence, can be serviceable in either a state of health or disease and that, other than these, all else is illusion. The time must surely come, and this in the immediate future, when it will be generally recognized that only such substances as help to constitute, in health, the fluids and tissues of the living organism can be of use to the body in a state of sickness.

   A Hygienist, Ellen M. Snow, M. D., writing in the Journal, 1856, said: "We do not profess to cure disease in the common acceptation of the term. We can only supply favorable conditions. Nature, and Nature alone, can effect a restoration to health." Coming, then, to a consideration of the means of providing "favorable conditions," she said, first, that "we cannot do this by introducing into the system agents which are incompatible in themselves with the healthy exercise of its functions." Then she adds: "We have surrounding us, in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water which serves a variety of purposes, agents which are necessary to the maintenance of life, and therefore perfectly compatible with the structures of the system." These she called "hygienic agencies," and said that by modifying conditions, these could be made to subserve important purposes in the restoration of health.

   In the place of the systems of healing that now command the blind patronage of the sick, we offer a simple, plain, easy-to-understand system of mind-body care, with nature as its guarantee, the cardinal principle of which is that nature works for the restoration of health by the same means and processes in kind by which she works for the preservation of health. Hygiene holds that, as science and art are the children of nature, made wise by her teachings, that is not real science or true art, however illustrious the names that propogate them, that uses or proposes means and processes which nature indignantly rejects.

   How, then, account for the reliance of the masses with the blind confidence of religious devotees on modes of treating disease which, so far as they produce effects, kill or tend to kill? So strongly is this absurdity held, even by men of education, it is unscientific to get well without resort to killative means. Indeed, it is scientific to die of poisoning. And so Hygiene is considered unscientific and empirical, void of all claim to the confidence of the invalid, because it begins and concludes its whole effort by a deliberate recognition of the supremacy of constructive and normal things and processes.

   The simple principle that drugs never cure disease, but that healing is always a biological process, is the fundamental premise of what the early Hygienists called the Hygeio-Therapeutic System. Trall said of the Hygienic System that "it claims to have better success in restoring chronic invalids to health and in the treating of all kinds of acute diseases than is claimed or ever was claimed for any drug system ever known on the earth." A few days' care suffices in acute disease, but a chronic one may require weeks and months of persevering care, according to the condition of the sick and the nature of his impairment.

   The normal condition of every organized being--plant, animal or man, is health. Disease is the result of some violation of the laws of nature. Hygienic care of the sick requires the removal of the consequents of such violation of law and a return to normal conditions. It consists in adapting the supply of the normal or physiological needs of the body to the capacity of the impaired organism to make constructive use of them. It is not essentially a program of denial, but of adjustment.

   Whatever the body can constructively use and the amount that it can thus use, it should have; for the purpose of Hygienic care is to meet life's needs in a manner that enables it to restore a normal physiological state as quickly as possible.

   Hygienic means are not employed as cures, nor are they employed with which to control symptoms. The Hygienic theory has vital action occurring where it is needed and, therefore, where it is safe to have it. This action should not be interfered with, either by drugs or by treatment of any kind, nor should it be diverted to points where it is not needed.

   So intrinsically superior is Hygiene to all other methods of caring for both the well and the sick that nothing is needed to commend it to the general judgment and to give it general public approval, than a full understanding of it.

   There is no such thing in the natural order of things as escaping from the consequences of our acts. Hence, Hygiene teaches and insists upon the principle that before health can be regained, there must be entire conformity to Hygienic law. Unlike the curing systems, Hygiene holds out to no person immunity from the consequences of actions and modes of living that violate or are in conflict with the laws of being. It does not tell the sick that they may continue to live in violation of these laws and still, by some magic potency, recover from the consequences. But it does point to the fact that living organisms are so constructed and endowed as to be able to repair their damages and restore their functions when the violations of biologic law are discontinued.

   Today everybody is against you--everybody and everything is in your way. All attempt to lead you down the wrong path and influence you to do wrong. Nobody points out to you your initial errors; nobody shows you how and in what way you have violated the laws of being. Nobody stands up for the wisdom and goodness of the constitution of nature, as displayed in our own organism and its normal relations to its environment; nobody reveals to you the great, simple and most sublime of truths--that incorporated in every living organism itself is a great vital recuperative capacity as part and parcel of its very life, identical with and inseparable from our existence, by which and through which the organism is evolved, its waste recuperated, its injuries repaired, its infirmities removed and its diseases healed. Nobody seems to know anything about this; nobody seems to believe in it and you dwell in the common darkness of those around you. But it is no consolation to the sufferer to know that he is but one among many who are ignorant. Such knowledge does not repair his injuries and it does not help the others.

   Were a man sick with typhoid fever, during the last century, his physician would dose him with several kinds of drugs, all in 24 hours. What, after that, was the physician likely to know of the ordinary course or natural developments the disease would take? Nothing. For drugs so mask the symptoms and the condition of the patient that no physician can tell after the first 24 hours of drugging what his patient's condition really is.

   There was almost always an aggravation of erratic symptoms, such as gripping and tympanitis immediately following any arrest of the diarrhea in the early stages of typhoid. In this disease, too, cerebral complications are easily induced by stimulants given to the patients. Only when diseases are permitted to run their course absolutely without drug treatments and other suppressive measures, is one able to gain insight into the natural history of disease.

   What medical men speak of as progress, often represents nothing more significant than change, although the change is sometimes for the worse. It frequently happens that the change is from a bigger evil to a lesser one. Let us take the case of pneumonia. Under the old battle-ax treatment of the last century, the death rate was very high. With the introduction of penicillin, there was a great reduction in the death rate and this has enabled physicians to do considerable crowing over the progress they have made. Actually, all that occurred was a substitution of a less lethal mode of treatment for the older and more lethal mode of abuse--this is to say, penicillin does not cure more cases of pneumonia, it only kills fewer. Penicillin has proven very effective in suppressing the symptoms of pneumonia and, in spite of the fact that it is a very dangerous drug, often occasioning serious side effects and even death, it is less lethal than the drugs employed 25 years ago.

   "Hygiene may be good in some trivial ailments, but I would not trust it in severe cases," say many who lack a full understanding of the principles involved. There is no possibility of overrating the principles on which the Hygienic plan of caring for the sick is based. They are as grand as nature, of which they are eternal parts and are, therefore, worthy of our implicit confidence. If "success" is to be estimated by the comparative number of recoveries under the various modes of care, certainly those modes which abjure drugs in all forms possess all the advantages, besides their recoveries do not have to be made all over again ever so often.

   The argument of our opponents runs about like this: Hygienic means are adapted to health. Disease is the opposite of health. How can Hygienic means be restorative in this opposite state? But this question misses the essential work of caring for the sick. What is to be restored? Hygiene does not cure disease; it does not aim to cure disease. It aims at the restoration of health of the sick organism and it proposes to restore health with the elements of healthy existence.

   What is disease? It is not a thing to be removed, expelled, subdued, broken up, cured or killed. It is not a thing, but an action; not an entity, but a process; not an enemy at war with the organism, but remedial action, a remedial effort; not a substance to be opposed, but an action to be left alone. The drug system endeavors to remove disease; the Hygienic System endeavors to remove the causes of disease. In order that the forces of restoration shall succeed in restoring health, the sick should have normal conditions--this means the proper use of Hygienic means and conditions.

   If we can accept the self-healing power of the living structure and can bring ourselves to trust the recuperative powers of the human organism, we will find no need for the myriads of "aids to nature" that are peddled by the many schools of so-called healing. The poisons we shall leave to physicians. The curative effects of poisons is their idea and they are stuck with it. The curative effects of poisons is the one idea, the central idea around which all their practices revolve. By it they live and move and have their being. Those things only which are normally related to the living organism are truly useful in the care of the sick; all things not normally related to the living organism, all poisons, all things that are pathologically related to the organism, are employed on the basis of premises that are false and absurd.

   It will be found, upon honest investigation, that Hygiene does not consist in the use of food only or of the fast only, but of due attention to all the facets of life. Diseases are results of violations of the laws and conditions of being and health can be restored only by the sick individual being taught to live in harmony with these laws. He who expects to be "made whole" and still continues to live in a way to impair his organism may as well expect to sober up while he continues to drink.

   In Hygiene we insist upon a free supply of fresh air; we regulate the amount of exercise which should be taken; we pay rigid attention to the quantity and quality of food, its preparation, combinations, and the time of its eating; we regulate the amount and kind of clothing, the habits of rest and sleep, temperature of the room, the amount of water drunk, the exercise of the emotions, etc. We permit no unnecessary waste of the power of life, but conserve it, hoard it, and permit its use in the work of repair and reconstruction.

   In its widest sense, Hygiene is the application of the principles of nature and the use of the normal means of life for the preservation and restoration of health. In disease it consists in finding and removing the causes of bodily impairment and restoring the conditions of health. At present, drugs are esteemed as important and essentially useful; but this esteem of the people for such substances is exactly proportionate to their departure from the use of the normal things of life and health which are provided by nature and which are competent, not only to sustain them in growth and reproduction, but also to keep them from being sick. When the people shall come to see-they are coming to see now-that it is quite easy and simple to maintain health, because it is normal to be healthy and health is the normal product of the legitimate use of the normal means of life, that it is easier to maintain a normal state of health than it is to recover from an abnormal state of disease, then will they learn to rely upon Hygienic means, not alone to maintain health, but also to restore it. Then will the almost infinite brood of shams and charlatanisms, in the efficacy of which the popular faith has so long largely reposed, go to the bottom of perdition and never rise again.

   Editorially, Trall wrote in July, 1860: "Our system is hygienic, not drugopathic. It is precisely what it pretends to be--nothing more, nothing less. It professes to cure diseases--all diseases--by the employment, exclusively, of such agents as are in normal relations to the living organism. These, as we have repeatedly stated, are air, light, temperature, water, food, electricity, exercise, rest, sleep, clothing, passional influences, etc. Whenever a physician prescribes aconite, capsicum, calomel, quinine, opium, wine, brandy, larger beer, bleeding or blistering, he is practicing drugopathically."It is only necessary to add that we use these Hygienic materials as they are normally related to the body and adjust them to the capacities of the sick organism.

   We demand the employment of the normal means of preserving life and of unfolding the physiological capacities of man. The great question with the reader is simply this: will these means of Hygiene recuperate our wasted energies, restore their normal actions to our wasted organs, enable our body to heal itself and make of us men and women again? You cannot understand how such simple means as air and light, water and food, activity and rest and sleep can be so effective in restoring you to health. You think that you require something more potent, something more complex, something more mysterious, something that exercises a more particular influence upon your disease, if you are to again become well.

   But, if you will reflect a minute, you will realize that these "simple" means are the regular and, so far as is known, the only sources of organic substance and functional energy. They are the very stuff of life itself. If they cannot provide you with the means of recuperation and reconstruction, what is there that can? Besides, what is so simple about them? You call them simple only because you are so familiar, in a superficial sort of way, with them. But is air more simple than aspirin; is sunshine more simple than penicillin; is food more simple than cortisone?

   If, as we contend, disease is remedial effort, the legitimate work of those who care for the sick is that of supplying the conditions that assure the success of the remedial work. A knowledge of the vital laws will teach people that the first need in the care of the sick is the removal of the causes of disease and not the suppression of vital processes that are designed to restore health. These two processes, that of removing cause and that of supplying the conditions of health, constitute Hygienic care. It is Hygienic because it uses in its management of the sick only those things which have a normal relation to the living structures. Except for surgical purposes, it has no use for any other agents in the care of the sick. Listing Hygienic agencies in January 1874, Trall included mechanical and surgical appliances, although it must be admitted that these are not truly Hygienic.

   There is a great rage today for specialty, as if there were great virtue in them--in themselves considered. This we regard as a serious mistake. The special, to be good for anything, must be born of correlations and dependent on the general. Special means, in the treatment of the sick, must, in the very nature of things, grow out of their conformity to general means. As, for example, the general principle on which the health of the human organism is to be preserved is that "agents," "instruments," "means," "influences" or "forces"--if you prefer these to other terms which are used--whose ordinary operations are to build up each organism (and only such means are to be used) shall be used so that they shall form a combination, thus greatly increasing their usefulness. These forces, if we may use this term, are air, water, food, light, warmth, rest, activity, cleanliness and wholesome mental influences. Each of these is good, but each is better in combination with the rest. The larger the combination the stronger the influence for good.

   Suppose we have a patient in whom a specialty is needed. What shall it be? Most manifestly, something or some appliance which in ordinary conditions of the body can be used for its benefit. A specialty, therefore, consists in using under particular conditions of the organism, in a particular or special manner, something or some substance which in ordinary conditions the body will or may use in an ordinary way and this is the limit of the use of specialties. Beyond it no doctor can go, without entering the boundaries of empiricism. No matter how learned he may be or profound his intelligence, no matter how philosophical or skillful--the instant he passes this line he becomes a charlatan. Diplomas may grace the walls of his office; professorships may seek him--he is all the more censurable the more he traverses the territory of the uncertain. All that sphere is uncertain wherein, passing out of and from under the authority of those great general laws which govern the operations of life, the doctor undertakes to find his specialties in "things," "means," "substances," and "remedies," which bear no general healthful relation, but, on the other hand, do bear a general unhealthful relation to the organism.

   Hygiene is not a desperate remedy to be resorted to only in emergencies, but a very agreeable and effective plan of care that should be resorted to at the outset of trouble. Now, what does Hygiene propose to do? It is not a system of curing. It is not a substitute for the biological processes of healing. It proposes to remove man from the false conditions in which he lives and teach him to live in obedience to the laws of his being. In other words, the cause of disease must be removed and, having done this, there is power within the organism to do the rest. The weak patient may be encouraged as well as guided; he may even be scolded. But, he requires no treatment. A gentle lift with Hygienic means, no violent kicks with drugs, constitute all the assistance nature can make use of.

   Hygiene embraces and seeks to embrace truths in nature and their application, so as to embody a correct science, applicable to the preservation and restoration of human health. It relies upon no favorable accident to result from manuvering the body with foreign matters. It turns physiology to account in the care of the sick and is exultant at the range of means open to it from this source, competent to secure the highest physiological good. If the teachings of Hygiene seem somewhat incredible at first, despite the apparent soundness of its principles, this is only because we have been so strongly conditioned from early infancy to think in terms of cure and curing. Necessarily, then, Hygiene must be superior to all the other modes of care, inasmuch as all its force, when intelligently applied, works harmoniously with the forces of the organism, while drugs work destructively. There is no magic nor miraculousness in Hygiene. Its mightiness lies in its naturalness; the wonders it accomplishes lie in its simplicity. It is not enough to demonstrate by reason the superiority and all-sufficiency of Hygiene in all remediable conditions. Disease is always more or less uncertain and so it is impossible to be certain when the disease has been obscured by the deleterious effects and influences of drugs. Hygiene has scarcely a fair play after drugs have been used. Hygiene gives rise to none of those maladies that are denominated iatrogenic diseases. Disease, when no drugs are used, seldom leaves behind any sequelae. May we not infer from this that a plan of care which is consonant with and founded in a knowledge of physiology should be innocent?

   It is a significant fact that the hazard from the ignorant employment of Hygiene is small when contrasted with that which accompanies the most scientific employment of the most popular drugs. One may use Hygiene amiss without endangering life; it will even prove beneficial. This is weighty evidence of the instrinsic goodness of Hygienic materials.

   Admitting that drugs may, in some instances, apparently improve function and structure and restore normal and healthy action to the various organs of the body, we call attention to the undeniable fact that this improved condition and action is apparent only and never lasting. A laxative may occasion increased bowel action in constipation, but it does not remedy constipation and its supposed benefits are not susceptible of indefmite extension. On the contrary, its continued use results in worse constipation. Tea and coffee appear to remedy nervous irritability in a wonderful way, relieving headache, gloomy forebodings, etc.--but they appear to help only to make matters worse. A drug may be given (veratrum, for example) that will seem to control and regulate the excited pulse; but it depresses the heart's action. As soon as the drug is eliminated, the pulse is as excited as before. Can any definite relation be shown to exist between the abnormal condition to be remedied and the means commonly used to remove it?

   We do not offer Hygienic care as a substitute for drug treatment. We do not think that drug treatment has any value; we deny that it can ever restore health. A great error in regard to the Hygienic System is that of considering Hygienic means as substitutes for drugs--that food, air, water, sunshine, warmth, exercise, rest, sleep, bathing, etc., are substitutes for penicillin, aspirin, cortisone, etc. Never was there a greater delusion. We may as well call truth and honesty substitutes for lying and stealing. They are totally dissimilar-in no sense interchangeable; under no possible circumstance of health or disease can the means of Hygiene be regarded as substitutes for drug poisons. The first are good; the second are bad--this is the whole of the matter. We affirm the omnipotence of Hygiene and decry the destructive tendencies of drugs when used in the care of the sick.

   On what principle are the great and marked changes in the physical and mental conditions of the sick, when cared for Hygienically, to be accounted for? Certainly, not to the superior skill of the Hygienist over other men of other schools of thought and practice. We explain it as being due, in large measure, to two things:

  1. While under Hygienic supervision they are permitted to take nothing, the natural and legitimate tendency of which, in its effects upon the human body, is to injure or weaken, disturb, impair or ruin it.
  2. They are appropriately supplied with those normal means and conditions the legitimate effect of which, upon the human body, is to build and repair it.

   Instead of the most poisonous and most deadly substances in all the kingdoms of nature being the proper means of restoring health, we want the most friendly and congenial elements in all nature, both for the preservation and the restoration of health. We must not permit ourselves to be fooled and misled by the plausible sophistries and shortsighted delusions of those who say that what is poison in one circumstance or condition of being is the very supporter of life in another; that what would destroy our health when we are well can be made to build up and re-establish health when we are sick.

   We have been taught to ask and expect statistics. Where are your statistics? Where are your experiments? Statistics represent quantitative measurements, but are without value in the absence of adequate qualitative study. For example, a new drug is placed on the market with a mass of statistics derived from animal experimentation and clinical tests. The statistics appear to support the advertised value of the drug, but a few years of experience with it and evaluation of its assumed benefits results in it being discarded as ineffective and harmful. The statistics were misleading. The results of the experiments were misleading. Any man who will take the trouble to watch the passing medical fads for ten years will discover that this is the usual fate of drugs. Neither experimental observations nor the compilation of statistics, however great the compilation, proves of real value as a guide in the care of the sick.

   Opponents of hygeio-therapy frequently pointed to the discrepancies in the practices of the hygeio-therapists as evidence that the system was not well established on a scientific basis. "And well they may," said Trall, for many of the early Hygienic practitioners did not entirely abandon their former drugging practices. It seems that it was primarily because Trall was adamant against all drugging that he was declared to be "too radical."

   A number of "sudden converts" to Hygiene--who run into it as they would into some kind of religion or land speculation, or something of the sort, just for the sake of excitement or, perhaps, because they think it will pay or, being new, will provide something to talk about--begin soon to say: "Oh, Hygiene is well enough for some people or in some diseases, but it can't cure everything." How do they know? No Hygienist pretends that it will cure anything, but this does not bother them. They are simply oblivious of the fact that there are many things in heaven and earth that are not dreamed of in their philosophy. It is just possible that they may not have become familiar with all of the capabilities of Hygiene. They would repudiate the Hygienic System because it cannot perform miracles and raise the dead.

   The strength of Hygiene lies not only in its naturalness and simplicity, but also in the great ideals that have and do actuate its proponents. Among these ideals is one that demands the universal enlightenment of mankind. Other systems write books, but they are for the professionals only. Ours are for the people. What medical journal is issued for the people? Upon the enlightenment of the people must rest the future health of mankind.

   There are some things connected with the progress of Hygiene that are peculiar and gratifying. Other systems may have made as great progress, but none of them have made a progress of the same character. Other systems, and some very notably, have appealed to a blind faith in their dogmas and to a belief in the marvelous. Progress in Hygiene, on the other hand, has been progress in real knowledge. The most thorough converts to Hygiene are the best informed and most intelligent. Indeed, up to this time, there are few others. A man accepts Hygiene just as far as he understands its principles; his belief in the common practices of medicine, and especially the use of drugs, is just in proportion to his lack of such understanding.

   The Hygienist wants to know the why and wherefore of each thing that he does; the devotee of drugging shuts his eyes and swallows his medicine or bares his back and submits to a thrust. Whereas, in medicine, the patient must have confidence, in Hygiene, the first step towards health is that of enlightening the mind. The best foundation for a belief in Hygiene is a thorough knowledge of physiology and a knowledge of the causes of disease. Our only mystery is the great mystery of life. All else is an open book.

   When we have explained the human constitution and its relations to external nature, our work is done; when this explanation is understood, we have made another Hygienist. The attention of people may be attracted by recoveries under Hygiene, but it is by an understanding of its principles that they are converted. Hence the need for more books, more teachers, more missionaries.

   The most important part of our educational activities is that of bringing the popular mind to a comprehension and appreciation of the principles of nature. Until we have done this, earth's human inhabitants must continue to grope their way through the mists of superstition and false theories.