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One of the most trying problems of the Hygienist, in dealing with the sick, and this is particularly true of chronic sufferers, is the demand for speedy results. Everybody wants to get well in a hurry. As Mary Gove so well put it: "The great trouble with Americans is they are in too great a hurry. They are in a hurry to eat and drink and to get rich. They get sick as fast as they can, and they want a short cut to health. Chronic diseases that have been inherited, or induced by wrong doing through half a lifetime, cannot be cured in a day by any process now known to the world."
It is not unusual for sufferers to demand recovery in a week to two weeks. And why not? Have they not been led to believe that if there is anything wrong, the removal of an organ or part, an operation that requires but a few minutes to an hour or more, and a few days in the hospital, will make them as good as new? Have they not been taught to be content with mere palliation of symptoms, a thing that may be achieved in many instances in a few minutes? Will not an antacid relieve stomach distress in a very short time or will not an aspirin relieve a headache in a few minutes?
Quick relief, even if only temporary, is what is so generally demanded. Indeed, they are so determined to get relief that they will die to get it. It is generally true that the means of providing speedy results produce an aftermath of troubles of their own that are often worse than the troubles they are given to relieve. Certainly they never, not in a single instance, nor in a single trouble, remove any of the causes that are producing and maintaining, even intensifying the trouble. They constitute symptomatic treatment and doubtful palliation and produce cumulative side effects.
Why do we expect to get well in a hurry of a condition that requires half a lifetime for its development? Perhaps one is 50 years of age and has had a chronic disease since the age of 35, the condition slowly becoming worse during this time despite (or because of) the faithful employment of the commonly administered means of palliation. Before the disease became apparent at the age of 35, there was a long antecedent series of developments that led up to it. It is literally true that the disease had its initial beginnings with the first cold, colic, diarrhea or hives of infancy. The man may have given the methods of cure a full 15 years of time in which to restore health; but if he turns to Hygiene, he wants to get well overnight. Not only is he in a hurry, but he wants to achieve his recovery with as little disturbance of his accustomed routine and as little change in his habits of living as possible. He may be willing to change his diet (temporarily, of course), but why should he give up smoking? He may be willing to fast, at least he may be willing to miss a few meals, but why should he rest? He has no insurmountable objection to a temporary abandonment of coffee, but why should he exercise? He actually enjoys sun bathing, but why should he not be permitted to overeat?
There is no instantaneous healing. Time enters as an essential element in working for the perfection of the condition of the invalid and healing must necessarily go through a consecutive series of developments. To believe in the sudden restoration of health is to believe in miracles. It would be to believe that the laws of life can be violated for years and the consequences quickly wiped out or that these laws can be violated with impunity. Disease, once induced, can be removed only by a return to obedience. The return to good health is no more sudden than was the evolution of disease. All changes in nature from bad to good are slow--according to the law of growth and perfection of the thing considered. An organism, like a pear tree--which grows slowly, matures slowly and lasts a long time--heals slowly. This is so because the measure of change is ordinarily the law of growth--the process of healing being nothing more nor less than the process of growth in special exercise.
What we desire for Hygiene is a fair trial for a sufficient length of time. Hygiene is the most economical system of care. It supports no druggists or drug manufacturers and requires few practitioners. Its materials are ever abundant, often free, and the best diet is often cheaper than the worst. The universal practice of Hygiene would lead to universal health. For these reasons, Hygiene is destined to be the greatest blessing ever bestowed on a diseased and suffering race.
Certainly the man whose condition has required a lifetime for its evolution will require the employment of all the means of Hygiene; to reorganize and reconstitute his organism. So long as even one of the causes that have contributed to the evolution of his trouble is permitted to remain a part of his daily life--this cause may be one of omission as well as of commission--it will contribute to the progressive development of trouble. All causes of weakness, impurity and suffering must be removed from the life of the individual, else recovery will be retarded and full recovery prevented.
One of the worst things about chronic sufferers is that, almost invariably, they have been drugged so much with all sorts of poisons that their recuperative power is low and the organic damage is so extensive that recovery, where possible, is disappointingly slow.
It is essential that we recognize the fact that recovery of health is an evolution in reverse and that it requires time to be completed. What we term chronic disease is an evolution out of wrong ways of life; recovery of health is an evolution out of correct ways of living. As it takes time to evolve disease, so it requires time to erase the abnormal changes that have taken place in the tissues of the body and to evolve normal tissue to replace the abnormal tissue.
We can watch the evolution of pathology in the drinker, as he progresses from the so-called moderate drinker to the habitual and so-called excessive drinker, with the progressive weakening of the functions of the body and the slow evolution of liver sclerosis, delirium tremens and insanity. Is it to be thought that the effects of ten to 20 years of drinking can be erased in a few days or weeks and that full health, with its integrity of structure and vigor of function, can be restored so quickly? If this could be done, certainly the evils of alcoholism are not as great as we are accustomed to think.
The evolution of pathology out of any type of habitual or chronic poisoning, whether tobacco poisoning, drug poisoning, or a general and persistent toxic state of the body arising out of lowered functioning power (enervation) resulting from an enervating way of life, is not unlike the evolution of delirium tremens out of alcoholism. Likewise, the road back, when the pathology has arisen from some of these other causes, is a slow and gradual one. In all pathologies, as they continue to evolve, a stage is ultimately reached from which there is no turning back. This is the stage of irreversibility. When this stage is reached, there is no longer any hope of recovery of health.
If we understand the nature of the phenomena with which we are dealing and its causes, and if we realize that time is required for the causes that are operating to impair the organism (in which to evolve their effects), we can both understand the urgent need to remove the causes of the suffering of the sick and the need for time in which to evolve into a state of health. The average chronic sufferer cannot expect to evolve into full health in less than two years and many will require more time than this. A few will require less time. Knowing this, we can with patience and determination launch ourselves into a way of life out of which good health evolves and stick to it until we have achieved the desired results and then stick to it to the end that we may maintain our gains.