Natural Hygiene, the Science of Health

There's more to Hygiene than cleanliness and sanitation. And society is getting the message.

Hygiene is defined in the dictionary as the science of health and its preservation. But just what does that mean?

Science, the dictionary tells us, is the systematic observation of natural phenomena for the purpose of discovering laws governing those phenomena. In other words, science is the process we use to figure out how things work.

Health is defined as a state of optimum physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease. Natural hygiene is a broad term, which encompasses the techniques that man has developed to learn about the natural laws that determine health. The more you learn about these laws, the better prepared you are to make the choices that will determine to a large extent both the quantity and the quality of your life.

Over 100 years ago a few disenchanted medical doctors began to publicly challenge the medical approach to health care that included in its therapeutic arsenal leeches, bleeding, withholding of water from patients, etc. These early natural hygienic pioneers criticized the use of drugs in the treatment of disease and advocated fresh air and sunshine, good diet, and the avoidance of social poisons such as tobacco, alcohol, and coffee. Since the mid-1900s, natural hygienists have tried to convince a resistant world that health is a state of vitality and that health is self-generated by the human organism when it is provided with the prerequisites of health and is put under no more stress than is within its inherent and developmental capacities.

Here are some quotations. After reading them, we can decide together whether or not natural hygienists have been successful in influencing America's attitudes about health.

"Most Americans choose the way they will die. How you live, hour by hour, day by day, more than anything will determine what will kill you and when."

"For the most part, unnoticed bad living habits - not germs - are the big killers in industrialized society."

"Over the past 50 years our unhealthy living habits have grown into a gigantic new disease that kills 7 of each 10 people. The biggest killers today-heart disease, cancer, and stroke, along with cirrhosis of the liver, bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma - kill 76 percent of the 2 million Americans who die each year. There are no vaccines to prevent such threats to life. Cleaning up our life-styles is the cure. Ironically, rather than improving, lifestyles are getting worse."

"Changes in diet, smoking, exercise, and alcohol consumption, and a reduction in physical and psychological stresses of our environment would do more to improve health than doubling outlays in medical care."

Before I give you any more quotations, perhaps I should reveal the source of this information. The American Natural Hygiene Society? A chiropractic brochure? A book from a health food store?

No. All of these quotations come from a booklet put out by none other than one of the largest insurers of medical care in the country, Blue Cross.

Now let me provide you with a few more quotations from this Blue Cross booklet.

"The next major advances in the health of American people will come from the assumption of individual responsibility for one's own health and a necessary change in the lifestyle," according to Dr. John H. Knowles, president of the Rockefeller Foundation.

"It has become clear that only by preventing disease, rather than treating it later, can we hope to achieve any major improvement in the nation's health," according to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

"By switching from a bad lifestyle to a healthier one, a person can figure on adding about 14 years to his life," said Dr. Lester Breslow, Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Benjamin Lipson, an insurance consultant, said, "Bad lifestyles are such a threat to health that the so-called average healthy American with a self-indulgent living pattern is a far worse insurance risk than a mild adult diabetic who watches his diet."

Health experts are beginning to realize that crisis medicine has become a bottomless pit. No matter how much money is put into it, it has not improved the health of the people. H. Robert Cathcart, chairman of the board of trustees of the American Hospital Association, has said. "In the last few years we have come to recognize that the demand for our services is infinite. We can begin now to act on the lifestyle issue and join others in helping individuals to modify their lifestyles, to lead healthier lives, and thus to reduce the use of the expensive services that we offer."

Natural Hygiene

Have natural hygienists been successful in obtaining recognition of their philosophy? I believe the answer is a resounding Yes. The public, government, and even the medical establishment are opening their eyes. It's true that there is still much education that needs to be done, but never before have more people had more information available about how to get and stay healthy. Concepts relating to prerequisites of health have been well accepted.

Natural hygienists have long stated that the prerequisites of health include good diet and environment, appropriate activity-including rest, work and play-a sound psychology and functional homeostasis, or balance. As for diet, they recommend that the diet should be a vegetarian-oriented diet emphasizing fresh raw fruits and vegetables. They advocate regular exercise and rest as well as productive activity, and they emphasize the importance of the environment, not only in broad terms of air and water quality but also in terms of work conditions and aesthetic beauty.

Natural hygienists have long recognized that a sound psychology is predicated on self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-responsibility. These components are becoming accepted, mainstream, popular. This is good-and about time.

But there are still some concepts that have not gained widespread understanding or acceptance. Natural hygiene offers a unique view of the very nature of health and disease. Currently the average person's concepts of health and disease have been manipulated by the economic interests of the food industry, the drug industry, and, perhaps most of all, by the pseudoscientific proclamations of the medical industry, abetted by the popular media.

Modern Medicine

The modern medical establishment would have you believe that the 300-plus billion dollars a year that are spent on so-called health care is buying an ever-increasing standard of health. In recent years there has been an outcry even from individuals within the scientific and medical community.

Rick Carlson, in his book, The End of Medicine, states that current medical practice has very little to do with health. Although the medical establishment attempts to take credit for decreased incidence of specific disease processes and claims responsibility for an increase in life expectancy, Rene Dubos, an eminent bacteriologist and holder of a chair at the Rockefeller Foundation, published a book entitled Mirage of Health in which he states that modern medicine's purported achievements are not all they are cracked up to be. He points out that it was the social reformers-that is, the early natural hygienists who campaigned for purer water, better sewage disposal, and improved living standards-who were chiefly responsible for the reduction in mortality from so-called infectious disease.

As for increased life expectancy, Thomas McKeown, in his book, The Role of Medicine, explains that the statistics purporting to show a great increase in life expectancy have been misleading. The increase has largely been the consequence of higher living standards and a decrease in infant mortality. Life expectancy for those who have reached adulthood is little higher today than it was at the beginning of the century. Ivan Illich, in his book, Medical Nemesis, says that the medical profession concentrates almost all of its resources on treatments for which they get paid-rather than on prevention, which, if effective, would reduce their income and status.

In The Diseases of Civilization, Brian Inglis quotes Halfdan Mahler, director of the World Health Organization, who states that there has been a mystification in medical care, which has continued, almost unchecked.         

Absorbed in its own preoccupations, the medical profession has allowed the gap between health care and medical care to continue to widen. At the same time it has exploited its monopolistic position to create an unnecessary dependency of the population upon the holders of these mysteries.

Inglis also reminds us how adept the medical profession is at abusing statistics to try to prove its case. Hardin Jones, a professor of Medical Physics at the University of California, Berkeley, bluntly told his colleagues that patients whose cancers were inoperable were being used by surgeons as the controls or comparisons in trials, giving the false impression that those patients who were being treated for cancer with surgery and radiation were benefiting. Correcting the statistics to allow for this bias, Jones calculated that the life expectancy of untreated cancer patients was longer than those receiving treatment.

Patients are often told by medical practitioners: "Learn to live with it"... "What do you expect at your age?"... "There is nothing that can be done." If patients question their doctors about alternative approaches, they are often told: "We don't know what causes your problem. We don't know what will help you. We are not trained in natural therapeutics-but they couldn't possibly be of help." And if you are a woman and your test results come back negative, you may be told that "It's just your hormones"... or "It's all in your head."

When patients who have recovered their health through natural means go back to the medical practitioner who made the original diagnosis, patients are often greeted with hostility for daring to go outside what Robert Mendelson, M.D., describes as the church of modern medicine.

In his book, Confessions of a Medical Heretic, Dr. Mendelson states, "I believe that despite all the super technology and elite bedside manner that is supposed to make you feel about as well as an astronaut on the way to the moon, the greatest danger to your health is the doctor who practices Modern Medicine." He contends that the treatments for diseases are seldom effective and that they are often more dangerous than the diseases they are designed to treat.

What Is Health?

The single most important problem with the modern medical profession is its misconception about the very nature of health and disease. Dorland's Medical Dictionary defines health as the absence of signs and symptoms-that is, the absence of any evidence to the doctor or patient. In fact, even if there are symptoms, if they are not much worse than the symptoms of the other patients seen by the doctor, he may still pronounce you healthy. This is a kind of health by default. But health is not merely the absence of symptoms. It is a state of vitality where the human organism has the capacity to successfully adapt to the stresses of its environment.

What about disease? Disease is defined in the medical dictionary as a definite morbid process having a characteristic train of symptoms. If you look up morbid, you'll find it defined as having to do with disease. That's what you might call a circular definition.

Modern medicine has defined disease as both the degeneration and death of the cells that are the building blocks of tissue, as well as the processes that precede this degeneration. In other words, they believe that the reactive processes of the body-such as fever, inflammation, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.-and the death or degeneration of cells are bad. Those who study health realize that this is a serious misconception. While we all agree that the degeneration and death of the body's tissue is a bad thing that must be prevented, we strongly disagree with the concept that the self-healing mechanisms of the body-such as fever, inflammation, etc.-are negative. We recognize that not only are these "disease" processes natural, but they are essential if the body is to restore balance and prevent damage.

It is absolutely essential to understand that the body generates disease processes in an attempt to restore normality. Fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and inflammation all have very important functions in the recovery of health, if these processes are interfered with through the indiscriminate use of drugs, surgery, even "natural" therapeutics, this interference with the body's self-healing mechanisms may prevent it from making a complete recovery. The invasion treatment may be successful in eliminating the symptoms, but it may actually make the individual less healthy.

For example, fever is the word we use to describe an increase in the body's temperature. If the organism needs to increase its metabolism to fight off the effects of unfriendly microorganisms, one of the many responses of the body is to increase its basal metabolism. This increases the rate that chemical reactions take place in the body. This increased metabolism helps the body regain balance. It has also been noted that many microorganisms have difficulty synthesizing certain essential nutrients at increased temperatures and that the fever of acute illness is important in giving the body the upper hand.

The increase in temperature also creates some side effects, such as increased perspiration, headache, etc. A doctor practicing modern medicine may see fever as an enemy, since it makes the patient uncomfortable, and the doctor may proceed to "attack" the fever by poisoning the body with a variety of toxic substances.

If the doctor is "successful," the patient may feel more comfortable for a while. Unfortunately, the cause that created the need for the fever has not been addressed, and the symptoms often return at a later date, occasionally in a different form. Instead of working against the body's natural healing mechanisms, we must learn to support the body and allow it to restore its natural balance.

Fortunately, medical doctors are becoming aware of the tremendous damage they have inflicted on too trusting patients, and they are now beginning to avoid the indiscriminate interference with fever.

Care of the Sick

Natural hygienists do not claim that the body is always successful or always capable of overcoming each and every obstacle. Neither do they claim that there is never a role for drugs or surgery. Their recommendation is to avoid the causes of disease and, in cases where intervention becomes necessary, that conservative techniques should be used whenever possible, and that every attempt should be made to support the body's inherent healing mechanisms. The human organism is very well designed. And when the body is provided with the prerequisites of health and is not stressed beyond its inherent capacities, it is self-healing, self-regulating, and self-directing.

The critical issue is: What is the best way to avoid damage to the body? Obviously, the first choice is prevention. But once an injury or problem develops, what is the best way to resolve it?

Modern medicine generally takes an overly invasive, aggressive approach that often poses more risk than the process being addressed.

Drugs and surgery are often directed at the symptoms of problems rather than the actual problems. The important question to always consider is: What factor or set of factors is responsible for this set of symptoms? What can be done to remove the causes? What can be done to support the body's healing mechanisms?

Most of us realize that the symptom-oriented quick-fix promises of modern medicine are on the way out. But what will replace them? Recently "natural" therapies have come into vogue. However, most of these are nothing more than allopathic medical practices minus the toxic (drug) substances, or with less toxic ones. The philosophy is still the same. Although therapists may talk a lot about natural healing, it is, in fact, merely a game of words. The ancient concept that a special substance, vitamin, potion, or treatment is needed to allow the body to be healed is still being promoted. Instead of the potent pharmaceutical drugs of modern medicine, the "natural" therapists utilize milder herbs, homeopathics, and other exogenous agents.

Nothing but the body can heal. All healing is generated by the body. The body requires the prerequisites of life and the opportunity to heal. No drug, herb, or treatment can speed up, increase, or allow healing except in that it provides the body with a needed raw material or removes an interfacing factor.

In order to heal itself the body often generates such processes as fever, inflammation, etc. It is important to understand the role of these healing crises. When the various stress factors of life-physical, chemical, emotional, etc.-exceed the body's ability to maintain optimum health, the body will attempt to restore its natural healthful balance. It may generate what can be called a healing crisis. This is not to say that healing crises are desirable. In fact, we want to learn to live so that the need for a crisis is eliminated. But when one is required, we should support the body and not interfere with its efforts.

For example, if a toxic substance is introduced into the intestinal tract-whether it is from food, microorganisms, or any other source-the body will attempt to eliminate the poison before it can be absorbed. Vomiting and diarrhea may ensue. Attempts to interfere with these may actually increase the amount of toxin absorbed. If the body is unable to keep all of the poison from being absorbed, it may increase its metabolism (fever) and mobilize its defense mechanisms (white blood cells, etc.) to isolate and remove these poisons. These processes of the body, though uncomfortable, are both natural and necessary for our health. They would collectively be termed a healing crisis.

Choosing Health

Health is the optimum state of well being. Disease processes are attempts by the body to heal itself. Degeneration is the alteration of tissues that takes place when the body is unable to overcome stressors. Avoid the indiscriminate use of the practices of modern medicine that interfere with the natural mechanisms of the body. Support the body by providing it with the appropriate quantity and quality of the prerequisites of health and by limiting the stress factors of life within your control. It is important that everyone understands how health can be regained and maintained. Each of us must be allowed the opportunity to construct a rational model of health that is consistent with reality.

You now have this opportunity. The question is: What will you do with this information? You have a choice. And that choice will determine to a large extent the quantity and quality of your life.