Health-Healing Self-Health Preventable Diseases

Preventable Diseases

Preventable Diseases
Catalog # SKU3827
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Woods Hutchinson
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000


Preventable Diseases

Woods Hutchinson

The human body as a mechanism is far from perfect. It can be beaten or surpassed at almost every point by some product of the machine-shop or some animal. It does almost nothing perfectly or with absolute precision. As Huxley most unexpectedly remarked a score of years ago, "If a manufacturer of optical instruments were to hand us for laboratory use an instrument so full of defects and imperfections as the human eye, we should promptly decline to accept it and return it to him.



But," as he went on to say, "while the eye is inaccurate as a microscope, imperfect as a telescope, crude as a photographic camera, it is all of these in one." In other words, like the body, while it does nothing accurately and perfectly, it does a dozen different things well enough for practical purposes. It has the crowning merit, which overbalances all these minor defects, of being able to adapt itself to almost every conceivable change of circumstances.

This is the keynote of the surviving power of the human species. It is not enough that the body should be prepared to do good work under ordinary conditions, but it must be capable, if needs be, of meeting extraordinary ones. It is not enough for the body to be able to take care of itself, and preserve a fair degree of efficiency in health, under what might be termed favorable or average circumstances, but it must also be prepared to protect itself and regain its balance in disease.

The human automobile in its million-year endurance-run has had to learn to become self-repairing; and well has it learned its lesson. Not only, in the language of the old saw, is there "a remedy for every evil under the sun," but in at least eight cases out of ten that remedy will be found within the body itself. Generations ago this self-balancing, self-repairing power was recognized by the more thoughtful fathers in medicine and even dignified by a name in their pompous Latinity-the vis medicatrix naturæ, the healing power of nature.

In the new conception of disease, our drugs, our tonics, our prescriptions and treatments, are simply means of rousing this force into activity, assisting its operations, or removing obstacles in its way. This remedial power does not imply any gift of prophecy on nature's part, nor is it proof of design, or beneficent intention. It is rather one of those blind reactions to certain stimuli, tending to restore the balance of the organism, much as that interesting, new scientific toy, the gyroscope car, will respond to pressure exerted or weight placed upon one side by rising on that side, instead of tipping over. Let the onslaught of disease be sufficiently violent and unexpected, and nature will fail to respond in any way.

Moreover, we and our intelligences are a product of nature and a part of her remedial powers. So there is nothing in the slightest degree irrational or inconsistent in our attempting to assist in the process.

However, a great, broad, consoling and fundamental fact remains: that in a vast majority of diseases which attack humanity, under ninety per cent of the unfavorable influences which affect us, nature will effect a cure if not too much interfered with. As the old proverb has it, "A man at forty is either a fool or a physician"; and nature is a good deal over forty and has never been accused of lacking intelligence.

In the first place, nature must have acquired a fair knowledge of practical medicine, or at least a good working basis for it, from the fact that the body, in the natural processes of growth and activity, is perpetually manufacturing poisons for its own tissues.

In this age of sanitary reform, we are painfully aware that the most frequent causes of human disease are the accumulations about us of the waste products of our own kitchens, barns, and factories. The "bad air" which we hear so frequently and justly denounced as a cause of disease, is air which we have ourselves polluted. This same process has been going on within the body for millions of years. No sooner did three or four cells begin to cling together, to form an organism, a body, than the waste products of the cells in the interior of the group began to form a source of danger for the others. If some means of getting rid of these could not be devised, the group would destroy itself, and the experiment of cooperation, of colony-formation, of organization in fact, would be a failure. Hence, at a very early period we find the development of the rudiments of systems of body-sewerage, providing for the escape of waste poisons through the food-tube, through the kidneys, through the gills and lungs, through the sweat glands of the skin. So that when the body is confronted by actual disease, it has all ready to its hand a remarkably effective and resourceful system of sanitary appliances-sewer-flushing, garbage-burning, filtration. In fact, this is precisely what it does when attacked by poisons from without: it neutralizes and eliminates them by the same methods which it has been practicing for millions of years against poisons from within.

Take, for instance, such a painfully familiar and unheroic episode as an attack of colic. It makes little difference whether the attack is due to the swallowing of some mineral poison, like lead or arsenic, or the irritating juice of some poisonous plant or herb, or to the every-day accident of including in the menu some article of diet which was beginning to spoil or decay, and which contained the bacteria of putrefaction or their poisonous products. The reaction of defense is practically the same, varying only with the violence and the character of the poison. If the dose of poisonous substances be unusually large or virulent, nature may short-circuit the whole attack by causing the outraged stomach to reject its contents. The power of "playing Jonah" is a wonderful safety-valve. If the poison be not sufficiently irritating thus to short-circuit its own career, it may get on into the intestines before the body thoroughly wakes up to its presence. This part of the food-tube being naturally geared to discharge its contents downward, the simplest and easiest thing is to turn in a hurry call and cut down the normal schedule from hours to minutes, with the familiar result of an acute diarrhea.

Both vomiting and purging are defensive actions on nature's part, remedies instead of diseases. Yet we are continually regarding and treating them as if they were diseases in themselves. Nothing could be more irrational than to stop a diarrhea before it has accomplished its purpose. Intelligent physicians now assist it instead of trying to check it in its early stages; and paradoxical as it may sound, laxatives are often the best means of stopping it. It is only the excess of this form of nature's house-cleaning which needs to be checked. Many of the popular Colic Cures, Pain-Relievers, and "Summer Cordials" contain opium which, while it relieves the pain and stops the discharge, simply locks up in the system the very poisons which it was trying to get rid of. Laxatives, intestinal antiseptics, and bowel irrigations have almost taken the place of opiates in the treatment of these conditions in modern medicine. We try to help nature instead of thwarting her.

Supposing that the poison be of more insidious form, a germ or a ptomaine, for instance, which slips past these outer "firing-out" defenses of the food-tube and arouses no suspicion of its presence until it has been partially digested and absorbed into the blood. Again, resourceful nature is ready with another line of defense. It was for a long time a puzzle why every drop of the blood containing food and its products absorbed from the alimentary food-canal had to be carried, often by a most roundabout course, to and through the liver, before it could reach any part of the general system. Here was the largest and most striking organ in the body, and it was as puzzling as it was large. We knew in some crude way that it "made blood," that it prepared the food-products for use by the body-cells, and that it secreted the bile; but this latter secretion had little real digestive value, and the other changes seemed hardly important enough to demand that every drop of the blood coming from the food-tube should pass through this custom-house. Now, however, we know that in addition to its other actions, the liver is a great poison-sponge or toxin-filter, for straining out of the blood poisonous or injurious materials absorbed from the food, and converting them into harmless substances.

It is astonishing what a quantity of these poisons, whether from the food or from germs swallowed with it, the liver is capable of dealing with-destroying them, converting them, and acting as an absolute barrier to their passage into the general system. But sometimes it is overwhelmed by appalling odds; some of the invaders slip through its lines into the general circulation, producing headache, backache, fever, and a "dark-brown taste in the mouth"; and, behold, we are bilious, and proceed to blame the poor liver. We used to pour in remedies to "stir it up," to "work on it"-which was about as rational as whipping a horse when he is down, instead of cutting his harness or taking his load off. Nowadays we stop the supply of further food-poisons by stopping eating, assist nature in sweeping out or neutralizing the enemies that are still in the alimentary canal, flush the body with pure water, put it at rest-and trust the liver. Biliousness is a sign of an overworked liver. If it wasn't working at all, we shouldn't be bilious: we should be dead, or in a state of collapse.

Moral: Don't rush for some remedy with which to club into insensibility every symptom of disease as soon as it puts in an appearance. Give nature a little chance to show what she intends to do before attempting to stop her by dosing yourself with some pain-reliever or colic cure. Don't trust her too blindly, for the best of things may become bad in extremes, and the body may become so panic-stricken as to keep on throwing overboard, not merely the poisons, but its necessary daily food, if the process be allowed to continue too long.

340 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover - Print size, 12 point font

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