Monday, October 5, 2009

What is and Illness?, Part 1

The Importance of the Body's Internal Cellular Environment

It is rare for any person whose health has been compromised to ask himself “Why am I sick? What is really happening in my body?” To the contrary, all of his attention – and that of those around him – is focused on his blatant, disagreeable, or painful symptoms, which are actually just surface manifestations of his deep-rooted illness.

It seems self-evident that the normal reaction would be to make a vigorous counterattack to the assault represented by the illness. As a general rule we behave as if disease were an outside entity independent of the patient, which, by entering the body, suddenly makes the patient sick. From this perspective, we consider the individual stricken by illness to be an innocent victim requiring our assistance because, through bad luck, he or she suffered an unhealthy assault.

The expressions used to speak of illness clearly support this premise. We say the we “fall” ill, that we haven been “stricken”, or that we have “caught” a disease.

According to this hypothesis, taught by allopathic medicine, each “assailant” determines different characteristic disorders. There are, therefore, as many diseases as there are assailants; this is what is known as multiple causes, or plurality of disease. Since there are no common elements among diseases in this corollary, each must be treated with its own specific remedy.

In naturopathy, however, all diseases are considered as different manifestations of a single, common disorder. This common denominator, this profound illness from which all others result, resides on the level of the biological terrain, or internal cellular environment. This terrain consists of all the fluids in the body, including those contained within cells and those in which the cells are bathed, as well as blood, lymph, and cerebrospinal fluid.

The intra-and extracellular fluids, along with the blood, represent 70 percent of the body’s weight. These fluids are crucial, inasmuch as they constitute the environment of our cells. Intracellular fluid fills the cells, gives the body its shape and tone, and allows the exchanges that need to take place between its organs. Extracellular fluid carries oxygen and nutriments to the cells, and carries waste they expel to the excretory organs.

Our cells depend entirely on these fluids. They deliver nutritive supplies (food, vitamins, water, oxygen, and so on), eliminate toxins created by the metabolic process, and transmit messages from one cell to another, ensuring their coordinated and harmonious interaction.

Just as our environment provides conditions that are favourable for health or make us sick, depending on whether or not it is polluted, the environment of the cells plays an influential role in the state of their health. If they are bathing in a milieu that is deficient in oxygen and overloaded with wastes, they will be incapable of performing their tasks properly.

Our body is made up of cells. If these cells are not functioning normally, the entire body will function poorly and enter the state that we call illness.

There is a precise and ideal composition of the internal environment that permits proper functioning of the body. Any major quantitative or qualitative change in these fluids leads to illness. For this reason, the vital force of the body is constantly struggling to maintain the internal cellular environment in perfect balance.

Primarily the body does this by neutralizing and expelling all wastes and toxins that are a consequence of metabolism. This purification is carried out by the emunctory, or excretory organs – liver, intestines, kidneys, skin, lungs – which filter and eliminate waste.

The localization of “surface” disorders depends on the particular weaknesses of an individual’s body. All the body’s organs are immersed in fluids that are overloaded with wastes. They are all irritated and attacked similarly by toxic sludge. The first organs to give way, the first to find this environment intolerable, are obviously those that are genetically weakest or have the greatest demands placed on them. For example, for people whose profession requires them to talk a lot, it would be the throat; for those most often affected by stress, the nerves will give way; miners, painters and others who breathe in dust or noxious gases at their place of employment are likely to have problems with the respiratory tract. The illness is one and the same in all cases, but manifests differently in every individual.

We owe this concept of a single cause for every disease to Hippocrates, known as the father of medicine. In the time around 500 BCE he wrote: “The nature of all illness is the same. It differs only in its seat. I think it only reveals itself in such diversity because of the multiplicity of places where the illness is established. In fact, its essence is one, and the cause producing it is also one.”

Twenty-five centuries later, Alexis Carrel, the 1912 Nobel Prize winner for medicine, stated: “The body is ill in its entirety. No illness remains strictly confined to a single organ.”

Image: 5th century bas relief, said to be of Hippocrates

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