CHAPTER 2. Disease -What Is It?
While health and disease are talked of and written about as though they were two distinct entities, they should be looked upon as one and the same thing; that is, states of health. Two extremes may be named: that of good health and bad health, and the variations from very good to very bad.
Disease is a state, not an entity. Cause of disease may be an entity or a delusion, and it may be exogenous or endogenous. When cause has set up a morbific process, this is disease proper. After disease is established it becomes a cause, and its effects should be called affections. Affections are functional derangements which may become organic diseases.
Organic diseases should be recognized as affections--functional derangements--continued until organic change--structural change--has taken place.
It is common to speak of affections of the heart, lungs, and kidneys as heart diseases, lung diseases, and kidney diseases. But the truth is that these and other organs are not diseased per se; they are affected by a morbific agent acting from without or within the organism,
A pneumonia is an affection of the lungs which represents the culmination of many morbific influences. Heart disease is an affection of the heart brought on by morbific agents turned loose in the blood from imperfect digestion, or the affection is brought on from sympathetic influence. The entire organism is so constructed that an irritation at one point is distributed to all other points. An irritation of the stomach causes many functional synergies and morbid sympathies. No disease can remain local; sooner or later the entire organism becomes involved.
When the body is functioning comfortably, it can be said that health exists; when functioning uncomfortably, disease or affection exists. Disease, then, is a state of health--a state of life.
Perfect health does not exist; for a child is no sooner born than it begins to die. A cell is no sooner developed than it begins to die. In the midst of life we are in the midst of death.
Life may be described as the kinetic state of the body. If it were possible to have no change in the relation of the body and its environments, equilibrium would be established. This would bring the body into a latent or static state. The moment a change takes place, however, latency is transformed into activity; the static state becomes dynamic; and again the struggle for existence begins--growth and decay fight, so to speak, for supremacy.
To live means to die. The question, then, to determine is how to strike a balance between disintegration and building up, so as to maintain a comfortable state of the body and mind; which, interpreted correctly, means a high state of health and efficiency and the longest life.
If environing influences on the body vary slightly--only slightly--the body is not taxed greatly to keep its equilibrium; but as great change takes place the body is taxed severely to keep its equilibrium.
For example: When the weather temperature varies ten degrees between noon and midnight, the human body does not expend so much energy in keeping its equilibrium as it would be compelled to do if the variation in temperature should be fifty or more degrees.
If a person spends all his nerve energy in keeping warm, he has none left for taking care of food. All other influences work the same way. Anything that reduces the nerve energy lowers the digestive function. When any part of the nerve energy is used up in keeping warm, there is just that much less for digesting and assimilating food.
When man is wise he will endeavor to know all the influences in his environments--the cosmic as well as all other influences; and when adjusted to them he will use his knowledge to prevent the shock of great changes.
A reserve or strong resistance is the privilege of well-born youths and young manhood; but if the resistance is carried into middle life or beyond, this splendid reserve should not be battered down because of its quantity. Only the fool can believe that a good constitution can be abused with impunity.
Disease is the morbific influence of external or internal agents on the body; and the effect of those influences depends entirely upon the virulence of the influences and the amount of resistance.
Disease may be mental or physical. As mind is built from external influences, it is necessary to look for external influences as the cause of mental diseases.
Disease seldom, if ever, comes from one influence. An injury may be sustained by a hundred-per-cent-efficient man, and, although severe, the recovery is thorough and quick. If a person of low resistance receives a similar injury, he will be a long time recovering, and his affections--his systemic derangement--may have to be corrected before he can get over his injury.
The habitual use of alcohol or tobacco may show no apparent effect on a hundred-per-cent-efficient man; but if he loses his resistance, becomes enervated, his accustomed drink, cigar, or cup of coffee strangely and powerfully affects him.
A telegram that causes no interruption--no increase of heart action--at one time may kill another.
Germs that are said to cause disease do so only when resistance is broken. At most, germs and parasites must take their place among auxiliary or secondary causes.
The prime cause of all diseases is enervation; and enervation has as many causes as there are influences in man's environment.
Whatever the first cause, enervation follows--spent resistance is another name. Then such causes as germs may act. When energy is gone, man becomes a prey to any pathological influences; even health- and life-imparting influences become disease- and death-imparting when enervation is great; it is then that food becomes bane. The first cause must be enervation, and that can be brought about in a thousand ways. The man who has spent his resistance is the man who makes friends with the germs