5. What Health Really Is
5.1 Delineation and Description of Health
Can we define health?
Yes, we can. Conventionally, a lack of obvious disease is regarded as a state of health. In actuality about 99% of our peoples are diseased in some manner or other regardless of appearances.
Health may be defined as having fullness of function. Health means complete well-being, inner and outer harmony, vigor, strength, mental acuity, in short, total fitness.
Perhaps no better statement of health has ever been made than that of Dr. Herbert M. Shelton. I’m happy to quote his definition:
Health is a condition of perfect development, a state of wholeness and harmonious development and growth, an adaptation of part to part of the organism, or organ to organ, with no part stunted and no part in excess.
In this state of organic development lies the perfection and symmetry of beauty. Beauty is but the reflection of wholeness, of health. It is easy to demonstrate that the forms and proportions of humans and every animal and plant which are in their highest and most useful state are the most beautiful and therefore the most healthy.
When every bone is of the best form and size for its service in the total organism, there is perfect proportion. When every muscle is fully and proportionally developed, with just enough of fat and the cellular tissues to round out the muscles, we have the highest beauty of form. When the texture of the skin is finest, when the circulation of the blood most vigorous, the blood well-nourished and freed of all waste, there is the glow and charm of the finest complexion.
The highest beauty is the expression of the highest health. Partial beauty, fading beauty or decaying beauty—these are but expressions of partial, fading or decaying health.
When we suffer any impairment or impediment we cannot be said to be in a state of health. We can be in a relatively high state of health but to the extent we do not enjoy perfection of body function, we are not healthy.
We live in a nation where disease is the norm of life rather than a rarity. In taking up a health career it is our duty to make health the norm and disease a relative rarity.
I refer you to text material included in this lesson for a fuller discussion of what health is. Therein appear two articles by the dean of health teachers, Dr. Herbert M. Shelton.
5.2 Beauty as Reflecting Health
Though our standards of beauty are rather low today, they still, nevertheless, take note of the exceptionally beautiful. Beauty, as a reflection of health and well-being, should be the norm, not the exception. How many women have we seen whom are so lovely and beautiful that we are drawn to them as a magnet? How many men are so wholesome, so fit and handsome that they, likewise, are irresistible to their female counterparts? I daresay such men and women constitute less than 1% of our peoples.
The ability to appreciate beauty is highest in humans. And humans would normally be the epitome of beauty if they lived in keeping with their birthright, that is, their biological mandate. We readily recognize beauty in birds, flowers, and other life in nature. But our fellow humans, whether aged or young, whether nice or disagreeable, are, for the most part, in some way repulsive to our aesthetic senses. Forty percent of our population are repulsively overweight. This is but one impact of the ugliness that characterizes an unhealthy population.
I’ve seen “monsters” transformed as if by magic upon undergoing as little as a month’s Hygienic care. Fatness and ugliness both were overcome with the restoration of a relatively high level of health.
One of the “miracles” you can hold forth to your would-be clients is that of handsomeness or beauty. That quality will be tremendously enhanced in those whom you help to achieve a high level of health.
5.3 Fullness of Function as a Barometer of Health
While it is not always true that athletes are superb examples of health, it is true that all in superb health are quite athletic. Suppleness, agility, stamina, strength, and vigor are qualities essential to a state of health.
Physiological function will be ideal in every respect to someone in full health. A sense of euphoria, of joy, and of total well-being is a condition of health. Healthy people usually wear smiles and pleasant countenances. Glumness and a downcast disposition personify inner unhealthfulness. Nothing sabotages beauty, function, happiness, and well-being as a body shot through with the poisons or toxins borne of bad living practices.
5.4 The Possibility of Perfect Health for Humans
Life Science holds that perfect health is the norm of life. We hold that all creatures in nature adapted perfectly to the conditions of life under which they developed. They changed to cope with their environment and their food supplies.
In nature, perfect health is the norm of existence. Animals have no knowledge or concept about healthful living. They live healthfully naturally by doing only what their instincts bid them do.
It would seem that with a technological society at the apex of development human health would have kept pace and be better now than ever. The contrary is true. Humans are probably unhealthier now than at any time except the immediate past, that is, the last ten to twenty centuries. In the Dark Ages and Medieval times health was at an overall low.
Technological progress builds upon itself, and it is a credit to the human heritage that we still have, even though in a degenerated state, sufficient intelligence to develop and husband a highly technological society. Even though affected by physical degeneracy, the brain is always the least affected of organs in famine, disease, starvation, and physical debilitation.
Perfect health is possible if the conditions of health are ideal. With our intelligence and extensive technology we can create the conditions for healthful living practically anywhere in the world where humans live.
5.5 Health Is Normal and Natural
Over eons of time, organisms have developed to cope with changed environmental conditions and food supplies that varied environments were capable of producing. Environments range from the ideal to the impossible for every creature on earth, even microbial forms of life. Perfection arises from adaptation—from coping with conditions. Adjustments to every vagary of nature created organisms that functioned perfectly.
In humans and animals we witness what is obvious: health is normal and natural. We see animals in nature being born, living their natural life spans and dying naturally without once suffering the infirmities of sickness. And for all our modern pathogenic practices we see humans more or less well most of the time. In view of my Hygienic experience and by my observation of hundreds of others who remain sickness-free under the Hygienic regime, there is but one inescapable conclusion: health is a normal condition of life. It is our birthright.
Life Science is truly a science of life for it is based soundly and scientifically upon our biological requirements for thriving in perfect health.
This is the outlook which you are studying in this course and being asked to advocate and follow in your professional career.
Let us now explore Life Science’s beginnings.
5.6 How Life Science Began in Modern Times
Life Science or Natural Hygiene had its awakening in 1822 when Dr. Isaac Jennings, who had a medical practice in Derby, Connecticut, despaired of drugging. In his many years of practice he was distressed to see his patients become worse from the drugging modality. His patients died and many became chronically afflicted. His yearning to help his fellow beings was sincere.
Dr. Jennings noted that as physicians became older they drugged less and less. He did likewise and found his patients were faring better under less drugging. Then he quit prescribing drugs altogether and found that it wrought miracles.
When patients with problems came to Dr. Jennings he would dispense pills of colored flour and vials of tinted waters. He gave strict instructions for their use just as other physicians gave detailed instructions for the ingestion of drugs. But, in Dr. Jennings’ case, he made a prescription that was to launch a great health movement and an infant science. In 1822 at age thirty-four Dr. Jennings gave his patients placebos with instructions to take them at specified hours of the day with a glass of water. His prescription was that no food could be taken, or else the pills would not work. His patients were ordered to do this for a number of days and then return for a checkup. Upon return they would be terminated from the regimen or continued on it “a few more days.”
Under Dr. Jennings’ new modality, his patients invariably became well. While other physicians lost patients by the graveyard full, his thrived. The ailing flocked to him from far and near.
The success of his “no-drugging” system astounded Dr. Jennings as much as it did his patients and colleagues. Wisely, in his initial years, Dr. Jennings did not reveal his “secrets.” Instead he sought the rationale for his success. He called his treatments “the leave alone” method while professing to dispense pills of unnamed composition. They came to be regarded as pills with magic curative properties.
From this rather inauspicious start, Dr. Jennings began to develop a few laws relative to his observations and experience. He called the system that flowed from the employment of these laws “orthopathy,” or correct affection. He formulated many of the “laws” of life and named some of them as follows:
- The Laws of Action and Repose, i.e., the necessity for activity and rest (sleep).
- The Law of Economy which resulted from his observation of the way in which the body managed its vital energies.
- The Law of Physiological Distribution or the way in which the body supplies all its parts and faculties adequately.
- The Law of Stimulation or how the body accelerates its physiological activities at a frenzied level when a toxic material is introduced therein.
- The Law of Accommodation or how the body adjusts to poisons by decreasing its vital resistance and more effectively quarantining itself from the toxins’ baneful influences. The body gradually builds defensive mechanisms much as armies grow to ward off attack as the need becomes greater.
- The Law of Limitation or the conservation of vital energies.
- The Law of Equilibrium or the revitalization of debilitated parts and faculties when normalcy has been restored to an ailing organism.
Dr. Jennings, to his credit, saw disease not as an attack from some malevolent entity but as lowered vital energy or vital energy redirected to other purposes. His new outlook ventured that disease was caused by an ebb of the body’s energy supply. In essence he was correct, but his explanations were quite formative for it remained for successors to build upon the foundations he built. Dr. Jennings may rightfully be ascribed as the father of Natural Hygiene or Life Science, for he is the first to attempt a systematic ascertainment of the physiology of health and disease.
The next illustrious forefather of the science of health was Sylvester Graham. He was born six years after Dr. Jennings in 1794. He was a very sickly boy. Becoming healthy was an obsession with him which led him to study health. He became well versed in anatomy and physiology. Before coming onto the health scene, he was a Presbyterian preacher. In 1830 during the temperance movement, he lectured in Philadelphia on the physiological evils of alcohol. As a firebrand orator he was amazingly effective with large audiences. In Philadelphia he expanded his knowledge of physiology and health and became acquainted with the teachings of a “vegetarian” group who abstained from animal foods and products and many modern ways of preparing foods. This group was known as the Bible Christian Church and based its mode of life on Biblical commands.
In the great cholera “epidemic” of 1832 Sylvester Graham rose to fame. He literally took on the whole medical fraternity of New York City and the interests supporting the medical system. While the medical men were advising New Yorkers to abstain from fruit and to cook their food thoroughly, Dr. Graham was advocating eating more fruits in the raw state. He advocated open windows, more light, and fresh air and other healthful measures which were contrary to medical teachings. It is noteworthy that those who followed Dr. Grahams’s teachings were not affected by the cholera epidemic, whereas those who followed medical bidding died wholesale.
His fame as a health lecturer was well established in 1832 and he, more than anyone else, gave health science a tremendous impetus. He was in demand as a lecturer over the whole Eastern seaboard. He appeared before audiences of several thousand. People flocked to his lectures and listened to them raptly for hours in seeking salvation from disease and suffering.
So effective was Dr. Sylvester Graham in his lectures and writings that books and magazines blossomed presenting the “Graham system.” The first health food stores came into existence to sell foods which he advocated. Special eateries and living facilities were established for those who wanted to follow his system. The name of Graham became synonymous with the Hygienic diet and Hygienic living.
Where Dr. Isaac Jennings approached health and healing from the point of view of helping people regain health, Dr. Sylvester Graham was instrumental in teaching the touchstones of healthful living so that people would not become ill in the first place.
During the 1840’s, Dr. Jennings and Dr. Graham were joined by perhaps one of the greatest geniuses the movement has produced, Dr. Russell Thacker Trall. His was an inquiring methodical mind that ever sought the rationale and scientific basis for the concepts and findings developed by his predecessors. Thus he brought the Hygienic system to a standard that could thoroughly challenge the medical system. Dr. Trall delivered a lecture in the Smithsonian Institute to some of the nation’s highest dignitaries in 1863. The title of the lecture was THE TRUE HEALING ART. It made quite a ripple during the time. Dr. Trail is the originator of the famous challenge which, though oft-repeated, has never been accepted by a single physician unto this day. This challenge is stated below:
- That the medical system is ENTIRELY FALSE. That it is untrue in philosophy, absurd in science, in opposition to natural principles, contrary to common sense, disastrous in results, and a curse to humanity.
- That the Hygienic System is TRUE. That it is in harmony with nature, in accord with the principles of vital organic existence, correct in science, sound in philosophy, in agreement with common sense, successful in results, and a blessing to mankind.
The new system of health did not discriminate against women. In fact it encouraged women to participate in the movement on an equal footing with men. Among the notable women in this new movement were such luminaries as Florence Nightingale, Mary Gove, Harriet Austin, Susanna May Dodds, Ellen White (guiding light of the Seventh Day Adventists), and Louisa May Alcott, the famous author whose brother became an M.D. and a Hygienic professional.
In the 1870’s the medical profession adopted the Pasteurian germ theory with a passion. People found it much easier to blame their problems on little mysterious beasties rather than on their mode of living. No matter what they did they were absolved of responsibility for their condition. The germ theory made them unfortunate victims of malevolent entities over which they could exercise little control.
With the ushering in of the “germ era” came about the decline of Hygiene. While the philosophy remains alive and still receives a good following, it has been in continual decline relative to our population. In recent years there has been growth in the ranks of those practicing Hygiene in their lives, but there are yet only a few thousand devoted Hygienists.
The revival of Natural Hygiene in the 1920’s owed much of its impetus to the efforts of Bernarr McFadden and Dr. Herbert M. Shelton. Though there were some great Hygienists in the early part of this century, notably Hereward Carrington, Otto Carque, John H. Tilden, and Linda Burfield Hazzard, Dr. Shelton became the acknowledged voice of Hygiene with the publication of his immortal book, “Human Life, Its Philosophy And Laws”, in 1927. Though Dr. Shelton built upon the shoulders of his predecessors, he produced such a wealth of literature with new findings and thoughts that he added more to the science and art of healthful living than any other person. He had the benefit of new findings, and his fertile mind generated a new body of knowledge based on them.
Today the Hygienic movement still survives though it cannot be said that it thrives. A few thousand Americans practice it conscientiously. A greater multitude pay lip service to it and practice healthier living because of it. But, by and large, Hygiene is almost completely out of the mainstream on the American health scene.
In this lesson we cannot hope to more than summarily deal with Hygiene’s history. Books on the history of Hygiene are practically nonexistent. It must be picked up in fragments here and there from books and magazines that make reference to the past. You’ll pick up the history of Hygiene throughout your studies. Perhaps, someday, a history will be published.
- 1. What Is Life Science?
- 2. An Introduction To Life Science
- 3. An Inquiry Into The Philosophy, Principles, And Practices Of Life Science
- 4. Discussion Of The Medical Approach To Health And Disease
- 5. What Health Really Is
- 6. Questions & Answers
- Article #1: The Return To Perfection By Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
- Article #2: What is health?