The Causes of Disease

By Herbert Shelton, 1928

If cells that are kept clean and properly nourished never grow old in the sense that they lose their vitality; and in the human body there are organs and functions that, when normal, completely rid the body of waste and toxins; and another process that, when normal, keeps the cells supplied with a fresh supply of nutrient material – what impairs these organs and functions so that the cells do grow old, do lose their vitality and die? It is assumed by some biologists, that this impairment is a necessary result of the community action of the cells of the body.

Cells in the laboratory are killed by starvation and by poisoning. Why assume that their death in the body is due to other causes?

  • The un-eliminated products of metabolism,
  • plus the breaking down of cells in disease,
  • plus toxins absorbed from without,
    are as capable of destroying cells in the body as in the scientist’s test tube.Drugs, serums, vaccines, anti-toxins, etc., that are taken into the body, in any manner, for any purpose, kill cells and cripple organs.
    Starvationof the cells resulting from eating denatured food or from impaired digestion and assimilation is capable of killing cells in the body.MANY CAUSES OF EACH DISEASE
    In considering the causation of disease it is important that we keep in mind that the antecedents of every so-called disease are many and not just one. As an instance, it is asserted that irritation is the cause of tumors, but irritation alone will not produce a tumor while the number of sites or localities of man’s or woman’s bodies that are subject to constant irritation which do not develop tumors are as infinity to one, when compared with the seats of irritation which do become tumors. Irritation is a cause and not the cause. It contributes to the production of a tumor. It is but one of a number of correlated factors which collectively constitute cause. It is an erroneous practice which men indulge in when they single out one of these correlates and say that it is the cause of cancer,

    Headache is a symptom that may be produced by many different causes.
    A cold may be due to a simple indigestion, or to exposure, or to overwork, or to loss of sleep. But a simple indigestion is alone insufficient to produce a cold. Exposure, overwork, loss of sleep; neither of these alone can produce a cold. A cold is an evolution out of a number of correlated causes.

    It is said that a certain germ causes a certain disease. This theory will be discussed later. At this point I only desire to call your attention to the fact that if germs are a cause of disease, they do not constitute the cause of disease.
    There are a number of antecedent causes and their effects which must be present before the germs can enter into the cause. At most they are but secondary and never primary causes. If we grant them a place in the causation of disease we must recognize that they are but one of a number of correlated causes which collectively constitute the cause. It is a mistake to single out one particular correlate and hold it responsible for the disease.

    Disease is not a simple, but a complex effect, not of one antecedent but of many. It is, as Dr. Tilden declares, “the sum of a multitude of elements.” Individuals differ, the combination of causes differ in each individual case of disease, and hence, each supposed specific disease differs—no two cases are alike.

  • Two men are out hunting and are caught in a cold rain-storm. They are drenched and are exposed to the rain and cold for hours. The following day one has pneumonia, the other arthritis.
  • A mother dies. Her children grieve deeply and long for thoir mother. One of them suffers a “nervous collapse;” the other develops Bright’s disease.
  • A group of people have a feast. They eat and drink. One develops a diarrhea, one develops typhoid, another has pleurisy, still another has rheumatism and another is apparently unharmed.
  • One man indulges his sex appetite excessively and becomes extremely nervous. Another man worries over his business and becomes equally nervous.

Consider these facts and hundreds more like them and you see that different causes acting on the body may produce the same result while the same causes acting on different bodies, or on the same body at different times may produce different results. Yet these things are true only because the correlates are different. If the correlated causes were identical in a thousand cases, then a heavy meal would, in conjunction with these correlates, cause the same difficulty in each of the thousand cases. These elemental factors in the causation of disease are legion. The idea that there are specific causes for specific diseases is purely fallacious. Every so-called disease is a river the waters of which are derived from many tributaries.

This being true, what is to be thought of a mode of treatment which attempts to dry up the river (“cure” the disease) by destroying one of its tributaries (causal elements)? What are we to think of the effort to find a “unitary entity” which will immunize one against a multiplicity of causes? Is it not true, as Dr. Tilden says, that “a multiple causation must be met by an opposing treatment co-equal in elemental constituents?”

With these few preliminary remarks we will address ourselves to a brief consideration of the causes of disease, making no apologies for the order in which they are treated.
“Every so-called disease is a river, the waters of which are derived from many tributaries.”

Vigorous health and a sound constitution is the natural and normal condition of man. Anything below this represents a stage of degeneracy or impaired health.

From the topmost peak of bodily soundness to the lowest depths of physical depravity is a long and progressive decline brought about by adequate degenerating causes. The lowest depths of physical rottenness are not reached quickly or suddenly. Over the whole decline there are a number of successive stages that have to be passed through in their natural order.

The impairment of health is due to violation of the laws of life in our voluntary habits. To make this statement clear, let me first explain that the functions of the human organism are operated by and under control of a force which we call nerve force, because it resides in and is distributed by the nervous system.

Without this force, organic function is impossible. When nerve force is abundant, bodily functions are vigorous; and when it is low they are impaired.

We might compare the body to an automobile and the nervous system to its storage battery. If the storage battery is well charged and the wiring is in good order, the car has plenty of spark, bright lights and an efficient starter. But, if the battery is low and the spark is poor, the lights are dim and the starter weak. Indeed, the starter may not be able to turn the engine over, and the battery may be so low that the car cannot be run and the lights burned at the same time. The human body is not capable of generating an unlimited supply of nervous energy.

Often in modern life we consume our energies faster than we recuperate them, so that our vital or nervous batteries run low Then, just as a low battery means poor spark, dim lights and a useless starter on our cars, so lack of nervous energies in the human body lower the functional efficiency of all its organs. Digestion is impaired, secretion and excretion are checked, elimination lags.

This condition we call Enervation.

from H.M. Shelton – Human Life Its Philosophies and Laws, 1928