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Naturopathy for Self Healing

by Joseph Goodman(more info)

listed in naturopathy, originally published in issue 41 - June 1999

The purpose of this article is to show that Naturopathy is a well-defined concept of health care, that Natural Therapeutics is Naturopathy in action where patients are treated in a variety of non-suppressive ways in order to remove as many obstructions to self-healing as possible. It will stress the important role of Naturopathy in health maintenance and the avoidance of ill health. A radical rethinking by the patient of the meaning of health and disease and a radical change of lifestyle may often be called for, which makes it implicit that the practitioner is a re-educator as well as a therapist.[1]

Joseph Goodman's Tripod of Health and Disease

Joseph Goodman's Tripod of Health and Disease

Naturopathy is applied physiology and common sense. Physiology is defined as the science of the functions of the living organism and its components and the chemical and physical processes involved.[2] Common sense means normal understanding and good practical sense in everyday affairs.[3] Sound practical judgement, natural sagacity and social awareness are ideals devoutly to be wished for but then so are the attainment and preservation of individual health.

Health is consistent with observation and adherence to the laws of nature. Disease is the result of flouting those laws. Barring accidental or surgical injury to the human organism and surroundings hostile to human life, the primary cause of disease according to Lindlahr is violation of nature's laws.[4]

The laws of nature are evident to those who acknowledge them. A fundamental law is that only the living organism has the power to act; when the power fails the person will be unable to respond to any influence whether it is beneficial or not. The influence itself has no power to act; it is acted upon, by the Body (a convenient abbreviation for the complex of mind, body and inner spirit of existence). The Body will make use of nourishing food whereas it will try to reject or dilute or store away any hazardous substances. Stepping off a cliff will invoke the law of gravity even if a parachute or a bungee rope is used. Corrosive chemicals will overcome the Body's power to defend itself and will destroy tissue even if cigarette advertisements omit such detailed information – suing a tobacco company after the event betrays retrospective ignorance of a simple law of nature which is that living beings succumb to poisons. Climatic elements are neither deliberately benevolent nor malign but fire burns, water fills land space and wind fills air space; natural laws that can result in damage and dis-ease from flood, forest fire or dust storm.

To go back to beginnings:

With some exceptions all organisms whether human, animal or plant are born with a survival urge and, fortunately, most organisms are equipped with the appropriate mechanisms that ensure survival until they die naturally or through injury. Survival depends on a good inheritance, nourishment appropriate to the individual, shelter from the elements, a satisfying occupation with physical and mental endurance and, for the species, the opportunity to reproduce. Comfortable and satisfying survival equates with health. Ill-health is survival with little joy or comfort.

There are few short cuts to health preservation or health restoration. Unfortunately, wonder therapies and gimmicks have abounded through the centuries. A current fashion, for example, is the elevation of the immune system to undue heights. A variety of therapies and substances are offered and sometimes guaranteed to "enhance the immune system". What that phrase means is rarely explained but even if it could be defined and demonstrated, the intent can be limiting and therefore counterproductive. Taber's Dictionary defines the immune response as the reaction of the body to substances that are foreign or are interpreted as being foreign. It involves antibodies and antigens, the thymus gland and lymphocytes and other specialised cells. All have vital specific tasks to perform but they are only a small proportion of what is involved in dealing with a hazardous environment.

Numerous processes will, without conscious effort, maintain minute to minute homeostasis. Homeostasis means a tendency to stability in the normal body states (internal environment) of the organism. It is achieved by a system of control mechanisms activated by negative feedback; e.g., a high level of carbon dioxide in extracellular fluid triggers increased pulmonary ventilation, which in turn causes a decrease in carbon dioxide concentration. Other mechanisms include those that ensure that the temperature of blood in the human body does not, except in extreme limits, vary however cold or hot the weather. Similarly, there is a sequence of actions that controls hormonal feed and feedback ready to meet any change in circumstances.

If the danger is external to itself the Body will either confront the danger or run away from it. If the danger is within, the Body will sneeze or cough up the hazard from the respiratory tract, vomit it from the stomach or bile system, excrete it from the bowels or genitourinary system, erupt it through the skin, or burn it up in a fever. At first such defensive activities are hardly noticed by the individual concerned – a sneeze or a throat-clearing cough or the quick healing of a skin cut are unlikely to upset anyone. It is only when the offensive influence persists that there is noticeable discomfort. A medical name is given to the symptoms that become more evident as the Body pursues its survival activity: hay fever, for example for protracted sneezing and eye-watering or catarrh when mucous membranes become involved. Any number of –itises join the lists when constructive inflammation becomes necessary. Bronchitis, for example, involves the bronchi, conjunctivitis the eyes, arthritis the joints and rhinitis the nose. The collective signs and symptoms do not suddenly become medical diseases just because they have been given a diagnosed name. All acute processes are what they were at the outset, attempts on the part of the Body to dispose of or reduce threats to its survival. Only the degree of activity becomes more pronounced and with it comes pain, incapacity and disharmony.

Naturopaths insist that such acute episodes should not be suppressed. At best, suppression will only delay the inevitable repetition of acute cleansing, at worst it can be dangerous: try putting a lid on a pressure cooker that is belching out its steam. Apart from life threatening episodes such as meningococcal meningitis or rupturable appendicitis the processes of disposal and renewal should be encouraged by intelligent but controlled leaving alone or by simple intervention where it would be kind to reduce discomfort.

There will come a time, however, if the original undue influence has not been disposed of or escaped from, when ideal survival gives way to adapted survival. Rubbed skin will harden, lung tissue will thicken with mucus, irritants will be encysted, a healthy organ will take over the work of a diseased one. There will indeed be survival but at the cost of a loss of function. Hard skin will have lost some sensitivity, lungs thick with mucus will make stair climbing a strain, one kidney is never as productive as two.

Naturopaths are at their most confident in helping if the patient still has inner vitality to mount an acute healing crisis or if adaptation is only in its early stages before chronic breakdown of tissue has occurred. Fasting, restricted diets, rest, relaxation, hydrotherapy, understanding of the processes involved and positive attitudes can all play a part in enabling the patient to re-establish inner harmony, The whole person is involved. The whole person is the real "immune system". No boosting was needed, only permission and opportunity to do what comes naturally, to heal, that is, to become whole. Optimum recovery will depend on the degree to which obstructions to healing have been reduced or disposed of and on the freedom of the eliminative organs to play their part, whether liver, lungs, kidneys, bowels, skin or mucous membranes.

If only life were so idyllic. If people did not smoke or inject, drink to excess, overeat, pollute their internal or external environments, resent their neighbours, hate the strangers within their gate – if only – there would probably be no need for practitioners of any kind.

There is a need, however. To continue, therefore, with the relationship between health and lack of health: once self-defence and attempted compensation have been thwarted, either by the use of drugs or by eating when the body is least able to make use of further food, health goes gradually down hill. There will be attendant pathologies and irreversible loss of structural and functional capabilities. Chronic arthritic joints lock, emphysematous lungs consolidate, arteries occlude. Only surgery can make any difference in the worst stages.

The role of the naturopath in possibly irreversible chronic conditions becomes one of management. Although the urge to survive is still present, chronic disease is no longer a self-healing process. It is never too late, however, to make changes in life style so as to avoid further deterioration. The naturopath looks for ways to improve quality of life in spite of disabilities. Specific exercises alternating with self-imposed rest, foods and drinks that nourish instead of aggravate, structural adjustments of soft tissue and movable joints, exploration of the psyche with its social, family or occupational connotations: all play a part in the re-integration of the individual with hopeful reduction of distress.

The tripod, as illustrated, provides a model for considering the complexities of health and disease. Health is evident when there is a harmonious interaction within the components of the tripod and with other units in its sphere of existence. Restoration of health whether in total or in part depends upon restoration of harmony.

There are four broad components of the tripod:

1. The biochemical or nutritional, whatever is taken in whether swallowed, absorbed through the skin, injected or breathed in,
2. The physical structure which will have to transform all nutritional intake into material for the enhancement of the individual's existence, and to excrete the products of waste and excess,
3. All the non-physical aspects of life such as thinking, feeling, expressing, desiring, striving, loving and sharing.
4. All three limbs are modified by inherited tendencies, qualities and characteristics some of which are handicaps, some are blessings.

No one aspect is more important than another. What is eaten, for example, is dependent on how it is eaten and when, in what company, in what frame of mind and in what physical condition of the eater. Starting from another leg of the tripod, inability to pay the mortgage or to enjoy a relationship can produce physical strains, abdominal pains, headaches or indigestion. In the early 1900s one Monsieur Emile Coue, famous for his mantra: "Every day in every way I am getting better and better" helped many people back to health. Unfortunately he died comparatively early in life because, it seems, he paid little attention to what he consumed or how he treated his physical body. A New York cartoon in the 1920s put it this way: "Every day in every way I am getting better and better, but the nights are terrible".

Each limb of the tripod is dependent upon the other two, as in wood so in life.

To summarise:

Diseases are not "cured", symptoms are not treated. Patients are treated, not their named diseases.

Nothing is introduced into or onto the body that can suppress symptoms, produce harmful side effects or act contrary to the laws and principles of natural healing.

Constructive therapies that are employed should be stepping stones along the way of re-education in health. Doctor is from the Latin, docere, to teach.

The processes of health maintenance and health restoration are not placid: they demand attention and will at times demonstrate the mighty power of the processes of healing.

Further Information

For a list of Naturopaths in the UK contact: The Secretary, The General Council and Register of Naturopaths, Goswell House, 2 Goswell Rd., Street, Somerset BA16 0JG.

Colleges that include naturopathy in their degree training courses are:

The British College of Naturopathy and Osteopathy (Westminster University), The Registrar, 6 Netherhall Gardens London NW3.
The College of Osteopaths (Middlesex University), The Administrator, 13 Furzehill Rd Borehamwood Herts WD5 2DG


1. J. Goodman, Conference lecture abstract, GCP Newsletter, 1998.
2. Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, FA Davis Company, 1985.
3. Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English.
4. Henry Lindlahr MD, Philosophy of Natural Therapeutics, Maidstone Osteopathic Clinic, 1975.
Dorland's Electronic Medical Dictionary WB Saunders Company 1998.


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About Joseph Goodman

Joseph Goodman is a naturopath, osteopath and acupuncturist practising in London. He is Head of Dept of Theory and Practice of Osteopathy at the College of Osteopaths (Middlesex University) where he is also senior lecturer in the principles and philosophy of naturopathy. He is also on the Board of Trustees of the Tyringham Naturopathic Clinic and is an Executive Council Member of the British Naturopathic Association. He can be contacted on Tel: 0181-202 6242.

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