Endeavour College of Natural Health
Henry Lindlahr describes the philosophy of Naturopathy in his book Nature Cure. This philosophy is as relevant today as it was in the early 1900s. Its founding principles are based on facilitation and support of the body’s innate healing ability.
In 1907-1909 Lindlahr penned a series of publications in response to William Loudon’s letter to the editor of “Health Culture”. Mr Loudon’s principal question was seeking an optimal method for ensuring the preservation of health and wellbeing (Lindlahr, 1909). Indeed, all of Mr Loudon’s questions are equal to those asked today, demonstrating that the confusion of conflicting information and the difficulties in discerning the truth in a sea of ‘good advice’ have not changed.
Modern naturopathy is a multi-modality general practice, emphasizing the treatment, prevention and promotion of optimal health, by encouraging the body’s self-healing ability. Naturopathy modalities have developed from the hydrotherapy and nature cure movement of 1970’s Austria and Germany, to today where nutritional and herbal medicines, massage therapies, and homeopathy are taught as part of a broad evidence-based Bachelor of Science degree (Liang Ooi, McLean, & Cheon Pak, 2018).
Lindlahr’s Nature Cure philosophy of health, life and death, disease and cure, is determined by laws and principles of nature. In Chapter II, Catechism of Nature Cure, he discusses the definitions and formulated principles of this philosophy as a system whereby the balance of physical, mental, spiritual and moral planes of the entire being is required to achieve harmony. Constructive and deconstructive principles of nature oppose each other and must be considered and modified or enhanced to achieve this balance (Lindlahr, 1909).
These terms may be described as anabolic and catabolic processes in current bioscience terminology, and could be describing how bodily processes are ‘built up’ or ‘broken down’.
In Nature Cure philosophy, health is a constructive state of normal and harmonious vibration and disease abnormal and disharmonious or, destructive state, where (except for surgery or accident) an ‘injury’ has occurred. This injury could be due to poison, environmental factors, poor diet or lifestyle, or viral/bacterial infection causing imbalance. Lindlahr describes these injuries as a “Violation of Nature’s laws” falling into one of three categories;
- “Lowered Vitality”
- “Abnormal composition of blood and lymph”
- And “accumulation of waste matter, morbid materials and poisons”
Any one of these conditions may precipitate disease, as they promote destruction and inhibit normal, healthy function (Lindlahr, 1909).
Acute disease is the results of the body’s response in eliminating foreign or waste matter and poisons to repair injured tissues, in effect a healing and cleansing effect of nature. The real disease, in this case, is lowered vitality. Chronic disease occurs when the body’s efforts to restore vitality with acute response/s (healing crises) are overwhelmed and no longer able to react, causing damage to vital tissues and organs (Lindlahr, 1909).
The constructive methods of cure are foundation principles of nature and easily followed; he describes living a life according to nature’s laws where vital force is economised, a healthy diet provides nutrition, where easy elimination rids the body of poisons and waste matter and where good mental health is achieved to the highest degree possible. Surgical procedures that suppress acute diseases or drugs/medicines that are harmful are considered destructive, and therefore contradictory to nature cure (Lindlahr, 1909).
Lindlahr differentiates the modern allopathic method of medical treatment (of his time) from natural medicine by describing the former as combative and the natural medicine approach as preventative. Rather than address the underlying dysregulation to homeostasis, as the natural medicine practitioner does, the allopathic system seeks only to relieve symptoms (though, he recognises that in some instances e.g. appendicitis, this may be necessary) (Lindlahr, 1909).
Using an apt analogy, he describes how the body’s own Vis Mediatrix Nature or, natural vitality can ‘wind down’ like the spring on a watch. Surprisingly, this was an issue in the early 1900s, as much as today!
A Person-centred Approach – Case Study Example:
Take the case of a 50-year-old woman, who following a routine gastroscopy and colonoscopy, mild antral gastritis was diagnosed. Antral, duodenal and colon biopsies revealed no evidence of H. pylori and were otherwise unremarkable. Treatment recommendations by the gastroenterologist were an antacid and avoidance of spicy or fatty foods, with no further consultation required until follow up in 5 years.
The naturopathic approach was to first take a detailed case history, revealing 30 years of intestinal hypermotility, bloating, gas and diarrhoea as well as constant financial, relationship and business stress. An emergency cholecystectomy 9 years prior, with peritonitis, a complication of surgery, followed by a C. difficile infection treated with high strength antibiotics.
In the year prior, with improved diet and lifestyle changes the client reported that the hypermotility symptoms had completely reverted … however, were replaced with bouts of constipation, mild reflux and disturbed sleep with diffuse abdominal ‘discomfort’ thus leading to the diagnostic procedures.
The Naturopathic treatment included lifestyle changes with a meditation practice for stress adaptation. A remedy of fresh Aloe vera gel, blended with red papaya (washed, skin on), was prepared with Ulmus rubra bark and taken 3 times daily. Herbal medicines to modulate acid production, anxiolytics and adaptogens to help moderate cortisol levels, demulcents to soothe and restore gastric mucosa and most importantly drinking at least 2 litres of water per day, were prescribed. Within a fortnight all symptoms had disappeared and the client reported enjoying better sleep, greater energy and improved quality of life.
This person-centred approach revealed that recent lifestyle changes helped by slowing and improving overall digestion. Before this, the clients’ chronic stress state (which lowered vitality) combined with a poor diet (abnormal accumulation of blood and lymph) had dysregulated the digestive system. However, greater fibre intake without sufficient hydration caused slowing of intestinal motility – resulting in ‘accumulation of waste and morbid matter’. This then caused stagnation in the upper gastrointestinal system and an acute attack of gastritis.
The balance was tipped both ways, demonstrating Lindlahr’s ‘Law of dual effect’ where all in nature sways back and forth, between action and reaction (Lindlahr, 1909).
Lindlahrs’ theory of ‘suppression versus elimination’, is well demonstrated in this case as the suppression of digestive elimination (constipation) caused an acute reaction (gastritis) which if left would have damaged tissues and organs creating further disease states.
He discusses this concept of treatment using an allopathic method which can suppress the disease state temporarily, but then cause a different presentation, usually greater in severity than the first by creating destructive forces in the tissues and organs. While the body is attempting to eliminate morbid encumbrances by way of catarrh, diarrhoea or skin eruptions such as boils, to suppress this with medicines or surgery only serves to thwart natures system of removal (Lindlahr, 1909).
Described as a ‘whole medical system’ modern naturopathic philosophy is unique because it combines traditional practice with modern science, to treat the whole person, detecting and treating the root cause by looking at one’s diet, lifestyle, social, mental, emotional and physical life, not just the outward symptoms. A naturopath may refer the client to a range of other practitioners, depending on the clients’ needs, so that the client has a health care ‘team’ to address all areas of imbalance. Naturopathy is not limited in modalities and practitioners are free to incorporate a wide range of different skills, and practices to support and restore vital force, enhance elimination of toxic substances and absorption of nutrients.
Summed up very succinctly, the philosophy of modern Naturopathy is described by 6 commonly recognised principles, and is as relevant today as it was in 1909;
- Vis mediatrix naturae – the healing power of nature
- Primum non nocere – first do no harm
- Tolle totum – treat the whole person
- Tolle causum – treat the cause
- Docere – Naturopath as teacher
- Preventare – prevention
Modern medicine focusses on treatment of symptomology, uses the fastest and strongest treatment approaches, first and do not usually include diet and lifestyle (though this is changing). Consultations constrained by the Medicare system are generally too short for detailed case histories required for holistic care.
Integrated medicine is a broader allopathic approach including evidence-based complementary medicines alongside modern medicine. More holistic than modern western medicine in that it focuses on wellness and the prevention of disease including lifestyle changes of the whole person (National Institute of Integrative Medicine Ltd, 2019). Naturopathic philosophy differs in its fundamental approach, as the focus is on the root cause of the disease state, not symptomology alone.
Functional medicine uses a holistic approach to treating the root cause of disease, though with modern drugs and procedures. Understanding that disease is not a static condition, moving forward and backwards depending on the patients genetic, nutritional and environmental conditions (Bland, 2017).
While this is similar to Naturopathy, it does not include principles of ‘use the least force, first’, or recognise ‘the healing power of nature’.
Naturopathy is a truly evidence-informed system that seamlessly blends traditional practices with modern science, still reflecting Lindlahrs’ principles.
Bland, J. (2017). Defining Function in the Functional Medicine Model CREATING SYNTHESIS. Integrative Medicine • (Vol. 16). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5312741/pdf/22-25.pdf
Liang Ooi, S., McLean, L., & Cheon Pak, S. (2018). Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice Naturopathy in Australia: Where are we now? Where are we heading? https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2018.07.009
Lindlahr, H. (1909). Nature Cure. Miami: HardPress Publishing.
National Institute of Integrative Medicine Ltd. (2019). NIIM. Retrieved 30 July 2019, from https://www.niim.com.au/about