Some Thoughts on the Problem of Immunity – Part II

Pages: 34-44
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Bulletin of Structural Integration Ida P. Rolf


The first half of the following article appeared in the Summer 1970 issue of the Bulletin. There, Dr. Proby (an Irish osteopath who also uses techniques derived from Ida Rolf’s work) argued that immunization and vaccination as currently carried out may, despite their probable efficacy in some cases, ultimately do more harm than good. The argument ran as follows:

First, “in a general way all forms of mass medication are wrong because no two people react in the same way to the same thing . . . More over, putting things into the body by injection, especially if it is done directly into the blood stream, is very far from being a natural procedure, and it is by no means certain that it does not sometimes do harm.”

Second, the efficacy and desirability of a great many of these treatments are unproven (and debated) for example, it is not clear what are the ultimate effects of introducing animal tissues (particularly diseased ones) into humans although it is hard to deny that some are effective to some degree.

Third, it may well be (as the naturopaths claim) that such treatments only seem effective: In fact, they treat disease “suppressively” (that is, drive it back into the system rather than eliminate it), so that at best they take the place of natural defenses whose use would leave the body stronger; in either case, the net result is a lower level of general health once the acute crisis is past.

Fourth, the use of such treatments and the “germ theory of disease” on wich they are based (that specific little beasties are the “cause” of disease) have several pernicious affect. In particular, they lead to a diminished sense of personal responsability for (doing anything about preventing) disease; they lead to ignoring (and resulting ignorance of) ways of assisting the body’s natural means of preventing and coping with disease: and they lead people to discount the contributions to epidemics’ high mortality of both inadequate care and fatalistic fear. Finally, they lead to dependence on drugs, which produces either inaction or drastic action (e.g., slaughtering large numbers of animals) when physicians do rot have a drug available which works.

Finally, there are some indications that alternative approaches might work equally well: the early reputation of many unorthodox schools of treatment was built up on the successful treatment of acute diseases and epidemics; methods which aim at assisting (rather than supplanting) body processes do exist (and are included among these unorthodox schools), and at least one such school, homeopathy, may actually be able to account for the success immunization programs have had in theoretical terms which would allow the substitution of much smaller quantities of less harmful substances (administered orally) to produce the same results with less danger.

Dr. Proby continues:

Part II

I have stated these ideas and this point of view at some length because I believe them to be the basis on which the naturopathic theory of immunity is built up. According to this theory, there is only one kind of immunity which is worth having, and that is natural immunity; and natural immunity is really synonymous with good health as opposed to a mere absence of obvious disease. Scientifically this view can be defended by accepting the ideas of Beauchamp rather than those of Pasteur. Pathogenic organisms and viruses are not regarded as things with an independent existence in the iron right, but rather as derivatives or modifications of the living cioplasm of the human or animal tissues or of the organisms which are normally present in the intestinal tract. Organisms and viruses are fundamentally not so much the cause of disease as its result or accompaniment. Their action, at least in most cases, may be regarded as being constructive and beneficial, or potentially so. They cannot live in a really healthy body, and if the soil or food which causes them to thrive is eliminated from the body they become harmless when they play a part in an acute and feverish reaction they are actually assisting to break up and eliminate deep seated toxic and pathological states. Practically all diseases from the common cold to cancer may be looked upon as a kind of virus phenomenon because they are based on a degeneration or modification of normal body tissues. All life is a species of fermentation, and health is a rood and harmonious fermentation while disease is a fermentation which has gone away.

This theory of immunity is attractive to me and I have always believed it to be fundamentally true, but it. Must be admitted that there would appear to be some facts and phenomena which this difficult entirely to reconcile with it. There is indeed an element of mystery about some most destructive epidemics for which it is hard to find any rational exploration or any conformity to any theory either orthodox or unorthodox. The kind of phenomenon to which I refer would appear not to be confined to humans but also to manifest itself in connection with plants and animals. For instance, a good deal of practical research and experimentation has taken place among organic farmers and by such organizations as the Soil Association which seems to show that crops grown in a sound way in really healthy soil are relatively free from disease, as also are the animals and humans fed on such crops. Yet I live in a country where the memory of the great potato famine of the 1840 decade is still very much alive, as it was instrumental in about halving the population in a few years and changing profoundly the history and economy of the country. The records of this occurrence are very worthy of consideration and study. It may truthfully be said that the sudden and spectacular failure of the potato crop could partly be accounted for by the fact that a dangerous form of subsistence monoculture on tiny plots of impoverished land had become established in some parts of the country, but the interesting thing is that the destruction seems to have beer, almost as great on wellcultivated large farms where the most excellent husbandry was practice , at a time, moreover, when artificial manuring of the modern chemical kind was quite unknown. It is true, of course, that the potato famine was due to a blight of a parasitic type rather than to a bacterial or virus infection, but the principle involved would appear to be the same.

In the case of a well known animal, we have recently had an example of something, very similar. Rabbits have been virtually wiped out over large areas by myxomatosis and they do not yet appear to have developed any very noticeable immunity to it, at least in this country. As far as I know, this disease originated in ‘South America, where it was endemic among a certain species of rabbit in certain localities but was rarely, if ever, fatal. Subsequently, it was artificially and deliberately introduced into Australia and later into Europe with the most fatal results to the rabbits of those continents, which were of a somewhat different kind. It appears that the virulence of the disease may also have been increased by the artificial cultivation of the virus. This, too, seems to be an occurrence which is well worthy of study and thought. The rabbit is a wild animal which might be regarded as being reasonably healthy in a normal way, though it must be remembered that both in Australia and in Europe the rabbit population had become very excessive; in Australia the rabbit had originally been introduced by settlers and had become a sort of plague, while in many parts of Europe the destruction of animals which naturally prey on the rabbit had upset the balance of nature. It is also interesting to note that myxomatosis is one of those diseases in which the virus or poison is introduced into the victim by the bite of an insect or parasite. This type of disease would appear to be particularly virulent and destructive, as is evidenced in the case of humans by such diseases as bubonic plague and typhus. It seems very possible that when things of a noxious kind find their way direct into the tissues and the blood stream and are not acted upon by the secretions of the respiratory and intestinal tracts, the defensive mechanisms of the body are taken at a disadvantage and may be overwhelmed.

Caution should perhaps be exercised in arguing from the diseases of plants and animals to those of humans, because there are a number of factors making comparisons difficult and unreliable, but there are some human epidemics too which are not easy to understand or explain. It does appear that very serious epidemics are apt to occur when primitive or isolated communities are first brought into contact with people coming in from outside and that such epidemics are particularly destructive of life. In some cases, the populations which suffer in this way could be looked upon as being very healthy and could be expected to have a high degree of natural immunity. Various explanations have been advanced to account for this phenomenon, but none of them seem to be entirely satisfactory. Moreover, when such epidemics are brought under some control or die down, this is very generally attributed to some vaccination or similar treatment being applied on a mass scale. It is doubtful whether this explanation is sound or sufficient. It is also true that a particular epidemic will sometimes sweep across whole areas and, under modern conditions, even over the whole world, and will do great destruction, and will then just work itself out or disappear quite suddenly without any very obvious explanation and without any specific (as opposed to general) measures being used to combat it.

A number of interesting questions are raised by the consideration of these phenomena. The first is whether the fact that an epidemic is very violent is necessarily a bad sign. It has always been the naturopathic view that it requires high vitality to respond in a strong and decisive manner to infection or toxicity and that a weak response or no response at all does not necessarily imply good health or immunity. This idea seems to have been believed in, to some extent and in some cases, by physicians of past generations, though it is not much heard of today in orthodox circles. For instance, a spectacular rash used always to be considered a good sign in measles. We know, too, that it is not the alcoholic or the drug addict who reacts in a spectacular way to alcohol or morphine, but rather the much more healthy person who is not used to these things. It may therefore be that when fundamentally healthy populations react very violently to a sudden exposure to infection from outside, it is understandable on this basis. When such an epidemic leads to a high mortality, this may be due partly to unsatisfactory care and inadequate or unwise treatment and partly, perhaps, to fear and panic. In other cases when the health of primitive peoples becomes undermined in a more chronic way and certain kinds of infectious disease become endemic among them, this would often appear to be due to a change for the worse in their eating and living habits. Moreover, though some primitive and isolated communities do have a high standard of natural health and physique, there are some which definitely do not; much depends on their type of civilization and on the nature of their living and dietary habits and traditions.*

Yet, when all this has been said, it does appear that infections and epidemics do sometimes arise which are of such virulence that they carry all before them for a time. It is as if they set up a sort of chain reaction in the body which breaks down all resistance and causes death before the natural reactions and protective mechanisms can operate. There is some evidence, as we have seen, that this kind of thing happens more frequently when some new infection is introduced into a community from outside. There are some infections, too, like poliomyelitis, which are of such virulence and so sudden in their onset that they do irreparable damage or cause death almost before there is time to take measures of any kind or even to make a diagnosis. Diseases which attack the brain or the central nervous system are particularly dangerous on account of the vulnerability of these highly specialized tissues. What is the best way to deal with such situations; can anything be done to prevent them from arising, and what is the best way of treating the victims if they do arise? There are here two rather separate questions to be considered. First, what can be done by way of prevention and prophylaxis? Secondly, what is the best form of treatment to use?

In considering the first of these questions we must, I believe, begin by realizing that our conception of what constitutes prophylaxis has become very restricted. The preoccupation of medical science with bacteria and viruses as the essential cause of acute diseases has led to great neglect of research into the much more important question of what causes such bacteria and viruses to appear and to acquire their virulence. It is quite clear that there must be causes for such diseases as smallpox and diphtheria arising in the first place, and for their being more common and more virulent at some times and in some places than in others. If the conditions which give rise to them could be got rid of, it is reasonable to suppose that they would cease to exist or become so rare and mild as to be unimportant. There is, no doubt, an awareness that many diseases are associated in a general way with poor hygiene, poor nutrition, and various kinds of bad living habits and conditions, but the knowledge which we have of the causes which lie at the back of most of the dangerous diseases is vague and fragmentary and is generally regarded as being of secondary importance as compared with the discovery or isolation of some organism or virus. It is highly probable that when we come to understand better what leads to the development of certain diseases and what makes some apparently healthy people susceptible to them and others immune, we shall become much less interested in organisms and specific vaccines elaborated from them. * Yet, in the meanwhile there is, I believe, much that can be done. It would appear to be right to draw a distinction in our minds between general immunity and specific immunity, in spite of the fact that some naturopaths seem to contend that it is virtually impossible to produce a genuine immunity of a specific kind and that the only satisfactory immunity is a general one based on the creation of a condition of positive good health in the body. To me it would seem that this view is too extreme and that the general and specific immunity are things which can be pursued somewhat separately and can be regarded as complementary to one another. The pursuit of general immunity or general prophylaxis will be served by getting the body into the best possible physical and chemical condition by the promotion of good standards of hygiene, sanitation, and food production in the community as a whole. As regards specific immunity, it is surely right to make use of specific prophylactic measures if such can be devised and shown to be effective and harmless. It is not by any means easy in any given case to be sure either that a certain procedure is effective or that it is harmless and not merely suppressive or alterative rather than truly curative or eliminative of the underlying diathesis or disease condition.

For if we reject the purely parasitic explanation of commom infectious diseases, we are surely bound to admit that people who contract such a disease must have in them a diathesis or soil favorable to its development. Moreover, if we accept, in any way, the naturopathic view that the disease itself tends to break up this diathesis and substitute for it a condition of immunity and improved health, the only prophylactic measures which are justified are those which change conditions in the body in such a way that the diathesis disappears and natural health and immunity are established, or to put it another way, those which bring a condition of susceptibility to an end by lysis or gradual change rather than by a crisis which may be severe and dangerous. I believe that there is evidence that much of modern treatment, including, some vaccines and antitoxins, are suppressive in tendency as well as being toxic and dangerous, and also that when we become too good at killing off or aborting the action of the commoner kinds of organism, we produce a state of affairs in which new bacterial forms and viruses are produced which are immune to the drugs, sera, and antibiotics on which we have come to rely, besides encouraging the establishment in the body of chronic and destructive conditions. I would mention in this connection that I have known thoughtful and well-informed people who believed that certain diseases, notably of the central nervous system, including anterior poliomyelitis, were virtually unknown about a hundred years ago and have in fact been created by ourselves. When we consider the history of vaccination and the literature on the subject of post vaccinal encephalitis, this idea seems by no means impossible of belief. Unless it should prove to be possible, as Dr. Still and others have thought, to produce immunity to a wide range of infections or epidemics by the use of some simple method or substance capable of producing an immunity reaction, it would seem that homeopathy gives the most hopeful. solution to the problem of creating specific immunity in a harmless way to diseases or epidemics which show signs of becoming dangerous. Homeopaths have always claimed that it is impossible to do this but, whether from apathy or lack of faith or because of a shortage of funds or of opposition from orthodox sources, they do not seem to have succeeded in establishing their claim on the basis of statistics or in the eyes of the world. *(footnote bottom of next page)

When we come to consider the question of treatment of dangerous acute diseases, I believe that the same principles apply although it may be argued that the application of methods such as homeopathy, osteopathy, and hydrotherapy to acute disease might make, in some cases, impossibly great demands on the time, skill, devotion, and courage of nurses and physicians.
Great claims are made for various treatments with drugs, sera, and antibiotics in conditions which used to be considered highly dangerous, and these claims cannot be wholly ignored. Yet I do not believe that it has ever been proved that even better results would not be obtained by the intelligent and fearless application of methods based on physiological principles and designed to stimulate and assist the natural reactions of the body. Here again, homeopathy should be able to supply the specificity appropriate to the particular condition, while osteopathy and hydrotherapy would bring about favorable reactions of a more general kind. It is impossible to me not to believe that in this way results would be obtained superior to any which are obtained at present. The only thing which I would add is that I believe that there is a future, on the basis of a profound knowledge of blood chemistry rather than of bacteriology, for the administration in great emergencies of substances which are of the nature of antidotes or catalysts with the object of overcoming quickly great toxicity or imbalances of the blood chemistry. There is also a strong probability that a proper balance and functioning of the endocrine system is of very special importance in acute disease crises and this may well be another possible line of approach to the management of some dangerous situations.*

I would like to conclude by trying to suggest something like a plan of campaign which might help us to understand ourselves better and might even encourage a new approach to the problem of immunity by the public, the medical profession, and the powers that be. It is natural for us to wish to support organizations dedicated to the cause of anti-vaccination. One cannot but admire the courage, hard work, and self-sacrifice of such persons as the late Miss Lot, who did so much to expose false statistics and false claims and to show up many scandals. Even if all of us do not entirely agree with everything done and said by the societies and individuals engaged in this cause, they are undoubtedly helping to keep alive an argument which needs to be kept alive and to draw attention to the weaknesses and dangers of the present methods of disease control, supported as they are by the most powerful commercial and professional interests and by a lot of very doubtful science and muddled thinking. On the other hand, it is difficult not to feel that the anti-vaccination movement is far less effective and influential than it should be. I would suggest that there way be two main reasons for this. First, it would appear that the movement suffers from being or appearing to be far too negative. It is generally better to be “pro” something than “anti” something, and it is not really enough in these days to say that you believe a thing to be bad if you do not say very clearly and in scientific terms why it is so, and do not at the same time suggest better ways of attempting to achieve the same ends. It is not now very easy to find scientists who will openly express unorthodox views on medical matters or to get money or support for research on unorthodox lines, but it is clear that the questions we have been considering do suggest many fields of research. Not least important of these would be a determined attempt to establish whether or not it is possible to produce genuine immunity by homeopathic means. For this purpose, it would appear to be desirable that homeopaths and anti vaccinists should work together, an arrangement which would enable anti vaccinists to have something to advocate in place of the things which they wish to abolish. Secondly, it is possible to critic use the anti vaccination movement on the ground that it often gives the impression that it is concerned more with vivisection than with vaccination. Anti vivisection is a cause which arouses sympathy and attracts financial support in many quarters, but it is capable of confusing the issue in connection with the vaccination question which should, I believe, be considered on its own merits without the ethical and emotional overtones which attach to the question of vivisection. This does not necessarily imply that vivisection does not also present problems to be solved and abuses to be stopped both on humanitarian grounds and in the interests of a better type of medical research which could lead to much more genuine and more rapid progress in medical thought and science than does the kind of research which generally obtains at the present time. For it is to be hoped that in the not-too-distant future we shall see developing a kind of medical science and a kind of research to which vivisection will be largely inappropriate. On the one hand, we can expect the discovery of new scientific techniques for the observation, study, and evaluation of processes going on in living bodies and, on the other hand, we can expect to see a decline in the idea that diseases can be prevented or cured by giving them artificially to humans or to animals. This idea would seem to be largely the result of the emphasis placed on the study of diseases rather than the study of health. The medical science of the future should concern itself much more with the discovery of the basic laws by which health and disease in the body are governed and the elaboration of techniques for making these laws to work for the prevention, control, and elimination of disease. For the rest, there is very little we can do except to study and observe and to take every possible opportunity of putting into practice the methods of treatments and the techniques in which we believe, while avoiding as far as possible treatments which appear to suppress disease or to cause toxic and chronic conditions in the body.

* It must be remembered that many plants and animals which are domesticated or raised on farms or in gardens have been introduced from other parts of the world and nearly all have been elaborated and changed in various ways by selective breeding designed to increase their size or develop some special characteristic. These things, as well as the methods of husbandry employed, must undoubtedly have a bearing on the physiology and the immunity of the plants and animals involved. With regard to the care and treatment of animals and the building up of their immunity, a number of writers and investigators have reported very satisfactory results from dietary care, including the use of herbs, and from homeopathic treatment.

*In this connection, attention may be drawn to the outstanding physique, health, and longevity of certain communities such, for instance, as the Hunza people and the inhabitants of the Caucasian foothills, and also to the observations and experiments of Sir Robert A7cCarrison in correlating the diets of the various Indian communities and races with their physique and health. It seems clear that the health of peoples in the last analysis begins in the soil of which the fertility must be preserved by a sound system of agriculture and husbandry. Next to this in importance is the nature of the food crops grown and the soundness of the ways in which they are used and prepared for consumption. Moreover, great civilizations can only be built and preserved on a sound system of agriculture and a healthy peasantry or farming community. Unfortunately, civilized man has a tendency to destroy this basis of his civilization, and the decline of civilizations goes hand in hand with the destruction of fertility, of peasantries, and of good agriculture, and is partly the cause and partly the result of these things.

*Leprosy is a disease which might well repay study in this way. Tuberculosis is a disease which has already been studied to a considerable extent in this sort of way and it can be argued that improvements in living habits and conditions have done more to reduce the incidence of the disease than the discovery of the bacillus which is regarded as being responsible.

*(from previous page) The art and science of iridiagnosis, which was at one time considerably used and studied by naturopaths and others, has now very much gone out of fashion and is little heard of. This is unfortunate because it appears to be capable of revealing the presence of all sorts of chronic and suppressed disease conditions in different parts of the body, including the retention of drugs of an inorganic character administered to the patient. The kind of chemotherapy which is now administered is doubtless much more subtle than that which was in vogue in the old days, but it is truly alarming to note how few eyes can be looked at from the iridiagnostic point of view which do not show much evidence of drug poisoning of various kinds. When these discolorations are present, we can be sure that methods have been used which are suppressive rather than curative. In recent times, antibiotics have come to be used as much as drugs. It is perhaps difficult to argue that there are no circumstances in which antibiotics should be used, but it is very certain that they are being used far too much and in ways which are most undesirable. In this connection, it may be noted that mycelium and moulds of various kinds make their appearance in the soil and in manure heaps and compost heaps. May it not be that these moulds are producing protective substances which are necessary to the health of the soil and of plants, animals, and humans? If so, this is an argument in favor of an organic type of agriculture and may explain why situations so often arise in which the use of artificial substances such as penicillin is, or appears to be, desirable in these days of chemical agriculture.

*I believe that there is quite a school of thought, particularly on the continent of Europe, which considers that the study of chemistry rather than that of bacteriology will provide the solution of many immunological problems. One of the forms of treatment which comes to mind inn this connection is that associated with the name of the American William Koch. Although everything has been done to discredit him, he did undoubtedly succeed in producing a substance of the nature of a catalyst which produced remarkable cures in a number of desperate situations. The ideas and methods of Dr. Samuels, known under the name of endogenous endocrine therapy could also, without a doubt, have an important application to the treatment of dangerous acute conditions, as well as helping to produce a higher degree of general immunity. With regard to the natural treatment of acute diseases, the works of Henry Lindlahr are a mine of information. It is unfortunate that his books are now so little known and little read. In some respects, he might now seem to be somewhat archaic, though in others he anticipated ideas and movements which are only just beginning to arouse interest. He does appear, however, to have produced a complete, integrated philosophy and system of treatment or, naturopathic lines. If his works could be critically re edited and re issued, they would be extremely valuable. Incidentally, Lindlahr regarded homeopathy as an integral part of a complete system of natural therapeutics.Some Thoughts on the Problem of Immunity – Part II

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