Disease as a solution: the unexplored hypothesis

Preamble

Before deciding to post this article on Medium, I explored the possibility of publishing it in some medical journals. Of course, I did so without being particularly optimistic, its content being decidedly in contrast with the dominant medical thought. The first attempt I made was with the journal Medical Hypothesis (Elsevier). The Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Manku, wrote to me that “On balance, I feel that this interesting study/observations is not appropriate for this particular journal but should be submitted to a more specialized journal”. This was a little surprising commentary to me, since in my view the article was much more “generalistic” than “specialistic”, also considering that I’m not a physician, or a medical researcher, but a physicist. Then, I submitted it to a journal which is definitely used to published unconventional voices, the Journal of Scientific Exploration, of the Society of Scientific Exploration, of which, by the way, I’m also a member. Here the Editor-in-Chief, Stephen E. Braude, wrote to me that my paper is thoughtful, but not quite within the JSE’s purview. Following that second refusal, I tried the journal Explore (Elsevier). The reviewer wrote to me that the paper was “biologically not well motivated” and that “nothing new was to be found in it”. Clearly, these are two mutually contradicting statements. Also, my intention with the paper was to invite the scientific community to have a closer look at one of our core assumptions about what health and healing are, and explore new possible insights that can be obtained by reversing our usual perspective. Hence, it is an invitation to find, if any, those precise biological “motivations” in support of the thesis. Anyhow, not knowing that I did so already, the Co Editor-in-Chief of the journal, parapsychologist Dean Radin, suggested that I should send the paper to the journal Medical Hypothesis… My next attempt was Springer’s Acta Biotheoretica. Its Editor-in-Chief, Frans Jacobs, wrote that, “after considering your article and in agreement with the conclusion of my associate editor I have decided not to send out the article for external review. Though the manuscript provides an intriguing new philosophical perspective on the nature of disease, it fails to engage with the existing literature on health and disease. We would welcome a new submission of this material with proper reference to its position in ongoing debates about the nature of disease.” I must admit that this is a fair criticism. Not being directly involved in medical research, I understand that my essay is not adequate as regards the inclusion (and discussion) of references to authors and works who have possibly presented similar ideas, in the context of different approaches to medicine, allopathic, complementary, preventive, traditional, etc. Too bad that the reviewer did not help me in this regard (sometimes it happens that a reviewer takes the trouble and time to improve an article, providing the submitting author the missing information, but unfortunately this is nowadays increasingly rare). Long story short, I decided that the nature of this article is too “hybrid” (and also too long) to easily find a venue in an academic journal. At the same time, I think the ideas it contains are important to ponder, so in the end I decided to publish it here on Medium. I hope you will enjoy.

Abstract

We suggest that disease, a state usually interpreted as a problem requiring a solution, could be in itself a solution. Founding our analysis on an ultra-simplified model of the human being, we find that the problem for which disease would be a solution can be traced back to a situation of lack of proper nutrients and intoxication. We encourage the pursuit of new lines of medical research based on this inverted disease-solution paradigm, with the aim of facilitating the obtainment of a more lasting state of health, not reducible to a mere absence of disease. We also emphasize that the interpretation of disease as a useful process does not necessarily imply that it wouldn’t be strategic, in some circumstances, to suppress the disease-solution, as is clear that not all solutions are risk-free. However, from the viewpoint of our hypothesis, therapeutic efforts should never primarily concentrate on suppressing symptoms, but instead on increasing the psychophysical resources. Our hope is that this change of perspective, if explored without prejudice, can give birth to a new category of pro-symptom patients, more responsible for their health and more proactive in preserving it, as well as to a new category of pro-symptom physicians, more oriented towards prevention and more collaborative with the solutions that are expressed by their patients’ organisms.

1. Hypothesis

Generally speaking, disease is understood as a state associated with specific symptoms and signs, negatively affecting an individual’s life by altering the structure and/or function of some organs and tissues (organic disease) and/or by affecting cognitive processes, emotions and behaviors (mental disease). Apart the case of congenital diseases (like genetic diseases), which would require a separate discussion, beyond the scope of this article, disease is something that appears at some point in the course of an individual’s life, and because of its association with unpleasant and painful symptoms, dysfunctions and abnormal behaviors, possibly also leading to death, it is generally interpreted as the expression of a problem in need of a solution. Consequently, a treatment that is carried out to facilitate or to allow an individual’s recovery of the lost state of health is generally interpreted as a solution to the problem posed by disease.

If disease is a solution, and not a problem, what is the problem it would be a solution for?

It is the purpose of the present article to propose a general answer to the above question, based on an ultra-simplified model of a living entity, and to suggest that by possibly mistaking a solution for a problem the risk is that we have embarked on a dead end that might explain the current health crisis, with the observed growth of systemic and degenerative diseases.

2. Problems and solutions

First thing, we need to clarify how the notions of solution and problem have to be understood in the present context and how they relate to the notion of goal. Reality expresses a natural resistance to change, as it provides support to a vast number of competing alternatives of change. Problems can therefore be understood as the manifestation of solutions (processes) promoting possibilities that are incompatible with our goals. Generally speaking, a goal is something that we want to achieve; a problem is what prevents us from doing so, acting as an obstacle, and a solution is what allows us to reach the goal, despite the presence of the obstacle. In other words, the triad “problem-solution-goal” characterizes the possibility of a process of change.

3. Real and apparent health

If what we usually consider to be an obstacle, standing between us and the goal of health, is instead what allows us to reach that goal, the following question arises:

How did we mistake a solution for a problem?

To answer this question, we have to start by redefining health. As a first step, we can simply observe that health is a state that can be lost. This is the reason why health is often associated with the outcome-state of a healing process. Disease would then be a process (a solution) that allows this to happen. In other words, the hypothesis that disease is a solution means that disease would be nothing but a self-healing process. Of course, to say that health is a state that we recover upon completion of a disease process is an obvious and uncontroversial statement. What is less obvious, however, and certainly controversial, is to equate the process of disease itself with a self-healing process.

4. Ultra-solutions

Following this line of thought, it is conceivable to argue that, in their overall action, treatments are like ultra-solutions that we enforce on our organisms to fight diseases, i.e., to neutralize solutions the aim of which is to promote self-healing. By the term “ultra-solution” we mean here a process that sets itself the unattainable objective of permanently neutralizing another process that, by its very nature, can only be temporarily neutralized. In that respect, ultra-solutions are false solutions, or apparent solutions, which by aiming at a false goal they unfailingly end up reaching the opposite goal (Watzlawick 1988).

If disease is a self-healing process whose purpose is to bring the organism back to a condition of optimal functionality, called health, within the limits allowed by the available resources, does this mean, in particular, that microbes should not be considered to be responsible for diseases?

Within the paradigm of the thesis presented in this article, the answer to this question is negative. Microbes are indeed to be counted among the vehicles of those powerful solutions we call diseases, their main task being apparently that of demolishing degenerate structures and recycling the toxic substances and metabolic wastes present in our organisms. If this is correct, when we uncritically eliminate pathogenic microbes from our body (not to mention those that everybody consensually considers useful), we also eliminate potentially useful solutions, without bothering to replace them with more efficient and effective ones.

5. An ultra-simplified model

Our model is based on the observation that a living organism is an open dynamical system capable of self-regulating by exchanging all sorts of substances with its environment, selectively opening or closing with respect to them, depending on the circumstances. It is then easy to convince oneself that there are only 3 possible fundamental movements of substance for an organism:

(a) absorption, or interiorization;
(b) emission, or exteriorization;
(c) adaptation, or internal reorganization.

(1) absorption of toxic substances = intoxication;
(2) absorption of nutritive substances = nutrition;
(3) emission of toxic substances = detoxification;
(4) emission of nutritive substances = deficiency;
(5) adaptation to toxic substances = degeneration;
(6) adaptation to nutritive substances = regeneration.

We already mentioned that health should be understood as a condition of dynamic equilibrium of an organism with its environment. More precisely, health can be defined as an optimal condition of stable dynamical equilibrium, perceived as well-being, in which an organism manifests an optimal functionality. This state of dynamical equilibrium is to be considered stable in the sense that an organism that is in good health has the ability to promptly restore it, by means of appropriate self-regulating mechanisms, whenever it is altered by environmental stimuli of aggressive nature. Disease, interpreted as a self-healing process, would then be exactly this: a self-regulating process whose purpose is the restoration of that state of dynamical homeostasis that is health.

A metaphor à la Dirac

Clearly, the problem of an intoxication can only be solved by means of an inverse detoxification process, and a problem of deficiency can only be solved by means of an inverse nutritional process. However, most of the substances used in today’s medical treatments are certainly not comparable to nutrients, but rather to toxins with all sorts of negative side effects (it is maybe no coincidence that the term “pharmacology” derives from the Greek “pharmakon,” meaning remedy, but also poison). Therefore, in principle they cannot solve the fundamental problem of intoxication-deficiency, and in the long run they will make it even worse (certainly so if nothing else is undertaken in conjunction with their intake).

7. Spirals

Following our toy model, we explained that the fundamental cause of disease can be assumed to be a process of intoxication-deficiency, and that disease would then be a biological solution activated by an organism in order to promote a reverse process of detoxification-nutrition. Of course, for this process to be effective, the availability of suitable nutrients (macro and micro) is needed, to be used to eliminate the toxins and repair of the damaged tissues, as well as to supply the entire organism with new reserves to face future possible aggressions with a sufficient safety margin. However, not all solutions need to be pleasant, nor free from danger: all depends on the nature of the problem to be solved and the resources effectively available.

8. Reversal of perspective

We have seen that ultra-solutions are illusory solutions that promote self-deception, as they prevent us from seeing the causal link between the different stages of disease, which is not eliminated by taking an ultra-solution but only put to sleep for some time. Self-deception also lies in not understanding that taking anti-solutions intensifies the original problem (particularly so if nothing is done in parallel), promoting in this way the activation of increasingly radical solutions. In that respect, we could say that many patients are today like chronic drug addicts who have to take always higher doses of drugs to continue to feel good and avoid the withdrawal crises, which are essentially detoxification crises, i.e., healing processes. Over time, repeated and increased drug intakes lead to an overdose, resulting in the body’s death.

9. Contagions

According to the paradigm presented in this article, we can speculate that people do not die from disease: they die despite the presence of the disease-solution, from a lack of resources. In that respect, it is important to emphasize that a solution needs resources to be implemented, and if during its execution some of them are missing, or become unavailable, this can even transform a solution into a problem.

10. Mental diseases

The disease-solution hypothesis is in a sense easier to accept when referred to so-called mental diseases. Here the typical ultra-solution is that of taking a psychotropic drug to get rid of the undesirable and/or disabling psychic and behavioral symptoms.

11. Concluding remarks

It follows from our analysis that, as a general guideline, to improve a patient’s chances of survival, the best strategy is to collaborate with the disease-healing process, trying to increase, rather than decrease, the organism’s resources. To this end, total rest and a vital and nutritious diet (preferably respectful of circadian rhythms) should always be prescribed, in a reassuring environment capable of conveying a full understanding of the self-healing process that is underway. To our understanding, modern medicine knows very little about the course of disease in conditions where a patient’s resources are maximized rather than minimized.

When a food cannot be completely assimilated without promoting deficiencies and/or leaving residues that in the long run weaken and/or poison the body, then it is not a suitable food for that body.

Among the advantages of the perspective we have proposed, if taken seriously and explored with success, there is that of a greater empowerment by people for the quality of their biological terrain, therefore for their lifestyle. Indeed, if in numerous situations it can be established that disease is not an unpredictable process that can affect anyone in the same way, regardless of their state of health, then, undoubtedly, such understanding will lead to a greater responsibility and, consequently, to a reduction in costs of public and private health.

References

Arab, S., Rutka, J. & Lingwood. (1999). Verotoxin Induces Apoptosis and the Complete, Rapid, Long-Term Elimination of Human Astrocytoma Xenografts in Nude Mice. Oncology Research, 11, 33–39.

Physicist, writer, editor, researcher and self-researcher. For more info: www.massimilianosassolidebianchi.ch

Physicist, writer, editor, researcher and self-researcher. For more info: www.massimilianosassolidebianchi.ch