This may be the third part of a 3-part article in the Vital
Conversation that took place on June 22, 2023. It's part of a new series of
articles in NDNR that is based on
transcripts of conversations that occurred on Wednesdays for several years and
were hosted by Jim Sensenig, ND, and other senior vitalists. In this lightly
edited transcript , Dr Sensenig continues a discussion of
working with the vital force, and describes how the work defines and
differentiates naturopathic physicians.
Acute Illness is Corrective
We can't always maintain the perfect, shiny version of
ideal health. Sometimes we get run down; that is to say, the vital force gets
disturbed enough where the body causes the vital force to react in a
corrective way. That is what we call acute disease. When the disturbance is
continual and that we can't seem to bounce back, this is when the vital force kicks
in. A visual analogy that may work is persistently punching a kid's
inflatable boppy toy, with the ballast towards the bottom, until it cannot return
upright. The vital force responds in order to correct the issue, in order to
bring the person back to balance, and those corrective responses are
relatively robust – they can even be rather violent – and such symptoms are all designed to expel something in the
body inside a corrective way.
Lindlahr would tell us that acute disease is always a reaction
for the vital force towards restoring normal function.1
It's a healing and cleansing effort to restore the body to normal. We use
those words within the vitalistic culture. When somebody is sick , we are saying
they are run-down; we say they're burned out; we are saying they have an excessive amount of stress,
too much happening. We'll advise them that the remedy is rest, taking time off,
quitting school, getting divorced, getting a better job – whichever would be the
appropriate actions to unload the stressors around the system. We know, having a deep
intuition, that under those improved conditions, the vital force – which is
innate within the body – has got the lack of ability to correct the problem.
If you're a medical doctor, you intervene with medicines,
usually pharmaceuticals, to stop the signs and symptoms. This can be a different
approach. A high level naturopathic doctor, you want to assist the body in the
recovery of balance using the symptoms as an indication of the items your body is
trying to do.
If a patient is acutely ill, and you help them recover their
balance point, we are able to the patient has recovered. It is exactly what Lindlahr
would call the vital force ascending over the disease conditions.
There's another possible outcome, which is that certain cannot
mount a sufficient healing reaction since the vital force is not strong
enough. When the patient cannot mount an adequate response to restore normal
vitality, then the patient is constantly on the accept the disturbance, with ensuing
That is exactly what we call chronic disease. When you're chronically
ill, you're, by definition, unable to get better.
You could be too sick to be sick – meaning, if you are chronically
ill, you are not sufficiently strong to mount the acute corrective reaction. So,
someone who is chronically ill is too ill, obviously, with an acute illness.
Healing Crisis vs Disease
That leads us to two other interesting phenomena. If and
when the individual begins to increase his or her vitality through the fundamental
vitalistic methods and is moving in the
direction of normal function and structure again, they ought to reach the point where
they can become acutely ill again. They become strong enough to mount a severe
That is known as healing crisis.
Anyone who is chronically ill, who is relocating the direction
of restoration of health insurance and a dynamic equilibrium must, at some point, become
sufficiently strong to be acutely ill.
A disease crisis, by comparison, is the opposite phenomenon, in
which an acute reaction – the body attempting to correct things – does not restore
health, and the patient's vitality is further lowered, developing a chronic
condition. That phenomenon has been said to become a disease crisis.
A healing crisis along with a disease crisis as well as an acute new illness all
look exactly the same simply because they all are acute, or they involve a severe phenomenon.
You do not know that is which, except in the context of this patient, including
that patient's background and their own health trajectory.
In contrast to traditional medicine, where what you see is
that which you treat, it can make more sense, from a vitalistic perspective, to
understand once the illness is happening within the context of the patient's
life. We don't just treat the signs and symptoms as they have been given to us that
Even though they look the same, a healing crisis is different from
a disease crisis; and each of those are slightly different from a severe
illness. An acute illness may be the corrective action which restores balance. Acute
illness that fails to restore balance creates a disease crisis. However, an
acute illness that is in a position to slowly move the patient in the direction of better
health is the healing crisis.
If you're chronically ill, and also you get your health back, you
must undergo a healing crisis. That isn't the same phenomenon being an
aggravation from the symptoms. A healing crisis is the acute, corrective reaction
on the part of the body to reestablish health if this has enough vitality to do
Defined by Philosophy, Not Modalities
Medicatrix Naturae is determined specially in medical dictionaries, from as
early as 1865, as a power presiding within the living body that possesses the
faculty of resisting, to a certain extent, the effects of diseases, as well as
the ability to stimulate the restoration of health.
How will we stimulate the Vis?
Lindlahr describes 4 basic principles:
- Address the fabric needs of the patient.
- Get rid of the waste products.
- Correct mechanical lesions to save the Vis.
- Establish normal surroundings and have interaction the
patient in intelligent self-care.
These are pretty straight forward categories. But that is what our modalities do,
whether you use acupuncture, remedies which are homeopathic and specific to
the situation, doing hydrotherapy or physical medicine, or offering good clinical
nutrition and supplementation recommendations. All those modalities
stimulate the vital force, either through enhancement or correction.
When a patient is burdened with a lot of toxins, they're going
to have a diminished vital force. So, if you detox somebody – and many
modalities might help accomplish this goal – you're going to increase their vital
This is the reason why naturopathic medicine is not based on its
modalities. It's defined by the philosophy of healing, in which the modalities are
moving individuals the direction of healing.
Last week, I heard about someone who had Barrett's esophagus
and hypochlorhydria. My colleague made a decision to use hydrotherapy, dietary changes,
and remedies homeopathic for that case. The Barrett's was completely eradicated
I might have used different modalities. However, we'd have
come to exactly the same point because the vital force was stimulated successfully. My
colleague's methods were hydrotherapy , and a constitutional homeopathic remedy , and judicious dietary changes as a constitutional
intervention . The
objective was to increase the vital force.
There is an old joke where early in practice you've got a patient
who is chronically ill; they have not felt well for a long time. They are available in
with heart disease or diabetes, or whatever. You work with them for some
months. Which is the patient who calls yourself on the weekend, at night,
or when you are in the movies or something, whenever you least expect it. They're in
the restroom and they are barfing their guts out, and they are saying something
like, “Doc, I'm really sick. I do not remember ever being this sick. Are you
sure guess what happens you're doing?”
That's if you need to talk them into hanging in there. That's
when you get off the phone and say to your partner, “YESSS!!! We're there! We
first got it! Which was precisely what I had been looking for!”
I'm going to try and paraphrase something I heard a colleague
say recently: “You have to keep in mind that you had been chosen by this profession.”
Think about that for any second. Think about the
implications, and then go in whatever way you would like. Many of us who are carrying this out
work have discovered our distance to a profession that is completely and distinctly
different when it comes to how disease is believed about and treated within our culture.
Presumably our approach can produce better outcomes. Also it seems in some ways
magical, because the types of results that we get could be considered
miraculous or magical when they were happening in our culture on a regular
We possess the extraordinary and different privilege to be exposed to
the knowledge of many centuries of healers who've understood, and worked
with, the vital force before us. Our elders have seen this phenomenon of
healing and understood it in a manner that very few people do today.
You can think of being a naturopathic physician as just having
another job, or doing natural stuff, or making the bandwagon of the change
in the public attitude about medicine. Or, you can think about the profession that
chose you as one of the greatest privileges in your life, and focus on
to helping in a manner that few other people are able to do.
For me, being a vitalistic physician is really a privilege and
something for which I'll continually be grateful. We owe it to ourselves and our
patients and, for that matter, the generations of future patients, to hone our
skills as much as we are able to, and to be the best physicians that we possibly can
This column, in line with the Vital Conversations of the
Naturopathic Medicine Institute, will continue in next month's issue.