Rest Vs. Stimulation
For years I have stood out against the employment of all methods of artificial stimulation (irritation or excitation) of the body of the sick person because such methods tend to exhaust the energies of the patient. One of my critics says of this: “The loss of ‘vital power’ which seems to be a bogey man of Dr. Shelton is not so bad as he paints it. The body is not a static but a dynamic machine constantly regenerating and losing ‘vital power’ or energy.” We may rant the truth of his statement that the body is a dynamic machine constantly generating and losing energy, without being compelled to grant his contention that it is helpful to waste, by stimulation, the energy of the body as it is generated.
The power of the body to generate energy is limited, the power of the sick body to generate energy is crippled, he sick person, and especially the chronically sick person, suffering from nervous fatigue as the result of a previous state of energy. He is not helped by any measure that further depletes his energy-stores. Stimulation is a forced draught upon the energies of the body. It compels the expenditure of energy, not in doing useful work, but in consisting the stimulant. If it is long continued or often repeated, exhaustion is the result. The depletion of the body’s energies is commensurate with the amount of stimulation it is subjected to.
The opposite practice, that of conserving the patient’s energies through rest, is a far more rational and an infinitely more successful practice. A workman returns home in the evening very tired from a hard day’s toil. We do not prescribe a stimulant for him, but rest and sleep. A sick man comes to us with a tired organism after weeks, months, or even years of overwork, stimulation, dissipation, etc., and we pursue the opposite course.
We tell him that he needs more stimulation, that his organs need to be made to work more. We begin a course of treatment that consists of stimulating the skin, the kidneys, the colon, the nervous system, etc. Sometimes, if le is not too badly depleted when he comes to us, we succeed in whipping up a short-lived simulation of health, very often, indeed it is the rule, we see our patient grow progressively worse from the first.
Danger of Stimulation
The very fact that a period of depression (a reaction), commensurate with the prior period of stimulation, follows every period of stimulation should reveal to us the true wasteful character of stimulation. If we grant that anything is gained during the period of stimulation, we must see that this is lost in the reaction. The more we seem to gain the more we actually lose.
The stimulation afforded by any stimulant grows progressively less and the subsequent depression progressively greater as the use of the stimulant is continued. Stronger and more frequent doses or a new and different stimulant must be resorted to, and the period of recuperation must be longer.
Another serious objection to the stimulation practice is that it deals with effects only and tampers with the functions of the body and ignores the causes of the troubles present. It seeks to restore health by forcing increased action in the body, rather than by correcting or removing the causes of the disease.
Suppose we assume that we are dealing with a highly toxic patient and it is desirable to eliminate the accumulated toxins from his body. If we set out to do it by stimulating his organs of elimination, but ignore the cause of the toxic state, we would be in the same position as that of the man who attempts to dip a fountain dry without cutting off the water supply.
He dips and dips until he is exhausted, only to find that there is as much water in the fountain as when he started. Indeed, if there were no other outlet for the water, the longer he dipped and the more tired he became, the faster would the water accumulate, for, as his fatigue increased, his dipping would fall off and the water would gain on him increasingly. In just the same way we whip up the organs of elimination to greater and greater effort and keep up the process until these organs and, perhaps, the whole organism are exhausted, only to find that the body is as toxic as ever. Indeed, due to the impairment of function that inevitably results from these stimulating measures, the body becomes increasingly more and more toxic.
The Importance of Rest
There is no more effective method of increasing elimination than that of rest. Increased activity increases the production of waste; decreased activity lessens the production of toxins. Increased activity expends energy; rest and sleep conserve energy. The more an organ is stimulated, the less able it becomes to perform its functions. Give it sufficient rest for recuperation, replenishment and repair and its vigor and functional efficiency are increased.
Much energy is consumed in physical activity. If rest is substituted for activity, the energy commonly spent in physical activity is available for use in doing other and, for the moment at least, more important work. Nature does not cut off the appetite, prostrate the patient and cut down mental activities, sexual activities and sensory activities, in typhoid, for instance, for nothing. These are all conservative measures—designed to conserve the energy commonly expended in these forms of activity, in order that it may be available for use in the, at present, more important work of recovery.
Rest Is Vitogenic
Activity consumes the substances of the body, is vitolytic; increased activity increases the consumption of body substance. During rest, the cells, the tissues and the organs are repaired, replenished and renewed. Rest is vitogenic. Resting organs are better able to repair their damaged structures than stimulated organs. Rest and sleep are the great representative restorative processes.
The actual storing up of the energy reserves or the energy sources of the body takes place during rest. Activity expends and rest recuperates the body’s supplies. The stimulation (irritation and excitement) of an already depleted body only hastens the exhaustion of the few remaining energy-stores and brings on the final collapse sooner than it would have occurred otherwise. The more the body is stimulated, the sooner it reaches the state of complete collapse. The weaker the body is, the less able it is to withstand the “action” of stimulants—the greater is the necessity of “doing nothing” intelligently.
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Only those who have had sufficient experience with both the stimulating (wasting) practice and the resting (conserving practice to enable them to judge the merits of the two practices are in a position to pass judgment upon them.
Anyone who has not completely abandoned the stimulating practice and employed only the conserving practice on hundreds of patients and over a period of years, and who, in the face of this lack of experimental knowledge of the practice, proclaims the superiority of the stimulating practice and employed only the conserving position as were the armchair philosophers of the pre-Baconian period—he simply does not know, and cannot know, what he is talking about; he is only spinning, spider-like, a fantastic theory out of the web of his fancies.