Healing Power of Our Nature
Vis Medicatrix Naturae: The Healing Power of Nature, Body edition.
The Healing Power of Nature is a central tenet of Naturopathic Medicine. It calls on the practitioner to respect the natural intelligence that helps the body maintain balanced function, heal and renew unhealthy tissues, and restore health. The discussion of this principle is centered around the VIS, a vital force that guides and regulates the various systems of the body.
The idea of this vital force, called Vis, dates back the Galen and Hippocrates (circa 500BC) who originated the Greek tradition of Medicine. In Ayurvedic medicine, this force is called Prana. In Chinese medicine, it is called Qi. Polynesian cultures call it Manna. In Native American cultures, it is referred to as the Spirit. All of these old traditions recognized an organizing force or intelligence that accounted for the resilience of an individual. This resilience is described as the ability to resist disease and the ability return to health when injured.
In this discussion, I would like to share a perspective of how we have been able to observe the intelligence of this phenomenon. How this intelligence observes and learns from the circumstances of our lives, our habits and preferences. How it adapts to support us to live in health and free from disease. And ultimately, how we can support this intelligence to help us cultivate optimal resilience.
Resistance to Dis-ease:
We can observe the resilience of nature all around us. Especially, in trees that thrive in hostile environments such as cities, birds and animals that live vital and active lives in cities and in nature, in the ability of ecosystems to recover from disasters like fires, floods, and storms. This resilience is a result of a design developed through millions of years of evolution and natural selection.
Humans are part and product of this nature. We have evolved through the same process of natural selection to develop traits and a physical ecosystem that imparts a similar resilience. The immune system is powerful and observable example of this vital force and its intelligence.
When we are in the womb, our immune cells do not have any antibodies for specific germs. Our immune system, through the experience of birth, breast-feeding, close physical contact with family, etc. starts to gather the information about what is in our environment. Parent’s skin, hair, saliva, bacteria on the parent’s skin, mother’s birth canal provides our immune system the first exposure of something other than ourselves. Our immune system recognizes these as ambient and harmless part of our environment. The ability to identify harmless agents prevents the immune system from mounting a defensive response. The more we are exposed to similar ambient/harmless items in our environment, like grass, soil, trees, etc., the better our immune system get educated at differentiating these from harmful items. This helps to reduce the likelihood of allergies to otherwise harmless environmental and biological agents.
When we are exposed to pathogenic bacteria, viruses, etc. that damage our body and make it toxic, immune system produces antibodies to alert immune cells to mount at defensive response. The immune system also keeps a catalog antibodies and memory cells, that remember the identity of these harmful agents for future reference. This system of recognizing pathogens and memorizing their identity serves as the body’s basic resilience to harmful biological agents.
Resilience through Regulation:
We have evolved with the Earth to survive and thrive with rhythms and flows of the Earth. The central rhythms that regulates the body is the sleep-wake cycle. This is called the circadian rhythm of the body. With expression of Cortisol in the morning it awakens the body and digestive and metabolic activity. With the expression of Melatonin at night it shifts to help the body rest, repair, cleanse, and rejuvenate in the night.
The functions of this system are extremely sensitive to our lifestyle and daily routines. this system watches our every move and daily activity. In response to observations, it adapts the circadian activity, adjusting the flow of biochemical reactions and energy metabolism to suit our needs. Thus, our body is regulated by the circadian system to optimally support our freedom of movement and expression.
For Example: A person who works a nightshift has a rhythm of mealtimes in the evening and through the night, winding down activity by early morning, and sleeping during the day. If you know such a person, they will tell you that after a few days of adjustment, they are able to sustain this routine with little-to-no problem. This is because the body, within a few days, can significantly shift the circadian rhythm in response to the individual’s need.
However, because this is not what the body is evolved for the resilience of the vital force tends to become compromised over time. For these individuals and those of us who can follow a regular day-night cycle there are some key practices that can give the feedback to the circadian system to help optimize function and health. These include:
1) Consistent time of sleeping: This support melatonin to be optimally concentrated at regular bedtime; In additional to improved quality of sleep, this promotes optimal repair, cleansing and rejuvenation of tissues. As well as optimizes immune function.
2) Consistent time of eating: Body observes our time of eating, so it can anticipate food intake. This anticipation leads to concentrating digestive enzymes and activating the digestive immune system. This aids the body to digest our food as effectively as possible, while protecting us from pathogens.
3) Regular movement and exercise: we are evolved for movement and activity. If our work involves sitting a lot, this has negative effects on muscle tone and function. On the other hand, short bouts of movement every hour or so, as well as regular 30-60mins moderate-to-high intensity exercise 3-5 days per week gives feedback to the body to maintain muscle tone, bone strength, balance and agility.
VIS, the vital force of the body is the innate intelligence that is evolved to sense and respond to us, our environment, our emotional states, and our state of consciousness. Discussed here are some superficial aspects of this intelligence that pertain to our physical well-being. The immune system, digestive system, the hormonal system, the nervous system, and all the organs of the body have an innate capacity to sense, understand, and adapt to protect our body and preserve health. This ability has not been imitated or recreated by any human inventions.
All medicine, natural and allopathic, relies on this innate intelligence and body’s resilience to save lives. Best medicine is in our ability to respect, understand, and cooperate with this natural intelligence. Best healthcare is to blend with the rhythms and flow of nature and cultivate a life of balance.