Chiropractic Views on Infectious Disease Victor G. Strang, D.C. (2001)
1. Most people have an uninformed attitude about “germs” and their relationships with human beings. This sometimes approaches an irrational “phobia” or fear of all microbes. This kind of fear is unnecessary, since the majority of germs are “harmless” to us, and to really avoid germs is impossible- they are in us, on us, and around us in large numbers, all the time. As an example, it is estimated that the total number of bacteria inhabiting the average healthy person’s intestinal tract exceeds the total number of cells in that person’s body! Many of these organisms are even helpful, if not vital to our wellbeing. Even those not in our immediate personal space have a necessary function in nature- they are the original “recyclers.” Were it not for the action of bacteria on organic wastes, the “food chain,” that cycle that provides the basis for ongoing life, would have ceased long ago. Essentially, life as we know it would not exist.
2. This attitude toward germs comes from the 19th Century, when infectious disease was a very significant problem, as were hygiene, sanitation, and nutrition, factors acknowledged today to be contributory to the situation. When the famous Louis Pasteur announced that he had isolated a microbe he hypothesized to be the cause of a disease in French silkworms, the concept that germs also could cause illness in humans followed rapidly. The germ theory of disease, as it came to be called, has become the basis for much of modern medicine’s treatment of illness. In the process, the advances made in food preservation, farming, sewage disposal, and general hygiene and sanitation practices have been virtually ignored, although these things deserve at least as much credit as the drugs developed to combat the germs.
3. In light of this, the chiropractic “attitude” is not one of denial that germs exist, or that they have nothing to do with human illness. Nor do chiropractors insist that if one has regular chiropractic care, infection is impossible, or that people with infections are “cured” by chiropractic adjustments. Simply stated, the chiropractic view is that germs alone do not cause infectious disease. They may be regarded as “the necessary condition for” a given infection, rather than the cause of the infection. This is not a radical or unscientific position.
4. In chiropractic, we insist that human resistance is the key factor in infectious illness. When we become sick in the presence of a given microbe, it is because we fail to successfully adapt to its presence, and not because the germ is present, or has “attacked” us. It is changes in resistance which make us susceptible to infection at some times and not others, in some people, and not others. Were germs the sole cause of infectious disease, then no one would be spared in epidemics, and, as B.J. Palmer put it, no one would be alive to believe in the germ theory.
5. Chiropractic theory holds that the nervous system is the ultimate controller of the human immune system, as it is of all body systems. Further, it is felt that disruption of the nervous system by subluxation complex diminishes the body’s ability to react at peak efficiency to the presence of microbes, and can therefore weaken the body’s resistance, making it more susceptible to infection. This is sometimes referred to as the neurodystrophic hypothesis.
6. Chiropractors are also aware that many other things influence human resistance, including nutritional status, emotional stress, genetic factors, personal hygiene, and sanitation practices in society. These things can not be dismissed by the chiropractor or any other health professionals.
7. Therefore, chiropractors prefer to emphasize that prevention of infection is, in the long run, far more practical than treating it after it has occurred. This is true of all human illness. Chiropractors use interventions which will enhance or increase resistance, allowing for the body to restore and maintain stability using its own resources. Rather than trying to treat people once they get sick, it seems only logical that all health professionals should be interested in keeping them from getting sick in the first place.
8. Chiropractors tend to criticize the overuse and abuse of such things as antibiotics, mainly because they have often been prescribed for viral infections, in which they may have no beneficial effects. This practice has led to increasing bacterial resistance to antibiotics; many strains are now difficult to control with virtually any antibiotic. The practice of inappropriate use of antibiotics has also contributed to the common attitude in patients that they and their children can’t get well without antibiotics or other medications. Also, chronic and/or inappropriate use of antibiotics has been suggested to cause other health problems, like recurring otitis media, diarrhea, yeast infections, and childhood asthma.
9. When allopathic medicine does try to prevent infection, its efforts have not addressed all factors influencing human resistance, but instead have been concentrated in the area of immunizing by “artificial” means- the use of vaccinations and inoculations.
10. The chiropractic profession does not generally condemn the intent or theory behind immunization by vaccination. Rather, it is critical of relying totally on this practice, especially in light of its shortcomings in application. Further, chiropractors are uncomfortable with the prevailing attitude that all persons in society are expected or legally mandated to use this method of preventing infections- that there is very little choice in the matter.
11. Careful examination of
statistical evidence on the effectiveness of vaccination reveals that it is not
a totally “safe” procedure- there is no such thing as a vaccine that doesn’t
have at least some undesirable side effects.
Also, the argument that vaccines are responsible for the
near-eradication of many diseases is refuted by evidence which clearly shows
that mortality rates for many common infections declined by at least 90% before
vaccines were available. Also, very few
vaccines have been tested with adequate controlled research trials, the usual
means by which something is proven effective.
In fact, some vaccines have a very high failure rate, which means they
do nothing to protect a person from the illness. For example, the majority of reported measles cases in recent years are occurring in
fully-vaccinated individuals. Protection may also quickly wane over time.
An example of this is the Hepatitis B vaccine.
There is some evidence that within 4-5 years after vaccination, roughly
half of those vaccinated are not protected from the disease. As this vaccine is designed primarily to
protect individuals who are sexually active and/or IV drug-users, one wonders
whether vaccinating newborns against the disease offers them any real
benefit. This vaccine is causing great
concern even among medical practitioners.
As recently as
12. Many people, including lay persons, scientists, doctors, and chiropractors, are extremely concerned about the safety of vaccines currently in use. These concerns include acute reactions, some severe, that can happen following vaccination. In particular, the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine has been the subject of a great deal of criticism and a controversial issue in public health. It is now felt by many that the risk of severe illness including death from this vaccination is greater than the risk from the naturally-occurring illness, for an individual person. A number of persons feel there is a link between the DPT vaccine, of which pertussis is one component, and some cases of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or “crib” death.)
13. Long-term safety questions are also raised by many. In particular, viral vaccines are suspected to be involved in genetic damage and autoimmune disorders. Others feel that a person’s reserve total immune capacity, or the ability to adapt successfully to new antigens (“germs”) throughout one’s life, is compromised by the use of many vaccines in childhood, leaving a mature adult without full use of this ability.
14. Even if a parent or responsible adult feels concerned enough to refuse one or more vaccines for their child or for themselves, social and legal pressures tend to make these wishes seem futile. Virtually all social and political institutions are committed to enforcing “herd” immunity theory. Rational and open discussion of risks and benefits of vaccinations is not encouraged in this climate of compliance “for the good of the whole.” Individuals can get information only if they look for it themselves. When they do so, they discover that, for example, laws mandating compliance with vaccination almost always allow for exemptions for those who need them or desire them.
15. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that there is no absolutely safe way to eliminate the risk of infectious disease- all we can do now is lower the risk to acceptable levels by various means. Many chiropractors insist that patients must remain free to choose how one lowers the risk.
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