By: Herbert M. Shelton
The Hygienic System: Orthopathy 1939
Heredity is the transmission of germinal
characteristics, including germinal weakness.
But we do not inherit "disease."
We inherit organization. One may inherit a
weak, narrow chest, weak lungs, etc, but he
does not inherit tuberculosis. Congenital defects, and larval weaknesses are
more likely to be due to nutritional deficiencies than to an affliction of the
Diathesis - Predisposition
Constitution is the sum total of the comparative development and soundness
of all the organs of the body at any given time. It is susceptible to
improvement or impairment.
The best constitutions among modern civilized man are more or less
organically defective, these defects resulting either from heredity, defective
nutrition, injury or abuse (some of the circumstances and habits of life bear
more heavily upon some organs than others), and have tendencies toward
functional disturbances in different directions, and in different degrees.
One may be safe in saying that whatever his organization may be, no man in
civilized life enjoys, at any time, a perfect equilibrium of functional action
throughout his whole organism, nor enjoys it to the same extent at all times.
Few, if any, of us possess perfect organisms. Almost every one of us has
one or more congenital or acquired structural defects--some (anatomical
weakness or deficiency that cripples life more or less.
Dr. Dewey called these "ancestral legacies" and regarded them as
"constitutional tendencies to disease."
Dr. Jennings referred this "bias" or "Predisposition to disease" to an
"inherited constitutional defect of the tissues of the organs concerned."
Diathesis is a bodily condition, or constitution, or tendency that predisposes
to a particular "disease" or class of "diseases." It seems to be largely a
defective anatomism--hereditary, congenital, or acquired, which acts as the
Those who have stomach trouble are imperfectly built. Tubercular subjects
are built for tuberculosis. This is more or less true of all "diseases."
Sometimes there is defective function where no anatomical defect is
discoverable. Diatheses are divided into general and special.
General diatheses are the gouty, arthritic, rheumatic, cancerous etc.
Special diatheses are defective anatomisms of the various organs of the
What is a diathesis? What are its causes?
Many individuals, especially children, seem prone to develop skin eruptions,
while others though frequently ill; do not have much skin trouble. The same
causes that produce skin eruptions in one person produce colds, or
bronchitis, or gastritis in another.
Special or organic diathesis is the only explanation of why people develop
different organic "diseases"--why one develops a heart, another a liver,
another a kidney, etc., affection--from the same causes.
Two men acquire the drink habit. Shortly thereafter one develops hyperemia
of the liver, which goes on to the production of cirrhosis, ascites and death.
The other develops neuritis, and, if he continues to drink, graver forms of
One man may drink large quantities of alcohol and yet live to old age.
Another may die in early life from but a few years of drinking.
It must be evident that when alcohol produces liver "disease" in one man and
nervous "disease" in another, the difference is in the vulnerability of the
respective organs of these men and not in the alcohol.
When comparatively moderate drinking kills one man at an early age while
another who drinks heavily lives to an advanced age, this must be due to the
relative resistance of the two men and not to a difference in the alcohol used.
The old notion of "inherited tendencies" to a given form of pathology has
been and is greatly over-worked. It is all too often used to cover up the
doctor's ignorance of the real causes of trouble.
It is often based on nothing more mysterious than the fact that the same
conditions that produce the "disease" in the parents are usually present in
the life of the child.
The same food, bad hygiene and lack of sunshine that produced
tuberculosis, for instance, in the parent may and often do produce the same
pathology in the child.
Why shouldn't members of families develop like "diseases"? They have
similar habits and develop like tendencies--carry cesspools under their
Certain "diseases" are peculiar to certain styles of living. The modes of living
peculiar to the different periods of life produce "diseases" peculiar to these
ages. Pathological evolution waits upon enervating habits to break down
Anatomical predisposition will not cause a given pathology to evolve; the
individual construction only determines the specialization or localization of
the pathology; the actual building of pathology is left to influences that break
down natural resistance and allow the development of self-poisoning--the
constitutional condition from which all "diseases" known to the nosology
Wrong life deranges nutrition, and while the constitutional derangement is
alike in all, each individual will evolve a pathology peculiarly in keeping with
his own anatomical construction.
Predisposition begins with the abandonment of orthobionomic living,
although it is not recognized until after generations, perhaps, that such living
has produced grave anatomical blemishes.
The mere absence of detectable stigmata tells us very little about how far
along the pathway of degeneration the individual and the resident germ
plasm may be.
Diathesis or predisposition may be the result of poor ancestry (poor
ancestral nutrition), insanitary surroundings in childhood, or of abuse of the
body; the result being tissue weakness and an undue susceptibility to toxic
It is the sum of Nature and nurture; largely a defective anatomism. If we are
born with a certain tendency, it is called congenital; if the tendency is
developed after birth, it is called acquired.
The human organism is a complex of varied organs and tissues, each of
which serves definite functions, all of the varied functions essential to health
While every organ of the body is essential to wholeness of life, some are
relatively more important than others. None can be dispensed with without
disturbing more or less the nicety of physiological equilibrium necessary to
normal function of the whole body.
In an organism, which, starting as a single cell, has built itself up step by step,
evolving its various organs and parts, manufacturing them from material
supplied by the mother, and linking all these organs and parts together by
means of the nervous system, glandular system, and the blood and lymph
systems, and making each part dependent on the whole and the whole
dependent on each of its parts, there exists such a close harmony and
inseparable unity that no organ can act as an independent isonomy.
If an organ is weak it is not permitted to become sick "diseased" so long as
the general economy is able to sustain it. Not until there is a lowering of the
general health standard, due to enervation and toxemia, can an organ, which
is below the general standard of excellence, become the center of an
When enervation is brought on, and because of this, secretion and excretion
are impaired, and toxins resulting from faulty digestion are added to the
retained cell-waste, the weaker organs or systems of the body become
It is not the mere possession of organs, but their functioning that determines
health. A corpse has all the organs of a living body, but it lacks the power to
function. Normal function is the basis of an enduring health.
This is dependent upon two general factors--namely, the structural integrity
of all the organs of the body and sufficient functional power to carry on the
functions of life.
If there is no power in the powerhouse the motors do not run. Similarly, the
organs of the body, however perfect may be their structure, function
vigorously or not, depending upon the amount of power that reaches them.
Anatomical defects are not to be regarded as, in any sense, causes of
pathology. They do not make themselves felt so long as we have sufficient
nerve energy to maintain normal function.
When functional energy is low and toxemia is present they offer least
resistance to the toxins and thus become the seats of pathology. They are
the first parts of the body to break down when it is subjected to
over-stimulation, abuse, and depressing influences.
As Dewey expressed it: "by whatever means brain power (nerve energy) is
lessened, abnormality is incited in the weak parts; hence, generally, from the
original weakness there is a summing up, as acute or chronic, local or general
When energies are low hereditary and acquired tendencies (weaknesses) are
most troublesome. They are unable to keep up their end of the game.
If the energies of the body are just sufficient to maintain comfortable action
under favorable circumstances, a little additional strain placed upon them will
produce discomfort, pain, faltering of functions and other evidences of
weakness and "disease."
If these changes in external conditions that put a tax upon the body are
sudden or great, this makes it more difficult for the enfeebled organs to keep
up comfortable action.
Any change that necessitates a little additional expenditure of power to
maintain the usual functional standard, when the extreme of forbearance has
been reached, will cause a faltering of organic function with an added check
thrown upon elimination.
Those who are strongly predisposed to "diseases" of the lungs, for instance,
require only to be subjected to sufficient enervating causes to break down
resistance and then the lungs become "diseased."
A diathesis is not pathology, nor the cause of pathology. It is only a
constitutional peculiarity or defect, which determines the type of pathology
that will develop when sufficient impairing causes are brought to bear upon
It is not a cause of pathology except in that is a weak point, a vulnerable
point, in the fortifications of the body. The producing causes of pathology lie
elsewhere and the diathesis must always lay dormant unless these are
present. Page declared that:
"The gouty, the rheumatic, the 'colds,' and all other diatheses, are practically
unimportant distinctions. The technical difference is, of course, well
understood and admitted.
In any event, it is certain that the course of living best suited to prevent one, is
also best adapted to prevent or remove all. For all practical purposes,
however, they may be all classed together; and whoever desire, either for
themselves or their children, exemption from, or the alleviation of suffering,
have only to adopt a pure mode of living in order to escape, or emerge from,
the disease diathesis."--The Natural Cure.
Although we can always modify that twist in the constitution that is the result
of wrong habits of living and thinking, can always strengthen and fortify
weak parts more or less, a diathesis or constitutional bent is built through
years of "evolution" and is in many cases a family characteristic that will
require almost a century (three generations) to completely eradicate.
Excerpted from: The Hygienic System: Orthopathy 1939
By: Herbert M. Shelton
This Chapter: Heredity
Complete Book Free Online: The Hygienic System: Orthopathy 1939