Philosophy, Principles and Practice
Nature Cure is not, and makes no pretence to be, a substitute for medication. It cannot be produced in doses for speciﬁc ailments, and although this may sound strange, it is not primarily a resort for people when they are ill. It is much bigger than that. Nature Cure a way of life and a way of looking at life, and way of applying reasoned interpretation to what is observed. By doing this if you accept and practise its philosophy you too can give your body a better chance of maintaining normal function, or of regaining it when it has been lost. And, as with any worthwhile way of life, it is not merely for high days and holidays but for every day.
James C Thomson described it this way: “High Level Health is not to be achieved by the efforts of any group of practitioners. There must be intelligent and whole-hearted co-operation by the individual concerned and after it has been achieved, it must be just as intelligently sustained by wholesome habits of mind and body.
For this reason, we deliberately avoid any form of treatment that may give dramatic but transient results, and concentrate on those which either can be easily continued at home or will relieve strains for a considerable time after their application”.
Often described as straight nature cure, the methods are based on those practiced at the Kingston Clinic in Edinburgh and accumulated by the extended Thomson family over a century of practice. The term “straight” is used for simplicity to define the philosophy, which is very different from that of the conventional medical approach and to distinguish it from most other schools of Naturopathy. Most of these schools use herbal remedies, homeopathic preparations, biochemical tonics and vitamin supplements and mainstream medicine employs pharmaceutical preparations to suppress or eradicate the symptoms of illness.
Nature Cure practitioners do not view the body as a battleground in which hostile germs and viruses must be vanquished by ever-more-powerful wonder drugs, but as an organism capable of curing itself if allowed to do so with little or no outside interference. For us Nature itself is the great ‘curer’, but most of us have long since forgotten how to live in harmony with nature or to heed the consequences of cause and effect.
At its most basic, the differences between the medical approach and ours can be illustrated by looking at the expectations of the individual. A patient who goes to a doctor will expect a diagnosis based on the presenting symptoms and to be prescribed something to relieve those symptoms. If the symptoms are relieved then the doctor is considered successful in curing the illness. If the patient goes to a Nature Cure practitioner he or she should not expect their symptoms to be the primary concern. Of course we are as keen to have our patients feeling better as soon as possible, but acute symptoms need to be understood and used as signposts to be followed to what is really wrong, to the causes of the disease. Relieving (which usually means suppressing) symptoms is not a long-term solution, and in many cases can ultimately lead to diseases becoming chronic. We assess our patients as complete entities, rather than as a collection of symptoms, and work with the individual to remove or address the things that are stopping them from being healthy.
So you will see that Nature Cure does not provide quick and easy solutions, it demands a serious level of commitment by the patient. The Nature Cure practitioner does offer any magic solutions; he or she may even require the patient to adopt a completely new lifestyle. One fundamental tenet of Nature Cure is that a person who lives in accordance with the rules of nature is likely to enjoy a fulfilling healthy life.
BASIC PRINCIPLES OF NATURE CURE HEALTH-CARE PRACTICE
- Every part and aspect of a person and their life, continuously affects every other.
- Each person is an individual.
- Illnesses too, are individual – to be understood, not ‘diagnosed’.
- Understanding illness involves identifying causes and reactions.
- Signs and symptoms should not be suppressed – they are indicators.
- ‘Healing’ is a continuous, living function and any interference is at best, unnecessary and at worst, damaging.
- Illness, in the form of a ‘healing crisis’, is normal and healthy.
- The reaction to illness should be a confident, intelligent, ‘leaving alone’; a correction of causal factors and focussing on living Nature Cure.
- No inappropriate interventions, medicines, supplements or artificial remedies are used.
- Understanding, guidance and encouragement are the modus operandi of the practitioner.
Philosophy and principles are all very well, some may say, but what do Nature Cure practitioners actually do?
Basically the approach is on three layers.
- The first layer is nutrition. Any organism fed on the denatured, processed, artificially flavoured and coloured, highly salted and sugared foods, of the type that line the shelves of every supermarket, is very unlikely to be in optimum health. This means that any natural regenerative capabilities of the organism are compromised, and it is unable to function at its best. So, the first stage in many cases is to re-educate people about better eating habits. Nature Cure believes that the ideal diet should consist of roughly 60 – 70% vegetables, salads and fruit; 15 -20% proteins; and 15 – 20% starch. On a diet based on plants, comparatively little extra liquid should be required and Nature Cure considers excessive intake of fluids, especially those from tea, coffee, alcohol or soft drinks leads to unhealthy habits. A significant proportion of the vegetables should be taken raw as a salad each day and starch should come from unrefined whole grains. There is also an emphasis on organically produced foods it also teaches that the least processing to make the food palatable is best. Nature Cure identified that broadly animal proteins and fats were not necessary to achieve a healthy human body long before conventional medicine started to catch up with the idea. The Nature Cure diet is largely vegetarian, although some adherents include modest amounts of organic dairy produce in their 15 – 20% of proteins.
- The second level is also the somatic or physical, but it deals with posture, movement and exercise. A daily programme of moderate exercise, for instance brisk walking, is considered as an essential requirement to good health. The exercise should be taken daily, if possible, in order to be of real benefit. Deep breathing, skincare and even clothing, also all come into this section, because they all make a difference to the overall state of health of the whole person. Relaxation and recreation are also of crucial importance as is getting enough good quality sleep. The Nature Cure practitioner can help with some of the physical aspects of your health by means of massage and gentle manipulation, but patients must also apply themselves to committing to making any necessary changes and incorporating new regimes into their lives.
- The third level is the psychological. The Nature Cure practitioner works to help patients to understand themselves a little better, to understand and come to terms with the reasons for a particular behaviour pattern. Although this can be very painful and difficult for many patients, coming to terms with underlying causes of their often self-destructive actions is necessary to achieve a lasting cure for what is ailing them. Because Nature Cure examines the whole individual rather than just their presenting symptoms, practitioners have learnt to recognise links between certain emotional states or behaviour patterns and specific diseases. Of course, no one can force a patient to face unpalatable truths, but warm encouragement and genuine support will often engender enough trust and honesty for a good start to be made.
When Nature Cure was first practiced by James Thomson way back in 1912 it was a very different discipline from conventional western medicine. Indeed the history of Nature Cure is populated with those who have been given up on by medicine and it was only Nature Cure that offered any hope. Over the years modern medicine has grown closer to Nature Cure in some areas. For example, it now accepts the importance of exercise, of eating high-fibre foods and of not smoking. But in other ways it has grown further away, with the degree of specialisations that it offers and in the overabundance of complex drugs that it prescribes. And it is important to stress again that no matter how close or how far apart, the difference in approach is fundamental. Doctors believe they can cure patients using drugs and other interventions. Nature Cure practitioners understand that their job is to allow a situation to come about in which the patient is encouraged to trust their body’s innate healing capabilities and thereby true healing can come about.
Obviously there are conditions that are not amenable to treatment by Nature Cure. If surgery is required then clearly a skilled surgeon must perform the operation — though the patients recovery is often more rapid and complete if they follow Nature Cure principles. We also recognise that we all start out with different genetic inheritances. One man may abuse his body in every conceivable way yet appear to enjoy robust health, while another may take every care yet suffer a series of ailments. Nature Cure does not promise perfection; what it does offer is a better chance of the individual realising their true potential.
If Nature Cure faces one major difficulty it is that it is so often seen as a last resort. After a lifetime of unhealthy habits and repeated visits to doctors, a person may become so desperate he or she will decide to try Nature Cure. By this time the physical organism may have deteriorated to such an extent that full health is no longer even a possibility. This said, however, even patients in the most extreme cases are likely to find that if they eschew their old habits and adopt a Nature Cure regime they will gradually find at least some relief.
It will doubtless sound more than a little ironic to say so, but naturopaths would prefer to see healthy people than sick people. Persuading people to adopt a lifestyle in line with Nature Cure principles would be far more effective in improving the nation’s health than treating patients who have come to Nature Cure in extremis. Of course naturopaths want to do everything they can to help men and women who are suffering, but the fact remains that many of them need not have ended up in such distress had they adopted a different lifestyle much earlier. To do so, however, would mean accepting responsibility for one’s own health rather than delegating it to the medical profession.
After all the broken promises of the glittering possibilities claimed for the next new wonder drug and a nation cured of all its ills, disillusionment has set in. Now is the time for Nature Cure to become more widely known and accepted than ever before. People are beginning to understand that health is not something that can be delivered by a pill: it is something to be worked at with perseverance. Nature Cure can point the way; the rest is up to you.