Disease, “dis-ease,” what’s the difference?

I’ve had a rule of thumb for a while that helps me identify quacks with a high degree of accuracy. It’s not very sensitive, as a lot of quacks don’t exhibit this trait, but it’s very specific. A lot of quacks don’t use the term; so not hearing says nothing about a practitioner. If you hear someone using this term, however, it’s at least 99% likely that he is a quack. At least.

I’m referring to the word “dis-ease.”

You see it everywhere. Instead of using the word “disease,” quacks will often use the word “dis-ease” instead. Basically, the idea (apparently) is to choose not to empower health issues by focusing on a particular ailment. How focusing on a particular ailment “empowers” health issues, I don’t know. The quack’s answer to a nonexistent problem, however, is to use hyphenated variant to place emphasis on the natural state of “ease” being imbalanced or disrupted. Chiropractors seem particularly enamored of this term:

The medical term Disease simply represents any group of symptoms grouped together and given some type of name. For example, a cough, sneeze, drowsiness, and runny nose grouped together is given the name “Common Cold”; swollen tonsils with a possible fever is given the name “Tonsillitis”; abnormal growth of cells in the body is given the name “Cancer”; pain in the low back with pain or numbness shooting down the leg is given the name “Sciatica”, etc…. The term disease is a very all encompassing way to look at the absence of health.

The Chiropractic term Dis-ease on the other hand has nothing to do with symptoms, conditions, or Latin given names of diagnosis. The term Dis-ease simply means lack of ease or harmony within the body. It occurs when for any reason the Innate Intelligence of the body is not able to carry out its functions to its optimal capacity. This would obviously occur whenever there is interference in the transmission of mental impulses in the body (nervous system primarily), resulting in less than 100% optimal function. There are several causes of Dis-ease in the human body. The most obvious would of course be a Subluxation interfering with the transmission of mental impulses or commands by way of the Nervous System.

Yes, practitioners of medicine based on pseudoscience do tend not to understand some basic medical terms. Note above how this particular chiropractor seems confused about what constitutes symptoms and what constitutes a disease, which is typical. Now, there is a term that every first year medical student learns, often on the first day of class, and that’s homeostasis. Homeostasis is the property of a system that regulates its internal environment to maintain a stable, constant set of properties, such as pH, concentration of specific ions, and the like. That’s exactly what the body was. One might think that the way that the term “dis-ease” is used indicates that “ease” is roughly analogous to homeostasis. You’d be wrong. The word, as used by the sorts of practitioners and believers who tend to use it, is more a rejection of science-based medicine than it is a different way of expressing a concept that is at the heart of science-based medicine, homeostasis. I’ll give you an example.

Any reader of this blog who’s been a regular more than a few month likely has seen me write about one of the worst quacks of any whom I’ve encountered. The quack is Robert O. Young. You might remember that the central idea behind his particular brand of quackery is that acid is the cause of all disease, be it cancer (which, according to Young is not a mass of malignant cells but the body’s reaction to cells “spoiled by too much acid”), sepsis (which, according to Young, is not caused by a bacterial infection getting into the blood, although, oddly enough he also asserts that there is no such thing as good bacteria), or viral infections (to him viruses are really “molecular acids“). At his heart, Young is a germ theory denialist.

To treat the “acid” and “acid lifestyle” that he believes to be at the heart of all disease, Young puts those who are seduced by his quackery on what he calls an “alkaline diet,” which is basically a raw vegan diet with a lot of supplements. Oddly enough, he also seems to think that drinking a lot of fruit juices will “alkalinize” the body. Of course, going back to the concept of homeostasis, I note that it’s actually very hard to change the pH of the blood significantly, as the body is quite stubborn about keeping it within a very narrow range and is very good at adjusting its homeostatic mechanisms to make sure the pH of the blood doesn’t change, except within a very narrow range. In fact, large changes in the pH of the blood are indicative of a failure of homeostatic mechanisms; indeed, that would be closer to “dis-ease” than anything quacks can think of.

Young is also the guy whom I took note of when he was revealed to be the “practitioner” to which a woman named Kim Tinkham turned after being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey for having decided to eschew conventional treatment for her then recently diagnosed breast cancer based on her belief in The Secret. Take a guess to whom she turned to treat her breast cancer. That’s right, Robert O. Young. Now guess the end result. Sadly, that’s right. Kim Tinkham died. Young is also very enamored of the term “dis-ease,” going so far as to talk about the “illusion of disease“:

There is a curious tendency in conventional medicine to take a set of symptoms, string them together, and give the whole thing a name which is then called a disease.

Did I say “curious?” Well yes, but I might add, disconcerting, irresponsible, self-serving, exclusionary and just plain wrong! Once the western medical monopoly names a symptom a disease, they have made a major effort and taken a major step toward baring the door for all other adjunctive and alternative medical professions from getting involved.

It’s not “curious” at all that physicians would try to categorize diseases. In fact, diseases are more than just symptoms. “Alternative” medicine practitioners frequently represent conventional “Western” doctors as treating “only symptoms,” but that’s not right at all. It is actually practitioners of SBM who try to categorize diseases based on their causes, whenever possible, and then to try to treat the cause. For instance, pneumonia is an infection of the lung that can be treated only because the cause, specifically bacterial infection, is known. Treat the bacteria causing the pneumonia, and you treat the pneumonia. True, there are diseases for which the cause is not well understood or even understood at all, and these are categorized more by symptoms, but they are not classified only by symptoms. Laboratory and imaging findings matter. So does epidemiology. It’s a complete caricature Whether our current disease classification is the most scientifically sound way to categorize diseases, whether we medicalize conditions more than is warranted, and whether classifying diseases could be done better, but to reject it as nothing more than a means of excluding “alternative” therapies is fantasy. Yet to Young disease names are nothing more than a means of control, a means of obscuring, a means of limiting choices.

Now, he might have a tiny germ of a point in that modern medicine arguably overmedicalizes, but that’s not what Young is about at all:

But there is a fatal flaw in this approach to disease treatment: the symptom is not the cause of the dis-ease. There is another cause, and this deeper cause is routinely ignored by conventional medicine, doctors, drug companies, and even patients. Let’s take a closer look at hypertension or high blood pressure.

What actually causes high blood pressure?

Many doctors would say high blood pressure is caused by a specific, measurable interaction between circulating chemicals in the human body. Thus, the ill-behaved chemical compounds are the cause of the high blood pressure, and therefore the solution is to regulate these chemicals. That’s exactly what pharmaceuticals do. They attempt to manipulate the chemicals in the body to adjust the symptoms of high blood pressure.

Except that hypertension is not a “symptom.” Most hypertension is asymptomatic. The reason we treat it is not because it causes symptoms but because if untreated hypertension can result in horrible consequences: stroke, myocardial infarction, peripheral vascular disease leading to limb loss. If science-based medicine were treating only the symptoms, something like hypertension wouldn’t need treatment. Science showed medicine otherwise, that hypertension needs treatment if the long term consequences are to be avoided.

The other aspect of this example that stands out is how Young completely rejects nasty scientific things like…oh, you know…physiology, biochemistry, and all those nasty hormones, cytokines, and other physiological mechanisms regulating blood pressure. None of it matters to him; it’s all wrong to him. In the place of the nasty complexity of biochemistry and physiology, Young wants to substitute that is simple, appealing, and wrong, namely his idea that all disease is caused by too much acid. To the extent that Young recognizes that diet and lack of exercise can contribute to hypertension he is sort of right but for completely the wrong reason, which leads him to write something that is so amazingly wrong that I’m going to quote it in its entirety, even though the passage is relatively long:

Another dis-ease that is named after its symptom is cancer. In fact, to this day, most doctors and many patients still believe that cancer is a physical thing: a tumor. In reality, a tumor is the solution of cancer, not its cause. A tumor is simply a physical manifestation of bound up acidic cells so they do not spoil other healthy cells. The tumor is the solution to cells damaged by dietary and/or metabolic acids, not the problem.

The truth is cancer is not a cell but an acidic poisonous liquid. When a person “has cancer”, what they really have is cancerous tissues or “latent tissue acidosis”. They are absorbing their own acidic urine. That would be a far better name for the cancer dis-ease: Cancerous Tissue Dis-Ease (CTD) or “Latent Tissue Acidosis” or LTA.

If cancer were actually called “Latent Tissue Acidosis”, it would seem ridiculous to try to cure cancer by cutting out tumors through surgery and by destroying the immune or janitorial system with chemotherapy. And yet these are precisely the most popular treatments for cancer offered by conventional medicine. These treatments do absolutely nothing to support the patients immune system and prevent the build up of acids in the tissues.

That’s exactly why most people who undergo chemotherapy or the removal of tumors through surgical procedures end up with more cancerous tumors a few months or a few years later. It’s also another reason why survival rates of cancer have barely budged over the last twenty years.

(In other words, conventional medicine’s treatments for cancer simply don’t work).
Bottom line, the main reason treatment doesn’t work is that current medical science wrongly perceives cancer as a cell when in reality cancer is an acidic poisonous liquid, like lactic acid or uric acid.

Now who’s renaming diseases (or “dis-eases”) to fit his idea to fit all disease into the straightjacket of acid. Instead of cancer, Young fantasizes about “latent tissue acidosis. Instead of accepting the science that has shed so much light on the mechanisms by which cancer forms and identified molecular targets for the treatment of various cancers. Instead of a tumor, contrary to science, physiology, and over a hundred years of research, Young sees a “physical manifestation of bound up acidic cells,” viewing cancer as the body’s mechanism to defend itself against these “acidic cells.” If it’s a protective mechanism, as Young says, I can only say: World’s Worst Protective Mechanism. After all, the cancerous tumor (or “bound up acidic cells”), if not cut out or otherwise eradicated, frequently metastasize throughout the body and ultimately result in its demise.

As I’ve pointed out before, the level of misunderstanding of cancer demonstrated by Young boggles the mind, staggers the imagination, and in general consists of napalm-grade burning stupid. Maybe even hydrogen-bomb grade. And it’s all in the service of a combination of Young’s “alkalinizing” diet plus the naturalistic fallacy:

By creating a whole new vocabulary for medical conditions, doctors can speak their own secret language and make sure that people who aren’t schooled in medicine don’t understand what they’re saying. That’s a shame, because the treatments and cures for virtually all chronic dis-eases are actually quite simple and can be described in plain language: They include making different alkaline food choices, getting more natural sunlight, drinking more alkaline water, engaging in regular physical exercise, avoiding specific acidic foods, supplementing our diet with green foods and green drinks, alkalizing nutritional supplements, and so on.

Perish the thought that doctors, like other professionals, have their own language to describe concepts in their discipline precisely and quickly! Obviously, it must be a plot to keep you, the common people, from understanding what they’re doing. More importantly, to Young, everything can be cured without any need to understand nasty, complicated science. All you have to do is what he says. All you have to do is believe your body is a perfect machine that would neve become sick if you didn’t mess it up and give it a “dis-ease” and that you can cure any “dis-ease” just by eating the right foods, exercising, and getting more sun. It’s what I like to call the “Superman” myth, and it’s one that’s been expressed by, for example, Bill Maher. It would be nice if it were true, but it’s every bit as fantastical as the word “dis-ease.” You can try to reject reality and substitute your own, but reality has a way of always intruding again.