Could it be that our birthright is health, not disease? According to the first law of healing, the Law of Vitality, we have the inherent and innate ability to heal ourselves. Our health is governed by the vital force (or vis), which is always working to restore normal structure and function to our body. The vital force, naturally enfolded within our nature, has been known by several names through time: the vis, archeus, élan vital, chi or qi, and so on (FMNI). Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, is credited with calling this force the vis medicatrix naturae (Latin translation from Greek), meaning “the healing power of nature.”
Considering that our vital force has the ability to restore health, it is inherent that our biological status quo is balanced, homeostatic health and wellness with a spectrum of potential. Take, for example, an adult stem cell or mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) (Biosci Rep). It’s multipotent, meaning that it has the potential to become various kinds of tissue — such as skin, gut, bone, or blood — depending on the environment it differentiates in. When stem cells are traveling in the blood, they home in on areas of inflammation or tissue damage, fostering a regenerative healing response by releasing a cascade of medicinal signals, such as anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial compounds (Cell Stem Cell, J. Orthop, Trans.).
The vital force is much like an MSC in the body. It moves to where it’s needed: marshaling resources, engendering homeostasis, and healing by way of expressing itself in the language of symptoms. While the vital force is always working to heal you, it’s possible to work against it too. If you work against the forces in your body, you could prolong or worsen the imbalance you are experiencing. For example, internal and external forces present in our environment since birth (i.e., environmental toxicity, poor diet and lifestyle, stress, age, etc.) can set us up for worsening health. Adding insult to injury, by exposing ourselves to greater amounts of these forces, we can work against our own vitality.
The Law of Vitality shows us that there is another paradigm: a paradigm of health, not disease. This new paradigm is wellness-oriented and constitutes “the evolution of medicine,” as integrative medicine advocate James Maskell calls it. Our signs and symptoms are a language that communicates our body’s attempts to restore normalcy. Only by supporting and enhancing the efficacy of the vital force can we truly realign with the laws of nature and prevent (as well as reverse) chronic disease. Only by addressing the root causes of disease, rather than palliating our symptoms with polypharmacy, do we begin to move in the direction of health.
Globally, hundreds of millions — over 157 million, estimated by 2020, in the United States alone — are struggling with a chronic disease, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease (Lancet). Nearly 70 percent of Americans are on at least one prescription drug, more than 50 percent take more than two, and one in five are on five or more prescription medications (Mayo Clinic Proc).
It is important to note that applying the Law of Vitality has just as much to do with not doing certain things. On a basic level, this means not doing the things that make us feel bad, such as spending time with people who put us down or eating foods that make us feel like crap. This also means not regularly going for the quick fix (such as the pink boxes of Prilosec at Costco for heartburn).
When we suppress the symptoms which irritate or pain us, such as acid reflux or a tension headache, by literally turning them off with drugs, we engage in the practice of regularly untuning ourselves from and becoming numb to the signs and symptoms. These signs and symptoms are the language our bodies are using to communicate with us. Because the body is extremely intelligent, there is a reason behind the often painful and unsettling goings-on. If we interfere too often with natural processes, we risk disturbing a fragile ecosystem whose innate programming is to restore normal structure and function.
This is the problem with the suppressive approach upon which most conventional medicine is established. It is founded upon the notion that we can suppress a symptom, such as a headache, with medication, thereby turning off our experience of the pain — much like snipping the dashboard engine warning light wire in our car rather than hiring a mechanic to look under the hood. Naturopathic doctors or integrative medicine practitioners will look under the hood for you; they won’t just snip the wire.
Three Ways to Apply the Law of Vitality in your own life:
1. Engage in some form of hydrotherapy, which enhances the vital force by benefitting different systems, such as the digestive, circulatory, immune, and nervous systems (N Am J Med Sci). This can include steam rooms and saunas, hot springs, sensory deprivation float tanks rich in magnesium salts, showers and baths, saline pools, and foot soaks. Generally, it’s best to always end with some form of cold, even if it’s 30–60 seconds in a cold shower.
2. Spend time in nature regularly. Take walks in the park or go camping when possible. Spend time in the sun. Walk barefoot in the grass. Breathe fresh forest air, or try the Japanese art of “Forest Bathing,” which consists of simply spending time in the forest in order to rejuvenate and promote health (Time).
3. Seek out a naturopathic doctor or integrative medicine practitioner who can help guide you along your healing or health and wellness journey. Seek out therapies that enhance or stimulate the vital force such as acupuncture, reiki, homeopathy, craniosacral therapy, or other alternative vitality-enhancing modalities.
The Law of Vitality is the first step in a healing journey. When we realize that health is our birthright, we begin to shift to a paradigm of health, rather than disease.