Health, Symptoms and Adaptation

Balance and Adaptation:

To be truly healthy, to be able to live and thrive, heal and grow, you must be able to adapt to life’s stresses. As Nobel Prize winner Rene Dubos, PhD says: “Good health is a process of continuous adaptation to the myriad microbes, irritants, pressures and problems which daily challenge man.” [i]


We must adapt to so many things: changes in the weather; the bacteria, viri and fungi that enter us as we breathe; cancer cells, with their deranged genetic instructions that constantly arise within; pollution and chemicals; cuts, bumps and bruises; school, work, marriage, babies, bills, a mortgage – and we must deal with them all.


For if we did not – a hot summer’s day would boil your brain; a winter’s night would freeze you solid; every inhalation would bring massive infection; tumors would overwhelm you; a small cut would drain your blood. Without adaptation your heart would continue pounding after a workout; alcohol and other drugs would never break down, an adrenaline high or a moment’s anxiety would last a lifetime – you would remain intoxicated or terrified for life.


Thankfully, we usually adapt to life’s stresses because many mechanisms are built into us for that purpose. They are as simple as shivering in cold and sweating in heat, as elaborate as our immune system engulfing a cancer cell or bacterium or a fever to “burn off” an infection; as dramatic as an adrenaline rush when confronting danger or as unpleasant as vomiting or diarrhea to discharge toxins.


They all say the same thing: Survive! Survive changes in the weather; survive bacterial invasion; survive pollution; survive emotional heartbreak; survive excitement; survive work; survive and thrive!


What if we could not adjust to change? As Hans Selye, MD, PhD, world famous researcher on stress says: “The secret of health and happiness lies in successful adjustment to the ever changing conditions on this globe; the penalties for failure in this great process of adaptation are disease and unhappiness….many nervous and emotional disturbances, high blood pressure, gastric and duodenal ulcers and certain types of sexual, allergic, cardiovascular and renal derangements appear to be…diseases of adaptation.[ii]


From This Perspective:

Viewed from this perspective, symptoms such as fevers, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, skin eruptions, sneezing, inflammation and others – although unpleasant – are not a matter of bad luck or, as people once thought, curses from angry gods. Rather, they are signs that the body is struggling to adapt to stress and regain balance.


By lowering fever, preventing diarrhea or vomiting, pushing ourselves when we should rest, suppressing the expression of skin eruptions, fighting inflammation and in general not permitting the body to express symptoms, we interfere with the body’s adaptatory mechanisms to re-establish our balance



Empirical or vitalistic (natural) healers do not, as a general rule, automatically suppress symptoms. Instead they try to work with and enhance your body’s natural recuperative, self-healing and homeostatic (balancing) mechanisms.


The orthodox medical approach is often a suppressive form of health care, while natural methods are expressive. Medicine wants to eliminate symptoms while chiropractic and other vitalistic health care systems see symptoms as part of a healthy response to imbalance.


Medical care however is, at times, necessary. Medicine has a place, but it must be seen as one facet of healing, used only when necessary and not indiscriminately.


Imagine Three Dolls:

One doll is made of glass, the second plastic and third is made of steel. Strike each doll with a hammer, which represents physical or emotional stress. The glass doll will shatter. This represents those individuals who are unable to adapt to life’s stresses, become seriously ill and may die.


The plastic doll will scar. This represents those who will not be killed, but who are hurt or damaged by the stress. They will recover, but will never completely heal.


The steel doll rings with a pleasant tone. This represents those who, when confronted by stress, adapt quickly and thrive.


Better Health = Better Adaptation:

Your body’s wisdom uses your nervous system as a communications system to send messages between your internal environment (body chemistry) and your external environment (the world) to maintain homeostasis or balance between you and the world. When the communications are flowing without interference your body and mind are more sensitive and attuned to your life and your needs.


The goal of Chiropractic care is to help make you a steel doll – stronger and better able to adapt to life’s stresses and changes. We do that by keeping your spine and nervous system free of blockages, by releasing old stresses, old patterns of movement and blockages preventing life’s messages and energies from flowing through you at peak performance. You will be stronger, more stable and secure; you will thrive, grow, better enjoy life and continue on your journey to be the best you can be.

[i] Dubos R, Pines M. Health and Disease. New York: Time-Life Books, 1968.

[ii] Selye H. The Stress of Life. Revised Edition. New York: McGraw Hill, 1976.


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