Can we cure death? I recently saw this question on Quora “Why can’t we cure death?”. As I thought about this, using a healthicine framework, I made some interesting discoveries about health, illness, death – and cures.
First, let’s take a look at the definition of ‘cure’. I am not a doctor, but I consulted some medical manuals. The MERCK Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, and Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, for the definition of cure, and learned that ‘cure’ is not defined in these medical resources.
The word cure is sometimes used – but not with consistency of meaning.
Webster’s dictionary defines cure as
1. “something (such as a drug or medical treatment) that stops a disease and makes someone healthy again“. That would be a medicine that cures.
2. “something that ends a problem or improves a bad situation“. That could be a surgery, that cuts out off an infected leg, for example. The patient is not totally cured, but the infection is removed. It could also be used to describe a painkiller, or any medicine that treats symptoms of a disease – pain, coughing, sneezing, etc. However, it is generally agreed that we don’t cure arthritis, nor the common cold with pain medicines – we only treat the symptoms. When we only treat symptoms – we do not cure – the illness continues.
3. “the act of making someone healthy again after an illness“. This cure would apply to treatments like physiotherapy, which restores function after injuries sustained in a car accident, and medicines that assist healing after an illness causes injury. It could also apply to medicines that are already included in the first definition.
Next, we to look at diseases that can be cured. What diseases can we cure?
We can cure infections. We often cure bacterial infections with antibiotics, virus infections with antiviral medicines, fungal infections with antifungal medicines, and we can cure parasitic infectoins like tapeworm, with poisons that kill the parasite. In each of these cases we cure the patient, by killing the offending organism.There is often danger that we will kill the patient, or give them a different illness.
We can cure dietary deficiency diseases – if the disease has progressed so far that serious damage has been done – that damage might not be reversible – but illnesses like scurvy, and even night blindness caused by Vitamin A deficiency can often be completely cured – by addressing the deficiency. In some cases, anemia caused by iron deficiency for example, the deficiency can be due to inability to absorb a nutrient – but we can cure with nutrient injections, or specific nutrients that are more easily absorbed by our digestive system.
When we cure a dietary deficiency disease – we don’t cure it with medicine, we cure it with health. We make the diet healthier – and the ‘disease’ fades away. The ‘disease’ is actually a case of ‘unhealthiness’, or a ‘lack of health’. In extreme cases, like advanced scurvy, we can use Vitamin C supplements to provide a more concentrated, faster nutrient cure. This makes Vitamin C look like a medicine – even though it is simply a concentrated nutrient.
Dietary deficiency diseases are cured by foods, not by medicines.
We can cure diseases caused by ongoing excess. Obesity, iron toxicity, arsenic and mercury poisoning can be the result of low level excessive consumption – over long periods of time. In each case the first step in the cure is to identify the excess – and remove it. In some cases, the cure can be assisted by some action, like chelation, that removes the toxic chemical from the body.
Diseases of excess cannot be cured by medicine. They can only be cured by removing the offending excess. They are sometimes cured by intentional or unintentional dietary changes that replace the source of the excess, with healthier foods.
The diseases we can cure can be acute – when an excess of a toxin is severe and rapid, or when a deficiency happens relatively quickly, liked dehydration. They can also be chronic. Vitamin A is stored in the liver. A low level Vitamin A deficiency might not create symptoms for many years – until the liver’s store is depleted. Because the patient is consuming some Vitamin A – just not enough, the associated diseases will progress slowly, but inexorably. An excess of certain foods in the diet can slowly lead to obesity. Obesity then becomes a chronic disease, with chronic symptoms. Toxins, including excessive nutrients like iron and poisons like mercury, can slowly build up, creating the slow inexorable progression that describes a chronic illness.
How can we prevent the diseases caused by deficiency, and the diseases caused by excess? The best preventative – the only preventative – for these illnesses, is health. No medicine can prevent. No magic herb, no placebo, no witch doctor mysticism, and no patent medicine can prevent these diseases. Only healthy actions, only health, can prevent these diseases.
Let’s look at some other diseases that medicines cannot cure.
There are diseases that medicines cannot cure, but our bodies can heal. “With proper medicine you can cure a cold in seven days, but if you leave it alone, it will go away in a week.” Medicines can’t cure the common cold. But our bodies can. The same applies the flu. There is no medicine to cure influenza, but the body usually cures it in a week or two. If it doesn’t go away, maybe it is not a cold, or the flu – maybe it’s more serious.
There are many chronic diseases that cannot be cured. They usually progress inexorably, and stay with us until we die. Arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, glaucoma, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, even cancers, and many more. There are no medicines to cure these diseases. They sometimes wax and wane, or even disappear – for short or long periods of time. But we have no medicines to cure them.We only have medicines for the symptoms, and treatments for consequences. Consequences of the illness – and often, the consequences of the medicines we take for the symptoms. The next question is obvious.
Could some of these incurable diseases actually be a result of nutritional deficiencies that we do not understand? Could some be caused by slow accumulation of toxic chemicals that we do not understand? Could some diseases that are so complex, that they are caused by combinations of deficiencies and excesses, over long periods of time?
If so, the disease will not be cured by medicines – only by health.
Maybe the only way to cure Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease – and many other diseases is ‘health’. Some of these diseases, like cancer and arthritis, have many potential causes – and maybe only some individual cases can be cured with health. In some cases, there may be damage already caused – like blindness caused by Vitamin A deficiency, that cannot be reversed – but at the very least, the progression of the disease might be stopped by healthy actions, where no medicine can work.
Maybe the ‘health’ cure explains why these diseases wax, and wane, and sometimes go into remission. Maybe they wax stronger as we increase specific unhealthy actions. Maybe they wane and fade as we increase specific healthy actions. And sometimes, maybe some of the changes that occur naturally, throughout our lives increase our health – in some way we do not understand – and the disease fades away or goes into remission. Maybe spontaneous remission is simply unintentional increased healthiness?
What about death? Can we cure death with health?
Death, from old age, occurs when our illnesses overtake our health. Many people die prematurely from the consequences of chronic illness. Sometimes, Alzheimer’s and dementia patients sometimes leave this world, while their bodies carry on living for years.
If we can learn to improve our health, consistently we will live longer. Maybe we can’t cure death yet, but we can cure many ‘premature deaths’, before they occur, with health.
Healthier people live longer lives. People who live longer lives are seen to have been ‘healthier’. It’s a tautology, but a valid one. Will we, someday, be able to make people so healthy that they don’t grow old and die? We clearly cannot do this with medicines – but we might be able to do it with healthicines: things that make us healthier.
Can we cure death? Maybe we can. First, free ourselves from the idea that only ‘medicines’ cure disease. We need to learn more about health and healthiness.
to your health, tracy
Tracy is the author of two books about healthicine: