In the vein of making positive life changes, for our third post of 2017, we want to provide you with a different perspective on how you approach your health. One of our main goals at The Foundation Chiropractic, is to help provide some clarity, to remove the noise, so that you may feel empowered to make the best health decisions for you and your family.
We are constantly striving to remind you of what it means to be healthy; how each of your health decisions today dictate your future health. We want to introduce you to the concept of salutogenesis or “salus,” Latin for health, and “genesis” meaning birth is the study of the origins of health and focuses on factors that create, grow, and support human health. The opposite approach, pathogenesis (“pathos” = disease) is the study of the origin of disease. It seeks to avoid, eliminate, and treat disease, taking the view that treatment and elimination of disease are equitable to health. But, consider this: the avoidance of something does not automatically mean the presence of the opposite. You are avoiding disease, but are you finding health? The distinction is an important one.
Salutogenesis is a pro-active approach to health. If you develop and grow positive health and lifestyle choices, you will create an internal environment that is not supportive of disease. Pathogenesis is based on the centuries old concept of “germ theory” which suggests that microorganisms cause disease and illness. If this were true, why do no two people respond to illness exactly the same? Germ theory was countered by several later studies to show that the health of the environment dictated whether the microorganisms could proliferate. It stands to reason that by creating a healthy internal environment and healthy cells, disease will not be able to thrive.
The key differences between pathogenesis and salutogenesis are illustrated to the right.
Pathogenesis begins by identifying the disease or problem, with the express goal of early detection. When you go to a primary care doctor, they take blood to check for high cholesterol, take your blood pressure, listen to your heart and lungs. All the while checking for abnormalities that could be indicative of a problem. Salutogenesis starts by looking for health potential, with the goal of maximizing its expression. You are seeking opportunities to obtain and improve your health and well-being over the long term, with the understanding that future health is determined by the decisions you make now.
The conventional approach to health is really based on elimination. Take the fitness industry, for example. We are told that exercise is imperative in helping to make you healthy, true, but the reasons you are given are all rooted in the avoidance of something (i.e. reduce the risk of heart disease, lose weight, disease management, avoid diabetes). This is a pathogenic approach – you are working to eliminate a risk factor. By contrast, salutogenesis works to create health factors. Salutogenesis highlights the importance of exercise in its ability to increase your health – creating new neural pathways, increasing good hormones like serotonin and dopamine, making more brain cells, and increasing brain power, to name a few.
Pathogenesis holds the perspective of treating disease. The approach centers upon the idea that the treatment, elimination, and avoidance of disease equals health. A conventional nutritionist may recommend that person cut down on or eliminate fats from their diet to avoid heart disease and high cholesterol. You don’t have heart disease and high blood pressure, you’re healthy! Right? Pathogenesis says yes. But Salutogenesis comes from the perspective of obtaining health. Salutogenesis encourages actions and decisions that help to increase your health. A holistic nutritionist, who subscribes to a salutogenic approach, may recommend eliminating sugary foods from your diet so as to help reduce inflammation, and improve your internal environment. Healthy cells = healthy you!
Preventing pain and loss, mitigating a situation, and minimizing problems are the focus of pathogenesis. Doctors recommend medicine for high blood pressure; the medication is not intended to fix the problem, but to keep it from getting worse. Salutogenesis focuses promoting gain and growth, continuous improvement, and the optimization of potential. The focus lies on finding ways for the body to express its optimal health.
The single greatest human instinct is fear. It is what motivated our ancestors to run from the sabretooth tiger, and what makes a mother able to lift a car off of her child. But, what does fear have to do with your health? When you have a fever, do you reach for the medicine to get rid of it, or do you ride it out and let your body work its magic by elevating the temperature of its internal environment killing off the troubling bacteria or viruses within? The pathogenic approach tells us to fear sickness. We look at disease and illness as a terrible, potentially dangerous, problem that needs to be fixed and eliminated. The motive of salutogenesis is empowerment; we are encouraged to take ownership of our health seeing our bodies as an ever-adapting ecosystem. Often this ownership comes with knowing that the only way our bodies get stronger is if they are challenged. This principle applies 100% to your immune system as well (although we are taught that somehow this is an exception). It is seen in how our bodies learn, grow, and become stronger with such occurrences as childhood illness, the flu, or a cold because when symptoms arise, the battle is typically already won with coughing, chills, fever being the final elimination process. Symptoms are part of health. Our bodies must learn to adapt, grow stronger, and healthier. What motivates your health?
Pathogenesis is a reactive approach to health care if only after signs, symptoms or disease presents itself does a person seek treatment. The delivery is based on an event, or episodically. Salutogenesis, on the other hand, is pro-active in nature, encouraging people to seek and create conditions of mental, physical, and social well-being. Because of the nature of salutogenesis, the delivery takes place over a lifetime. It is a process of education, and compounding decisions that ultimately dictate how your body exemplifies health.
The outcome of a pathogenic approach is simply for an absence of a problem. A person with osteoarthritis takes pain medication, and the pain goes away; from a pathogenic standpoint, this would be a successful outcome. Salutogenesis seeks an outcome of the presence of gain. If the same person with osteoarthritis engaged a salutogenic approach by eliminating inflammatory causing foods, keeping regular chiropractic appointments, and exercising regularly, they would see gains in mobility, strength, independence, and more.
The practitioner plays an important role in each approach. Salutogenesis sees the practitioner as a partner or a coach in your health journey. Someone who helps to support and guide your decisions and direct you toward greater health. The pathogenic practitioner is dominant in the relationship, enforcing policies and mandates about your health, what drugs to take, what procedures to have done, what therapies are needed.
Our challenge to you is this: take a moment to reflect on your recent health decisions. Are your decisions moving you in the direction of greater health? Or are they moving you towards sickness, disease, and death? Are your decisions motivated by fear of disease or empowerment to be healthy?
No matter where on the spectrum you fall, you can take a step toward greater health by contacting our office for an appointment.
The Foundation Chiropractic Team
Great article, Dr. Rob, thanks!
Thanks, Leslie! We’re glad you enjoyed it!