In the 19th century, just after childbirth, women would sometimes become affected by puerperal fever or childbed fever, a devastating disease that caused severe abdominal pain, extremely high fever and often death. Doctors were baffled and had no real way to treat the disease, or even prevent it. During that time, when the disease was at epidemic proportions, it was common for doctors to perform an autopsy and then go straight to deliver a baby, without washing their hands. In 1847, Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865) discovered that if doctors and those helping with the birthing process simply washed their hands in a chlorine solution, the incidence of the disease would plummet from a 10% disease incidence to about 1-2%. Semmelweis observed a basic tenet of hygiene and had massive success for his patients. He was called “the savior of women.” He used some common sense and tested his theory and produced results. Basic science. But basic science and results do not always equate to acceptance. Initially the world’s top academics, scientists and medical experts all dismissed him as a quack. The belief by these doctors and “experts” of the time was that “gentlemen do not carry diseases on their hands.” These gentlemen intellectuals drove him out of his hospital position and eventually out of his home town of Vienna, Austria. For two decades, Dr. Semmelweis endured professional ridicule and personal abuse over his ideas, all leading to massive stress and an inevitable nervous breakdown. His own wife and friends became so concerned about his mental stability he was sent to a mental institution. Two weeks later, he was dead.
Barely thirty years later, the scientist and showman, Louis Pasteur took up the theory of Dr. Semmelweis and offered his own theoretical explanation, called the Germ Theory of Disease. Hand-washing by doctors became the norm…of course. Today Semmelweis is credited and even lauded for his work in antisepsis.
One of my favorite quotes is from German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860). “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Here was a contemporary of Semmelweis observing human tendencies and proffering a warning for everyone at the time and for all of us now. The Truth hurts…but only if we resist. We should question the Truth. Any Truth should be questioned, because Truth can handle it. However, the literal definition of pain is “the resistance to change.” We place ourselves willingly in pain when we violently and vehemently resist truth. This is born from fear, not from our reasoned minds. We are built to evolve forward, we are built to move. This is inevitable. So either you do it in style in a fancy Cadillac or you drag yourself along on square wheels. Your choice.
“Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.” Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Another excellent quote from another member of The Enlightenment and relative contemporary of Semmelweis and Schopenhauer. Jefferson knows pure reason leads to truth, unencumbered and unadulterated, and that truth can handle any question, any level of doubt, because truth is just truth.
When it comes to your health, you need to champion your health. You need to seek the truth out there, with a reasoned mind, and follow back to your heart to the answers within. If there is some opinion out there, something new, something refreshing, and it is garnering results and rings of truth, and it is also being ridiculed by the intellectual elite, then I suggest running straight for it! Go find your truth for yourself.
To Your Rational True Health,