Salutogenesis vs. Pathogenesis
These two ways of looking at health are divergent in the extreme, though both have their place. My aim today is to discuss both approaches, their positives and negatives, and where one might employ one vs the other. Let’s see where this rabbit hole goes!
Pathogenesis is the Medical Model
Medicine is inherently designed to look at what makes you sick. It tends to work by fighting the causative agent that has made you sick, in order to get you better. It is focused almost exclusively on the disease itself. In some cases, this is exactly what you need. If you have a rampaging bacterial infection, and your own immune system isn’t fighting it off, then by all means, take the antibiotic, and get well. If you’re bleeding out from an amputated limb, then you need that pathogenic care. Pathogenic care is very good at helping you to survive whatever is happening. But how is it at supporting natural mechanisms for generating health?
Turns out, it’s not very good. When people have no symptoms, there is nothing to fight. But are they truly healthy? In the case of heart disease, someone can have no symptoms, and be hours away from a fatal heart attack. Also, In the case of pregnancy and delivery, the more interventions are used, the more likely one is to go to a C-section, often times unnecessarily. When you get into the medical model pregnancy becomes a condition that must be treated. And labor and delivery often leads to surgery or other interventions (usually because of previous meddling).
Pathogenesis often works through symptom management, rather than true healing. If you’re in pain, make it stop. If you’re bleeding, make it stop. And if you’re suffering from an infection, make it stop. Again, in these cases, it works very well. But for normal health management, it does not.
Salutogenesis: A Way of Supporting Health
Salutogenesis is a different paradigm, aiming at the person, rather than the disease. It is a way of looking at health as something to be promoted from within the body. That is what Salutogenesis actually means, the promotion of health. That is where things like exercise, proper nutrition, and yes, Chiropractic care all fit in. It looks at your lifestyle to see what you can do to empower yourself and bring greater health, happiness, and satisfaction.
When you take care of yourself, then your health will improve, and that will make you more able to deal with the other stresses in your life. When we look at pregnancy in this manner, one can see that it is a beautiful, natural process that generally needs very little interference, and perhaps just a little help and support along the way. Yes, medical intervention is sometimes necessary (rarely!), and it almost always carries ramifications with it.
For example, a recent study showed that delaying a baby’s bath after delivery increases breastfeeding rates. The pathogenic mindset was, “got to clean that baby, get that dirty stuff off.” And yet, that was making it harder to develop a good bond with mom! The salutogenic mindset starts with, “what if all that vertex (the stuff all over the baby from birth) is there for a reason?” It turns out it supports the bonding between mom and baby, making breastfeeding more likely to be successful.
I bring up all of this not to demonize medicine. Far from it. I believe it has its place. Just not as our healthcare system. It’s a sickness and disease system because it’s pathogenically focused. Salutogenic care is the key to a long, healthy life, in harmony with the natural forces that are seeking the same thing from within us.