THE SIX HYGIENIC FACTORS
The Origins of Health and Disease
Hygiene is the science of self healing. It is the art of personal health maintenance and disease prevention. Greek Medicine is, at its core, basically just an elaborate and sophisticated system of hygiene.
In proper hygiene practices, Greek Medicine sees the foundation of all good health. In improper or faulty hygiene, Greek Medicine sees the origin of most disease.
The art of hygiene is basically twofold, like the two sides of a coin. On the one side, you must give your body all the good things it needs: a pure, wholesome, nutritious diet; appropriate and adequate physical activity and exercise; sufficient sleep and rest; and a healthy, constructive daily routine and lifestyle. On the other hand, you must remove from the body all the wastes and pathogenic matter that it coesn't need, by keeping it clean, boith inside and out.
Galen's Four Basic Things
Galen elaborated on this even more, and expanded these two categories to four. The art of hygiene, he said, consists of four basic kinds of things:
Things to be administered - a pure, healthy, nutritious diet and the right kinds of herbal tonics and nutritional supplements.
Things to be done - appropriate exercise and physical activity; getting adequate sleep and rest; a healthy, constructive daily routine; appropriate sex relations
Things to be applied - regular bathing and cleansing of the body; anointing the body with aromatics, unguents and medicated oils.
Things to be removed - cleansing and purifying the body of accumulated wastes, toxins and morbid humors.
Keep these four basic kinds of things in good order and you will enjoy excellent health. Let them get out of order and you will fall prey to illness and disease.
The Six Hygienic Factors
Greek Medicine has identified six basic areas or factors which, if kept in good order, build health and which, if allowed to fall into disorder, lead to illness and disease. They constitute the basis of all health management and disease prevention in Greek Medicine, and are as follows:
1) Ambient Air
2) Food and Drink
3) Exercise and Rest
4) Sleep and Wakefulness
5) Retention and Evacuation of Wastes
6) Perturbations of the Mind and Emotions
Because these six factors are not essentially inherent to the body and its nature, they are sometimes called the Six Non-Natural Factors. Because they concern important aspects of hygiene, I call them the Six Hygienic Factors.
The proper management of these six factors constitutes the entire art of hygiene in Greek Medicine. To recapitulate on the Six Hygienic Factors and what they entail:
Ambient Air: The impact of one's habitat and dwelling place on one's health. The influence of geographic, seasonal, climactic and environmental factors on one's health. The art of proper breathing. The basis of all public health and environmental medicine.
Food and Drink: The basics of a healthy diet, proper food selection and healthy eating habits. Constitutional management with diet. Not just what you eat, but also when, where, how and how much.
Exercise and Rest: The value and importance of proper exercise. The classical Greek science of exercise and physical culture. The different types of exercise, and selecting the right one. How to design a safe, effective, sensible and appropriate exercise routine and regimen. Finding the right balance between exercise and rest.
Sleep and Wakefulness: The importance and value of adequate sleep in health maintenance. Designing a healthful daily routine that balances adequate, sound, restful sleep with appropriate, constructive wakeful activity. Harmonizing one's personal sleep / wake cycles with the rhythms of Nature.
Retention and Evacuation of Wastes: Recognizing and cultivating the right balance between waste retention and waste evacuation. Building healthy bowel habits. Maintaining urinary health. Recognizing, preventing and treating autointoxication. Simple hygienic cleansing measures.
Perturbations of the Mind and Emotions: The impact of our mental and emotional states on our health. Constitutional management of the mind and emotions. Appropriate, satisfying, affectionate and constructive sexual relations.
The Four Doctors
Another fourfold way of looking at the art of hygiene is in terms of the Four Elements. Your body needs the daily attention and ministrations of these Four Doctors:
FIRE: Doctor Sunshine
AIR: Doctor Fresh Air
WATER: Doctor Pure Water
EARTH: Doctor Healthy Diet
States of Health and Disease
Most people casually assume that you're either healthy or you're sick. Greek Medicine maintains that, besides these two extremes, there are also various intermediate states in which one is neither totally sick nor totally healthy. Here are the main possibilities as Greek Medicine sees them:
Absolute, Radiant Health: Much more than the mere absence of symptoms; perfect health, boundless energy, endless joy, satisfaction and peace of mind.
Average Health: The mere absence of any overt signs and symptoms of dysfunction or disease; otherwise, the individual doesn't feel especially energetic, joyful or healthy.
Minor Complaints: Troubling symptoms, discomforts and minor dysfunctions start to appear and drain the inherent vitality and resilience of the organism. Most people take painkillers and other palliatives so they can go their way and be about their business.
Mixed Illness and Health: The individual is neither wholly sick nor totally healthy; health and illness are intermingled in equal proportions.
Convalescence: The individual is convalescing from a major illness; his/her condition is still fragile and delicate, and recovery isn't yet complete.
Full-Blown Disease: All the signs and symptoms of an overt, full-blown disease are fully manifested, and the individual is suffering from a major illness.
The Art of Hygiene exists to take you, as much as your inherent capacity for health will allow you, to the top of this scale - to absolute, radiant health. Hygiene is much more than just the mere avoidance of disease; it is the cultivation of perfect health.