HAHNEMANN'S EYE OPENING VIEWS ON HYGEINE AND DIET
It is sad that the most important revelation made by Dr.Hahnemann has gone unnoticed by the medical fraternity and even today most of his followers seem to only make a passing reference to his teachings. Dr.Hahnemann was probably one of the first medical practitioners to stress the importance of hygiene and preventive medicine in the containment of infective diseases; especially the epidemics which raked Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. His advice on diet, nutrition and exercise is explicit and relevant even today- 200 years later. While treating the sick patient he differentiates the requirements and restrictions to be imposed in both acute and chronic cases. Today as before, doctors have returned to `prescription practice'. Many doctors have no time or inclination to advise the patient about hygiene, diet or accessory methods of care for the sick. Doctors simply expect the patient to get well with medicines, a fallacy exposed by Hahnemann more than 200 years ago. Sadly patients approach the doctor with the sole intention of procuring a prescription with the belief that medicines ensure good health. Doctors have thus almost been reduced to clerks who write out prescriptions based on medical detailing done by representatives of pharmaceutical companies.
In a letter to his close follower Dr.Stapf, Hahnemann advises his followers to adopt the `golden mean' regarding exercise, diet and sleep. He advises his patients to avoid strong smelling substances such as spices, stimulants, opium, acids, perfumes, vanilla, coffee, moderate exercise in the open air, and to avoid meat and eggs when ill. He advises further that the patient cast out all evil thoughts, strong emotions, not to read at bedtime and to go to bed by 10:00 pm. Sane advice even today! He also admits that diet is not to be imposed, as what is healthy for one patient may not be so for the other.
This demonstrates the importance he gave to hygiene and personal care in an era when people lived in cramped and dirty houses with smoke emanating from stoves and other instruments of heating. Toilets as we know them today did not exist and towns had no means of refuse disposal and doctors troubled themselves with it little or not at all.
HAHNEMANN ON THE RECOGNITION OF DISEASES
In the days when diagnostics was unknown, Hahnemann had realized that the only way to evaluate and diagnose a disease was to take careful note of the symptoms. Hahnemann was the first to attempt the classification of diseases. He divided them into two types, Acute and Chronic and attempted to explain their occurrence. He insisted that doctors investigate and acquire full knowledge of the disease before attempting to treat it.
Another most remarkable innovation he introduced was the testing of drugs on healthy humans before attempting to use them as remedies. By noting the symptoms or changes in health in the healthy, he deduced the correct dose, repetition required to cure a disease and the safest dose required to do so. This was the world’s first scientific attempt at producing a pharmacopoeia.
It may hence be said that Hahnemann was a pioneer of medical research and the first to approach the practice of medicine with a scientific temper. Had the rest of the world bothered to listen to him, the advances made by modern medicine two centuries later would have been available to mankind much earlier!