Health vs Disease: A Matter Of Rhythm

by | Feb 14, 2014 | Nature's Therapies E-Journal

“… disease is but the expression and result of a disturbance of the conditions natural to life. The only useful office of the physician is to restore those conditions.”

Emmet Densmore, M.D. in How Nature Cures (1892)

Rhythms of the Natural World

In the 1930s, famed Swedish health teacher Are Waerland began his “Sun Viking movement.” Many of his students experienced greatly improved health and even recovery from serious illnesses. Waerland taught that disease was a disturbance of a person’s life-rhythm, established through millions of years of biological evolution. He told his students to look outside the body to environmental conditions as primary factors that create health or disease. Waerland felt that health could only be produced, and disease eliminated, by restoring the original human life-rhythm which depends upon an unhindered relationship between the human body and the external factors of Nature.

Waerland’s point about disease being a disturbance of a person’s life-rhythm, established through millions of years of biological evolution, is one of the most ignored principles of health and disease.

The entire universe operates rhythmically. Examples of this are the day/night cycle established by the Earth’s rotation on its axis and the cycle of the seasons caused by the transit of the Earth in its orbit around the sun. Plants grow, develop foliage, flower, and produce seeds in accordance with the rhythm of the seasons. Wild animals feed and wild birds sing (and feed) at certain times of day, and they mate and give birth at specific times of the year.

Wild plants and animals never abandon the inherent life-rhythm established through their millions of years of biological evolution. Modern human beings, due to their higher intellectual capacity and cultural and technological achievements, have developed a sense of superiority in relation to the rest of the animal kingdom that is part of their progressive estrangement from the natural world. Many people don’t even realize that the human race is an animal species. Instead of the traditional biological dichotomy of plant kingdom and animal kingdom, they believe in a separate, human kingdom. Many components of modern human society, including allopathic medicine, foster the delusion that the human species, alone among all species, can live healthfully outside the bounds of the laws of nature and the rhythmic imperative of the natural world.

Accordingly, most people eat whatever they want (e.g., ice cream in winter and barbecued meat on hot summer days; cheeseburger for breakfast and processed cereal for dinner; stimulating soft drinks brimming with refined sugar and caffeine throughout the day) and whenever they want it (e.g. fat and sugar-laden food and caffeinated beverages late at night). They awaken early or late, go to sleep in the wee hours of morning, sometimes get only three hours sleep, other times sleep half the day or never reserve time to rest; on other hand, they become committed couch potatoes, etc.

This type of lifestyle dysrhythmia is becoming the rule rather than the exception. When I was a boy growing up in the 1950s, my mother served us breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same times every day. We were awakened at the same time each morning and sent off to bed at the same time each evening.

That type of order is now viewed as a constrictive anachronism. The impulse to do whatever you want, whenever you want has been transformed from being viewed as a lack of self-discipline into an inalienable right. Thus, a dysrhythmic life-rhythm is seen as being an expression of emancipation rather than one of the most fundamental causative factors in the development of disease.

The Three-Fold Human Organism

While outwardly the human organism appears to be unified, it’s actually sustained by an inward duality and animated by a polarity which must be reconciled by a third entity: a rhythmic system.

Anthroposophical medicine’s model of the three-fold human organism provides some invaluable insight about, not only human physiology, but also about how physiological and psychospiritual functioning are fully integrated. It clearly demonstrates how each continuously and invariably influences the other.

Anthroposophical medicine, practiced widely by medical doctors in Europe, is a hybrid of conventional medical physiology, spiritual science and natural medicine that is based in part on early 20th century Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner’s concepts.

According to the model of the three-fold organism, the human organism has an upper pole, lower pole and a mediating midpoint. The upper pole, or nerve-sense pole, and a lower pole, or metabolic-limb pole.

The nerve-sense system, concentrated mainly in the head, facilitates consciousness and perception. Importantly, many cells of the brain and nerve tissues cannot regenerate, a sacrifice in functional capacity which allows for the influx of sensory and other perceptual data. The process of consciousness must be associated with a diminution of metabolic activity, because it is absolutely essential that the nerve-sense system remain free to receive external impressions. This is why the head is sometimes referred to in anthroposophical science as the body’s catabolic (breaking down of molecules), or cold, pole.

The lower pole or metabolic-limb system, concentrated in the gastrointestinal tract and skeletal muscles, is also associated with blood, liver and kidneys. In contrast to the nerve-sense system, its cells are capable of regeneration, and so, it is far less suited to receptivity to consciousness and sensory perceptions. This system is responsible for control of movement, metabolism and excretion as well as the enforcement of will. Thus, it is the polar opposite of the nerve-sense system, and, due to its metabolic nature, the body’s lower pole is considered the anabolic (building of molecules)or warm, pole.

The nerve-sense pole is associated with thought and the metabolic-limb pole with will. These two capacities need to be fully balanced and coordinated. For example, let’s say that it is a clear, warm day and you think to yourself, the cold, rainy weather is coming soon so I should finish painting the garage today. If will does not follow thought in equal measure, that paint job will be aborted at the thought stage. On the other hand, if will acts without guidance by thought, then impulsive and reckless action may be the result. In this case, the garage painting may go rather badly because the project was not well thought out.

The two currents of nerve force/thought and metabolism/will should work in constant harmony via the mediation of the rhythmic system (see discussion below). If not, the organism will be subject to imperfect equilibrium between these two currents, and the predominance of one or the other will manifest.

When the upper pole/the nerve-sense system predominates, the individual becomes overactive mentally while physically becoming inertial and debilitated. The person will constantly be tired and chilly. The catabolic (breaking down of molecules) processes dominate because of a decline in the anabolic (building of molecules) ones. Also, there will be a hyper-creation of mentalness with oversensitivity to sensory stimuli and resultant irritability and introversion. There is also significant sleep disturbance with symptoms such as difficulty falling asleep, insufficient depth of sleep and awakening too early.

On the other hand, when the lower pole/metabolic-limb system dominates, there may be poorly controlled emoting which exteriorizes freely and readily abandons itself to impulse and extroversion. There will also be a tendency toward anabolic pathologies such as growths. As the lower pole is associated with anabolism, the catabolic or breaking-down processes (initiated by the nerve-sense system) in the digestive system will prove too weak to effect complete food digestion. Incompletely digested food substances retain some of their foreign, biochemical nature. Once in the blood, these will induce food sensitivity responses.

A healthy gut permits only completely digested foods to be absorbed into the blood for assimilation. The gastrointestinal mucosa has a “barrier function” whereby it prevents the absorption of pathogenic microbes, foreign substances and large, semi-digested food molecules. Normally, the junctions, or desmosomes, between the cells of the mucosa are tight and do not permit passage of these undesirable substances. However, if the gut becomes irritated or inflamed due to poor digestion, these desmosomes become loose and “leaky.” Subsequently, when these substances breach these defective intercellular junctions and gain entry into the blood, they are viewed as foreign by the immune system and elicit an antibody reaction.

This ongoing, increased intestinal permeability and the resultant immunological sequelae is referred to as leaky gut syndrome. It’s also the basis for allergies of all kinds which will vary with patient susceptibilities and the tissue location of the antibody reaction. Commonly, these reactions occur distally from the gut and may include asthma, bronchitis, environmental sensitivities, arthritis and emotional disorders (as a result of “brain allergies”). Symptoms of leaky gut syndrome include: abdominal pain; indigestion; constipation; diarrhea; joint pain; muscle pain; confusion; confusion with malaise; fuzzy thinking; mood swings; nervousness; aggressive behavior; anxiety.

The Rhythmic System

Rhythm makes possible the harmonizing and transitioning between the upper and lower poles. The current of the metabolic-limb system enlivens the physical body while the current of the nerve-sense system counteracts this tendency in order to delimit the purely physical state associated with plant life and allow for the development of thought and consciousness. These two currents should work in constant harmony via the mediation of the rhythmic system.

The rhythmic system is an internal organization required to establish equilibrium between the nerve-sense system and the metabolic-limb system. Illness results when there is a disturbance of balance between these two systems. If the nerve-sense system dominates, then the processes of consciousness and catabolism obstruct normal metabolism and anabolism. On the other hand, if the metabolic-limb system dominates, the opposite occurs. The primary organs of the rhythmic system are the heart, and secondarily, the lungs. Heart and lung activities is characterized by ceaseless rhythm.

The heart is a balancing organ. It must balance left with right, above with below, Earth forces with cosmic forces, blood with nerves,systemic circulation (the general movement of oxygenated blood away from the heart to the body, and the return of deoxygenated blood back to the heart) with the realm of the organic inner world, and pulmonary circulation (circulation of blood between heart and lungs) with the realm of the outer world. Also, it must balance stillness with motion.

Together, the heart and lungs constitute the major aspect of the organism’s rhythmic system. Rhythm emanates from the alternation of systole (the phase of the heartbeat during which the heart muscle contracts and pumps blood from the chambers into the arteries) and diastole (the phase of the heartbeat during which the heart muscle relaxes and allows the chambers to fill with blood), and the contrast of centrifugal (outward from the heart) arterial flow and centripetal (inward toward the heart) venous (vein) flow.

Imbalanced blood-flow without the interface of these contrasts cannot sustain the rhythmic alternation between opening to the reflective stillness of the nerve-sense system and the action of the metabolic-limb system. Rhythm makes possible the harmonizing and transitioning between the upper and lower poles.

Whereas thinking is associated with the nerve-sense system, and willing with the metabolic-limb system, feeling (which is the midpoint between thinking and willing) is associated with the rhythmic system. Feeling derives from the interaction between breath and circulatory rhythms. Changes in blood-flow and breath (such as blushing, paling and shifts in breathing pattern) related to feeling are evidence of this primary interplay.

The Heart

The heart, one of the central organs of the rhythmic system, is the junction where the nerve-sense system and metabolic-limb system meet. It brings these two polarities of the organism into equilibrium and harmony. The heartisalternately receptive to the dynamics of each system and manifests at this nexus.

When the heart demonstrates imbalanced receptivity in favor of one pole, it’s subject to domination by that pole’s dynamics. When the nerve-sense pole is dominant, the systolic (contracting, blood pumping) phase is overly strong and may result in cardiac arrest. On the other hand, when the metabolic-limb pole dominates, diastole (the dilating heart filling with blood phase) is excessive, leading to cardiac muscle insufficiency, and perhaps, cardiac death. One of the most important functions of the rhythmic system is the balancing of the pulmonary circulation with the systemic circulation.

The rhythmic transitions between sleeping and waking, rest and activity, the physical activity of daytime and the dream activity at night, warmth and cold, light and darkness, ovulation and menstruation, etc. are linked to the rotation of the Earth on its axis and its movements in relation to the sun and moon. Any disturbance of rhythmicity in the human being uncouples that person from the rhythms of the natural world that the plant kingdom and all wild members of the animal kingdom are wholly dependent upon.

Digestive Rhythms

While the heart and lungs comprise the most prominent aspects of the rhythmic system, the digestive system features two crucial rhythmic elements: gastrointestinal peristalsis and the action of the spleen. The oscillating movements in the small intestine, brought about by the alternating contraction and dilation of the bowel musculature, facilitates the rhythmical segmentation and mixing of the intestinal contents. This mixing action is referred to as pendular movement. In this motion, a constrictive wave moves along the small intestine for a few segments, then reverses and moves back the other way, causing the intestinal contents to be moved to and fro.

Chyme (the thick semi-fluid mass of partly digested food that passes out of the stomach into the small intestine) is gradually propelled along the length of the small intestine by weak peristaltic waves that rhythmically push the chyme a short distance at a time. Consequently, food materials move relatively slowly through the small intestine, taking from three to ten hours to travel its length.

The spleen and pancreas also fulfill an important rhythm in the digestive tract. The maintenance of the rhythm of blood circulation is one of the primary prerequisites of continued existence. A haphazard eating and digestion pattern introduces an element of irregularity that potentially threatens circulatory rhythm. The spleen functions as a rhythmically active organ to harmonize the innate irregularity of the nutrient-absorption process with the circulatory rhythm. In other words, it converts the irregularity of the digestive process into the regularity of blood circulation. Hence, the more chaotic one’s eating pattern, the more stress is placed upon the spleen, and ultimately, upon the circulation of the blood.

Dysrhythmia and Emotional Disharmony

Dysrhythmia (disturbance of natural physiological rhythm), related in large part to living out of sync with the rhythms of the natural universe, clearly encourages emotional disharmony.

As noted above, whereas the nerve-sense system is associated with thought and the metabolic-limb system with will, the rhythmic system is associated with feeling, which, in turn, mediates between thought and will. Furthermore, the heart, the central organ of the rhythmic system, has traditionally been viewed as the nexus of feelings such as love and inspiration.

Emotional disturbances such as depression and anxiety have attained epidemic status in the Western world. If you watch television, you can’t not have noticed the plethora of commercials touting a variety of anti-depressants, sleep aids and anti-anxiety medications.

In most of the anti-depressant ads, the protagonists are first shown in their untreated state, cloistered indoors, folded up on the couch, while the rest of the family obliviously goes along their merry ways. Then the scene shifts to the drug-treated state, portraying the depressed individual as having arisen from the couch, as if from the dead, and now coping flawlessly. Voila, problem solved! The message here is: If you are depressed, all you need is this drug, rife with dangerous side-effects, no changes in the lifestyle that caused the depression in the first place are required.

However, the truth of the matter actually seeps through in an indirect way. In virtually all of these television ads, the failed state of the depressed individual features indoor self-confinement. On the other hand, the drug-treated, success state is typically characterized as a liberation from the indoor vegetating. The individual is pictured hiking in the mountains, running along the beach with his dog or bicycling though a bucolic countryside.

The subliminal message here of course is that this dangerous, wholly synthetic, patent medicine is completely congruent with a natural lifestyle and is deemed worthy by those who are fit and active. However, the truth of the matter is that if the affected individual lived in harmony with the rhythms of nature on a daily basis, through walks and other forms of outdoor exercise, deep breathing, skin-brushing, shower therapies, a natural foods diet rich in vital nutrients, adequate sun exposure and plenty of rest and sleep, it is likely that she would never have gotten depressed in the first place. Thus, the regular use of a potentially toxic drug, insidiously made by the profit-driven drug company to seem as benign as a glass of fresh orange juice, would be completely antithetical to the attainment of vibrant health and wholeness of being.

As slyly manipulative as these commercials are, they inadvertently highlight one of the great truths of health and disease: Wellness is associated with connection to the natural world and its infinite rhythms. Conversely, disease is commonly the product of an estrangement from the natural world and the dysrhythmia that ensues from that estrangement.

Suggestions To Help Restore Healthy Rhythmicity

1) The single most important strategy for restoring natural body rhythms is the ordering of one’s daily existence. Try to infuse your daily routine with consistency. Wake in the morning and retire at night at approximately the same time each day. Also, exercise, go for a walk, shower, eat a healthful breakfast, lunch and dinner and take a nap at approximately the same times each day.

Maintain a consistent pattern of work and rest. Work, without sufficient counterbalancing of rest and sleep time constitutes chronic overwork, which, in turn, is one of the primary sustaining causative factors of life dysrhythmia and disease in modern life.

Spend quality time out of doors each day, thus consistently integrating the organism with elements of the natural world. Perhaps you can arise a little earlier in the morning and go outside for a brisk walk before getting ready for work. A brisk walk during your lunch hour or after you have returned home from work will help offset the dysrhythmia that follows from persistent sedentary behavior and estrangement from the elements of the natural world.

2) Perform my Vital Chi Skin-Brushing System every day or at least every other day. Based upon both Western physiology and the principles of Chinese medicine, the Vital Chi Skin-Brushing System is precisely orchestrated to enhance blood and lymph circulation and the movement of chi. Also, it supports skin beauty via reduction of cellular build-up and cellulite, stimulation of sweat and oil glands, strengthening of collagen and elastin fibers as well as skin pores.

a) Circulatory Rhythms

The heart, the central organ of the rhythmic system, is commonly portrayed as a pump which initiates blood circulation. However, it is the movement of the blood which sets the heart in motion rather than vice versa. In lab experiments where a heart has been stopped for days, it begins beating again after the reintroduction of flowing blood. Blood circulation actually begins with a primary flowing in the tiniest peripheral blood vessels. The heart is essentially a sense-organ which perceives this stream of blood and reacts to it.

The skin also contains a vast capillary network, referred to by traditional naturopaths as the “skin heart,” which is as crucial as the heart for normal circulation. The vast storage capacity of the skin’s blood vessels enable them to act as reservoirs which release- or store blood as needed. The activity of the skin’s blood vessels powerfully influences the rhythmicity of circulatory function. It is the “skin heart” which is the motor of primary flowing. Regular use of my Vital Chi Skin-Brushing System exerts a powerful toning action upon the “skin-heart” and primary flowing.

b) Flow of Chi

The Vital Chi Skin-Brushing System strengthens the flow of chi. Chi-flow also has rhythmic character. According to Chinese medicine, there are 12 meridians that conduct the flow of chi throughout the body. The meridians course along the skin-surface and penetrate into the internal organs. The Chinese acupuncture “meridian clock” theory holds that there is a complete 24-hour chi-flow cycle. Accordingly, each of the 12 meridians peaks at different 2-hour intervals during the 24-hour cycle.

The meridian clock chart indicates which meridian is most active at a given point in time during the 24-hour cycle. For instance, flow along the liver meridian is strongest between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. The chi then flows most strongly along the lung meridian between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. It then moves on to the large intestine meridian, which is the strongest channel flow between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. The chi-flow continues in this way through the other 9 meridians over the course of the rest of the 24-hour cycle. Then the cycle begins again in precisely the same pattern. The meridian clock is in essence a mechanism of rhythmicity. Using the Vital Chi Skin-Brushing System on a regular basis helps maintain the dynamics of the 24-hour chi cycle of chi-circulation.

3) Alternate Hot and Cold Shower followed with Application of Three-Fold Harmony Essential Oil Blend

It has been my experience that the integration of my Vital Chi Skin-Brushing System with strategic hydrotherapies and essential oil selections creates powerful healing synergy for both body and soul. The Alternate Hot and Cold Shower forms a particularly powerful synergy with Vital Chi Skin-Brushing.

Of all the various hydrotherapies, this “unequal periods” Alternate Hot/Cold Shower (with the emphasis on the former) is one I suggest most commonly as an overall tonic treatment. It’s an invigorating procedure which vitalizes circulatory, endocrine, immune, lymphatic, nerve and skin functions.

Hot and cold water can be used in alternation to prolong the initial tonic-stimulant effect of hot water. The heat (e.g., a hot shower) is applied first for 2- to 3-minutes; then, instantly, before the sedative reaction of prolonged heat can take place, a 15- to 20-seconds short, cold treatment (shower, in this case) is taken. Next, a second heat-application is used, and the body responds with new vigor to the tonic-stimulant effect of the hot water. This is referred to as “contrast treatment” during which the heat magnifies the stimulating effect of the cold, and vice versa, providing a powerful gymnastics workout for the blood and lymph systems. This “gymnastic” effect, deriving from alternation of dilation and contraction of blood vessels, strengthens the rhythmic functioning of both blood and lymph circulation.

In general, two to three alternations between hot and cold water are used. The first contrast cycle is always the most intense. The following ones are less so since the body’s ability to react progressively declines. Importantly, excess (more than three) hot and cold alternations is depleting, which defeats the treatment’s purpose.

Remember: the greater the temperature differences between hot and cold applications, the greater the effect. For maximum benefit, the contrast between the two temperature extremes should be to the limits of comfortable tolerance. Always finish a contrast treatment with cold to ensure that the desired warming reaction takes place.

Note: “Hot” and “cold” are relative terms, meaning that each person must use good sense in deciding a comfortable tolerance level regarding temperatures. One should not be heroic and overtax the system. Be conscious of your relative state of vitality on a given day and adjust the temperature of the water and duration of each shower phase accordingly.

After your Alternate Hot/Cold Shower, you might perform a powerfully synergistic essential oil rub-down while the skin is still moist (see below). One of my essential oil blends, Three-Fold Harmony, is specifically designed to help balance the Three-Fold Organism (described above) and thus the rhythmicity of the organism on all levels.

Follow-Up Lemon Juice/Essential Oil Rub: After completing your shower, instead of drying, leave the skin moist. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon (preferably organically grown) into a small cup. Add to the juice: 3- to 4-drops of Three-Fold Harmony. Next, stir with your finger. Then, using your bare hands, rub the mixture into the moist skin until completely absorbed. It will take only a minute or so for the lemon juice/Three-Fold Harmony mixture to be absorbed and for the skin to dry.

4) Magnesium

Magnesium shortfall is a crucial factor in a dysrhythmic existence. The refining of grains may result in the loss of more than 75% of original magnesium-content. U.S. government surveys found that the typical American diet provides less than half of the recommended daily amount of magnesium. Some authorities estimate that 80% of the population is magnesium-deficient.

Magnesium is one of the most important of the heart-health nutrients. Necessary to maintain natural heart rhythm. It is perhaps the most important nutrient for maintaining optimal rhythmicity of physiological functioning.

Benefits of Magnesium:

  • Helps to regulate the electrical reactivity of cell membranes, and thus, the flow of vital nutrients and waste products across the structure.
  • Is necessary for the normal energy-production required for the production of ATP.
  • Is crucial in relieving chronic fatigueespecially if it occurs in conjunction with depression, anxiety, insomnia or muscle cramps.
  • Plays an important role in muscle relaxation and neuromuscular transmission.
  • Is a natural tranquilizerthat ameliorates erratic nervous system activity.
  • Combats stress through reduction of muscular tension via relaxation of skeletal muscles.
  • Magnesium deficiency may contribute to irritability, agitation and panic attacks.
  • Helps to prevent spasms of the gastrointestinal tract, arteries (including the coronary arteries), fallopian tubes (a cause of infertility) and bronchial spasm (as occurs in asthma).
  • Low magnesium levels may result in coronary arterial spasm and sudden-death heart disease. The magnesium-content of heart muscle has been shown to be low in those who die of “sudden-death.” It is an effective vasodilator, has an anti-arrhythmic effect on the heart muscle and limits platelet aggregation (i.e., clumping together of clotting cells).
  • Deficiency may be indicated by: abnormalities of the rhythmic nature of the menstrual cycle; mood swings; oscillation between emotional polarities.


One of the top priorities regarding the prevention or elimination of unwellness is the reestablishment of order via synchronization with the rhythms of the natural universe. After all, a synonym for disease is “disorder.” So long as lifestyle dysrhythmia prevails, internal chaos, to one degree or another, will offer formidable resistance to whatever measures are introduced to rectify a pattern of chronic physical unwellness and/or emotional disharmony. Therefore, the reestablishment of physiological and psychical rhythmicity, through lifestyle changes and other measures such as those described above, is a crucial first step on the road to physical vitality and wholeness of being.

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