[Cellular Level]

By Mr. Steven Horne

The Internal Environment

The concept of biological terrain has always been central to my understanding of health and disease, and as my understanding of this concept has increased, it has enabled me to construct a coherent model of health and disease, known as the Disease Tree.

The Disease Tree model (illustrated below) shows that disease takes root in the soil of our constitutional weaknesses through one of four root causes:
• nutritional deficiencies
• toxic overload
• mental and emotional stress
• physical trauma.

The leaves and the branches represent the body systems and the disease symptoms that occur when these body systems are out of balance. But, just as the tree has only one trunk that links roots and branches, the Disease Tree has one common denominator that links the whole model together-biological terrain. Biological terrain is also called the internal environment.

To understand the concept of biological terrain, we need to zoom in on a sample tissue in the body and examine the conditions under which the cells of the body live.

The Lymphatic "Ocean"

Every cell of our body is surrounded by lymphatic fluid. We've all seen lymph before, whether we recognized what it was or not. Lymph is the colorless fluid that oozes out of an abrasion or wells up under a blister. Lymph is essentially the fluid portion of the blood (blood plasma) after it has left the circulatory system.

The lymph forms a type of internal "ocean" in which all of the cells of our body live. In order for cells to be healthy, this ocean of lymph must be free of toxic waste, comfortably warm and loaded with a proper balance of oxygen and nutrients. This lymphatic ocean is the internal environment or biological terrain of the body. It is the "soil" in which all our cells grow. As long as the biological terrain is conducive to cell growth, we will be healthy. When the biological terrain is out of balance, we become ill.

[Note from FWNC: Also check the pH ]

The four root causes of disease are the four external environmental conditions that can disrupt the balance of the internal environnent, the biological terrain. These disruptions create a cascading sequence of events that initiate and sustain the disease process. There are four stages in the disease process, each of which creates a different kind of imbalance in the biological terrain. In addition to these four stages of disease, there are two additional disease states that deal with the flow of fluids and energy through the body. This makes a total of six possible imbalances in biological terrain.


Stages of Disease

We're going to start by learning the four stages in the disease process and the first four imbalances in biological terrain. These imbalances are also known as tissue conditions or tissue states. They are as follows:

Disease State
Tissue Condition

Later, we'll learn about the two additional tissue conditions that complete our model of biological terrain. These states are constriction and relaxation. This means there are only six basic imbalances we need to learn to correct to bring the body back into balance.

The Normal State of Healthy Tissue

To understand these four tissue conditions, we need to understand a little more about the conditions under which cells live and thrive. Under normal conditions, all of our cells live in what is called a sub-atmospheric pressure condition or "dry" state. That's a fancy term that means that there is no pressure in the space surrounding the cells. You can understand this better if you think of cells as a bunch of water balloons. If you filled a bucket with water balloons and then poured in enough water to fill in the cracks between the balloons, that's what the "dry state" is like. There is just enough fluid surrounding the cells to fill in the cracks, no more, no less.

It is critical that this fluid is changed frequently. That's because our cells are constantly burning up the oxygen and nutrients (metabolizing) and releasing the waste from their little metabolic "fires" into the surrounding fluid.

In the 1930s, Dr. Alexis Carrel, a Nobel prize winning medical research scientist, led a team that kept a piece of embryonic chicken heart tissue alive in a flask for over 30 years. Dr. Carrel stated the following about the amount of fluid required to keep this tissue alive. "A fragment of living tissue, cultivated in a flask, must be given a volume of liquid equal to two thousand times its own volume in order not to be poisoned within a few days by its own waste products." [Alexis Carrel, Man the Unknown, p. 83.] As a matter of comparison, it would take a swimming pool sized test tube to keep all the cells in the human body in a healthy state.

In contrast, there are only a few quarts of fluid in the human body, with, as we have already noted, just enough fluid around each cell to "fill in the cracks." Cells can survive in this tiny amount of fluid because it is being changed several times every second and the fluid is also constantly being filtered and recycled. The eliminative organs (the colon, liver, kidneys, sweat glands and lungs) are continuously cleansing the fluid. Alexis Carrel went on to say: "It is on account of the marvelous apparatuses responsible for the circulation of the blood, its wealth of nutritive substances and the constant elimination of waste products, that our tissues can live on six or seven liters of fluid instead of two hundred thousand liters." [Ibid. p. 83.1]

Regulating Cellular Irrigation

Another way to think of this process is to imagine it to be like an irrigation system. The blood vessels are like fast-moving, bubbling mountain brooks that are constantly bringing the cells fresh food and washing away the debris. These blood vessels have little holes in them (pores) which allow the oxygen and nutrients to move out of the blood stream and into the tissue spaces so that all the cells can be properly irrigated. As long as the water flows cleanly and rapidly, the cells will be irrigated and healthy.

What keeps most of the plasma in the blood stream and only allows a tiny amount to move into the tissue spaces is something called osmotic pressure. The membranes that surround the blood vessels are semi-permeable. That is, the pores are large enough for some things to pass through (like water and oxygen), but not big enough for other things to pass through.

For example, the red and white blood cells and the platelets cannot pass through the pores; they are too big. Something else that cannot get through these pores is the plasma (or blood) proteins albumin, globulin and fibrinogen. These proteins (albumin in particular) are what keep most of the fluid in the blood stream.
The plasma proteins act like tiny "water magnets," which attract and hold the water molecules in the blood stream. Since the water molecules are "stuck" to the plasma proteins and the plasma proteins are too big to pass through the pores, the fluid stays in the blood stream.

In the blood capillaries, which serve the little cellular neighborhoods, small amounts of fluid and albumin are forced through the pores in the membranes because of the pressure in the circulatory system. This fluid, once it leaves the blood stream, is the lymph we have been talking about.

Once the lymph reaches the cells, the cells take the nutrients and oxygen from the lymph and exchange them for wastes. Cells do this through their own semi-permeable membranes, which contain little "gates" which "open and close" to let nutrients in and waste out.

Some of the lymph fluid that is forced into the tissue spaces is drawn back into the blood stream by osmosis. It returns with carbon dioxide and other waste material so the various organs of elimination can get rid of it. However, there is not enough pressure to force the larger protein molecules (the albumin) back into the blood stream. The blood stream also cannot pick up damaged cells or other large particles and carry them away. That's why we have an alternate route, a back alley, called the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system travels one-way, moving the lymph out of the tissue spaces through the lymphatic vessels and back into the circulatory system.

The Four Stages of Disease

Above, we discussed the process of cellular irrigation. We learned how osmotic pressure holds the plasma in the blood stream and only allows tiny amounts of fluid to leave the circulatory system to irrigate the cells. The fluid that irrigates the cells is known as lymph.

The illustration below shows the healthy state of the cells.

At the top is a blood capillary. The larger circles represent the plasma proteins and the small grey dots are the water molecules that attach themselves to these proteins.

At the bottom of the illustration is a lymphatic capillary, which picks up excess fluid and protein to keep the tissues in their normal "dry" or subatmospheric pressure condition. As you can see, there is very little fluid around the cells.

Tissue Damage

With the basic understanding of lymphatic function we covered in our last issue, we're ready to understand what happens when tissues get injured. This also reveals how the disease process begins.

Every time we damage tissues (whether the damage occurs through trauma, nutrient depletion, toxicity or stress) they respond through a process called inflammation. Inflammation can be thought of as the "mother of all diseases" because all disease processes in the body start with cells becoming injured and an inflammatory response being initiated.

Recent medical research suggests that even serious chronic and degenerate diseases have their roots in chronic inflammation. For example, it is now known that heart disease begins with an inflammatory process, which sets the stage for hardening of the arteries. lnflammation is the first, or acute stage of disease and corresponds to a tissue state we call irritation. Here's what happens.

When cells are damaged, they burst and release certain chemicals into the surrounding tissues. One of these substances is called histamine, another is bradykinin. There are several others but these are the two most important ones.

Even if you have never heard of histamine, you are still probably aware of the existence of antihistamines (drugs which block histamine reactions). Histamine reactions are well-known for their involvement in allergic responses, but they are also involved in all inflammatory reactions. Bradykinin is also involved in inflammatory reactions, particularly the symptoms we experience with the common cold.

Histamine and bradykinin cause the capillary pores to enlarge. This, in turn, allows massive amounts of fluid, including the plasma protein albumin, to flood the tissue spaces. So, our smashed finger begins to swell. Fluid and protein rush out of the blood stream and into the spaces around the cells, filling them with fluid. This takes the cells out of their normal "dry" state and slows down the exchange of oxygen. It also causes waste material to accumulate in the spaces between the cells. In effect, the cells start "drowning."

Our "side" cells are surrounded by excess fluid and plasma protein which has "leaked" out of the circulatory system through the enlarged pores. The cells are pushed apart and the lymphatic system is trying to draw away the excess fluid.

The Acute Stage of Disease Irritation

This pooling of fluids creates the first symptom of inflammation-one we can all readily observe when we've bumped our head, smashed a finger or twisted an ankle. That symptom is swelling. Because the swelling deprives cells of oxygen and nutrients, they send out a distress signal that we call pain. This is the second symptom of inflammation-sharp pain.

The other two symptoms of inflammation are redness and heat. That's why it's called inflammation. These symptoms arise from three primary causes. In response to the situation, tissues become hyperactive. They speed up their metabolism trying to clear out the surrounding area and repair the damage. There is also a tendency for oxygen radicals to form and cause free radical damage in inflamed tissues. In effect, oxygen spins out of control and starts "burning" tissues. The cells, of course, send out a distress signal-a cry for help that we call pain. The final cause of the "flames" in inflammation is the activity of white blood cells which are drawn to the area as a "clean-up crew." White blood cells will use oxygen radicals to "burn up" and destroy microbes and toxins that may be present at the site of injury.

Anytime we see the symptoms of heat (elevated temperature either locally or generally as in fever), swelling, redness and sharp pains we are dealing with an inflammatory condition. In other words, tissues have been chemically injured and are in a state of acute distress. The Latin word for inflammation is itis. So anytime you have an -itis, you are dealing with inflammation, whether it is tonsillitis, sinusitis, laryngitis, or bronchitis.

It is the job of the lymphatic system to "suck up' the debris and clean up the area. The lymphatic system captures the proteins that have escaped from the circulatory system and carries them, along with the fluid they attract, back to the circulatory system through a series of one-way check valves. If the body can successfully discharge the irritant and clean up the area via the lymphatics, then the problem is solved and it ends there.

The Subactute Stage--Tissue Stagnation

If not, then the process moves into the next stage of disease, known as stagnation. Stagnation occurs because albumin is not the only plasma protein that can leave the circulatory system at the site of a serious injury. Fibrinogen, an even larger plasma protein, can also enter the tissue spaces.
Fibrinogen is the substance responsible for forming blood clots. When the Fibrinogen penetrates the tissue spaces, surrounded by weakened and injured cells, the conditions are conducive to clotting. In other words, if the plasma proteins are allowed to remain in the tisssue spaces too long they will clump together and hold the fluid in the tissues, creating, in effect, a large stagnant "pool" of fluid in the tissue spaces.

This creates a kind of swampy condition in the tissues in which fluids are no longer moving rapidly. Toxins build up in the tissue spaces, further weakening and damaging cells. The heat dissipates as the cells tire and start to become underactive. We have now entered the subacute stage of disease characterized by the tissue state we call stagnation.

The Chronic Stage of Disease--Tissue Depression

As the stagnant pools persist, tissues continue to be starved for oxygen and nutrients. They also become increasingly poisoned in their own metabolic wastes. This causes them to become chronically underactive or weakened. In this chronic state of disease there is a lack of tissue activity, so the tissues are said to be depressed because they will not respond properly to normal stimuli.

This stage of disease can last for months and even years. There may be periodic times when tissues attempt to heal, in which case the subacute or even acute stages of disease will reappear. However, there is a chronic feeling of malaise, lack of energy and perhaps dull, aching pains.

In the chronic stage of disease, we can also encounter heat again. This heat is not over activity of the cells, however. It is the heat that one encounters in a compost pile. It is brought on by the action of infection and decay. The weakened tissues are susceptible to the activity of microbes, which create heat as they feed on weak and dying tissue.

The Degenerative Stage of Disease--Atrophy

As the situation remains chronic, there is an eventual breakdown of not only function, but structure as well. This is the final stage of disease. Tissues become dry as fluids stop moving. They lose their mobility and their elasticity and become brittle and rigid. just as tissues were generated through the process of life, in this final stage of disease, the process of life-generation breaks down and degeneration begins to occur. Because the tissues lose both their functional and structural integrity, they are in a state of atrophy.

Think of atrophy as the condition of a leaf after it has fallen off the tree in the fall and has dried out. When the leaf was on the tree, it was supple, flexible and green. Now, it is brown, dry and brittle. This is the condition of atrophied tissues.

Fortunately, as long as there is life remaining in any tissues, they have the capacity to regenerate, to overcome the process of breakdown and decay and renew themselves. This is what the healing process is all about-supplying the right conditions so that the process of life can regenerate and repair damaged tissues.

StevenH. Horne is apastpresident and professional member of the American Herbalists Guild, a certified iridologist with the International Iridology Practioners Association, and a gifted teacher and consultant in the field ofnaturat health care. He is president of Tree of Light Publishing.

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