Anaphylaxis, according to Prof. Richet, an authority on the subject, is the opposite condition to protection (prophylaxis). He coined the word in 1902, to describe the peculiar attribute which certain poisons possess of increasing instead of diminishing the sensitivity to their action.
He states that, as the result of the injection of a toxic substance into several animals of the same species, a variable and individual effect can always be demonstrated. Some are very resistant, others intensely sensitive and further: “It has long been known that some people after eating shell-fish, mussels, or strawberries, are liable to erythema, urticaria and indigestion, with nausea and syncope; all these are phenomena, having characteristics strongly resembling those of anaphylaxis”.
That anaphylaxis frequently occurs upon the eating of certain foods (especially certain albuminous substances) is definitely proven. That individual susceptibilities to such protein- poisoning differ, is not surprising when we consider how differently constituted different people are, and how variously predisposed to disease.
According to Richet, the abnormal individual supersensitivity of some animals, may be compared to the intense sensitivity of certain human beings to sero-therapeutic injections, the similarity of reaction being unmistakable. Even the increased susceptibility to infection by the tubercle microbe, exhibited by children of tuberculous parents, is sometimes associated with a kind of anaphylaxis, i.e., they have been hereditarily sensitised by some poison to such an extent as to diminish the usual resistance of the race to the attacks of the tubercle bacillus. And it may here be recalled that frequently the partaking of a meal, consisting largely of albuminous food, leads to albuminuria, showing another form of functional disturbance, due to protein poisoning. The same is true of arteriosclerosis.
All of which supports the view which I have always defended, that we cannot with impunity indulge in unsymbiotic, or parasitic feeding. It is one of the marks of the true parasite that it feeds upon substances, which have already been built up, complicated, and organized into a close similarity with its own bodily fabrics. Perpetual “in-feeding” of this sort is abhorred by Nature, according to my theory, since it inhibits or abuses a biologically essential chain of processes, by which we turn vegetable substances into flesh, just as plant built up organic matter from mineral. The most profitable, healthy, and, in the chain of universal Symbiosis, the most moral form of eating is “cross-feeding ,” in virtue of which we render due compensation to the world of life for our borrowings, and in so doing ensure progressive co-evolution, as between ourselves and our biological partners, the plant.
For nothing is ever given in the world for nothing.
Richet thinks that the comparison between anaphylaxis and heredity opens a wholly new and unexplored field. And so it would seem to do. But we must recognize that the deleterious effects of in-feeding, begin to accumulate generations before an outbreak of disease actually happens.
The following are some of the leading principles of anaphylaxis; 1. A definite incubation period is necessary before anaphylaxis can be induced; i.e., on my interpretation, when certain (poisonous) albuminous substances are injected, the body is left to neutralize them as best it can-the state of primary “intoxication.” The organism is “sensitised”. A second injection is required to bring the body to perform a violent eliminative effort (crisis). This is the “exciting” dose, because it produces the “anaphylactic shock”, regarding which more anon. The preparatory and the exciting state form almost two distinct groups of phenomena, which must be differentiated.
2. The anaphylactic state lasts many weeks, i.e., neutralization and new adaptation take time.
3. There may be, according to Richet, some similarity between anaphylaxis and immunity. I should say, however, that in either case we have mainly a reaction to poisons, be it by neutralization, or by pathogenic adaptation; and in either case this must be at the expense of vitality.
4. Anaphylaxis is largely specific; that is to say, the second injection should be of the same nature as the first. The body, as it were, reacts purposely to a definite contingency of which it has previously received notice.
5. The symptoms of anaphylaxis are immediate and intense, while the symptoms of the primary intoxication are mild-the way to hell is the first alluring enough; an intense struggle, however, to get free is required later on, if salvation is to be achieved.
6. The anaphylactising toxin affects the central nervous system, and the essential phenomenon is a disorganization of this system, with a considerable fall in the arterial blood pressure.
7. A toxin is not always required to create anaphylaxis. “Several primary injections of normal serum into an animal develop an anaphylaxis follows the injection of non-toxic and harmless substances; it is alone necessary that they be of an albuminoid nature”.
Certainly this should put us on our guard against albuminoids, which are nearly all of an animal origin, and the “harmlessness” of which thus appears as very problematical, to say the least.
8. It is possible, by intercurrent injections, to prevent the appearance of the anaphylactic state-“anti-anaphylaxis” (sic). I should say, however, that the appearances are that this case merely amounts to a suppression of a particular form of reaction against the intrusion of foreign matter, not to a real prevention of disease.
9. There is a form of anaphylaxis, termed passive; that is to say, the blood of anaphylactised animals, injected into normal animals, produces anaphylaxis in them after a large number of injections, occasionally after a single primary injection.
What has the blood of one animal, and in particular of a poisoned one, to do in the veins of another? Is it surprising that the direct introduction of poisons into the blood or the spinal canal, thus escaping as it does, the safeguarding effects of the digestive process, should set up a focus of disease and of degeneration?.
It is not a matter for surprise that, according to the Lancet, in Paris alone, at a short interval of time, ten deaths have occurred which can be put down simply to injection of the serum into the spinal canal. The study of anaphylaxis, like that of many other diseases, resolves itself largely into one of resistance-with the addendum, however, that in the last analysis this again becomes a matter of the bio-chemistry and the bio- economics of nutrition. So cancer research has convinced some workers that the intolerance of the body to the disarrangement of its tissues is quite as wonderful as the growth of tumors.
The study of cancer should indeed, be linked with that of anaphylaxis, when it will be seen that the body wages a kind of racial warfare in defense of the species, against protein poisoning which, if it were tolerated, would make for degenerative rather than progressive adaptation in life, since the poisoning would cut the species off from that constructive physiological advance, based on biological partnership, which has made it what it is. In order to ensure an ideal food supply, the body has, as the norm of life, in course of evolution, painfully established a web of indispensable external correspondences, which are as essential to its well-being as are the various resources of social life to the life of an ordinary human being. To interfere seriously with any important links, is to throw the organism out of gear, because disarrangement spells maladjustment, both physiologically and biologically, i.e., adjustment that is no longer in accordance with the grand ends of Nature.
Disharmony with these bio-social ends is a great cause of disease, as is exemplified by the case of anaphylaxis.
I would challenge any physiologist or biologist to place a more cogent complexion on the phenomena of cancer and of anaphylaxis, than the one that I have adduced. According to one cancer researcher, we have in the development of an invasive tumor, the subversion of the ordinary laws, which we assume to govern the proportions and proper relations of tissue growth. But who has ever enunciated these momentous laws? What are the textbooks in which they are cleared stated? Alas, biologist for the most part take the abnormal for the normal. What is normal is usually left for the intuition of the student, or for the good sense of the laity, to discover?
“Of medicine you the spirit catch with ease;
The great and little world you study thro,
Then in conclusion, just as heaven may please,
You let things quietly their course pursue.”
What, indeed, is the principle that governs the norm of proportions and of relations of tissue growth, the principle which cannot be sinned against with impunity? It is the principle of Symbiosis, which renders it necessary for all parts and organs to co-operate in due degree in maintaining the tone and vigor of the whole organism, even as, pari passu, it requires from all organisms in the biological whole, that they co-operate in due degree in their turn to maintain the world and to provide for its further progress. All of which implies food which is appropriate to such high forms of cooperation. (And the avoidance of poisons which destroy it.).