Vitalism looks to what animates life. The cycles of design and function are not just chemical reactions and cycles, as philosophies like the Krebs Cycle theory (chemical reactions used by aerobic organisms to generate energy) would presuppose. The idea of existing chemical reactions is valid in its place, but it does not explain the human elements of, say, our “drive” or passion for learning, or our ability to excel in economics, philosophy or art. Further, these chemical reactions might be a needful component in healing, but they cannot be said to animate life and therefore cannot be the sole means of maintaining it. Neither do they exist autonomous from one another.
It might be instructive to look at some basic definitions here.
Two definitions of Vitalism explain that it is
The opinion that a force neither chemical nor mechanical is responsible for the phenomenon of life;
The doctrine that the origin and phenomenon of life are due to or produced by a vital principle, as distinct from a purely chemical or physical force.
These definitions stand in contrast to Reductionism:
The belief that human behavior is best explained by breaking it down into small constituent parts and/or biological levels.
This fragmentation results in treating one symptom pharmaceutically only to create another symptom which then needs a prescription; for example, taking high blood pressure medication leads in increased risk of developing diabetes. Both conditions require a pharmaceutical in conventional care. Increased risk does not mean certainty, but there is risk during the next 5-10 years of developing diabetes.
Thinking of the body as small, constituent parts can also result in trying to treat one part of the body when in actuality a deeper cause is operating in another part of the body. For example, treating constipation. Sure it involves a significant organ. But what if the real issue was the extremely high stress, workaholic attitude and poor diet. No amount of fiber or even laxatives will ultimately cure it, though the symptoms may be reduced. Vitalistically, the mind and emotions are a deeper issue than most physical symptoms in a person.
It can also reduce one symptom while not relieving others. For example, a person with diabetes may have poor circulation. Medication for the diabetes likely will not help circulation. When Vitalism is employed, a doctor might use cold water for a brief time to cause the body to react to this stimuli by first shunting blood more internally; then a short time later, shunt it to the surface to warm the area. This helps train the vessels; it increases circulation and supports lymph flow. Other methods and modalities likely can decrease diabetes’ consequences.
Each person is created with a complex mix of heredity and history. My goal as a Vitalistic doctor is to discover underlying causes of failures in the body to heal itself; to remove those hindrances, and then where possible, stimulate the body to employ its own intrinsic healing functions.