“Modern Miracle Men”
by Rex Beach, June 1936
Presented by Mr. Fletcher
United States GPO
Washington, D.C., 1936
[Senate Document 264 was written in 1936, and submitted as part of a Congressional investigation into U.S. farming practices. The leading authorities of the day had been sounding the alarm that depleted soils were causing a significant decline in the nation’s health, evidenced by a steady increase in degenerative diseases. But when Congress saw the price tag on repairing the nation’s farm and range soils, they swept their own investigation under the carpet.]
Concerning Dr. Charles Northen: “This quiet, unballyhooed pioneer and genius in the field of nutrition demonstrates that countless human ills stem from the fact that impoverished soil of America no longer provides plant foods with the mineral elements essential to human nourishment and health! To overcome this alarming condition, he doctors sick soils and, by seeming miracles, raises truly healthy and health-giving fruits and vegetables.”
Do you know that most of us today are suffering from certain dangerous diet deficiencies which cannot be remedied until the depleted soils from which our foods come are brought into proper mineral balance? The alarming fact is that foods, fruits and vegetables and grains, now being raised on millions of acres of land that no longer contain enough of certain needed minerals, are starving us—no matter how much of them we eat! This talk about minerals is novel and quite startling. In fact, a realization of the importance of minerals in food is so new that the textbooks on nutritional dietetics contain very little about it. Nevertheless, it is something that concerns all of us, and the further we delve into it the more startling it becomes.
You would think, wouldn’t you, that a carrot is a carrot—that one is about as good as another as far as nourishment is concerned? But it isn’t; one carrot may look and taste like another and yet be lacking in the particular mineral element which our system requires and which carrots are supposed to contain. Laboratory tests prove that the fruits, the vegetables, the grains, the eggs, and even the milk and the meats of today are not what they were a few generations ago (which doubtless explains why our forefathers thrived on a selection of foods that would starve us!). No man of today can eat enough fruits and vegetables to supply his system with the minerals he requires for perfect health, because his stomach isn’t big enough to hold them! And we are running to big stomachs.
No longer does a balanced and fully nourishing diet consist merely of so many calories or certain vitamins or a fixed proportion of starches, proteins, or carbohydrates. We now know that it must contain, in addition, something like a score of mineral salts.
It is bad news to learn from our leading authorities that 99 percent of the American people are deficient in these minerals, and that a marked deficiency in any one or more of the important minerals actually results in disease. Any upset of the balance, any considerable lack of one or another element, however microscopic the body requirement may be, and we sicken, suffer, shorten our lives.
This discovery is one of the latest and most important contributions of science to the problem of human health. So far as the records go, the first man in the field of research, the first to demonstrate that most human foods of our day are poor in minerals and that their proportions are not balanced, was Dr. Charles Northen, an Alabama physician now living in Orlando, Florida. His discoveries and achievements are of enormous importance to mankind.
Following a wide experience in general practice, Dr. Northen specialized in stomach diseases and nutritional disorders. Later he moved to New York and made extensive studies along this line, in conjunction with a famous French scientist from the Sorbonne. In the course of that work, he convinced himself that there was little authentic, definite information on the chemistry of foods and that no dependence could be placed on existing data.
He asked himself how foods could be used intelligently in the treatment of disease, when they differed so widely in content. The answer seemed to be that they could not be used intelligently. In establishing the fact that serious deficiencies existed and in searching out the reasons therefore, he made an extensive study of the soil. It was he who first voiced the surprising assertion that we must make soil building the basis of food building in order to accomplish human building.
“Bear in mind,” says Dr. Northen, “that minerals are vital to human metabolism and health—and that no plant or animal can appropriate to itself any mineral which is not present in the soil upon which it feeds.
“When I first made this statement I was ridiculed, for up to that time, people had paid little attention to food deficiencies and even less to soil deficiencies. Men eminent in medicine denied there was any such thing as vegetables and fruits that did not contain sufficient minerals for human needs. Eminent agricultural authorities insisted that all soil contained all the necessary minerals. They reasoned that plants take what they need, and that is the function of the human body to appropriate what it requires. Failure to do so, they said, was a symptom of disorder.
“Some of our respected authorities even claimed that the so-called secondary minerals played no part whatever in human health. It is only recently that such men as Dr. McCollum of Johns Hopkins, Dr. Mendel of Yale, Dr. Sherman of Columbia, Dr. Lipman of Rutgers, and Drs. H.G. Knight and Oswald Schreiner of the Untied States Department of Agriculture have agreed that these minerals are essential to plant, animal, and human feeding.
“We know that vitamins are complex chemical substances which are indispensable to nutrition, and that each of them is of importance for the normal function of some special structure of the body. Disorder and disease result from any vitamin deficiency. It is not commonly realized, however, that vitamins control the body’s appropriation of minerals, and in the absence of minerals they have no function to perform. Lacking vitamins, the system can make some use of minerals, but lacking minerals, vitamins are useless.
“Neither does the layman realize that there may be a pronounced difference in both foods and soils—to him one vegetable, one glass of milk, or one egg is about the same as another. Dirt is dirt, too, and he assumes that by adding a little fertilizer to it, a satisfactory vegetable or fruit can be grown.
“The truth is that our foods vary enormously in value, and some of them aren’t worth eating as food. For example, vegetation grown in one part of the country may assay 1,100 parts per billion of iodine, as against 20 in that grown elsewhere. Processed milk has run anywhere from 362 parts per million of iodine and 127 of iron, down to nothing.
“Some of our lands, even in a virgin state, never were well balanced in mineral content, and unhappily for us, we have been systematically robbing the poor soils and the good soils alike of the very substances necessary to health, growth, long life, and resistance to disease. Up to the time I began experimenting, almost nothing had been done to make good the theft. The more I studied nutritional problems and the effects of mineral deficiencies upon disease, the more plainly I saw that here lay the most direct approach to better health, and the more important it became in my mind to find a method of restoring those missing minerals to our foods.
“The subject interested me so profoundly that I retired from active medical practice and for a good many years now I have devoted myself to it. It’s a fascinating subject, for it goes to the heart of human betterment.”
The results obtained by Dr. Northen are outstanding. By putting back into the foods the stuff that foods are made of, he has proved himself to be a real miracle man of medicine, for he has opened up the shortest and most rational route to better health.
He showed first that it should be done, and then that it could be done. He doubled and redoubled the natural mineral content of fruits and vegetables. He improved the quality of milk by increasing the iron and the iodine in it. He caused hens to lay eggs richer in the vital elements. By scientific soil feeding, he raised better seed potatoes in Maine, better grapes in California, better oranges in Florida and better field crops in other states. (By “better” is meant not only improvement in food value but also an increase in quality and quantity.)
Before going further into the results he has obtained, let’s see just what is involved in this matter of “mineral deficiencies,” what it may mean to our health, and how it may affect the growth and development, both mental and physical, of our children. We know that rats, guinea pigs and other animals can be fed into a diseased condition and out again by controlling only the minerals in their food.
A 10-year test with rats proved that by withholding calcium they can be bred down to a third the size of those fed with an adequate amount of that mineral. Their intelligence, too, can be controlled by mineral feeding as readily as can their size, their bony structure, and their general health.
Place a number of these little animals inside a maze after starving some of them in a certain mineral element. The starved ones will be unable to find their way out, whereas the others will have little or no difficulty in getting out. Their dispositions can be altered by mineral feeding. They can be made quarrelsome and belligerent; they can even be turned into cannibals and be made to devour each other.
A cage full of normal rats will live in amity. Restrict their calcium and they will become irritable and draw apart from one another. Then they will begin to fight. Restore their calcium balance and they will grow more friendly; in time they will begin to sleep in a pile as before. Many backward children are “stupid” merely because they are deficient in magnesia. [Magnesium] We punish them for our failure to feed them properly.
Certainly our physical well-being is more directly dependent upon the minerals we take into our systems then upon calories or vitamins or upon the precise proportions of starch, protein, or carbohydrates we consume.
It is now agreed that at least 16 mineral elements are indispensable for normal nutrition, and several more are always found in small amounts in the body, although their precise physiological role has not been determined. Of the 16 indispensable salts, calcium, phosphorus and iron are perhaps the most important.
Calcium is the most dominant nerve controller; it powerfully affects the cell formation of all living things and regulates nerve action. It governs contractility of the muscles and the rhythmic beat of the heart. It also coordinates the other mineral elements and corrects disturbances made by them. It works only in sunlight. Vitamin D is its buddy. Dr. Sherman of Columbia asserts that 50 percent of the American people are starving for calcium. A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association stated that out of 4,000 cases in New York Hospital, only 2 were not suffering from a lack of calcium.
What does such a deficiency mean? How would it affect your health or mine? So many morbid conditions and actual diseases may result that it is almost hopeless to catalog them. Included in the list are rickets, bony deformities, bad teeth, nervous disorders, reduced resistance to other diseases, fatigability, and behavior disturbances such as incorrigibility, assaultiveness and nonadaptability.
Here’s one specific example: The soil around a certain Midwest city is poor in calcium. Three hundred children in this community were examined and nearly 90 percent had bad teeth, swollen glands, enlarged or diseased tonsils. More than one-third had defective vision, round shoulders, bowlegs and anemia.
Calcium and phosphorus appear to pull in double harness. A child requires as much per day as two grown men, but studies indicate a common deficiency of one or the other as the cause of serious losses to the farmers, and when the soil is poor in phosphorous their animals become bone-chewers. Dr. McCollum says that when there are enough phosphates in the blood there can be no dental decay.
Iron is an essential constituent of the oxygen-carrying pigment of the blood: iron starvation results in anemia, and yet iron cannot be assimilated unless some copper is contained in the diet. In Florida, many cattle die from an obscure disease called “salt sickness.” It has been found to arise from a lack of iron and copper in the soil and hence the grass. A man may starve for want of these elements just as a beef “critter” starves.
If iodine is not present in our foods the function of the thyroid gland is disturbed and goiter afflicts us. The human body requires only fourteen-thousandths of a milligram daily, yet we have a distinct “goiter belt” in the Great Lakes section, and in parts of the Northwest the soil is so poor in iodine that the disease is common.
So it goes, down through the list, each mineral element playing a definite role in nutrition. A characteristic set of symptoms, just as specific as any vitamin-deficiency disease, follows a deficiency in any one of them. It is alarming, therefore, to face the fact that we are starving for these precious, health-giving substances.
Very well, you say, if our foods are poor in the mineral salts they are supposed to contain, why not resort to dosing?
That is precisely what is being done, or being attempted. However, those who should know assert that the human system cannot appropriate those elements to the best advantage in any but the food form. At best, only a part of them in the form of drugs can be utilized by the body, and certain dieticians go so far as to say it is a waste of effort to fool with them. Calcium, for instance, cannot be supplied in any form of medication with lasting effect.
But there is a more potent reason why the curing of diet deficiencies by drugging hasn’t worked out so well. Consider those 16 indispensable elements and those others which presumably perform some obscure function as yet understood. Aside from calcium and phosphorous, they are needed only in infinitesimal quantities, and the activity of one may be dependent upon the presence of another. To determine the precise requirements of each individual case and to attempt to weigh it out on a druggist’s scale would appear hopeless.
It is a problem and a serious one. But here is the hopeful side of the picture: Nature can and will solve it if she is encouraged to do so. The minerals in fruit and vegetables are colloidal; i.e. they are in a state of such extremely fine suspension that they can be assimilated by the human system: It is merely a question of giving back to nature the materials with which she works.
We must rebuild our soils: Put back the minerals we have taken out. That sounds difficult but it isn’t. Neither is it expensive. Therein lies the short cut to better health and longer life.
When Dr. Northen first asserted that many foods were lacking in mineral content and that this deficiency was due solely to an absence of those elements in the soil, his findings were challenged and he was called a crank. But differences of opinion in the medical profession are not uncommon—it was only 60 years ago that the Medical Society of Boston passed a resolution commending the use of bathtubs—and he persisted in his assertion that inasmuch as foods did not contain what they were supposed to contain, no physician could with certainty prescribe a diet to overcome physical ills.
He showed that the textbooks are not dependable because many of the analyses in them were made many years ago, perhaps from products raised in virgin soils, whereas our soils have been constantly depleted. Soil analyses, he pointed out, reflect only the content of samples. One analysis may be entirely different from another made ten miles away.
“And so what?” came the query.
Dr. Northen undertook to demonstrate that something could be done about it. By re-establishing a proper soil balance he actually grew crops that contained an ample amount of desired minerals.
This was incredible. It was contrary to the books and it upset everything connected with diet practice. The scoffers began to pay attention to him. Recently, the Southern Medical Association, realizing the hopelessness of trying to remedy nutritional deficiencies without positive factors to work with, recommended a careful study to determine the real mineral content of foodstuffs and the variations due to soil depletion in different localities. These progressive medical men are awake to the importance of prevention.
Dr. Northen went even further and proved that crops grown in a properly mineralized soil were bigger and better; that seeds germinated quicker, grew more rapidly and made larger plants; that trees were healthier and put on more fruit of better quality. By increasing the mineral content of citrus fruit he likewise improved its texture, its appearance and its flavor.
He experimented with a variety of growing things, and in every case the story was the same. By mineralizing the feed at poultry farms, he got more and better eggs; by balancing pasture soils, he produced richer milk. Persistently he hammered home to farmers, to doctors, and to the general public the thought that life depends upon the minerals!
His work led him into a careful study of the effects of climate, sunlight, ultraviolet and thermal rays upon plant, animal and human hygiene. In consequence he moved to Florida. People familiar with his work consider him the most valuable man in the state. I met him by reason of the fact that I was harassed by certain soil problems on my Florida farm which had baffled the best chemists and fertilizer experts available.
He is an elderly, retiring man, with a warm smile and an engaging personality. He is a trifle shy until he opens up on his pet topic; then his difference disappears and he speaks with authority. His mind is a storehouse crammed with precise, scientific data about soil and food chemistry, the complicated life processes of plants, animals, and human beings—and the effect of malnutrition upon all three. He is perhaps as close to the secret of life as any man anywhere.
“Do you call yourself a soil a or a food chemist?” I inquired.
“Neither. I am an M.D. My works lie in the field of biochemistry and nutrition. I gave up medicine because this is a wider and a more important work. Sick soils mean sick plants, sick animals, and sick people. Physical, mental, and moral fitness depends largely upon an ample supply and a proper proportion of the minerals in our foods. Nerve function, nerve stability, nerve cell-building likewise depend thereon. I’m really a doctor of sick soils.”
“Do you mean to imply that the vegetables I’m raising on my farm are sick?” I asked.
“Precisely! They’re as weak and undernourished as anemic children. They’re not much good as food. Look at the pests and the diseases that plague them. Insecticides cost farmers nearly as much as fertilizer these days.
“A healthy plant, however, grown in soil properly balanced, can and will resist most insect pests. That very characteristic makes it a better food product. You have tuberculosis and pneumonia germs in your system but you’re strong enough to throw them off. Similarly, a really healthy plant will pretty nearly take care of itself in the battle against insects and blights—and will also give the human system what it requires.”
“Good heavens! Do you realize what that means to agriculture?”
“Perfectly. Enormous savings. Better crops. Lowered living costs to the rest of us. But I’m not so much interested in agriculture as in health.”
“It sounds beautifully theoretical and utterly impractical to me,” I told the doctor, whereupon he gave me some of his case records.
For instance, in an orange grove infested with scale, when he restored the mineral balance to part of the soil, the trees growing in that part became clean while the rest remained diseased. By the same means he had grown healthy rosebushes between rows that were riddled by insects.
He has grown tomato and cucumber plants, both healthy and diseased, where the vines intertwined. The bugs ate up the diseased and refused to touch the healthy plants! He showed me interesting analyses of citrus fruits the chemistry and the food value of which accurately reflected the soil treatment the trees had received.
There is no space here to go fully into Dr. Northen’s work but it is of such importance as to rank with that of Burbank, the plant wizard, and with that of our famous physiologists and nutritional experts.
“Healthy plants mean healthy people,” said he. “We can’t raise a strong race on a weak soil. Why don’t you try mending the deficiencies on your farm and growing more minerals into your crop?”
I did try and I succeeded. I was planting a large acreage of celery and under Dr. Northen’s direction I fed minerals into certain blocks of land in varying amounts. When the plants from this soil were mature I had them analyzed, along with celery from other parts of the state. It was the most careful and comprehensive study of the kind ever made, and it included over 250 separate chemical determinations. I was amazed to learn that my celery had more than twice the mineral content of the best grown elsewhere. Furthermore, it kept much better, with and without refrigeration, proving that the cell structure was sounder.
In 1927, Mr. W.W. Kincaid, a “gentleman farmer” of Niagara Falls, heard an address by Dr. Northen and was so impressed that he began extensive experiments in the mineral feeding of plants and animals. The results he has accomplished are conspicuous. He set himself the task of increasing the iodine in the milk from his dairy herd. He has succeeded in adding both iodine and iron so liberally that one glass of his milk contains all of these minerals that an adult male requires for a day.
Is this significant? Listen to these incredible figures taken from a bulletin of the South Carolina Food Research Commission: “In many sections three out of five persons have goiter and a recent estimate states that 30 million people in the United States suffer from it.”
Foods rich in iodine are of the greatest importance to these sufferers.
Mr. Kincaid took a brown Swiss heifer calf which was dropped in the stockyards, and by raising her on mineralized pasturage and a properly balanced diet made her the third all-time champion of her breed! In one season she gave 21,924 pounds of milk. He raised her butterfat production to 410 pounds in 1 year to 1,037 pounds. Results like these are of incalculable importance.
Others besides Mr. Kincaid are following the trail Dr. Northen blazed. Similar experiments with milk have been made in Illinois and nearly every fertilizer company is beginning to urge use of the rare mineral elements. As an example I quote from statements of a subsidiary of one of the leading copper companies:
Many states show a marked reduction in the productive capacity of the soil in many districts amounting to a 25 to 50 percent reduction in the last 50 years…Some areas show a tenfold variation in calcium. Some show a sixty-fold variation in phosphorous…Authorities see soil depletion, barren livestock, increased human death rate due to heart disease, deformities, arthritis, increased dental caries, all due to lack of essential minerals in plant foods.
“It is neither a complicated nor an expensive undertaking to restore our soils to balance and thereby work a real miracle in the control of disease,” says Dr. Northen.
“As a matter of fact, it’s a money-making move for the farmer, and any competent soil chemist can tell him how to proceed.
“First determine by analysis the precise chemistry of any given soil, then correct the deficiencies by putting down enough of the missing elements to restore its balance. The same care should be used as in prescribing for a sick patient, for proportions are of vital importance.
“In my early experiments I found it extremely difficult to get the variety of minerals needed in the form in which I wanted to use them but advancement in chemistry, and especially our ever-increasing knowledge of colloidal chemistry, has solved that difficulty. It is now possible, by the use of minerals in colloidal form, to prescribe a cheap and effective system of soil correction which meets this vital need and one which fits in admirably with nature’s plans.
“Soils seriously deficient in minerals cannot produce plant life competent to maintain our needs, and with the continuous cropping and shipping away of those concentrates, the condition becomes worse.”
A famous nutrition authority recently said, “One sure way to end the American people’s susceptibility to infection is to supply through food a balanced ration of iron, copper, and other metals. An organism supplied with a diet adequate to, or preferably in excess of, all mineral requirements may so utilize these elements as to produce immunity from infection quite beyond anything we are able to produce artificially by our present method of immunization. You can’t make up the deficiency by using patent medicine.”
He’s absolutely right. Prevention of disease is easier, more practical, and more economical than cure, but not until foods are standardized on a basis of what they contain instead of what they look like can the dietician prescribe them with intelligence and with effect.
There was a time when medical therapy had no standards because the therapeutic elements in drugs had not been definitely determined on a chemical basis.
Pharmaceutical houses have changed all that. Food chemistry, on the other hand, has depended almost entirely upon governmental agencies for its research, and in our real knowledge of values we are about where medicine was a century ago.
Disease preys most surely and most viciously on the undernourished and unfit plants, animals, and human beings alike, and when the importance of these obscure mineral elements is fully realized the chemistry of life will have to be rewritten. No man knows his mental or bodily capacity, how well he can feel or how long he can live, for we are all cripples and weaklings. It is a disgrace to science. Happily, that chemistry is being rewritten and we’re on our way to better health by returning to the soil the things we have stolen from it.
The public can help; it can hasten the change. How? By demanding quality of food. By insisting that our doctors and our health departments establish scientific standards of nutritional value. The growers will quickly respond. They can put back those minerals almost overnight and by doing so they can actually make money through bigger and better crops. It is simpler to cure sick soils than sick people—which shall we choose?”
The Web Team
NaturopathicHealth.net named “Website of the Week” by NH.com! We are honored and excited to receive this award and hope that it spreads the word about naturopatic health.
To see the kind words about our website that lead to our award, read this article.
The Web Team
I hope you are sitting down: I am going to state something that may challenge your belief system! Food was not meant to obtain health with…quite a shocking statement coming from a lifetime devotee of natural foods and a practitioner that prescribes healthy diets. Before you hold your breath too long, here’s the punch line: Food was meant to maintain health with.
Does this mean that Hippocrates was wrong to state “let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food?” Read on and let’s explore together some interesting points of view. In my view, and experience, it is nearly impossible and possibly irrational to try to obtain health strictly through foods.
Most nutrients occur in food in micro levels designed to maintain a healthy body. Levels that did not anticipate pollution, modern stress, constitutionally (genetically) weaker bodies than our forefathers, chemical overload and damage, synthetic everything, etc. A complex network of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fiber, protein and fat were designed by mother nature to maintain health in a healthy body. However, we are out of balance and have become far removed from our food supply. We have eschewed the wisdom of our elders and dismissed time honored information as “old fashioned” or witchcraft. Even our top medical experts are ignorant or corrupted in their views of what is healthy food—it is no wonder that our modern society has an epidemic of chronic disease. The disease-care system (called health-care in U.S.A.) has focused on acute, crisis conditions such as plagues, while ignoring the rapidly deteriorating overall health of our population. Most of us have no education, training, wisdom (even passed down wisdom or folklore) in healthy eating. We assume our government has checked out the food at the supermarket and “everything in moderation” is fine. Maybe moderation is slowly killing us!
We are so far behind in nutrient levels that our low quality food system could never replenish these nutrient deficiencies. Do you ever think about how far the food you are eating has come? How was it transported, stored, treated? Does it actually have what it should in it? Is that orange really high in Vitamin C? You would be shocked if you knew the truth. Apparently, certain government agencies think you can not handle the truth, so they sugar-coat it. They allow the makers of white bread, cereal and other denatured foods that are chemically fortified with synthetic vitamins to claim they are healthy and safe to eat. For example: Orange juice that is synthetically boosted to bring Vitamin C levels up to minimum government standards after processing destroys the special form of natural Vitamin C put there by nature.
Another solid reason for taking supplements is quite simply because of the benefits. Vitamins, minerals, herbs, enzymes and other supplements can increase our enjoyment of life and help to compensate for genetic deficiencies, past abuses of our body, damage done by illness or injury and to correct imbalances in our body chemistry. Our brain can be sharper, our blood sugar more level and we can reduce or eliminate pain and suffering. Supplement use can protect us from and prevent illness, disease and the toxic effects of pesticides, pollution and chemicals. The fuel additive MTBE, plasticizers in plastic food wrap and chemicals in our cosmetics and water supply are just some examples of our daily exposure to known poisons and carcinogens in our society. Keep in mind that supplement use is only one spoke in the wheel of health that Naturopathy has to offer. There are many other natural therapies, quite a diverse assortment, that we use in Naturopathic Medicine. At some point the truth will come out that many nutrients missing in our food supply have seriously affected our society. Some examples: Zinc helps the immune system, eating disorders and reproductive system. Chromium helps with weight, blood sugar regulation and fat metabolism. Iodine helps our thyroid and lymphs.
We need to discuss the soil our food is grown in. I do not mean to be the bearer of bad news, but decades of poor farming techniques have raped our soil. Through chemical fertilizing, heavy pesticide & insecticide use, not rotating crops and other man-made atrocities we have depleted the soil of vital trace elements, minerals, enzymes and altered the earth’s acid-alkaline balance. The increase in acid rain has leached essential nutrients out of the soil, leaving plants and trees weak. So even if one was to eat a perfect diet, the food is nearly an empty harvest. The sad fact is that our food has less nutrients than in the past. Unless one consumes organic foods, not transported or stored, there is no guarantee that there are many nutrients left.
Of course, no authority can agree as to what constitutes the perfect diet. Conflicting advice and studies flood our media, confusing most people. Through working with a Naturopathic Doctor, one can learn to develop the dietary program that works best for their body. This kind of personalizing takes time, experience and insight. It is well worth the effort. One must also take into account factors that cause poor absorption of nutrients. Some of these factors are: digestive system problems, constipation, mineral oil, birth control pills, antibiotics, sugar, caffeine, soft drinks, and other dietary blocks are just some of the factors preventing nutrients from working once they get into your body. Many medications deplete nutrients or block their absorption. In addition, the delicate acid-alkaline balance of our body, including cells, organs and joints, is vital to the assimilation of nutrients.
Individual needs vary greatly depending on our way of life. Many people are exhausted from going, going, going, not getting adequate sleep, grabbing food on the run, doing errands, taking care of the kids and others needs, while neglecting our own. Athletics, high stress, environmental pollution, work pollution, secondary smoke, medical conditions, toxins from medications, toxins from our diet and auto exhaust all have a profound influence on our nutrient needs. I treat many patients that are suffering from prolonged nutrition deficiencies. The symptoms can be poor mental health, skin conditions, joint problems, fatigue, vision problems, asthma, allergies and many other states of poor health.
Nutritional supplements, as great as they are, will not overcome, nor overpower, mental, emotional or spiritual issues that need to be addressed or that cause illness. They will not compensate, but they will help minimize damage while we are working on these other issues. To say that because the problem is emotional and therefore there is no need for supplements or a healthy diet would be illogical, perhaps even foolhardy and dangerous. In example: A family that lives near a power line, so why bother taking supplements, we’re going to get cancer anyway? Well, Vitamins A, C, E, the mineral selenium, and certain herbs may help protect against the radiation.
What foods will help us sleep? What foods will restore vision? What foods will cure cancer, arthritis, eczema, diabetes, etc.? Without supplements, which have helped all of these diseases, many people would continue to suffer. This is my point: supplements can do what foods can not. We are too out of balance in our daily lives to expect our denatured food supply to restore, obtain or even maintain health, even if we led a strict, fanatical life. It is unrealistic to expect this of food, especially when most people do not have any knowledge of the healing powers of foods. It is mostly wishful thinking.
Is this to say that foods cannot be therapeutic, that they hold no healing powers? To the contrary—foods can be quite therapeutic and healing. I regularly recommend everything from beets to garlic to fresh vegetable juices as part of a patients’ therapy for specific conditions. For example, black cherries, black cherry juice and black cherry concentrate can help iron deficiency (anemia), arthritis, gout, gall bladder and kidney problems, constipation and joint problems if used therapeutically. This is just one example of the practical use of food for healing. However, not everyone is willing to use foods in this way. It requires diligence, strict adherence to new eating habits and being very careful when going out to eat. Many people would rather pop some pills than put up with these changes to their lifestyle.
So why can’t we get what we need from our food? This question is frequently asked of me. Yes, it was intended for us to obtain all our nutrients from food. Foods had enough nutrients to maintain health in a healthy human that lived in balance: rest, fresh air, exercise, clean water, etc. If you have medicines in your “medicine cabinet” than I suggest you need to take supplements. I do not have any synthetic medicines in my cabinet, just natural medicines. Nature has the answer; we just have to be open to it. Have fun with this—don’t let it become something stressful. There’s enough of that in our lives. Have an open enough mind to be willing to try new things and think outside the box! Remember that food was meant to be nourishment, not entertainment. We should eat to live, not live to eat! Food alone cannot restore vitality and real health to a sick, diseased body. Just look at our children and seniors. Take a good look around at public gatherings, at the supermarket, at your family events.
I do not want to exclude many other facets of natural healing: emotions, mind-body connection, herbs, massage, spiritual factors, etc. I have focused on only one aspect here: supplements in general and the purpose of our diets. In future articles we will discuss these other aspects in greater detail. Love and blessings to all. And chew your food slowly and thoroughly!
To learn more, here are some of my favorite books that go into depth on this subject:
•Silent Spring by Carson. Landmark book in ecological movement. Exposes effects of chemicals and demonstrates the importance of informed and active citizens.
•Empty Harvest by Jensen. Explores the link between food, immunity and our planet.
•Secrets of the Soil by Tompkins & Bird. Solutions for restoring our planet.
•Seeds of Change by Ausubel. Passionate story of the movement to restore biodiversity.
•The Survival of Civilization by Hamaker. The way to the future for our planet and race.
•Staying Healthy With Nutrition by Haas. A detailed, thorough book on supplements and foods.
•The Book of Whole Meals by Colbin. Cookbook that emphasizes balance with the seasons.
•Food and Healing by Colbin. Classic book on eating in harmony, with mind-opening views on food.
•Cooking for Healthy Healing by Rector-Page. A cookbook that has something for everyone!
•Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Balch. Holistic treatments for many conditions and diseases.
•Foods That Heal by Jensen. Comprehensive, fascinating review of the healing qualities of fruits and vegetables.
•Electrolytes, The Spark of Life by Martlew. Great reading on trace elements and their significance in health.
Breakthrough research reveals that those little jars in your spice cabinet hold a wealth of healing powers that can prevent the most dangerous diseases…
Wouldn’t it be great if you could protect yourself and your family family from a whole host of diseases simply by making the food you love taste even better? Well you can! Top scientists, doctors and nutritionists are finding that just that sprinkling herbs and spices on your food is a great way to stave off everything from indigestion to heart disease—even cancer and diabetes!
More good news: spicing up your foods can also help you shed inches! “The added flavor makes meals more satisfying, which is a strong deterrent against overeating,” says American Institute for cancer research educator Melanie Polk, R.D.
Intrigued? Read on to discover how the miracle cures already in your spice rack may mean not having to turn to your medicine cabinet again!
Rosemary prevents breast cancer!
Cooks who favor this pine-scented seasoning significantly boost their protection against breast cancer! The credit goes to the natural chemical in rosemary called carnasol, which helps shield cells from the DNA damage that can trigger tumors. Studies also show that compounds in Rosemary can reduce chronic inflammation, another condition often associated with cancer.
•Bonus benefit: Boost your memory! New research shows that breathing in the scent of rosemary helps people score higher on long-term memory tests!
Fennel cuts cramps!
Do you struggle with severe menstrual cramps? A recent study found that women who took 25 drops of fennel extract starting about three days prior to and during their periods experienced far less of the swelling and uterine contractions that cause cramping. In fact, researchers say, the fennel was as effective as a prescription pain reliever! Fennel is generally very safe but because it acts on the uterus, avoid it during pregnancy.
•Bonus benefit: Pop some fennel seeds in your mouth to freshen your breath. “The licorice-like flavor neutralizes his foul odors,” says herbalist Stephanie Tourles.
Cinnamon prevents diabetes!
New research shows that consuming cinnamon is an amazingly effective way to reduce your risk of Type II diabetes—and just 1/2 teaspoon a day will do the trick! “Cinnamon contains a natural chemical that keeps blood levels in check by turning on your insulin switch—and suppressing the enzyme that normally turns off that switch,” explains study author Richard A. Anderson, Ph.D.
•Bonus benefit: Cinnamon also calms stomach spasms and increases stomach acid production, which helps break down food more easily, says herbalist David Christopher.
Turmeric halts heart disease!
Turmeric is loaded with Curcumin, and antioxidant known to lower blood levels of cholesterol and other fats. “This keeps them from clinging to artery walls and leading to heart attacks, “says Ray Sahelian, M.D. Plus, curcumin inhibits platelets from clumping together, reducing the risk of blood clots. The suggested dose: a 500 milligrams supplement daily, advises Thambi Dorai, Ph.D., of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at our Lady of Mercy Medical Center in New York City. As always, talk to your doctor before taking this or any other supplement.
•Bonus benefit: Research indicates that regular consumption of turmeric can cut your risk of developing precancerous colon polyps by 40% in just three weeks.
Ginger relieves arthritis aches!
It may best be known for its ability to quell wooziness, but what new studies prove is that ginger is also a potent pain reliever! When rheumatologist Ray Altman, M.D., tested ginger supplements on 250 patients with arthritis of the knee, he found that it reduced their pain and suffering far more than a placebo! the dose he used: 255 mg. of ginger in pill form twice a day. “Ginger appears have an anti-inflammatory effect and may also tame nerve receptors,” explains Neil Barnard, M.D.
•Bonus benefit: It also eases sore muscles. “Mix 15 jobs of ginger oil with warm vegetable oil and massage on sore areas,” advises Tourles.
Oregano shields you from cancer!
An apple a day is one way to keep the doctor away…but would you believe a slice of pizza spiked with oregano is even more effective? It’s true: 1 tablespoon a fresh oregano delivers 42% more cancer-fighting antioxidants than an apple—and 30 times more than a potato, 12 times more than an orange and four times more than blueberries! “Oregano contains very high concentrations of rosmarinic acid, one of the most potent antioxidants around,” explains Polk. “It’s particularly effective against breast, endometrial and ovarian cancers.”
•Bonus benefit: It fights yeast infections! A new study found that oregano compounds prevented the growth of candida—the micro organism that causes yeast infections.
Disease-Fighting Plants: 7 Delicious Herbs That Pack a Powerful Antimicrobial Punch
Adding herbs to your favorite dishes adds flavor, variety and color. Antimicrobial herbs provide all of that – PLUS they give your health a major boost.
Antimicrobial herbs have a unique ability to destroy and inhibit the growth of disease-causing microorganisms. This takes major stress off of your immune system, helping to stimulate it and thereby helping you to fight off a wide array of potential infections.
Antimicrobial herbs are capable of taking on a large variety of microorganisms, such as:
Other living organisms
You may already be familiar with the following antimicrobial herbs, but their potent disease-fighting properties may surprise you. We recommend they be added generously to your cooking!
1. Chili Peppers
Chili peppers contain a substance called capsaicin, which is what makes them so spicy (the spicier the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains). Capsaicin is also an anti-inflammatory compound that helps with pain relief and many other ailments.
Contrary to popular belief, chili peppers do not cause stomach ulcers. In fact, they help prevent them by killing bacteria you eat. They also contain vitamins C and A, which boost immunity and help fight off potential pathogens.
Did you know? Capsaicin is mostly in the chili pepper’s seeds and white inner membranes. Taking these out will remove some of the pepper’s heat, but it will remove some of its healing properties as well.
The active compound in cloves, eugenol, combines with other clove components to make this pungent spice highly anti-bacterial. It’s also anti-inflammatory and the compound has been studied for use in preventing:
Toxicity from environmental pollutants
Digestive tract cancers
Because clove extracts are anti-bacterial (and provide a mild anaesthetic), they’re used in the United States for dental procedures like root canal therapy and temporary fillings. They’re also used in some sore throat sprays and mouth washes.
Did you know? Cloves are an excellent source of traditional nutrients too, including omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, vitamin C and magnesium.
Allicin, one of garlic’s healthy compounds (and the one that gives it its odor), has powerful antibacterial and antiviral properties. When combined with the vitamin C in garlic, these compounds kill harmful microbes and fight diseases including:
Cold and flu
Garlic is also a potent antibiotic, fighting a wide range of pathogens, and studies show it even appears to fight antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.
Did you know? Along with being able to lower blood pressure, insulin and triglycerides, allicin may also help prevent weight gain. A study on rats — published in the December 2003 issue of the American Journal of Hypertension — found that rats’ weights remained stable or decreased slightly when allicin was given along with a sugar-rich diet, while other rats’ weights increased.
4. Mustard Seed
Researchers from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada found that the antimicrobial properties of mustard seed are so strong that when powdered mustard was added to hamburger meat, it killed E. coli bacteria.
The compound responsible for this effect is allyl isothiocyanate. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that this potent compound can fight off not only E. coli but also listeria, Staphylococcus aureus and other foodborne pathogens.
Unfortunately, prepared mustard that is typically consumed in the United States does not contain this healthy component.
Did you know? Isothiocyanates in mustard seed have also been studied for their ability to inhibit the growth of existing cancer cells and protect against the formation of new ones.
Sage is a powerful antimicrobial that is known to kill fungi, including candida albicans, and other microbes such as salmonella. Sage leaf extract is also known to kill the microbe that causes gingivitis.
Sage is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It contains flavonoids, phenolic acids and oxygen-handling enzymes, all of which give it a unique ability to prevent oxygen-based damage to cells. Sage may be useful in fighting rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, bronchial asthma and atherosclerosis.
Did you know? Sage is also good for your brain. A study in the June 2003 Pharmacological Biochemical Behavior found that people given sage essential oil extracts had significantly improved recall abilities compared to those given a placebo.
Rosemary has both antibacterial and antifungal properties and is sometimes recommended to treat yeast overgrowth in the intestines.
Further, it is known to stimulate the immune system, increase circulation and improve digestion.
Did you know? Rosemary has been traditionally regarded as a memory enhancer. Students in ancient Greece, for instance, would put sprigs of the herb in their hair while studying.
Thyme contains volatile oil components that are known to fight a wide range of bacteria and fungi, including:
Recent studies have also shown that thyme can help prevent foods from becoming contaminated and even help decontaminate already contaminated foods. A study in the February 2004 issue of Food Microbiology found that thyme essential oil decontaminated lettuce contaminated with Shigella, an infectious organism that can cause diarrhea and intestinal damage.
Washing produce in a solution of just 1 percent thyme essential oil was also able to decrease the number of Shigella bacteria to undetectable levels.
Did you know? Thyme has been used for its antiseptic properties since the 16th century, both in mouthwashes and topically.
Lately we have become overloaded with information. Eat this, don’t eat that. More fiber, less fat, food pyramid, good herbs, bad drugs. This causes cancer, we were wrong about eggs, side effects, second-hand smoke, toxic home materials, power lines. Organic, genetically altered, growth hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, pesticide residue, irradiated. Confusing times we live in. We read that our health care system is almost bankrupt and some of us feel uncomfortable with medical treatments that have dangerous side effects and can feel violating. There is a renaissance of interest in safer, more humane and natural ways of treating our bodies.
Where can we learn more, who is qualified, how will we know if it is working? Are there other health care systems that work better, are more empowering and respect our bodies? What is the difference between conventional (allopathic, western) medicine and holistic (or complementary, alternative, natural, traditional) medicine?
These questions are frequently being asked by many Americans. It is increasingly difficult to find what is right when authorities contradict each other, change their minds and attack one another on an ongoing basis. The average person does not have the scientific background to understand why there is so much disagreement, let alone to know how to read food labels at the supermarket!
Holistic health care, or the system of holism, is not a new concept or philosophy. It is not religious, new age or hippy. In the simplest terms, it is how we view ourselves. Do we see ourselves as a list of diseases and defects? Or, do we see ourselves as complex beings, with body, mind and spirit contributing to what makes us tick? Do we see the interactions among all living creatures, the soil, the planet, the solar system as all being symbiotic, and all working together? Do we realize that the delicate balance we call ‘life’ is fragile, sensitive and powerful? Is it possible that we each are unique beings, with individual needs unlike anyone else’s? Can we see that there is no exact system as our needs change and evolve on many levels, often in short periods of time or even seasonally?
Holism is a concept that embraces the rhythms of life. It shows us that our needs change with our age, where we are living, how much stress we are under, and endless other criteria. We are seeing that while modern medicine has made great progress in repairing physical injuries and with communicable disease (polio, plagues), it is failing greatly in other areas. Diseases of modern civilization (degenerative diseases) such as diabetes, cancers, arthritis, heart disease, brain tumors, circulatory system problems, skin conditions, fertility and many others remain unchecked. In fact, we are more unhealthy as a population than any other time in recorded history. This, combined with the number of people who are on depression medications, children on drugs for behavior modification and an epidemic of obesity in our population, has hastened our interest as a society in holistic health care.
Holistic health care is a loosely knitted network of treatment systems that strengthen the body’s ability to heal itself. Developed and evolved over thousands of years in many different cultures, this system emphasizes non-invasive therapies and lifestyle changes, all with a lack of major permanent side effects. Some of these systems include the mind-body connection, visualization, botanical (herbal) therapies, food supplements, vitamin and mineral therapies, acupuncture, massage, rolfing, hydrotherapy, aromatherapy, color, sound and light therapy, dietary (nutrition) changes, spirituality and exercise. This list is far from complete—there are many others, many of which are culturally traditional, along with some which are new for our society.
Once we understand the body’s healing systems, we learn to listen to our needs. When we need more sleep, we honor the body by giving it more sleep. We pay more attention to our body’s needs for water, rest, exercise, nutrition and fresh air. Some call this listening intuition, others call it common sense. In holistic health care we believe that illness is another way the body communicates with us. Disease is often the manifestation of not listening to earlier warning signals, and in fact, is a deeper, more dramatic wake up call to take action.
There has been a movement in the United States over the last 200 years to return to nature for our needs. To use what was put on earth for our health, and to try to live in harmony while balancing our needs with the environment. This movement has tried to organize into a distinct system of its own by combining many elements of holism. It has been suppressed by more politically powerful systems that perceived any new system as a threat. In the early 1800’s this system was called Eclectic medicine. In the early 1900’s, it was reborn as Naturopathic medicine. Up until the 1930’s, this system experienced much growth, including naturopathic medical schools. Through a concerted effort of political pressures, legal maneuvers and denial of medical insurance coverage it was suppressed until the 1970’s, and is now experiencing a renaissance of its own.
Naturopathic doctors are the only health professionals with doctorate level training in holistic therapies. In 14 states they are licensed as primary care doctors, incorporating the best of conventional and holistic medicine. There are 4 naturopathic medical schools in the Unites States and others in Canada and Europe. There are holistic clinics that treat cancers, help bring healthy children into the world and provide preventative medicine and education to their communities. Practitioners of the holistic healing arts spend more time with you than conventional practitioners.They take the time to get to know you as an individual. This caring attitude and generous attention is greatly valued by their patients.
Holistic health care may not be for everyone. Some people do not wish to listen to their body, or are afraid to disagree with their family doctor. Others don’t realize that they can slowly incorporate change into their lives and not have to be “fanatical” or give up on conventional medicine. Despite the horrendous side effects of medications, surgery and radiation, which are still the major tools of allopathic medicine, some will still require the care that system has to offer. Many people have found it wise to use the best of each system. We do not have to get stuck doing things only one way. Taking the best each system has to offer makes the most sense. Discovering what works for us is a very important learning lesson, providing growth and empowerment as we develop a trust for listening to our innate wisdom.
Natural therapies can be fun. Receiving a massage for stress, aches and pains or injury is much more enjoyable than taking chemical substances or losing sleep! Eating well can be a gourmet experience, not torture! Some changes are pleasant, others take adjustment. The results vary, depending on many factors, such as how much commitment we make to follow through, our constitutional strength (how well we heal), the seriousness of the condition, etc. As most of our conditions took years to develop, they take some time to heal. Conventional medicine masks, controls, suppresses or alleviates the condition, while holistically applied natural therapies are readjusting the body, cleansing and strengthening organs and systems so they can work the way they were created to. When working the holistic way, patience is a great asset while the body heals itself. It can feel like work at times, as you are more involved in the process of healing than with allopathy.
Economics plays a large role in choosing health care. While there can be new expenses initially, most feel that in the long run holistic health care is much less expensive. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! It is difficult to put a value on health—Ralph Waldo Emerson said “the first wealth is health.” Often, it isn’t until we lose our health that we value it—we take it for granted when everything seems to be working in our body. Americans need to think more long term when it comes to health care. Eating poor food, polluting our environment and body, overworking and overtaxing our health defense systems is much more expensive in the long run than preventing problems in the first place.
Understanding and applying holistic health principles can lead to a more vibrant life. One filled with enjoying, not just existing. Preventing needless pain and suffering, faster healing of injuries, having more energy and creativity are just a few of the many benefits we can personally enjoy through taking care of ourselves. Society benefits greatly: less violent crime, healthier and less stressed children, less expensive health care and more productivity are just some of the more profound benefits of a healthier nation. Holism encourages people to take more responsibility for their actions—not to blame others or genetics for their problems. It is about growth, learning, loving and living life. It is wholesome and divine, while allowing for individuality.
Joel Funk, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
Plymouth State University
Paper presented at the Ninth Annual Adult Development Symposium
Amherst, MA June 24–26, 1994
Part Two of a two-part series
12. Developmentally, naturopathy is more advanced in its possession of a more extended, more integrated time frame. It does not look for short-term symptom reduction, but seeks long term cures and ultimately the restoration of health in general. This requires patience and diligence on the part of the healer and the patient. Allopathy may appear to work in the short run, but more often than not fails in the long run. As noted above, the standard allopathic treatments for cancer—radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy—all weaken the immune system and frequently cause cancer or other fatal illness in the long run (Walters, 1993).
A more subtle example was offered by one naturopath, who stated that most pediatricians keep the child “not too sick” by cumulatively drugging (toxifying) the body. The patient may eventually develop, say, a liver disease, requiring many years of cleansing and naturopathic healing. Yet, for the first few decades of the patient’s life, the allopathic physician seems like a success, despite being partially responsible for the later condition.
Another naturopath observed that short-term cures usually set up patients for worse problems later on (see #9 above). She gave the example of using antacids to depress production of or to neutralize hydrochloric acid in the stomach to prevent heartburn. This appears reasonable in the short run, but viewed over an extended time period, the problem looks rather different. Paradoxically, the typical heartburn sufferer does not produce enough hydrochloric acid in the initial stages of digestion—this is the real cause. Later on, the stomach, realizing that digestion is not taking place properly, overreacts by producing too much acid at the wrong time, thus producing the heartburn. Taking antacids at this juncture not only does not cure the underlying problem, it can make the patient dependent on antacids. A naturopath would instead recommend safe digestive enzymes with the meal (e.g., bromelain) as an initial step. On a deeper level the goal would be to restore the stomach’s acid production to normal using systemic means.
A more mundane example: allopaths recommend nasal decongestants, which, through a rebound effect, only lead to more congestion, as the body tries to eliminate toxins. People often then become addicted to conventional decongestants. Naturopaths, working with, rather than against the body, recommend, among other treatments, a nasal spray containing a variety of herbs and cofactors, which soothe the nasal membranes, fight the infection, and allow for easier mucous flow.
13. Even more importantly, naturopathy emphasizes prevention over treatment of disease. Along with Indian Ayurvedic medicine and Chinese medicine (acupuncture, chi gong, herbs) naturopathy offers a positive conception of health. Chinese doctors typically were paid only when the patient was healthy; illness indicated some failure on the physician’s part! Allopathy has no positive conception of health, aside from the absence of manifest disease symptoms. As many naturopaths have observed, we do not actually have “health care” in America, we have “sickness care.” One naturopath summed it up, only half-facetiously: If your blood sugar is 120 you’re diabetic and then allopaths will treat you; if it’s under 119, they’ll say to come back when it gets worse.
Thus allopathy often has little to offer the person suffering with a chronic disease, such as diabetes. In effect, the patient is told that they cannot get better, and that they will have to spend a shortened and progressively deteriorating lifetime limiting their diet, monitoring blood sugar levels, and injecting insulin. The disease can be controlled (partially), but not cured.
Naturopaths, in contrast, extend an optimistic view to their patients towards treating diabetes and other degenerative diseases. They state that we don’t “get disease,” we “create disease” by breaking down our natural defenses through poor diet, lifestyle, etc. The good news is that if a patient creates bad health, he or she can also create good health. In short, naturopathy offers the possibility of regeneration, a very empowering philosophy of healing (see #15 below).
One naturopath related a personal anecdote, in which he was told as a child by a leading New York City allergist that, due to his family medical history, he was virtually guaranteed to develop allergies. Raised by a naturopath himself, he stunned the allergist years later when he was examined and declared symptom free. He remains so to date. In short, a naturopathic regime prevented the allergic genotypical predisposition from manifesting phenotypically. The real goal of naturopathy, then, is not to treat disease, but to educate people to prevent disease from developing in the first place.
14. If, as many developmentalists have observed, being able to penetrate the social norms and self-created structures that bias the average member of society is a sign of higher post-conventional ego development (Cook-Greuter, 1990), then, clearly, naturopaths score high from this viewpoint as well. [My educated guess would be about Stage 5, or “autonomous.”]
The contrast between naturopathic postconventional level ego development and allopathic conventional level ego development can be seen in their respective attitudes towards criticism and diversity of opinion. Naturopaths are extremely open and flexible, thriving on the multiplicity of ideas and treatment approaches that abound. For example, one naturopath was excited to learn recently of an herb, uño de gato, which has been used for centuries by rainforest shamans in Peru. This herb has been found by naturopathic researchers to be a superior immune system stimulant, beneficial in the treatment of AIDS, cancer and a host of degenerative disorders. In short, naturopaths are open to any and all treatment modalities that are safe and effective, regardless of their source, regardless of conventional or mainstream (or even naturopathic “mainstream”) opinion.
In contrast, allopathic physicians are generally rigid and closed in their thinking, and demand a uniformity of opinion. Treatment methods, even those that have been shown to be effective and safe, are ignored if they do not fit the official doctrines of what is permissible. For example, allopathic medications for prostate enlargement do not work effectively, ultimately necessitating surgery. Numerous studies have been conducted in Europe on an herb called pygeum which demonstrate reasonable effectiveness, without side effects. Faced with this evidence, one of the leading urologists in America commented that, despite its obvious value, he would never prescribe it, as it was a “health food” remedy. Frequently articles that present an alternative perspective are rejected for publication in medical journals.
A famous example of the rigidity of the allopathic approach is the case of Linus Pauling, still living at 93. Despite having achieved world-wide acclaim for his research and having won two Nobel Prizes, one in chemistry, when he began to endorse vitamin C as a great healing nutrient, he was permanently ostracized by the mainstream scientific community.
15. Naturopathy empowers the patient, whereas allopathy does not. Allopathic use of drugs and surgery and its dominator approach to healing all too often make the patient passive, helpless, diminished, and disempowered. The “ultimate cure” for the naturopath lies in educating the patient to live in harmony with Nature. The naturopathic patient becomes increasingly responsible for their own well-being, gradually phasing out the interventions of the healer. The obverse of empowerment, however, is responsibility, and not all people are willing to assume this responsibility. Many naturopathic failures are due to the lack of commitment and follow-through required by patients, many of whom had been disempowered by the “passivating” strategies of allopathic medicine (see addendum below).
16. It is a truism in developmental stage theory, that a person at a lower stage cannot fully comprehend the world view of someone from a higher stage (Commons et al, 1984). Linear formal operational thinking cannot grasp postformal, systemic and meta-systemic modes of thought. Thus, as one naturopath took pains to point out, even when allopathic medicine does try to incorporate some of the naturopathic findings—as in recent pronouncements touting the benefits of a high-fiber, low fat diet, exercise, and selected vitamins—it tends to miss the point. For example, she took issue with the context-ignoring espousal of a low fat diet as beneficial. While eliminating harmful fats, it also cuts down on essential fatty acids needed for sex hormones, assimilation of Vitamin D, etc. Under such conditions, the liver may in fact overreact to produce cholesterol anyway, even without fat coming in. The organism’s requirements and its holistic functioning are not easily assimilated by a world view incapable of seeing the body as more than a mechanism.
Similarly, a presystemic approach to diagnosis will not be able to comprehend the systemic conception that one area of the body may somehow reflect the state of the entire organism, e.g., the iris in iridology, the feet in reflexology, the ear in acupuncture, the skin, the tongue, the hair, etc. Allopathy prefers man-made, mechanical methods of diagnosis to organismic methods (or as one naturopath put it, “the early warning signs that the Creator provided for us.”)
17. Naturopaths have an integrated view of the person as a unity of body, mind, and spirit. They treat the person as a totality, avoiding the dualism inherent in much of allopathic medicine, where all too many problems, e.g., chronic fatigue syndrome until very recently, are dismissed as “all in your head.” Allopathic physicians are just now conceding what naturopaths have argued all along, namely that there is, in large part, a biological basis for the chronic exhaustion. Fortunately, a more integrated view of the person as body/mind/spirit is making inroads among some formerly strictly allopathic healers (Remen, 1994).
18. This is more impressionistic, but naturopaths are, in my view, highly ethically developed. The personal and professional ethics of the naturopaths interviewed embody the Golden Rule, which puts them at or near Kohlberg’s Stage 6 or even 7. Whereas some health professionals who work with cancer patients often state that they themselves would never allow chemotherapy to be done to them (Walters, 1993), naturopaths would never prescribe anything that, in principle, they would not prescribe for themselves. One naturopath specifically stated that he treats patients as he would want to be treated. This means, beyond doing no harm, taking the time necessary to know a patient’s condition in full detail, charging relatively modest fees (even offering several hours a week for free phone-in consultations), providing a supportive, non-intimidating, environmentally correct atmosphere for consultations/ treatments, and treating the patient as a partner in the healing process. Furthermore, he never considers a patient hopeless or terminal; several times he stated ,”I never give up; I’ll always look for something else that might work.” This hope-engendering attitude on the part of the healer can of itself have a curative effect (Walters, 1993).
One naturopath, speaking of allopathic physicians, considered most of them individually to be pretty ethical people. He observed, however, that while most are ethical, idealistically motivated people when they enter medical school, they typically become entrapped by the system, and emerge ethically lower than when they arrived. In short, he feels that the governing institutions reinforce a conventional and even self-serving preconventional morality.
Furthermore, naturopaths are quite politically progressive. Case after case was shown or told me, revealing how the allopathy-oriented AMA, in concert with the pharmaceutical companies, the FDA, and the “cancer industry” has blocked safe, effective, inexpensive treatment alternatives for cancer and other disorders because they would interfere with power and profits (Walters, 1993). The naturopaths interviewed did not put profit and power ahead of helping people. A small, but illustrative example: One naturopath told me he was about to write a letter of support to a Vermont senator who was trying to keep soda machines out of the public schools, and was as a result getting political flak from some of the powerful cola companies.
Despite the above critique of allopathy, even die-hard naturopaths admit that the two modes of healing are complementary. For accidents and other crisis situations, allopathy is a necessity although even a broken bone, after setting, can benefit from mineral supplements. Given that naturopathic and allopathic healing are both necessary, one inevitable conclusion must be drawn: Aside from crisis situations, naturopathy ought to be the healing method of choice, given that it reflects a developmentally more advanced mode of preventing, apprehending, and treating illness and promoting health than allopathy. If naturopathy fails, or if the situation is immediately life threatening, allopathic measures should of course be used. In America today, however, the reverse is largely the case. The naturopaths pointed out that the majority of their patients are (allopathic) medical failures, whose systems have been toxified by drugs and other allopathic interventions, thus making the naturopaths’ work all the harder and reducing the chances of success. (They frequently succeed anyway!) Worse, the majority of Americans do not even visit a naturopath or other alternative healer, either sooner, when prevention could save us all billions of dollars and much needless suffering, or later, after illness has commenced. Given the recent statistics, however, it would seem that this trend is changing. The crux of the problem is whether allopathy and this includes not merely individual physicians, but hospitals, medical associations and their journals, government, the pharmaceutical industry, insurance companies, agribusiness, the media, and, finally, the mind-set of the average patient—can evolve beyond the level of formal operations and embrace the organismic, systemic view held by naturopathy and related holistic treatment approaches. Pragmatically, such a change will most likely only ensue from a grass roots withdrawal from allopathy, and statistically, this trend may well have begun. Such a transformation would bode well for the health of the American people and the planet.
The question remains: Why, if naturopathy is in the vast majority of instances the safer, developmentally more advanced treatment modality, do so few people seek out naturopaths et al, at least initially? Based on the interviews and my own observations, I would like to suggest, informally, one dozen likely factors:
1. The very fact that naturopathy does reflect a high level of development works against it. If only approximately 10% of the population reaches postconventional, postformal stages of development (Miller & Cook-Greuter, 1994), then the difficulties for the other 90% ought to be obvious (see #16 above).
2. Allopathic treatment, in the short run at least, is far easier. The allopathic doctor promises to take care of the patient through a “magic bullet” (drugs and surgery), while not demanding much in the way of lifestyle changes. Naturopathy is far more demanding, insisting on extensive dietary and lifestyle changes not many people are willing to make unless they feel they have no other choice. How many people would give up coffee, red meat, milk, ice cream, cake, candy, fried food, alcohol, soft drinks, salt, white flour, cigarettes, and Cool Whip if they did not have to?
3. Similarly, the demand to be responsible for one’s health can be threatening to those who have grown accustomed to relinquishing control to experts. One naturopath spoke of people’s “fear of self-empowerment.”
4. Naturopathic healing takes time and patience, which are sorely lacking in a population accustomed to instant results. Who wants to hear that it takes several years to fully regenerate?
5. Often, as the process of detoxification transpires, the patient will temporarily feel worse before they feel better. Some patients may lose their motivation to continue or even begin when faced with this likelihood.
6. Initially, naturopathy may cost more. The patient typically has to spend hundreds of dollars on an initial visit, supplements, special foods, and possibly a juicer, and none of this is as yet covered by medical insurance. In the long run, of course, good health pays off, but the start up cost of a changed lifestyle may inhibit many patients.
7. Aside from cost or difficulty, people, simply put, have ingrained habits that are difficult to modify. People whose main source of grain is wheat will probably balk at being told to avoid it in favor of a more diverse assortment of healthier but less popular grains like quinoa, spelt, kamut, amaranth, etc. People used to orange juice and coffee in the morning will find it hard to forego them. And how many of us are used to making/drinking fresh vegetable juices?
8. Most Americans have been conditioned from birth to view allopathic doctors as Godlike, and this childish projection tends to linger on, affecting even postformal level adults in subtle ways. Berger & Luckmann (1966) have noted that through a process of “sedimentation” we tend to see the conventional manner of doing things as somehow “natural” and correct, all other ways appearing somehow deviant and suspect—despite the fact that the alternatives may in fact be safer and more effective.
9. The medical industry, abetted by the media, has reinforced the belief system noted above, and presents natural healing as weird, fraudulent, primitive, something technology has outgrown, etc. As should be clear from the preceding analysis, there is no factual or logical basis for perpetuating this image of naturopathy and other holistic healing modalities, yet the image persists.
10. Social pressure from spouses, friends, allopathic physicians, etc., is another factor. Who wants to risk social stigmatization as a “health nut,” for following the naturopathic regime?
11. We live in a country bewitched by high technology, and allopathy is, if nothing else, high tech. It’s very hard for us to imagine that an acupuncturist taking a patient’s pulse, or a naturopath using iridology, may be better able to diagnose a host of specific problems and systemic imbalances than a hospital with its super-expensive computerized gadgets. It’s perhaps even harder to swallow the fact that, while we spend billions in the “war on cancer” that we somehow never win, herbs growing wild in North America have been demonstrated to have a curative effect on cancer and other degenerative diseases (Walters, 1993).
12. Finally, many people do not seek out naturopaths and other alternatives because they do not know they even exist. There are at least as many allopathic physicians working in the small New Hampshire town where I am writing as there are naturopaths in the entire state! Due to the monopolistic control of organized allopathic medicine, the lack of media exposure, and lack of advertising, there is all too often a consequent lack of knowledge of holistic alternatives. It was stunning and bewildering to learn that as many as twenty eight alternative treatments for cancer exist (Walters, 1993), yet the majority of Americans remain unaware of these options.
I could possibly add a thirteenth reason, one which sums up most of the foregoing discussion: Allopathy is consistent with the contemporary mechanistic, dominator (Eisler, 1987) worldview subscribed to by the majority of Westerners today, while naturopathy is not. It is the contention of this essay that naturopathy reflects a higher, more unified, more life enhancing worldview. Naturopathy and other holistic healing modalities will probably not become more widely accepted until the underlying weltanschauung itself changes. There are hopeful signs that this may indeed be occurring.
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End of Part Two. This article was provided specially for readers of NaturopathicHealth.net
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Joel Funk, Ph.D.