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Have you missed the first two parts of this series? You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

One of the key concepts of natural hygiene, almost universally embraced by all of its pundits, is the fruit-based diet. Some hygienists have taken this idea to its seemingly logical conclusion by promoting fruitarianism — a diet of ONLY fruits, or something very close to it. While I agree with the former group, this article is about the mistake of the latter.

Fruitarianism: a Short History

Early hygienists like Silvester Graham and Dr. Kellogg mainly focused on the restorative properties of a healthy diet and an overall “clean lifestyle.” Other hygienists, such as Edward Hooker Dewey (who innovated with his no-breakfast plan) and Dr. Isaak Jennings (who can be credited for inventing modern fasting), mainly focused on fasting. Some of these hygienists were pure vegetarians while others were not. Most of them did not recommend a fruit based diet, probably because such a diet was not really possible at that time due to the infrequent supply of fresh fruit year round to the United States in the last century.

Dr. Shelton was the man who did the synthesis of all these hygienic theories and came up with the term “Natural Hygiene.”

Shelton not only promoted fasting and natural living, like his predecessors, but took the diet further by eliminating grains and replacing them with fruit. The famous “ideal” Shelton diet consisted of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds — a common sequence of ingredients that has been used ever since by raw vegans to describe their diets. Although Shelton made some concessions and even used fermented dairy products at times, he was adamant that all grain products (like bread or rice) should be avoided and fruit should be the basis of the diet instead.

Shelton did not come up with that idea on his own. The concept of fruitarianism probably came from Dr. Emmet Densmore, an English doctor who published in 1890 a book called “The Natural Food of Man.

Densmore drew on the knowledge of previous, now forgotten doctors — proving that fruitarianism has a concept has a long history.

Densmore was a sick man, and could not find relief to his lingering lumbago problems in a pure vegetarian diet. So he adopted a diet of fruits, nuts, milk, eggs, and cheese.

The book mostly contains rather anecdotal evidence on the harm of grain products, as evidenced by some of the quotes I pulled out below from the book.

“If cereals are so difficult to digest that they must not be used in illness, it will surely be a good idea to see how a non-starch diet will work after recovery.

It is quite true that many individuals reach middle life habitually using bread and cereals, and in apparent good health; but the race must be run before anything is proven. In my childhood I knew a neighbouring farmer who used to make daily trips, in the severely cold winters of northern Pennsylvania, to a village a half-dozen miles away, without any coat and without other clothing than the shirt he wore in summer time.

The team which he drove hauled heavy loads of wood, and this necessitated a slow pace, and the teamster followed at a slow walk. He laughed at the foolishness of his neighbours who coddled themselves in coats; and, strangely enough, he got on for years in seeming good health. Ultimately he lost his health, and died in middle life; but, while in seeming vigour, his case was no proof that his habit was not injurious; it was proof only that the powers of his system were able for a time to overcome, and not at once die from exposure.

All farmers and horsemen are aware that, while their horses are kept the year round in a stable, and fed largely on dried grains and dried grass, they are very liable to be constipated; but it is also quite universally known that as the same horses are turned out to grass, in fact as soon as they are put upon their natural food, the constipation vanishes.”

Ultimately, Densmore was famous for publishing the following table, which has been used, often without credits, by many natural hygienists since.

Comparative Anatomy. The Anatomical Differences Between Flesh-Eating And Fruit-Eating Animals

The Carnivora. The Anthropoid Ape. Man. The Omnivora.
Zonary Placenta. Discoidal placenta. Discoidal placenta. Non-deciduate placenta.
Four-footed. Two hands and two feet. Two hands and two feet. Four-footed.
Have claws. Flat nails. Flat nails. Have hoofs.
Go on all fours. Walks upright. Walks upright. Go on all fours.
Have tails. Without tails. Without tails. Have tails.
look sideways. Eyes look forward. Eyes look forward. Eyes look sideways.
Skin without pores. Millions of pores. Millions of pores. Skin with pores.
Slightly developed incisor teeth. Well-developed incisor teeth. Well-developed incisor teeth. Very well-developed incisor teeth.
Pointed molar teeth. Blunt molar teeth. Blunt molar teeth. Molar teeth in folds.
Dental formula: Dental formula: Dental formula: Dental formula:
*5to8.1.6.1.5to8. 5.1.4.1.5. 5.1.4.1.5. 8.1.2103.1.8.
5to8.1.6.1.5to8. 5.1.4.1.5. 5.1.4.1.5. 8.1.2t03.1.8.
Small salivary glands. Well-developed salivary glands. Well-developed salivary glands. Well-developed salivary glands.
Acid reaction of saliva and urine. Alkaline reaction saliva and urine. Alkaline reaction saliva and urine. Saliva and urine acid.
Rasping tongue. Smooth tongue. Smooth tongue. Smooth tongue.
Teats on abdomen. Mammary glands on breast. Mammary glands on breast. Teats on abdomen.
Stomach simple and roundish. Stomach with duodenum(as second stomach). Stomach with duodenum(as second stomach). Stomach simple and roundish, large cul-de-sac.
Intestinal canal 3 times length of the body. Intestinal canal 12 times length of the body. Intestinal canal 12 times length of the body. Intestinal canal 10 times length of the body.
Colon smooth. Colon Convoluted. Colon convoluted. Intestinal canal smooth and convoluted.
Lives on flesh. Lives on fruit. Homo sapiens vegetus -Lives on fruit. Live on flesh, carrion, and plants.

* In this formula the figures in the centre represent the number of incisors; upon each side are the canines, followed to the right and left by the molars.

“Man is neither carnivorous nor herbivorous. He has neither the teeth of the cud-chewers, nor their four stomachs, nor their intestines. If we consider these organs in man, we must conclude him to be by nature and origin, frugi-vorous, as is the ape.”

Fruitarianism Spread

In one of his books, Shelton reproduced the table by Dr. Densmore and presented his case for a fruit-based diet, using somewhat more scientific arguments. Mainly, he argued that man is not designed by nature to live on a grain-based diet, as evidenced by his anatomy and physiology.

Grains are generally acid-forming, and their consumption only as old as agriculture itself. Before that, man lived on a fruitarian diet, in a sort of “Garden of Eden.”

Although Shelton admitted that it was possible to live on fruit and nuts alone, provided you could find foods of good quality, he never promoted a pure fruitarian diet as a diet plan for life.

Instead, Shelton insistent on the importance of eating a large salad every day.

The concept of a fruit-based diet, however, became increasingly popular over the years. Most of the Natural Hygiene movement embraced it.

After a few decades, some students of Shelton wanted to improve on Shelton’s diet, complaining that his diet was too difficult to follow.

My early mentor, Albert Mosséri, discovered that most people could not digest the 4-5 ounces of nuts that Shelton recommended to eat every day. So he dropped the nuts out of the diet, became less strict about a pure raw food diet, and instead recommended a diet of fruits and vegetables (raw or cooked). This nut-free version of Shelton’s fruit-based diet gave better results and was surprisingly easier to follow.

T.C. Fry’s Fruitarian Diet

The person who took over as the voice of Natural Hygiene after Shelton’s forced retirement through Parkinson’s disease (and eventual death) was T.C. Fry.

Fry not only wanted to eliminate nuts out of the diet, but also all greens! He started out with Shelton’s diet, but eventually refined it to the point where he eventually believed and promoted a pure fruitarian diet.

In Fry’s pure fruitarian diet, he also included some vegetables that are technically fruit, botanically speaking (like tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers).

T.C. Fry’s arguments in favor of a fruitarian diet can be summarized as follows:

* Humans are physiologically fruitarians. Every animal has a natural food and our natural food is fruit.
* The idea that “more is better” is a fundamental flaw of modern nutrition. It’s not necessary to eat a “large salad everyday” to meet our nutritional needs.
* Fruits contain more vitamins and minerals than we could possibly need. We don’t need vegetables.
* Vegetables, especially some greens, contain some toxic substances that can be identified by their bitter taste.

Even though Fry’s arguments were flimsy, and that his diet was so unsustainable that he could not even follow it himself (as evidenced by many reports that came out after his death) he nonetheless convinced a lot of people to go fruitarian.

The fruitarian diet was mostly a failure, because most people simply could not stick to it. But a few determined people managed to summon enough willpower to do it, and many of those individuals ended up with serious health problems. T.C. Fry himself diet at the age of 69 after a series of mysterious illnesses. His diet also was severely deficient in vitamin B12 and he did not supplement.

The Main Fruitarian Argument Demolished by Modern Anthropology

It’s not possible to promote a pure fruitarian diet based on nutritional facts alone. We know enough about nutrition today to ascertain that fruits generally don’t contain enough minerals to sustain a healthy life in most people.

That’s why all modern fruitarians recommend eating large quantities of greens everyday to compensate for what’s missing in fruit.

But there’s one argument that still captures the imagination of wannabe fruitarians: the concept of humans as fruitarian creatures, who once lived on a diet of fruit.

When we look at modern Apes like the Chimpanzee, we find that the more genetically related the ape is to humans, the more fruit it eats. For example, gorillas, which are not that close to humans, eat mostly vegetables, while chimps prefer fruit.

Chimpanzees (and especially bonobos) live in the wild on a fruit based diet, although they also include other food items such as ants, vegetation, and sometimes meat.

However, fruit is by far their favorite food and they would probably eat it exclusively if they could get their hands on a plentiful, quality year-long supply.

Because we share a lot of genes with Chimpanzees (we’re told it’s close to 96%), it’s easy to think of humans as “more evolved chimps.”

The temptation is to think that we could go back in time, millions of years ago, to find a band of humans living in their original diet of perfect fruit, and think that we’ve somehow lost our way since then by adopting a modern diet.

Most people think of evolution as a ladder, which in their minds looks like this:

Chimpanzee ===> Neanderthal Men ===> Humans

In reality, evolution is more like a tree with branches going out in all directions!

We did NOT evolve from Chimpanzee. Rather, humans AND chimpanzee both share a common ancestor. According to modern findings, that was about 6 million years ago.

Evolution looks more like this:

Pre-human ancestors ====> Modern Apes
                                                 ====> Extinct Humanoid Races
                                                 ====> Modern Humans

That is a rather rough way of explaining it, but the bottom line is we have been humans properly for only 200,000 years.

Before that, there were many different types of human ancestors, some which would look similar to us. We evolved from some of them, and the rest died off.

Modern apes are fairly ancient creatures that have NOT significantly evolved for millions of years.

*But here’s the kicker: as long as humans have been “humans,” we’ve never actually lived on a fruitarian diet, or anything close to it.

Work by anthropologist Nathaniel Dominy shows that humans have mostly evolved as humans consuming fairly large quantities of starchy foods, such as large tubers that are no longer cultivated today in most parts of the world.

We’ve actually adapted to this diet, so that our ability to digest starch is MUCH better than that of a chimpanzee.

However, we still come from a line of creatures that were definitely fruitarians, such as the same ancestors we share with modern apes, as well as many creatures that came after.

In other words:

  • You could not go back in time and find a tribe of ancient humans living on a pure fruitarian diets. Instead, you’d have to go back so far that the creatures you’d encounter could no longer be qualified as “homo sapiens.”
  • The concept of man as a fruitarian creature that once lived in the Garden of Eden is just a myth.

Our Fruitarian Framework

There’s no doubt that our digestive tract is very similar to that of other fruitarian creatures, like the chimpanzee. But it is not exactly the same. For example:

* Humans produce several times the amount of amylase, a starch-digesting enzyme produced in the saliva.
* Chimpanzees can consume fruits that would be impossible for humans to digest. These fruits are way too astringent or sour for most people to eat. If humans tried to live on the wild chimpanzee diet, they would suffer from a permanent case of indigestion.

Yet, there’s no denying that we evolved from fruitarian creatures. That’s at least one argument in favor of eating more fruit, but not in favor of a pure fruitarian diet.

As I explained in my last article, there are many reasons to eat more fruit. However, no convincing argument can justify a pure fruitarian diet for everyone.

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In my last article, I explained how Natural Hygiene developed in the United States, and also explained why some of its philosophy should be revisited in light of today’s science.

Let’s continue this exciting journey!

——–

Update from Frederic

I’m writing a new book! In fact, I’m writing a series of new books. In 1-2 weeks, I will be releasing a new book on my experiences trying to move to the tropics! Stay tuned, this will be pretty cool!

————

Natural Hygiene as an Influential Movement

Most people don’t know what Natural Hygiene is, but many have been enjoying its benefits without realizing it.

Back in the 19th century, many doctors carried the medieval belief that bathing and fresh air were damaging to health. When patients had a fevers, many doctors thought they were doing the right thing by giving the poor sick person hard liquor, denying her any water, and closing the windows to prevent any fresh air from coming in the room.

Early Natural Hygienists of the past century fought hard to promote rationality in medicine and especially the importance of bathing. Now the medical community claims that they were the ones to promote the concepts of bathing and hygiene to the masses, when in fact this was done by rogue, outcast doctors who were ridiculed by the medical community at the time.

Let’s not forget than just 50-60 years ago, doctors recommended smoking as “healthy,” and that white bread was considered a health food.

Hygienists were way ahead of their time, and their influence is still felt today. If you can go today to a store like Whole Foods and purchase organic fruits and whole grain products, you can thank Silvester Graham and his friends for that. Unfortunately, these names have been forgotten from the history books, as we only want to teach about the heroic figures like Louis Pasteur.

So when I’m pointing out some of the mistakes of Natural Hygiene, I don’t want to sound overly negative. I just want to bring these great ideas to the forefront, shake them up a bit, and remove the few wrong concepts that just don’t stand up to scientific scrutiny.

It’s important to mention that Natural Hygiene is essentially a philosophy of health. Modern Hygienists have vastly different ideas on what is the best diet for health, but all agree on the methods for healing the sick.

Fasting

Fasting is an integral part of Natural Hygiene. Unfortunately, in spite of the amazing benefits that can be derived from supervised water fasting, most of the medical community is particularly clueless about it.

Although fasting had been practiced by humans throughout all recordable history, it really became a true method of healing with the Natural Hygiene movement in the 19th century. That’s why it was called “water cure” at the time.

Fasting is true physiological rest. It’s not just the act of not eating that works, but it’s also everything that accompanies a proper fast, such as complete rest in bed.

Fasting works because:

1) It removes the cause. Most diseases are caused by our lifestyle — mainly what we put in our mouth. By not eating for a while, you are certain to remove any dietary causes of disease.

2) Fasting is digestive rest. Digestion takes a huge energy toll on the body. Not eating redirects those energies towards healing.

3) Fasting itself is a physiological process that leads to healing and recovery. Most animals fast in times of stress and disease. This is no coincidence. After a few days of fasting, the body starts burning its fat reserves and goes through a complex set of physiological changes that enhance healing.

It’s a shame that water fasting has not gained yet the popularity it deserves. I’ve got nothing to criticize on the topic of Hygienic fasting, except that it has to be conducted by a competent doctor with extensive experience with it. (A good place for undertaking a water fast is the True North Health Center in California as they are year round and have access to medical monitoring systems).

The Appeal to Nature

One of the areas where Natural Hygienists got some of their philosophy wrong is what we could call the “appeal to nature.” This, by the way, is not just a mistake made by Hygienists, but also by raw foodists, environmentalists, paleo promoters and pretty much any person in natural health.

The appeal to nature is this concept that the wild state of nature, or perhaps the way humans were living thousands of years ago (presumably: in nature), should be a main guide for telling us how to live our lives today.

Let me give you some examples:

– Humans should not eat ANY foods other than fruits, greens and nuts, because those are our natural foods (why? look at our modern cousins, the chimpanzees, who live in “nature”).

– We should never take drugs, under any circumstances, because they are not natural.

– We should not eat foods that we can’t make a meal out of, because obviously, in nature, we wouldn’t be able to do that

– We should never process our foods in any way

– Human progress and civilization is wrong, because it takes us away from our natural state, where we would probably be healthier and happier

Let’s make it clear that the appeal to nature argument is not only used by natural hygienists. For example:

– Paleo diet promoters will claim that we should eat meat, fruits and vegetables, and avoid all grains because those foods have only been part of our natural diet for the past 10,000 years. On the other hand, meat and produce have always been part of our natural diet.

– People who refuse to eat fruit because it has been “hybridized” and therefore is not natural (because in nature, wild fruit would be different, presumably much better for us).

The Appeal to Nature is a subtle underlying philosophy that has actually been with us since the dawn of civilization.

Ever since humans started making progress to improve their lives, there have been people that have tried to halt that progress and claimed that life was better in the past.

The problem with the Appeal to Nature is that it’s fundamentally wrong.

Whether something is “natural” or not could be debated endlessly, but what actually matters are the results on human life, whether they are positive overall, or negative.

It’s wrong to assume that we used to live in a state of pristine nature, and that somehow everything got ruined as humans marched relentlessly towards civilization.

Although we could go into a big argument about this, for the sake of staying within topic, I will just say that one of the reasons the Appeal to Nature is wrong is that it can be taken in very contradicting ways.

Where do you draw the line between what is natural and positive, and unnatural and negative?

  • Obviously humans have eaten meat throughout their history. But does that fact mean that meat eating is automatically a positive thing for human health in our current circumstances?
  • Obviously wild foods are more nutrient dense than cultivated foods, but how can we forget the fact that most wild foods also contain toxic alkaloids and generally lack in calories, making them unsuitable to be staples in most human diets?
  • Obviously modern drugs are not natural and are dangerous to some degree, and many people abuse them, but can’t we deny the millions of lives that have been saved through the use of anesthetics and surgery, or antibiotics in some cases?
  • Obviously living in nature sounds great on paper, compared to life in an apartment building, but why don’t we mention the fact that many tribal people have bodies full of parasites (from eat “natural” foods), and rarely lived beyond the age of 45?
  • Obviously when we think of civilization, we can think about the millions of lives that have been lost through worldwide conflicts like WW1 and WW2, but can’t we overlook the frightening statistics that in tribal societies, that 30% of males died before the age of 35 due to tribal warfare? When we put that in perspective, our day and age seems relatively peaceful.

The Appeal to Nature is tempting, but wrong. Instead of arguing about what is “natural” versus what is not, we should try to evaluate the value of anything based on the results that it brings us. A food doesn’t have to be “natural” to be healthy. It just has to keep us healthy. If we have evidence to support that, we don’t care how natural it is.

Forbidden Foods: Mushrooms, Garlic, Onion, and Other Unnatural Items

Natural Hygiene forbids a lot of foods. Generally, animal products are off the table (that’s a good thing). Cooked foods are frowned upon. But so are all seasonings!

Shelton rejected all spices, garlic, onion, seaweed, and even mushrooms.

I must say that I followed that philosophy for a long time. By the way, this idea is not entirely original. Many Asian health philosophies eliminate garlic, onion and strong spices, finding them too “stimulating.”

The reasoning is quite simple. Garlic and onion are simply too strong. You could never make a meal out of them. They contain toxic mustard oil that irritates the digestive track.

Mushrooms are not human foods. They contain almost no nutrients, and are largely indigestible.

Seaweed is pond scum. Would you salivate in front a pile of seaweed? I didn’t think so. Makes sense because it’s not that natural to eat plants growing in the ocean.

This reasoning sounds good on paper, but the problem is that science is actually showing that some of these foods are good for us!

For example:

* Some evidence is mounting up concerning the possible anti-cancer properties of mushrooms. Although we’re not talking about a magical cure, there’s evidence to show that when people eat mushrooms on a regular basis, they may lower their risk of cancer. (link). Even the American Cancer Society, although not recommending them specifically, acknowledges their possible benefits (link)

– The National Cancer Institute, looking at the evidence, recognizes garlic as one of the vegetables with potential anti-cancer properties (link). In several studies, a higher intake of garlic were associated with lower mortality from cancer.

– Research is showing that onions (along with other vegetables of the same family, like shallots and garlic), are not only good for fighting cancer, but also for arthritis! (link)

I know, I know…

Natural Hygienists will say: “These foods are drugs! They act like drugs, and that’s why you see those results.” But not so fast.

We know about drug side effects. But is there even one piece of evidence showing that consumption of onions, garlic or mushrooms is bad for you in any demonstrable way?

The same cannot be said for true drugs.

In epidemiological studies, it could be that people who tend to eat a lot of garlic and onion also consume a lot of vegetables, which is healthier. But science is also now showing how specific compounds of these foods have positive effects for health.

At the very least, these foods are not the devil or toxic. You can probably eat them and be okay. Most likely, you’ll even enjoy some health benefits in the process.

So you can avoid these foods because they are unnatural, or you can eat them. So far, science says that if you eat them, you’ll get healthier. It may not fit with the Hygienic philosophy, but at least we don’t have any evidence that eating these foods would be bad for you. In fact, ALL the evidence we have points to the contrary.

That being said…

Although I avoided onions and mushrooms for a long time, I now eat them regularly. I must say, I’m not a big fan of some mushrooms. And I don’t really like most raw mushrooms. I just didn’t develop a taste for them.

Likewise, I don’t like raw garlic except in small quantities in hummus or guacamole. But I don’t mind cooked garlic or onion. I do like some red onion on my salads.

As for seaweed, I’m not a big fan either. That’s just my personal taste. I don’t mind nori in a recipe, but I don’t enjoy eating seaweed in general. I sometimes use seaweed to flavour some bean dishes.

In my next article, I will cover fruitarianism and food combining!

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The Mistakes of Natural Hygiene, Part 1

Natural Hygiene is one of the health philosophies that influenced me the most. I first discovered the raw food diet through the writings of Albert Mosséri, who was a disciple of Herbert Shelton, who’s considered the grand-father of the modern Natural Hygiene movement.

When I first got into Natural Hygiene, I viewed it as quasi religion. It was such a paradigm shift that completely changed my world. I ended up accepting it completely after studying it carefully.

In my first few years as a raw foodist, I became extremely sick and it was only the Natural Hygiene concepts that saved me and helped me regain my health. (I told the full story of what happened in my book Raw Food Controversies.)

I consider Natural Hygiene a great health philosophy that can have a tremendous, positive influence in your life. But because this health philosophy has been created by doctors and researchers that lived 50 to 150 years ago, it’s no longer fully up-to-date with modern science and research, and what we’ve discovered about the human body.

In this series of articles, I’ll be looking at the concepts of Natural Hygiene and dissecting them, one-by-one. Some of these concepts are still very accurate and healthful. Others are incorrect but still lead to positive results when applied. And finally, some concepts of Natural Hygiene are downright wrong.

What Is Natural Hygiene?

To understand Natural Hygiene, we must look at its history and how it came about. Natural Hygiene is essentially a health system that was developed in the last part of the 19th century by medical doctors who became disillusioned with the practice of medicine at the time.

Although Natural Hygiene had inspiration from European writers, it’s essentially an American system developed in the United States.

Natural Hygiene was known at the time as “Nature Cure” and later as “Orthopathy.”

Around the year 1850, medicine had made some great progress but was still very primitive compared to what it is today.

Doctors at the time had very little clue about what causes disease. Many harmful practices were common, such as:

1) Bathing infrequently due to the false belief promoted by some doctors that bathing too often was bad for health. (http://orthopathy.net/history.html)

2) Recommending sick patients to eat a rich diet of meat, butter and other rich foods to “regain their strength.”

3) Bleeding and blood letting as a cure to disease remained popular (http://rosemelnickmuseum.wordpress.com/2009/03/11/19th-century-doctors-in-the-us/)

4) Heroin was routinely prescribed for the common cough (http://www.cracked.com/article_15669_the-10-most-insane-medical-practices-in-history.html)

5) Many doctors did not wash their hands before performing surgery

The first doctors that formulated the ideas behind Natural Hygiene were all very disillusioned with the practice of medicine in their times. Many had been sick themselves and unable to cure themselves through the “science” they had learned.

Those doctors included:

Dr. Issac Jennings (1788-1874)

Jennings is considered to be the father of Natural Hygiene. His trick was simple. He started giving his patients sugar pills as “placebos” and discovered that all of them recovered much faster than usual! He then developped the theory of “orthopathy” or “letting the body heal itself” through fasting. It also says something about the dangers of medicines at the time, when the word “placebo” wasn’t even well known.

Silvester Graham (1794-1851)

Graham was one of the most influential early hygienists. He was one of the first public figures to advocate vegetarianism and what he called “temperance.” We may remember him as the inventor of the graham cracker, but his contribution was much greater. His followers practiced the brushing of teeth, vegetarianism, sobriety, and eating whole foods (such as whole wheat bread instead of white flour)… all practices that we take for granted today, but were very controversial at the time.

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (1852-1943)

You may remember this guy for inventing the “Kellogg Corn Flakes.” He was a devout Seventh Day Adventist who advocated a strict, sober, healthy life and fasting, which was called “water cure” at the time.

Herbert Shelton (1895-1985)

There were many more early natural hygienists part of that Nature Cure movement in the 19th century. But the movement was not unified until Herbert Shelton came along.

Shelton was born in 1895. In his youth, he became a passionate student of the writings of early Hygienists, and proceeded to consolidate all their theory into a unified philosophy he called “Natural Hygiene.” In his thirties, he wrote his giant book “Human Life, Its Philosophy and Laws.”

He then operated a health center in Texas where he practiced fasting and a clean, mostly raw food diet.

All of the modern Natural Hygiene movement stems from Shelton, although it gained even more popularity when T.C. Fry came along and later, when the book “Fit For Life” was released in the 1980s. All serious promoters of Natural Hygiene today are students of Shelton, who wrote more than 50 books.

The Natural Hygiene System

The basic principle of Natural Hygiene is self-healing.

Although Natural Hygiene has later been hijacked by authors such as Harvey Diamond who cherry-picked some ideas such as food combining, the basic principle of Hygiene has nothing to do with diet.

Here are the main concepts of Natural Hygiene, followed by some practical example.

1) Self-Healing: The body has the ability to heal itself, when you get out of the way and provide it with what it needs. Suppressing symptoms is not treating the body. For example, while traditional doctors may provide a special “immunity enhancing diet” during a flu, or some drugs to suppress the symptoms, a Natural Hygienist will probably advise to simply rest as much as possible, don’t take drugs, eat as little as possible, possibly fast, and let the body recover naturally.

2) Less Intervention. Although Natural Hygiene would not claim that it’s always wrong to intervene (for example, if someone breaks his leg), in general, for most diseases, they recommend to avoid giving drugs or natural treatments that are meant to suppress symptoms.

3) Fasting. Fasting is a key component of Natural Hygiene because it is the ultimate physiological rest. The purpose behind fasting is to let the body heal itself by shutting down all the energy that goes into digestion and redirecting it towards healing. During a fever, or other acute diseases, Natural Hygienists would probably advise fasting as opposed to interventions or medicine, even if body temperature is high.

4) Simplicity in eating. Natural Hygienists recommend a diet that’s as simple as possible. While not all agree on the details (such as eating 100% raw or not), most recommend simple vegetarian meals devoid of salt, condiments and spices.

5) Fruitarianism. Almost all Natural Hygienists recommend fruit as the most pure, biologically-appropriate food one can eat.

How Do You Know If You’re a Natural Hygienist?

Some people call themselves Natural Hygienists, but in reality they are naturopaths. How do you know the difference?

This goes back to the principle of self-healing and non-intervention.

If you suffer from a common cold, a naturopath will probably recommend some kind of herb or tincture to “boost your immune system.”

A Natural Hygienist will instead recommend that you fast if you can, get as much rest as possible, drink water, and not take any particular remedy, whether natural or not.

A key principle of Natural Hygiene is to look for the cause and remove it, instead of suppressing symptoms with medicines, even if those come from natural sources.

Modern Natural Hygienists

As a movement, Natural Hygiene has essentially disintegrated. Hygiene saw a resurgence of interest after the publication of the book Fit For Life in the 80s, and many doctors at the time became modern Natural Hygienists. These doctors, such as Dr. Alan Goldhamer from the True North Health Center in California, still practice fasting but don’t necessarily identify themselves as “Natural Hygienists.”

The raw food movement, especially the 80/10/10 Diet by Dr. Douglas Graham, is also strongly influenced by Natural Hygiene. But now, there is no longer a true Natural Hygiene movement that is clearly identifiable. Many authors, myself included, have been influenced by Natural Hygiene, but don’t accept all of its philosophy blindly without question.

Where Natural Hygiene May Be Wrong

It would take a lot of time to go through the philosophy of Natural Hygiene. This was just a brief overview to attack the more specific issues.

Natural Hygiene, as a basic health philosophy, is very appealing and in my experience, works a lot of the time.

Where I think Natural Hygiene is wrong is in applying these principles no matter what, and never consider the state of science in 2012.

Natural Hygiene Mistake #1: Drugs

One principle of Natural Hygiene, as explained by Dr. Shelton in his book Natural Hygiene: Man’s Pristine Way of Life, is the idea that all drugs are toxic, and that’s why they work.

The classic example is that of the constipation drugs, even their herbal equivalent.

Shelton’s reasoning was as follows: drugs don’t really have an effect on the body. Why? Because if you’d give them to a dead person, nothing would happen.

It’s the BODY that has an effect on drugs. The body reacts to the drug given, and the result is our own interpretation of this principle in action.

Let’s say someone suffers from constipation. The drug given will actually provoke a mild form of diarrhea. Is it the drug that’s acting on the body? The drug in itself, Shelton explained, does nothing. You have to give it to a living organism.

However, because it’s a drug and it’s toxic, the body cannot use it as nutrition. It wants to get rid of it. In the process, several things can happen.

In the case of the constipation drug, the body wants to eliminate it through stools, and that’s why users of this drug find relief.

Did the drug cure them of their constipation? No. Instead, it was a toxic substance that the body wanted to eliminate. In the process, it caused diarrhea and eliminated it along with the stools.

That’s a simplistic explanation, but you get the idea.

Shelton believed that ALL drugs were toxic and did not have a specific effect, chemical or other, on the body. In fact, it was always the body reacting to the drug, and in the process eliminating a symptom or another.

Although Shelton was right to say that all drugs are toxic to some degree, he was wrong in his simplistic explanation of their action on the body.

Many drugs actually work through complex chemical and hormonal reactions in the body. Here are some examples:

1) Aspirin. Pain is something that is felt in the brain. Aspirin works by inhibiting an enzyme that produces prostaglandins, substances similar to hormones that trigger inflammation in the body. Aspirin binds itself to the enzyme, changing its chemical structure and blocking the reaction that produces the prostaglandins.

2) Prozac. Many anti-depressants like prozac will work due to their effects on serotonin levels. Low serotonin is associated with depression and anxiety. Due to a complex process, Prozac works by increasing the amount of serotonin that can be delivered to the cells. That’s why Prozac is part of a class of drugs called “Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (or SSRIs).

We could go on an on with more examples, but you get the idea.

Yes, drugs are toxic.

But no, they don’t ALWAYS work through the simplistic idea that the body is working in some manner to “eliminate” or “reject” them. In some cases, they can literally alter complex chemical reactions taking place in the body.

Natural Hygiene Mistake #2: The Germ Theory

Another area where Natural Hygiene is dead wrong is the belief that contagion of disease is essentially a myth.

Even though Shelton and others always claimed that diseases like the flu were essentially the body’s efforts to detoxify itself, I was never fully convinced.

Even T.C. Fry had some interesting discussion on viruses and why he believed that they could not cause disease and were essentially “a scam.”

I was never fully convinced because my own experience, like that of most people, contradicted with this teaching of Natural Hygiene.

Everybody has had the experience of coming in contact with someone with a common cold and then contracting the disease or ailment shortly after.

Typically the pattern is always the same:

– You haven’t been sick for a while
– People around you may be sick, but you’re not.
– After spending time in a crowded area where lots of people are sick, someone around you, like your wife/husband or roommate, comes down with the cold
– A day after, you get the cold yourself.

I remember when I was living in Costa Rica in 2006, working at retreat center I had tried to purchase. We had a little community of people living onsite, and one day people started getting sick with the stomach flu. It was amazing to see everyone get sick, one after the other, with the exact same symptoms.

I naively thought I would be immune from this, but I also ended up being bed-ridden for 2-3 days. Granted, at the time I was under tremendous stress and my immune system was probably greatly compromised, but there was no doubt that the disease was contagious and of viral nature. In fact, during that time, a significant percentage of the town where I lived got sick with the same stomach flu.

Generally, I agree with Natural Hygiene in their treatment of viral diseases. It’s much better to recover while fasting, resting and drinking plenty of water, than the usual treatments.

However, their explanation of disease as always being an attempt for the body to “heal itself” through some sort of crisis is flawed, to say the least.

I don’t think I want to go into a big debate about the Germ Theory, since viral science is quite complex. Times have evolved since Shelton’s days, and we now know more about viruses and their action on the body.

A Personal Experience

A great book to read on the topic of immunity is Dr. Fuhrman’s recent Super Immunity. In this book, you’ll discover exactly what you can do to increase your immunity natural.

After reading Fuhrman’s book, I realized that I had not gotten sick for a long time. I could not even remember the last time I had a cold!

When I was traveling around the world, there were a time or two that I felt I was almost coming down with symptoms of the cold, but after a day or so it was over, and I did not even get a runny nose or anything.

So recently I started bragging about the fact that I could not remember the last time I had a cold. Then one of my friends made an interesting observation. He said:

“Fred, you work at home. You don’t come in contact with large crowds of people. You mostly work at home or in an office downtown where you don’t shake hands with anybody. When most people get sick, during the winter, you stay in the tropics. You rarely take public transportation and you don’t touch communal areas. Maybe that’s part of the reason why you never get the cold.”

I thought that was interesting, but I didn’t think about it too much.

Then recently I attended a health conference in California with 250 people in the room. I should have paid attention when I heard lots of people coughing in the room. But because I felt fine and I was with supposedly “healthy” people, I didn’t think about it twice.

I shook hands with lots of people that weekend. And guess what? As soon as I got back home, I started feeling symptoms of the cold myself! I got a sore throat and felt tired. Typical common cold, except that I got almost no mucus compared to most people.

This was over quickly, but I’m quite certain that coming in contact with this many people and getting the cold was no coincidence.

Let me just go through some practical tips and ideas.

1) You Can Increase Your Immunity Naturally. Natural Hygiene is not totally wrong on viral diseases. You can certainly increase your immunity naturally by eating a diet composed mostly of fruits and vegetables and avoiding processed foods.

2) If You’re Healthy, Symptoms Will Be Milder. If you do get sick, you’ll likely experienced a much more suppressed form of the disease than most people. And it will likely be over sooner.

3) You Don’t Need Drugs to Recover. To recover from most viral illnesses, you don’t need drugs. Natural Hygiene is right to recommend for the disease to “follow its course” and for you to simply provide the right environment to allow for maximum healthful recovery.

4) Fasting May Help. In some cases, fasting may help you recover from viral illnesses.

This is the first part in a series of articles on Natural Hygiene. Stay tuned and please post your comments below!