Nature Cure: Food, Exercise and Mind

Judith Boice, ND, LAc, FABNO – This month concludes the three part series on Nature Cure, exploring the contributions of food, exercise (“Physical Culture”) and mental well-being (“Mental Culture”) in both building and restoring health.

Food

Nature Cure proponents espouse a variety of dietary approaches, yet all have a similar aim: to individualize food recommendations for the patient rather than offering one-size-fits-all diets to cure a particular disease. According to Benedict Lust, “Individualizing, i.e., to adapt the diet to the individual patient and not so much to the character of the disease, is the secret of dietetics. There are no two individuals alike, and the fact that two patients are afflicted with the same disease does not justify a physician in providing them both with the same food elements. What is meat for one may be poison for another.”

Although diets were modified for the benefit of a particular patient, Nature Cure doctors did share some common principles in their recommendations. Most practitioners recommended eating foods as close as possible to their natural state. Some advocated eating only raw foods, while others favored lightly cooked or baked foods. Almost all eschewed the newly adopted practice of pasteurizing milk, believing that heat destroyed many of milk’s beneficial properties. “That commercially pasteurized milk is more unsafe and less to be trusted than ordinary milk is abundantly proven by the investigation of Pennington and McClintock of Philadelphia, and is also true of other cities,” wrote Otto Carque in the Naturopathic Herald of Health in 1911. “Experiments on the germicidal action of cow’s milk have shown that the relative increase of bacteria in milk is more pronounced if heated to 75 degrees C. or 100 degrees C. (167 degrees F. to 210 degrees F.), proving that the heating of milk destroys or greatly impairs its germicidal action.”

Dr. Henry Lindlahr and Dr. Benedict Lust both advocated vegetarian diets. Lindlahr in the Naturopathic Herald of Health declared that “we should exclude from our dietary the flesh of dead animals, because it doubles the work of our organs of elimination and overloads the system with animal waste matter and poisons.” Louise Lust encouraged patients to eat raw foods. Those with weakened digestive systems (“dyspeptics”) were encouraged to slowly increase raw foods in the diet.

As the raw food movement gained momentum, its proponents adopted the term “Apyrotrophy,” meaning “unfired foods.” Helen Sherry also encouraged patients to grow their own greens, to “raise vegetables in your little backyard, turn your kitchen into a ‘trophery,’ eat your garden stuff unfired, and laugh at the doctor and the food trusts.”

In contrast, Anna Lindlahr advocated lightly cooking foods and avoiding frying or boiling. She also recognized the detrimental effects of eating highly processed foods. “Animals fed on chemically pure white starch, albumen, sugar, gluten, etc., will die sooner than if they receive no food at all.”

Horace Fletcher believed most people overate and encouraged patients to wait until they were really hungry to eat. He advocated “Fletcherizing” food, chewing until it was “liquefied and rendered tasteless.” Benedict Lust, in The Naturopathic Herald of Health, noted that Fletcher believed thoroughly chewing would reduce the amount of food required to nourish the body. Well-chewed food also eliminated fermentation and flatulence. “The small residue which results when the food is thoroughly masticated is remarkably aseptic. Putrescent processes are almost altogether absent. Fecal matters are comparatively inoffensive and greatly diminished in amount . . . and as the result, the individual experiences a lightness and clearness of intellect, increased vigor, endurance, and resistance of disease, which is almost past belief until one has actually experienced this delightful transformation.”

Fasting, “. . .the abstention from all food, liquid or solid, water only being permissible . . .” also plays a role in Nature Cure. Animals naturally refrain from food when injured or ill, yet most humans continue eating despite having no appetite. Hippocrates’s adage “Feed a cold, starve a fever” is more accurately translated, “If you feed a cold, you will have to starve a fever.”

During a water fast, “. . . the digestive organs and anabolic function of the liver are given a complete rest, leaving the liver to the more thorough performance of its katabolic [sic] function while the eliminating organs – kidneys and sweat glands – are allowed full play to carry off the effete matter which has acted as an encumbrance to normal physiologic action.” William F. Havard, ND, one of the major proponents of fasting, emphasizes the importance of breaking the fast. Eating too much rich food too quickly can nullify the therapeutic benefits of fasting. Havard recommended diluted fruit juice, ripe fruit, and beaten egg white given every two hours the first day, with food gradually introduced over three to seven days, depending on the length of the fast.

Exercise, Physical Culture

Louise and Benedict Lust incorporated exercise, or “physical culture,” into the daily routine of their Yungborn retreat center. They provided separate “air and sun bath” areas for men and women, where they also could walk and exercise unencumbered by clothing.

Bernarr Macfadden published Physical Culture Magazine, inspired by his desire to share with others the tremendous benefit he gained from exercise in his own recovery from severe fatigue and a chronic, hacking cough at age 15. His writing motivated readers in North America and Europe to include exercise in their health regimen.

In his “General Rules for the Physical Regeneration of Man Notice,” C. Leigh Hunt Wallace encouraged patients to “systematically move every muscle in the body daily; but do not produce a sensation of exhaustion or weakness. Practice deep breathing, and always through the nostrils, with closed mouth. Stand or sit erect with chest raised, shoulders back and abdomen drawn in. Walk several miles daily, but never to exhaustion.”

Now, a century later, we are discovering more of exercise’s beneficial effects. A recent meta-analysis of 16 prospective breast cancer studies and 7 colorectal cancer studies demonstrated physical activity is associated with decreased total mortality for both breast and colorectal cancer survivors. 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise decreased total mortality risk for breast cancer patients by 24%; and colorectal cancer survivors by 28%. Breast and colorectal cancer survivors who increased exercise by any amount after diagnosis had decreased total mortality risk compared with those who did not change physical activity level or who were sedentary before diagnosis.

Another meta-analysis of 22 prospective studies of breast cancer patients found the more women exercised before and after breast cancer diagnosis, the lower their risk of all-cause mortality, and the less likely they were to have a breast cancer recurrence.

According to Anup Kanodia, a physician and researcher at the Center for Personalized Health Care at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, "Sitting is the new smoking.” In an interview with Karen Ravn published in the Los Angeles Times, Kanodia

. . . cites an Australian study published in October 2012 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that compared the two pastimes. Every hour of TV that people watch, presumably while sitting, cuts about 22 minutes from their life span, the study's authors calculated. By contrast, it's estimated that smokers shorten their lives by about 11 minutes per cigarette.

In industrialized countries, many workers spend hours each day sitting at desks with very little physical activity. The NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study prospectively followed 154,614 older adults (59-82 years) over 6.8 years. Participants had no major chronic diseases at baseline and reported detailed information about sitting time, exercise, and non-exercise activities. People sitting for 12 or more hours (compared with the baseline group who sat for less than five hours per day) had increased risk for both all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. In adults who were active less than 2 hours per day, replacing one hour of sitting per day with an equal amount of activity reduced all-cause mortality for both exercise and non-exercise activities, including household chores, lawn and garden work, and daily walking. Among more active participants (more than 2 hours per day total activity), replacing time spent sitting with purposeful exercise was associated with lower overall mortality and decreased cardiovascular mortality.

Mind, Mental Culture

Nature Cure physicians recognize the power of the mind to both support and undermine health. “Being but one disturbance or disease,” explains Ludwig Staden, Naturopath, “there can be but one original cause; this is divided into a psychical and a physical one; the first is the impure thought; the second the disturbed vibrative process in the cell . . . . The occasional causes are infinite just as the symptoms and forms are.”

In describing the mind-body connection and its importance in restoring health, A.A. Erz, N.D., D.C. notes “. . . every successful treatment actually comprises the physical as well as the psychic forces of man either knowingly or unknowingly, as far as the efforts of the physician are concerned.”

Helen Wilmans, considered the mother of Mental Science, deeply understood the importance of the mind-body connection. She cured patients from a distance with the power of her mind and prayer. She also taught others to develop and utilize their mental abilities through a 20-lesson course that she distributed to students by mail for $20.

Benedict Lust published Wilmans’ 20-lesson course in 1921. In the introduction, Lust emphasizes the importance of Mental Science for those practicing Nature Cure: “Every student or seeker of health, and every drugless practitioner, needs a working knowledge of Mental Science. The vital organs and functions of the body depend on the nerves for healthy action; the nerves are controlled by the brain, glands, solar plexus and subconscious mind; all of which are made strong or weak, healthy or sickly, normal or abnormal, by the character of our thoughts, emotions and expectations.”

Some practitioners offered patients affirmations to help restore health. “An affirmation,” according to Edward Earle Purinton, “is a mental exercise which, when sufficiently repeated, strengthens the good, and crowds out the injurious thoughts. It is easy to say, ‘I am strong’ when the body shows forth perfect health, or ‘I am happy’ when everything goes right, but we must learn to make these statements in spite of present conditions, realizing that by so doing we are helping to bring about the desired results.”

John Harvey Kellogg, in “The Simple Life In A Nutshell,” offers his summary of Mental Hygiene:

  • Do not worry. Horace Fletcher has shown us the pernicious influence of “fear-thought.” The Power that made us can and does take care of us. Worry kills. Hope inspires, uplifts. Cheer up.
  • Do not become self-centered. Avoid thinking or talking about ailments or other unpleasant things. Let your ideals be altruistic.
  • Exercise self-control and restraint in all things. Work uses energy moderately, the passions and the emotions enormously.
  • Study the dreams and take a vacation when you dream about your work.

References

  1. Lindlahr, Henry, M.D. The Naturopath and Herald of Health, XV(10), 611-612. (1910). Reprinted in Sussanna Czeranko, ND, BBE, editor. Origins of Naturopathic Medicine. Portland, Oregon: NCNM Press, 2013, p. 207.
  2. Carque, Otto. “Care and Feeding of Infants.” The Naturopath and Herald of Health, XVI(11), 788-790. (1911). Reprinted in Sussanna Czeranko, ND, BBE, editor. Dietetics of Naturopathic Medicine. Portland, Oregon: NCNM Press, 2014, p. 215.
  3. Lindlahr, Henry, M.D. “Why We Favor a Vegetarian Diet.” The Naturopath and Herald of Health, IX(10), 302-306. (1908). Reprinted in Sussanna Czeranko, ND, BBE, editor. Dietetics of Naturopathic Medicine. Portland, Oregon: NCNM Press, 2014, p. 154.
  4. Sherry, Helen. “A Plea For An Apyrotropher Society.” The Naturopath and Herald of Health, XVIII (1), 50 – 52. 1913). Sussanna Czeranko, ND, BBE, editor. Dietetics of Naturopathic Medicine. Portland, Oregon: NCNM Press, 2014, p. 239.
  5. Sherry, Helen. “Do You Troph?” The Naturopath and Herald of Health, XVII(2), 124-126. (1913). Reprinted in Sussanna Czeranko, ND, BBE, editor. Dietetics of Naturopathic Medicine. Portland, Oregon: NCNM Press, 2014, p. 243.
  6. Lindlahr, Anna. “Raw Food Diet.” The Naturopath and Herald of Health, XV(4), 239-240. (1910). Reprinted in Sussanna Czeranko, ND, BBE, editor. Dietetics of Naturopathic Medicine. Portland, Oregon: NCNM Press, 2014, p. 197.
  7. Lust, Benedict, “New Theory on Eating.” The Naturopath and Herald of Health, VI(2), 53-56. (1905) Reprinted in Sussanna Czeranko, ND, BBE, editor. Dietetics of Naturopathic Medicine. Portland, Oregon: NCNM Press, 2014, p. 115.
  8. Moershell, R., Dr. “Scientific Dietetics – Fasting.” The Naturopath and Herald of Health, XX(2), 104-106.(1915). Reprinted in Sussanna Czeranko, ND, BBE, editor. Dietetics of Naturopathic Medicine. Portland, Oregon: NCNM Press, 2014, p. 274.
  9. Havard, William F., N.D. “Fasting.” Herald of Health and Naturopath, XXV(6), 277-282. (1920). Reprinted in Sussanna Czeranko, ND, BBE, editor. Dietetics of Naturopathic Medicine. Portland, Oregon: NCNM Press, 2014, p. 274. Pp. 341-343.
  10. Macfadden, Bernarr. “A Physical Culture History.” The Naturopath and Herald of Health, XVEE(1), 30-32. (1912). Reprinted in Sussanna Czeranko, ND, BBE, editor. Origins of Naturopathic Medicine. Portland, Oregon: NCNM Press, 2013, p. 181-182.
  11. Wallace, C. Leigh Hunt. “General Rules For The Physical Regeneration Of Man Notice.” The Naturopath and Herald of Health, III(10), 403-405. (1902). Reprinted in Sussanna Czeranko, ND, BBE, editor. Philosophy of Naturopathic Medicine. Portland, Oregon: NCNM Press, 2013, p. 100.
  12. Schmid D, Leitzmann MF. “Association physical activity and mortality among breast cancer and colorectal cancer survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Ann. Oncol. 2014 Jul;25(7):1293-311. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdu012. Epub 2014 Mar 18.
  13. Lahart IM, Metsios GS, et al. „Physical activity, risk of death and recurrence in breast cancer survivors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of epidemiological studies.” Acta Oncol. 2015 May;54(5):635-54. doi: 10.3109/0284186X.2014.998275. Epub 2015 Mar 9.
  14. Karen Ravn. “Don't just sit there. Really.” Los Angeles Times, May 25, 2013
  15. Matthews CE, Moore SC, et al. Mortality Benefits for Replacing Sitting Time with Different Physical Activities. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015 Jan 26. [Epub ahead of print]
  16. Staden, Ludwig. “What is Naturopathy?” The Naturopath and Herald of Health, III(1), 15 – 18. (1902). Reprinted in Sussanna Czeranko, ND, BBE, editor. Philosophy of Naturopathic Medicine. Portland, Oregon: NCNM Press, 2013, p. 98
  17. Erz, A. A., N.D., D.C. “Medicine and Psychology.” The Naturopath and Herald of Health, XVIII(2), 81-85. (1913). Reprinted in Sussanna Czeranko, ND, BBE, editor. Philosophy of Naturopathic Medicine. Portland, Oregon: NCNM Press, 2013, p. 233.
  18. Purinton, Edward Earle. “Affirmations.” Herald of Health and Naturopath, XXIII(1), 33. (1918).Reprinted in Sussanna Czeranko, ND, BBE, editor. Philosophy of Naturopathic Medicine. Portland, Oregon: NCNM Press, 2013, p. 297.
  19. Kellogg, John Harvey, M.D. “The Simple Life In A Nutshell.” The Naturopath and Herald of Health, IX(10), 319-323. Reprinted in Sussanna Czeranko, ND, BBE, editor. Dietetics of Naturopathic Medicine. Portland, Oregon: NCNM Press, 2014, p. 168.