This section is from the book "The Natural Food Of Man", by Emmet Densmore. Also available from Amazon: How Nature Cures Comprising a New System of Hygiene.
"'Tis life, not death, for which we pant; 'Tis life whereof our nerves are scant: More life and fuller that we want."
SOME ten years ago, while engaged in a study of the best foods to be used in the reduction of obesity, my mind became directed toward a matter of much greater import; I became convinced that the great bulk of all modern diseases is directly caused by errors in diet; and also that the illness of myself and friends, which I had been accustomed to attribute to heredity, or, more vaguely, to unfavourable conditions of climate, and business cares, and overwork, was and is the result of transgressions easily avoidable; that, to the enlightened mind, to be ill is as reprehensible as to be drunk. Moreover, I perceived that man's natural longevity has been greatly abridged; that the three-score years and ten, which I had been accustomed to regard as a well-rounded and mature life, is full fifty years short of our natural term; and that a death at seventy is as untimely and premature as at forty, differing only in degree. And, while I did not omit from the account a consideration of the importance of fresh air, exercise, bathing, moderation in work, clothing, etc., I became convinced that more than ninety per cent. of all diseases result from unsuitable food and errors in eating and drinking.
Looking about me, I observed that men and women of forty and fifty years of age bear almost no resemblance to the appearance they presented at the age of twenty. Most women are beautiful at twenty, and generally (when regarded with a trained eye) hideous at fifty. Men have fared no better than women. The "human form divine" has lost its rightful contour, and approached in resemblance the jelly-fish. I early saw that obesity, or corpulency, is a kind of tumour - less unsightly than those tumours located in any given portion of the frame, but a tumour, all the same. Those who are not obese have not escaped; marked faces,
Stiffened joints, and contorted bodies, are seen upon every hand; and the emaciated are not less revolting than the obese. Old age, which should be a crown of glory, a perfected picture of a well-spent life, is too often a hideous deformity, a wreck of imbecility more or less idiotic.
My good brethren in the Temperance movement can see, with me, the pitiful wreck of the confirmed drunkard; but do not see that it is only a part and parcel of the universal ruin. I dedicated my life to a study of those laws the transgression of which has made of the human race a collective invalid, and to a propaganda of that knowledge best calculated to restore man to his first and best inheritance - Health!
I became a Vegetarian; adopted that diet which see med at the time best calculated to overcome disease; from a periodically pronounced invalid, I became relatively robust, and restored to health. I was enabled to obey that unique injunction, "Physician, heal thyself!" and, in conjunction with Mrs. Densmore, was enabled to do for patients what we had done for ourselves. Our success, as compared with the results of other methods of practice - Allopathic, Homoeopathic, and Eclectic alike - was wonderful; but it did not satisfy us. We supposed that brown bread is the "staff of life" - the sheet-anchor of hygienic cure. We believed that all seasonings and all animal foods are forbidden by the laws of health. As a crutch to lean upon, a bridge from the diet of civilisation to the ideal diet, we recommended an exclusive use of brown bread and milk. The only medicine used was a mild herb-tea, to stimulate the excretory functions. Our success was signal; it seemed only a question of inducing the confirmed invalid to obey our simple directions - a very difficult task - to bring about a rapid improvement, and sometimes a complete restoration of the patient.
We then began, with the best intentions, to work serious evil to our patients. We felt ambitious to give them the whole gospel; we supposed that brown bread and fruit contain every needed element; we regarded milk and eggs as an unclean food, and only temporarily allowable, and recommended the substitution of pulse foods as the best way of obtaining needed nitrogen. One dear lady came to us a mountain of flesh, and a confirmed invalid. At first we put her on an exclusive diet of beef and hot water, until she was reduced to a normal weight. This required some months; and, by the time the obesity was gone, much of her infirmity had gone with it. We then put her on a diet of brown bread and milk, with water - no other food nor drink. Her recovery continued, until she was esteemed by herself and neighbours a marvellous cure. We then substituted peas and beans for the milk. She had considerable trouble; but it was not at first pronounced, and we confidently hoped, each week, that she would be better next. Finally, she was taken down with a severe inflimmation of the stomach and bowels. From this attack she never fully re covered ; and we had many similar cases.
On the other hand, many patients, against our advice, adhered to a strict diet of bread and milk, with fruits, and continued the good health this riegimen had brought them. Some obese patients, whom we reduced on a meat diet and non-starch vegetables, and who had been greatly improved health, were persuaded by us to adopt a bread, fruit, and pulse diet, and surprised us by developing serious troubles, for which we could find no satisfactory explanation. Others, again, declined our proffer of Vegetarian- ism, adhering to a diet of meat and non-starch foods. These continued the good health they had gained. These patients did not refuse food from any idea that it is injurious, but because they easily took on too much weight. We were greatly puzzled.
Last September (1889) I suggested to Mrs. Densmore the hypothesis that starch foods are unnatural and injurious; that the reason why our obese patients, confined to an exclusively meat and non-starch diet, invariably gained in health as they lost in weight, is not so much - as we had supposed - that their infirmities had been caused by their obesity and were overcome by the reduction of the obesity, but that all starch food is favourable to disease, that our patients' infirmities were caused by starch (usually bread and potatoes), and the removal of the cause overcame the disease. The puzzle of a meat diet - stigmatised by us as excremental and unwholesome - working wonderful cures, was solved : the benefit did not result from flesh-food per se, but from the absence of cereals and other starch foods. This view was at once strengthened and confirmed by the plain fact that the successful treatment, the world around, for obesity and diabetes, is the elimination of all starch foods from the dietary ; and the probability dawned upon me that cereals, the universal food, are the primal source of universal disease.