Article #2: Are Humans Drinking Creatures? by Dr. Herbert M. Shelton
"What a stupid question!" exclaims the reader, "Everybody knows that humans are drinking creatures and always have been."
It is quite true that universally, throughout history, in all countries, in all climates, at all seasons of the year and at all ages of life, humans have been drinking animals. It is equally true that all the evidence afforded us by protohistory reveals that throughout the protohistoric period, humans were universally drinking animals. Existing so-called savage cultures are commonly looked upon as survivals of prehistory. If this position is a valid one, then the evidence that is afforded us of the practices of prehistoric humans would reveal that they were universally drinking creatures.
Drinking Not Natural to Humans
If we view the animal kingdom, we discover that there are animals that drink and animals that do not drink. Even many desert animals do not drink water. There are also animals that do not inhabit the deserts that do not drink. It has been seriously suggested that by his constitutional nature man belongs to the non-drinking section of the animal kingdom. This is to say, water drinking by man is an acquired and not a native practice. Many have taken this suggestion seriously and have refrained from drinking water for periods of years and have advocated the non-drinking practice for all.
Dehydrated protoplasm is lifeless dust. It seems to be true that where there is no water, there is no life for plants and animals and microscopic beings require Water in order to carry on the functions of life, that they may live. Nobody denies this. The question in issue is not the reed for water, but the source from which it is to be derived and the manner in which it is to be taken.
Evidence Indicates Drinking as Perversion
In 1815 a book by William Lambe, M.D. of London was published under the title Water and Vegetable Diet. In this book Dr. Lambe attempted to show the advantages of a vegetable diet over a flesh diet or a mixed diet and the advantages of pure soft water over hard water. At the same time and in this same book he raised the question: Is man a drinking animal?
Perhaps no one had asked this question before. But the question has been argued both pro and con by numerous intelligent men and women since Dr. Lambe propounded it, and it is still being argued, sometimes rather heatedly. Let us, at this time, consider some of the reasons put forth by Dr. Lambe for considering water drinking an acquired practice.
Historic Attitudes Toward Water
As was the custom of his time, Lambe begins his consideration by quotations from the ancient works attributed to the legendary Hippocrates and reveals the fear of water in acute disease which gripped the profession for so long had its origin at the very beginning of the medical system. He quotes "Hippocrates" as saying: "I have nothing to say in favor of water drinking in acute diseases: It neither eases the cough, nor promotes expectoration in inflammation of the lungs; and, least of all, in those who are used to it. It does not quench thirst, but increases it. In bilious habits it increases bile and oppresses the stomach; and is the most pernicious, sickening and debilitating, in a state of inanition. It increases inflammations of the liver and spleen. It passes slowly, by reason of its coldness and crudeness; and does not readily find a passage either by the bowels or kidney."
Following the quotation from Hippocrates, he quotes Van Swieten as saying: "While girls are daily sipping tepid water liquors, how weak and how flaccid do they become!" Lambe says: "And the same writer positively affirms that, by the abuse of tea, coffee and similar liquors, he had seen many so enervate their bodies that they could scarcely drag their limbs; and many had from this cause been seized with apoplexies and palsies."
Thus it will be seen that the evils that flow from drinking tea and coffee are attributed, not to the poisons contained in these brews, but to the water which composes most of the brew. Water and not caffeine and theine and the other poisons of tea and coffee is the evil.
Impure Waters Pathogenic
Lambe next considers popular prejudices and tastes concerning water and its salubrity or lack of it as it is derived from various sources and contains, according to its source, different mineral or organic matter. He points out that many people in many parts of the world are very fastidious in their selection of the water which they drink, preferring water from one well or one stream or one spring and rejecting water from other sources. Lambe examines the drinking of mineral laden waters from marshes and swamps and the drinking of stagnant water and ascribes many evils to this habit. Many of the things he attributes to such water drinking are now known to be due to other causes; but even if he had been correct in all of his guesses, these facts could not properly be used to condemn water drinking. They condemn, not water, but impurities sometimes contained in water and form a basis for the condemnation of drinking, not water, but impure water.
Lambe suggests that the evil effects of water drinking have been the chief cause that has induced man to turn to alcoholic liquors. To escape from the evils of water drinking man plunged into the greater evils of alcoholism. It is not to be doubted that in some parts of the world where the inhabitants drink much beer and wine, there is a strong tendency to refrain from water drinking, not because water is regarded as essentially unhealthful, but because the waters of these areas are regarded as impure and unwholesome. Let us turn, however, to Dr. Lambe's effort to establish the soundness of his no-drinking plan.
Many Animal Species Do Not Drink Water
" 'I have known an owl of this species,' (the brown owl) says M. White, 'live a full year without any water. Perhaps the case may be the same with all birds of prey.' There was a llama of Peru shown in London, a year or two ago, which lived wholly without liquids; it would not touch water. In some of the small islands on our coast, on whir-there is not a drop of water to be found, there are, I am told, rabbit warrens. Bruce says, 'That although Zimmer (an island of the Red Sea) is said to be without water, yet there are antelopes upon it, and also hyenas in numbers.' To account for this, he suspects that there must be water in some subterraneous caves or clefts of the rocks. This, however, is only supposition. The argali, or wild sheep, from the country in which it is found, it is certain, does not drink. Mr. Pallas says of it, 'This animal lives upon desert mountains, which are dry and without wood, and upon rocks where there are many bitter and acrid plants.' He further says of it, 'There are no deer so wild as the argali; it is almost impossible to come near it in hunting. They have an astonishing lightness and quickness in the chase, and they hold it for a long time.' How wonderfully, therefore, is this animal deteriorated by domestication, and by being forced to live in situations and to adopt habits unsuited to its nature!"
Humans Have No Natural Drinking Equipment
"Let us, therefore, consider man again, for a moment, as we may suppose him fresh from the hands of his Maker, and depending upon his physical powers only for his subsistence. We must suppose every animal so circumstanced, to be furnished by nature with organs suited to its physical necessities. Now I see that man has the head elevated above the ground, and to bring the mouth to the earth requires a strained and a painful effort. Moreover, the mouth is flat and the nose prominent, circumstances which make the effort still more difficult. In this position the act of swallowing a fluid is so painful and constrained that it can hardly be performed. He has therefore no organ which is naturally suited to drinking. He cannot convey a fluid into his mouth without the aid of some artificial instrument. The artifice is very simple, it is true. But still the body must be nourished anterior to all artificial knowledge. Nature seems therefore fully to have done her part toward keeping men from the use of liquids. And doubtless on a diet of fruits and vegetables there would be no necessity for the use of liquids.
"If it be true therefore that other animals require water, it would not follow that man, whose organization is different, would require it likewise. But we, in fact, know very little about the habits of animals. Our common domestic animals certainly drink. But it appears, as far as my information extends, that common water has the same effect upon them as upon man; and that they are more or less healthy, according to the purity of the water which they use."
Observations Upon Humans' Water Needs
Dr. Lambe violates one of the cardinal principles of logic, to wit: Nothing can be used as evidence until it is known, when he predicates his argument for man as a non-drinking animal upon what was not known about the drinking habits of animals. Some of the observations which he records were faulty and these constitute a very insecure basis upon which to found important conclusions. It is now well known that many of the animals which he considers non-drinking animals do drink in the wild state. It should also be noted that animals that do not drink, many of them living upon the desert, do not become dehydrated for lack of drink, whereas man, under the same circumstances, dies from dehydration as certainly as does the cow or horse. His argument that if man were intended to drink, he should have been born with a plastic straw in his mouth or a silver chalice in his hands, is hardly valid. It is true, however, as he points out, that with an abundance of juicy fruits and succulent vegetables in his diet, man can go, under ordinary circumstances, for long periods without drinking. In doing so, he does not go without water, but obtains his water free of organic and mineral contamination, in the form of fruit juices and vegetable juices. It is doubtful that this would suffice on the desert; it is certain that hard physical labor in the summer's sun will create a demand for water that such eating will not provide. Under such circumstances, one may be able to obtain all the fluid necessary by drinking fruit and vegetable juices between meals, but this constitutes eating between meals and is certainly a greater evil than would be the drinking of occasional glasses of distilled water.
Juices Are Food
Fruit and vegetable juices should be regarded as food, not as drink, and should be taken as part of the fruits or vegetables containing them. Separated from the organic combination in which they occur, they lose much of their value. Drinking fruit and vegetable juices between meals definitely leads to overeating and most certainly disturbs the process of digestion.
It would be folly to try to meet the demand for water in the fever patient by filling him with fruit and vegetable juices. Pure soft water certainly does not have the effect in these cases described by the legendary Hippocrates. Neither does water affect the fasting individual in the manner described in the so-called Hippocratic writings. To condemn water drinking because in certain pathological states drinking distresses the patient is similar to condemning food because in certain pathological states eating causes distress. It is similar to condemning sunlight because in certain diseases of the eye, exposure to light causes distress and pain. The true test, as all Hygienists know, of the value of any substance or practice is its use or its rejection by the healthy organism.
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