Article #1: The Natural Food of Man by Emmett Densmore, M.D.
In studying the writings of Trall, Nichols, Shew, and other writers and Hygienic physicians, I became convinced that what is sound reasoning and good practice in the case of the illness of horses and cattle is equally wise and good in the treatment of human beings; and since in the case of the sick horse the chief remedial measure for his recovery is a restriction of his diet, so I became convinced it ought to be in the event of a human being taken ill. Moreover, since, as before remarked, animals in a state of nature are quite generally in vigorous health and strength, just so, I argued, will man become and be if the causes underlying his illness are discovered; and I became convinced that when these causes are discovered they will be seen to relate chiefly to the matter of diet.
In pursuance of this inquiry, and meditating upon the data which this theory furnishes, I noted that animals in their natural state live upon foods which are spontaneously produced by nature, while man not only does not live upon foods so produced, but is almost universally living upon artificial foods artificially produced.
The thought occurred to me that since nature has provided a natural food for all animals below man, it is not unreasonable to suppose that no exception was made in his case, and that nature has provided a food that is as natural to man as grasses to the herbivora, or flesh to the carnivora. If so, what is this natural food of man?
Scientists are in agreement that man made his advent upon the planet in a warm climate; also that primitive man was without tools and without fire. If this position be contested, it is not difficult to substantiate it. If it be allowed without challenge, the inquiry as to what must have been the natural diet of man becomes simple and easily solved. If man first lived in a warm climate, and if, like other animals, he subsisted on foods spontaneously produced by nature, these foods must have been those which grow wild in such a climate, quite probably such foods as are still spontaneously produced in such localities. The woods of the south, as is well-known, abound in sweet fruits and nuts. It is taught by botanists that wheat is an artificial product developed from some grass plant not now known.
Moreover, cereals are the product of the temperate zone, not of those regions where there is no winter; and it was therefore a necessity of man’s sustenance when he was without agriculture, without tools, and without fire, and had to depend upon foods spontaneously produced by nature, that he live in a region where these foods were produced at all seasons of the year. This narrows or confines the inquiry to two articles of diet—fruits and nuts.
When this thought was fully borne into my mind, I first asked myself: how adequate is such a diet for man? It is well-known that there are three principal classes of food which are required in every healthy dietary, namely, the carbonaceous, the nitrogeneous, and the phosphatic or mineral. The function of the carbonaceous food is to support the heat of the body and the vital power; the office of the nitrogeneous is to support muscular growth; and that of the phosphatic is more especially to support the brain and nerve tissues. The proportionate amounts of these various foodstuffs daily required are said by physiologists to be about 22 ounces in the dry state, and of these about 20 ounces are needed of the carbonaceous, about one ounce of the nitrogeneous, and less than an ounce of the phosphatic. How, I asked myself, does this natural food—fruit and nuts—answer these requirements? I saw at a glance that, according to eminent chemists and authorities on the constituent elements of these foods, they abound in the requisite elements for the adequate support of the human frame, and, moreover, that they contain these elements in about the right proportion. Furthermore I saw that I had not only hit upon foods spontaneously produced by nature, but also upon foods which need no artificial preparation, no cooking, no sweetening, seasoning, or manipulation of any kind to make them palatable and attractive. If the dishes that are set before a gourmet, those that have been prepared by the most skillful chefs, and that are the product of the most elaborate inventions and preparations, were set beside a portion of the sweet fruits and nuts as produced by nature, without addition or change, every child and most men and women would consider the fruits and nuts quite equal if not superior in gustatory excellence to the most recherche dishes.
Granting all this to be true, it does not follow that the problem has been solved. While fruits and nuts may be the natural food of man, and might have been an adequate diet for primitive tribes who had nothing to do but pluck and eat, and who had none of the severe mental strain inevitable to those in active pursuits in modern civilization, it does not follow that these foods are adequate for civilized man in his vastly changed nature and conditions. A scientist is said to be one who observes facts and classifies them, and science, then, is nothing more nor less than systematically classified facts. I saw that nothing but a scientific test could solve the problem. While it does not follow that sweet fruits and nuts are an adequate diet for man today because they undoubtedly formed the diet of primitive man, still, the fact that they contain every element needed for the support of the human frame, and the fact that these foods were undoubtedly those on which primitive man subsisted, afforded a sufficient basis for justifying an experiment to ascertain what would be the effect of such foods upon modern man. The primal aim underlying this inquiry is the effort to determine what are the causes of modern diseases, and how man may be made as healthy as the animals are in a state of nature.
Instituting a comparison between sweet fruits and nuts on the one hand, and the diet of civilization on the other, I soon detected an essential difference. I saw that while bread, cereals, and vegetables are the basis of the diet of the present day, that starch is the chief element in these foods. Scrutinizing the component parts of sweet fruits and nuts, I saw that these fruits contain very little starch, and hence perceived that I had brought to light a fact that was not unlikely to bear an important part in the solution of the problem before me. What is the effect of starch upon the system? Wherein does a diet that is without starch differ physiologically from one in which starch is the predominant element? In that the two foods involve a very different process of digestion. Sweet fruits are composed largely of glucose, with a fair proportion of nitrogen. As soon as such fruits are eaten the glucose is found ready, prepared by the hand of nature, to be absorbed and assimilated by the system. When first taken into the stomach, the nitrogenous portion of these foods is unassimilable, but when they meet and mix with the gastric juice, they are readily converted into a substance which is at once soluble and assimilable by the system. When the nuts of southern climes—almonds, Brazil nuts, and the like—are ingested, the nitrogenous elements are fixed or free oils are the chief elements of nourishment. The nitrogenous portion, like the same elements in the sweet fruits, is made soluble and assimilable by the gastric juice; the oil is carried to the intestines and meets with the pancreatic juice before it is made into an emulsion which renders it assimilable. There is a small portion of starch in most nuts, and in some fruits. While the ptyaline of the saliva will convert a small fraction of starch foods into glucose, as will hereafter be shown, only a small portion of this transformation is effected in the mouth. As soon as the starch undergoing digestion by its admixture with the saliva reaches the stomach, the acid nature of the gastric juice at once prevents any further change of the starch into glucose, and therefore, although undergoing in the stomach mechanical processes of digestion sufficient to render fruits and nuts soluble and assimilable, the starch is still undigested, and must be passed on to the intestines to undergo a second process of digestion before it is soluble and assimilable.
We are here confronted by a somewhat startling discovery. If it be granted that the sweet fruits and nuts of the south are the natural food of man, it follows that very much the larger proportion of the nourishing elements of man’s natural food is digested in the main stomach. True, there is a small percentage of starch in some nuts and in some fruits, and nuts are rich in oil, and this oil and starch must be digested in the second stomach. This relatively small amount of food requiring intestinal digestion is somewhat in proportion to the relative size of the two stomachs, the main stomach in both man and the higher apes being a large organ, and the duodenum or second stomach a small one.
Granting that fruits and nuts and like foods are naturally adapted to man’s digestion, this adjustment of the relative sizes of the two stomachs is quite in harmony with the food to be digested. Since man, by artificial contrivance and agriculture, has developed and employed cereals and starchy vegetables as the basis of his diet, he has reversed what appears to be the natural order. He is now living upon a diet the larger proportion of which, although remaining in the first stomach to await the digestion of the nitrogenous portions, still remains mostly undigested, and is passed on to the second stomach before digestion takes place. That the main stomach is thus called on to perform but a relatively small part of the digestion of his food, and the second stomach, although in point of capacity a relatively insignificant organ, is called upon to perform the digestion of the larger portion of his food.
It has been urged as an objection that since the second stomach is provided with a digestive ferment that is adapted to the digestion of starch foods, this fact is to be taken as a proof that such digestion was designed in the formation of man’s body. A satisfactory answer to this objection is found in the fact, as before stated, that man’s natural food—granting that southern fruits and nuts constitute that regimen—has a proportion not only of oil but of starch, and hence there is a good reason why man’s second stomach was provided with a digestive juice adapted to such digestion. But since in man’s natural food the starch and oil constitute but a small fraction of his entire food, it is reasonable to expect that a smaller-sized apparatus would be found adapted to their digestion; and such is the fact as regards the relative capacity of the two stomachs.
It has also been urged by objectors that the thousands of years during which man has made cereals a chief portion of his diet have not unlikely modified his anatomy and physiology by evolutionary charges, and that, whatever might have been his diet and physical conformation originally, these thousands of years have developed him into a natural starch-eating animal. A conclusive refutation of this contention is the fact—more fully amplified in succeeding chapters—that the orangutan and the several species of long-armed apes, which have, apparently since time began, fed upon nuts and fruits, to the exclusion of cereals and starchy vegetables, have today the same digestive apparatus in substantially the same proportion of parts as man, after his thousands of years of cereal eating. This fact is undeniable evidence that man’s organs have not undergone essential modification or change by these centuries of unnatural diet.
Reprinted from How Nature Cures
- 1. Similarities Among The Primates
- 2. Man’s Fruit And Vegetable Culture
- 3. Food Self-Sufficiency
- 4. Fruit
- 5. Nuts And Seeds
- 6. Food Preparation
- 7. Sunshine, Fresh Air, Exercise
- 8. Rest, Relaxation And Emotional Well-Being
- 9. Our Body Is Self-Sufficient
- 11. Freedom From Reliance Upon The Medical Community
- 12. Questions & Answers
- Article #1: The Natural Food of Man By Emmett Densmore, M.D.