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The Poor Start
Category: Diet and Nutrition
Source: How And When To Be Your Own Doctor
For this reason it makes sense to take vitamins and food
supplements, to be discussed in the next chapter. And because our
food supply, Organic or "conventional," is far from optimum, if a
person wants to be and remain healthy and have a life span that
approaches their genetic potential (and that potential, it seems,
approaches or exceeds a century), it is essential that empty
calories are rigorously avoided.
An accurate and quick-to-respond indicator of how well we are doing
in terms of getting enough nutrition is the state of our teeth. One
famous dentally-oriented nutritional doctor, Melvin Page, suggested
that as long as overall nutrition was at least 75 percent of
perfection, the body chemistry could support healthy teeth and gums
until death. By healthy here Page means free of cavities, no bone
loss around the teeth (no wobblers), no long-in-the-teeth mouths
from receding gums, no gum diseases at all. But when empty calories
or devitalized foods or misdigestion cuts our nutrient intake we
begin experiencing tooth decay, gum disease and bone loss in the
jaw. How are your teeth?
I suppose you could say that I have a food religion, but mine is to
eat so that the equation Nutrition = Health / Calories is strongly
in my favor.
Back to my daughter's teeth. Yes, I innocently fed her less than
ideally nutritious food, but at that time I couldn't buy ideal food
even had I known what I wanted, nor did I have any scientific idea
of how to produce ideal food, nor actually, could I have done so on
the impoverished, leached-out clay soil at Great Oaks School even
had I known how. The Organic doctrine says that you can build a
Garden of 'Eatin with large quantities of compost until any old clay
pit or gravel heap produces highly nutritious food. This idea is not
really true. Sadly, what is true about organic matter in soil is
that when it is increased very much above the natural level one
finds in untilled soil in the climate you're working with, the
nutritional content of the food begins to drop markedly. I know this
assertion is shocking and perhaps threatening to those who believe
in the Organic system; I am sorry.
But there is another reason my daughter's teeth were not perfect,
probably could not have been perfect no matter what we fed her, and
why she will probably have at least some health problems as she ages
no matter how perfectly she may choose to eat from here on. My
daughters had what Dr. G.T. Wrench called "a poor start." Not as
poor as it could have been by any means, but certainly less than
You see, the father has very little to do with the health of the
child, unless he happens to carry some particularly undesirable
gene. It is the mother who has the job of constructing the fetus out
of prepartum nourishment and her own body's nutritional reserves.
The female body knows from trillenia of instinctual experience that
adequate nutrition from the current food supply during pregnancy can
not always be assured, so the female body stores up very large
quantities of minerals and vitamins and enzymes against that very
possibility. When forming a fetus these reserves are drawn down and
depleted. It is virtually impossible during the pregnancy itself for
a mother to extract sufficient nutrition from current food to build
a totally healthy fetus, no matter how nourishing the food she is
eating may be. Thus a mother-to-be needs to be spending her entire
childhood and her adolescence (and have adequate time between
babies), building and rebuilding her reserves.
A mother-to-be also started out at her own birth with a vitally
important stock of nutritional reserves, reserves put there during
her own fetal development. If that "start" was less than ideal, the
mother-to-be (as fetus) got "pinched" and nutritionally shortchanged
in certain, predictable ways. Even minor mineral fetal deficiencies
degrade the bone structure: the fetus knows it needs nutritional
reserves more than it needs to have a full-sized jaw bone or a wide
pelvic girdle, and when deprived of maximum fetal nourishment, these
non-vital bones become somewhat smaller. Permanently. If mineral
deficiencies continue into infancy and childhood, these same bones
continue to be shortchanged, and the child ends up with a very
narrow face, a jaw bone far too small to hold all the teeth, and in
women, a small oven that may have trouble baking babies. More
importantly, those nutrient reserves earmarked especially for making
babies are also deficient. So a deficient mother not only shows
certain structural evidence of physiological degeneration, but she
makes deficient babies. A deficient female baby at birth is unlikely
to completely overcome her bad start before she herself has
So with females, the quality of a whole lifetime's nutrition, and
the life-nutrition of her mother (and of her mother's mother as
well) has a great deal to do with the outcome of a pregnancy. The
sins of the mother can really be visited unto the third and fourth
This reality was powerfully demonstrated in the 1920s by a medical
doctor, Francis Pottenger. He was not gifted with a good bedside
manner. Rather than struggling with an unsuccessful clinical
practice, Dr. Pottenger decided to make his living running a medical
testing laboratory in Pasadena, California. Dr. Pottenger earned his
daily bread performing a rather simple task, assaying the potency of
adrenal hormone extracts. At that time, adrenaline, a useful drug to
temporarily rescue people close to death, was extracted from the
adrenal glands of animals. However, the potency of these crude
extracts varied greatly. Being a very powerful drug, it was
essential to measure exactly how strong your extract was so its
dosage could be controlled.
Quantitative organic chemistry was rather crude in those days.
Instead of assaying in a test tube, Dr. Pottenger kept several big
cages full of cats that he had adrenalectomized. Without their own
adrenals, the cats could not live more than a short time By finding
out how much extract was required to keep the cats from failing, he
could measure the strength of the particular batch.
Dr. Pottenger's cats were economically valuable so he made every
effort to keep them healthy, something that proved to be
disappointingly difficult. He kept his cats clean, in airy, bright
quarters, fed them to the very best of his ability on pasteurized
whole milk, slaughterhouse meat and organs (cats in the wild eat
organ meats first and there are valuable vitamins and other
substances in organ meats that don't exist in muscle tissue). The
meat was carefully cooked to eliminate any parasites, and the diet
was supplemented with cod liver oil. However, try as he might,
Pottenger's cats were sickly, lived short and had to be frequently
replaced. Usually they bred poorly and died young of bacterial
infections, there being no antibiotics in the 1920s. I imagine Dr.
Pottenger was constantly visiting the animal shelter and perhaps
even paid quarters out the back door to a steady stream of young
boys who brought him cats in burlap sacks from who knows where, no
Dr. Pottenger's assays must have been accurate, for his business
grew and grew. Eventually he needed more cats than he had cages to
house, so he built a big, roofed, on-the-ground pen outdoors.
Because he was overworked, he was less careful about the feeding of
these extra animals. They got the same pasteurized milk and
cod-liver oil, but he did not bother to cook their slaughterhouse
meat. Then, a small miracle happened. This poorly cared for cage of
cats fed on uncooked meat became much healthier than the others,
suffering far fewer bacterial infections or other health problems.
Then another miracle happened. Dr. Pottenger began to meditate on
the first miracle.
It occurred to him that cats in the wild did not cook their food;
perhaps cats had a digestive system that couldn't process or
assimilate much out of cooked food. Perhaps the problem he had been
having was not because the cats were without adrenal glands but
because they were without sustenance, suffering a sort of slow
starvation in the midst of plenty. So Dr. Pottenger set up some cat
There were four possible combinations of his regimen: raw meat and
unpasteurized milk; raw meat and pasteurized milk; cooked meat and
raw milk; cooked meat and pasteurized milk, this last one being what
he had been feeding all along. So he divided his cats into four
groups and fed each group differently. The first results of
Pottenger's experiments were revealed quickly though the most
valuable results took longer to see. The cats on raw meat and raw
milk did best. The ones on raw meat and pasteurized milk did okay
but not as well. The ones on cooked meat and raw milk did even less
well and those on all cooked food continued to do as poorly as ever.
Clearly, cats can't digest cooked food; all animals do better fed on
what they can digest. A lot of people have taken Pottenger's data
and mistakenly concluded that humans also should eat only raw food.
This idea is debatable. However, the most important result of the
cat experiments took years to reveal itself and is not paid much
attention to, probably because its implications are very depressing.
Dr. Pottenger continued his experiments for several generations. It
was the transgenerational changes that showed the most valuable
lesson. Over several generations, the cats on all raw foods began to
alter their appearance. Their faces got wider, their pelvic girdles
broader, bones solider, teeth better. They began to breed very
After quite a few generations, the healthiest group, the one on all
raw foods, seemed to have improved as much as it could. So Dr.
Pottenger took some of these cats and began feeding them only cooked
food to study the process of nutritional degeneration. After three
"de"generations on cooked fodder the group had deteriorated so much
that the animals could barely breed. Their faces had become narrow,
their teeth crooked, their pelvic girdles narrow, their bones and
body structure very small, and their dispositions poor. Mothers
wouldn't nurse their young and sometimes became cannibalistic. They
no longer lived very long.
Before the degenerating group completely lost the ability to breed,
Pottenger began to again feed them all raw food. It took four
generations on a perfect, raw food diet before some perfect
appearing individuals showed up in the group. It takes longer to
repair the damage than it does to cause it and it takes generations
of unflagging persistence.
I think much the same process has happened to humans in this
century. With the invention of the roller mill and the consequent
degradation of our daily bread to white flour; with the birth of
industrial farming and the generalized lowering of the nutritional
content of all of our crops; our overall ratio of nutrition to
calories worsened. Then it worsened again because we began to have
industrial food manufacturing and national brand prepared food
marketing systems; we began subsisting on devitalized, processed
foods. The result has been an even greater worsening of our ratio of
nutrition to calories.
And just like Pottenger's cats, we civilized humans in so-called
advanced countries are losing the ability to breed, our willingness
(or the energy) to mother our young; we're losing our good humor in
the same way Pottenger's degenerated cats became bad tempered. As a
group we feel so poorly that we desperately need to feel better
fast, and what better way to do that than with drugs. Is it any
wonder that the United States, the country furthest down the road of
industrial food degeneration, spends 14 percent of its gross
domestic product on medical services. Any wonder that so many babies
are born by Cesarean, any wonder that so many of our children have
crooked teeth needing an orthodontist? The most depressing aspect of
this comes into view when considering that Pottenger's cats took
four generations on perfect food to repair most of the nutritional
In the specific case of my daughter, I know somethings about the
nutritional history of her maternal ancestors. My daughter's
grandmother grew up on a Saskatchewan farm. Though they certainly
grew their own rich wheat on virgin semi-arid prairie soil, I'm sure
the family bought white flour at the store for daily use. Still,
there was a garden and a cow producing raw milk and free-range
fertile eggs and chicken and other animals. There probably were lots
of canned vegetables in winter, canned but still highly nutritious
because of the fertility of their prairie garden. My mother
consequently had perfect teeth until the Great Depression forced her
to live for too many years on lard and white bread.
During this time of severe malnutrition she had her three babies.
The first one got the best of her nutritional reserves. The second,
born after the worst of the malnutrition, was very small and weak
and had a hard time growing up. Fortunately for me, for a few years
before I (the last child) was born, the worst of the economic times
had past and the family had been living on a farm. There were
vegetables and fresh raw milk and fruit. My mother had two good
years to rebuild her nutritional reserves. But "Grannybell" did not
managed to replace enough. Shortly after I was born my mother lost
every one of her teeth all at once. The bone just disappeared around
Thus, I was born deficient. And my childhood and adolescent
nutrition was poor too: soda crackers, pasteurized processed
artificial cheese, evaporated milk from cans, hotdogs and canned
beans, hotdogs and cabbage. It wasn't until I was pregnant with my
first baby that I started to straighten up my diet. I continued
eating very well after my first daughter, so my youngest daughter
had another three years of good diet to draw on. Thus both my own
daughters got a somewhat better start than I had had.
My teeth were not as good as my mother's had been before those years
of malnutrition took them all. Instead of perfect straight undecayed
teeth like a healthy farm girl should have, mine were somewhat
crowded, with numerous cavities. My jaw bone had not received enough
minerals to develop to its full size. My pelvic girdle also was
smaller than my mother's was. I had had a poor start.
My daughters did better. The older one (the first child typically
gets the best of the nutritional reserves) has such a wide jaw that
there are small spaces between her teeth. My second daughter has
only one crooked tooth, she has wider, more solid hips, stronger
bones and a broader face than I do. If my younger daughter will but
from this point in her life, eat perfectly and choose her food
wisely to responsibly avoid empty calories and maximize her ratio of
nutrition to calories, her daughter (if she gives us granddaughters
as her older sister already has done) may exhibit the perfect
physiology that her genes carry.
Along the lines of helping you avoid empty calories I will give you
some information about various common foods that most people don't
know and that most books about food and health don't tell, or
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