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The Poor Start

Categories: Diet and Nutrition
Sources: 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

questions asked.

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

feeding experiments.

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