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John Harvey Kellogg

In 1876, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, age 20, went from his home in Battle Creek, Michigan to study medicine at Cornell Medical School in New York. Four years later, he became the staff physician at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, which was founded by Seventh Day Adventist leader Ellen G. White in 1866. Kellogg remained there for 62 years. He preached a healthful lifestyle and served his patients what we consider today to be a very healthful diet: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and seeds. However, he had some incredibly eccentric ideas and prescribed some horrible and abusive treatments.

Obsession with the Colon
He became obsessed with elimination and claimed incorrectly that ninety percent of all illnesses originate in the stomach and bowel, and that indigestion was the leading cause of death in America. He wrote so much and was so famous that he single-handedly made the bowel not only an acceptable subject for polite conversation, but a national obsession. Guests who arrived at the Battle Creek Sanitarium learned that their bowels were a sewer of autointoxication, full of poison. He wrote that the bowel has to be cleaned daily because it doesn’t clean itself.

The Enema Machine
John Harvey Kellogg invented an enema machine that ran fifteen gallons of water into the bowel. He claimed that the water washed out bad bacteria. Then he fed his patients yogurt so the good bacteria could attack the bad bacteria from the front. However, he felt that wasn’t good enough, so he gave them yogurt enemas to attack the bad bacteria from the rear. He claimed that the yogurt enemas produced sparkling clean intestines.

From Bad to Worse
If yogurt feeding and enemas didn’t cure the patient, he would remove the colon. He believed that he was removing the home of the bacteria so they would have no place to stay. This was in the early 1920s and sterilization techniques were less than ideal, so many of his patients died.

The Bowel Does Not Need Cleaning
Kellogg claimed that by cleaning the bowels, he cured cancer of the stomach, ulcers, diabetes, schizophrenia, manic depressives, acne, anemia, migraine headaches and premature aging. Now, we know that there is no need to have enemas to clean the bowel. The bowel is a tube and the stool in the back pushes the stool in front forward. Stool behind does not pass by the stool in front of it. Nobody needs to have the stool cleaned from his intestinal walls.

Red Meat and the Colon
Kellogg repeatedly claimed that the bowel is poisoned by eating meat. He claimed incorrectly that the bowel cannot digest meat. He wrote that meat passes to the colon where bacteria ferment the meat to form poisons that are absorbed into the bloodstream to causes cancers and shorten life. This has been suggested by other authors, but has not been proven. However, he was a prophet in his belief that eating meat is associated with many diseases.

Cigarettes, Alcohol and Colon Cancer
He claimed that cigarette smoking and drinking alcohol can cause colon cancer, which is true. Research shows that colon cancer is intimately associated with eating red meat, drinking even small amounts of alcohol, and smoking cigarettes.

Sex Causes Diseases
“Any use of the sexual act other than for procreation is a waste of vital energy! Wasted seeds are wasted lives!” – John Harvey Kellogg
Kellogg preached celibacy and encouraged everyone to abstain from sexual relations. He must have really suffered from this foolishness since he claimed that he and his wife of 40 years never had sex. Virtually all diseases, Kellogg maintained, can be caused by sexual intercourse. He specifically wrote that making love causes colon cancer, which can be true if you pick up the Human Papilloma Virus from an infected partner.

Avoidance Therapy
Kellogg was obsessed with avoiding pleasurable stimuli, so he prescribed avoidance treatments. He would tell patients to think about making love, and then place them in a vibrating chair to shake these lascivious thoughts out of them. He also applied carbonic acid to the clitoris to prevent female masturbation, cooled off sexual desire by immersing people in freezing water, and cleaned their minds by giving them electrical shocks after telling them to think about sex.

Harm from Caffeine, Vinegar, Spices and Salt
He claimed that coffee was bad for the liver. This has been refuted in hundreds of studies that show that coffee drinkers have a reduced chance of suffering diabetes or heart attacks. He claimed that vinegar and spices, particularly mustard, are harmful, but data show that vinegar is harmless and that spices are full of antioxidants that are healthful. He correctly claimed that too much salt can cause high blood pressure. However, that appears to be true only for people who are insulin insensitive and have high blood insulin levels.

The Kellogg’s Cereal Companies
As part of their program to get patients at the sanitarium to eat more plants, John Harvey Kellogg and his brother, Will Keith Kellogg invented wheat flakes and corn flakes by putting whole grains though rollers and toasting them. In 1897, the brothers started the Sanitas Food Company to produce these whole grain cereals. However, they couldn’t get along, so in 1906 Will left to establish Kellogg’s of Battle Creek. The Kellogg brothers sued each other and never spoke to each other again. Eventually John Harvey Kellogg left the cereal business to devote all of his energies to the Sanitarium, while his brother’s Kellogg Company grew larger and larger and is still a leading cereal company today.

He Was Right About Some Things
I can’t think of John Harvey Kellogg as a complete quack because he advocated lots of beneficial things. He recommended low calorie diets and eating “good” bacteria. Today we hear a lot about trying to replace bad bacteria in the gut with prebiotics and probiotics. Kellogg developed peanut butter, granola, and whole-grain flake cereals. He warned that smoking causes lung cancer decades before anyone else did. He recommended exercise for everyone.

He was right about many things and wrong about others, but he suffered most from preaching celibacy. Imagine proclaiming proudly that he and his wife of 40 years had never had sex.

September 22nd, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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