MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

WARNING: after reading this, you might no longer enjoy your favorite breakfast cereal!

‘Biologic living’ is the name John Harvey Kellogg (1852-1943), an influential medical doctor and best-known as the inventor of the cornflakes gave to his health reforms. Biologic living was practiced in Kellogg’s Battle Creek Sanatorium, an institution for re-educating Americans and training of healthcare professionals. Kellogg’s religious beliefs bled into his medicinal practices and the Battle Creek Sanatorium was as much health spar as it was a rehabilitation facility. [1]

In the sanatorium, there was a strict focus on diet which was meant to cure a person of practically all ills, leading to a kind of purity of the soul. Meat and certain spicy, overly flavourful foods, as well as alcoholic beverages, were thought to overexcite the mind and lead to sinful behavior. A bland dull diet was thus recommended. Kellogg intended for ‘cornflakes’ to become the staple of this diet. Other treatments included the following [2]:

  • Vegetarian diet; Kellogg invented an artificial meat substitute based mainly on peanuts, called ‘nuttose’
  • ‘Light bath’, a bath under lights lasting hours, days, sometimes even weeks
  • Regular exercise
  • Various forms of electrotherapy
  • Vibrational therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Breathing techniques
  • Colonic irrigation delivered by specially designed machines that could deliver 14 liters of water followed by a pint of yogurt, half of which was to be eaten, while the other half would be delivered via a second enema
  • Water cures of various types
  • Sexual abstinence, including various measures to avoid masturbation. For boys, he recommended circumcision without anesthetic, thinking the trauma it caused and several weeks of pain that would follow would curb masturbation. If that did not suffice, Kellogg recommended sewing the foreskin shut, preventing an erection. For girls, he applied carbolic acid to the clitoris as ‘an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement.’ He would also recommend binding people’s hands, covering genitalia in specially designed cages, or electroshock therapy, such was his hatred of masturbation.

Biologic living was centered around purity, not merely of the soul but racial purity too. Meat and alcohol were not just bad, they were considered ‘race poisons’. He was a staunch advocate of ‘race suicide’, a term that summed up the fear of white America that their racial purity would be eroded, and they would disappear into ‘inferior races’. Kellogg helped implement a law whereby genetically ‘inferior’ humans such as epileptics or people with a learning disability could be a target. Michigan’s forced sterilization law, which Kellogg himself had a hand in, would not be repealed until 1974.

Today, Kellogg’s biologic living is mostly of historical interest. Yet, it is relevant for understanding some of the more extreme trends in the US related to so-called alternative medicine (SCAM).

 

[1] The Living Temple: Amazon.co.uk: Kellogg, John Harvey: 9781296696375: Books

[2] John Harvey Kellogg And His Anti-Masturbation Cereals | by Danny | Medium

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