A Turning Point in Nutritional Science

By Dr. Ralph Bircher

Summary: In this 1953 lecture, celebrated nutritional and medical authority Dr. Ralph Bircher of Switzerland touts the virtues of raw foods. He begins by discussing a seldom-mentioned but universal reaction to eating cooked food known as digestive leukocytosis: “Some message sent by the palate to the marrow through the vegetative [autonomic] nerve system releases a deployment of leucocytes which swarm out to the walls of the intestines, especially of the colon, as if to defend a frontline.” In other words, eating cooked foods sets off the immune system. Bircher then cites the work of Dr. Paul Kouchakoff who showed that “digestive leukocytosis does not happen whenever a meal consists of, or even begins with raw vegetable food.” (See Dr. Kouchakoff’s seminal study, “The Influence of Food Cooking on the Blood Formula of Man.”) Bircher also addresses the subject of enzymes in raw foods, saying there are “specific enzymes in fresh and living plant cells which are very delicate” and which the “human organism knows how to protect and escort…throughout the digestive tract, so that they can reach the colon without harm.” (This is in direct contrast to conventional belief that all enzymes in food are broken down during the course of human digestion.) Once in the colon, Bircher adds, these special raw-food enzymes “perform a basic change in the bacterial flora by attracting and binding what oxygen there is. Thus, they remove the aerobic condition which is responsible for putrefaction, fermentations, dysbacteria and intestinal toxemia.” Historical note: Bircher’s father, the famous Maximilian Bircher-Benner, developed the raw Swiss breakfast food muesli for patients at his clinic. In Europe it is often still called Birchermuesli. Reprint 80, 1953.