A Concept of Totality

By Joe Nichols, MD

Summary: Pioneering holistic medical doctor Joe Nichols writes about the “six chief causes of disease”: (1) emotions (2) malnutrition (3) poisons (4) infections (5) accidents, and (6) inheritance. The worst, he says, are the emotions. “Worry, fear, anxiety, hate, envy, jealousy—these are the great killers,” he explains, recommending the three A’s (acceptance, approval, and adoration of others) as a remedy. A second great killer, Dr. Nichols says, is malnutrition, which starts with soils that have been exhausted of minerals through irresponsible farming practices utilizing artificial fertilizers. “The end result of chemical farming is always disease, first in the land itself, then in the plant, then in the animal, and finally in us. Everywhere in the world where chemical farming is practiced the people are sick. The use of synthetic chemicals does not make land rich. It makes it poorer than before.” Dr. Nichols founded the Natural Foods Associates and edited its magazine, Natural Food and Farming, one of the first natural-food magazines published in the United States. From Natural Food Associates, 1954. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 58.

[The following is a transcription of the original Archives document. To view or download the original document, click here.]

A Concept of Totality

There are six chief causes of disease:

  1. Emotional
  2. Nutritional
  3. Poisons
  4. Infections
  5. Accidents
  6. Inherited

The greatest cause of disease is, without a doubt, emotional. Worry, fear, anxiety, hate, envy, jealousy—these are the great killers. When any of these emotions take hold of us, we get a conflict, and that conflict leads to tension. If you hate me, for instance, then I become a “pain in your neck.” The conflict causes tension on the muscles of the neck. First there is a drawing in the back of the neck, and finally, if the conflict is intense enough, a tension headache is the result. The pain is not in the mind or heart; it is in the back of the neck, right where the muscles join onto the head.

You have heard the expression “I am fed up with that fellow.” When you get mad at someone, you do get a full feeling in the stomach. The conflict causes tension, and the glands in the stomach and intestines that produce the digestive juices just dry up, so to speak, and you get a full feeling in the stomach. If you eat when you are mad, then you get nervous indigestion because there are no digestive juices present. If the conflict is intense enough and goes on long enough, and then some of the other factors of disease are present—especially nutritional and poisons—then you get a peptic ulcer. We say that nervous indigestion is inorganic, or functional, but the inorganic diseases are the forerunners of organic disease.

Emotional Causes of Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America today. How do adverse emotions affect the heart? Conflict and tension cause the coronary vessels to constrict; the heart muscle itself does not get enough blood, and that heart cries out in pain. We call this symptom angina, which is functional, or inorganic. If the conflict persists and other factors of disease are present, then the patient gets coronary thrombosis. All organic disease is made worse by emotional upset. I know a man who has gout. He gets along very well until he gets mad; then he has to go to the hospital.

What does one do about the emotional causes of disease? There are only three things that can be done to resolve a conflict. The first possibility is to run away from the conflict. If a husband comes home at three o’clock in the morning with lipstick on his shirt, his good wife is likely to get an emotional upset with headache, backache, indigestion, and heart pain. What can she do about it? One of the solutions would be for her to go back home to mama. She could run away from the conflict. But there is another solution. She might change the situation. She might be a better wife and make the fellow want to come home at five o’clock with a clean shirt.

All of us have conflicts that we can neither run away from nor change. If there is a death in the family or if the house burns to the ground, what can be done? These conflicts must be accepted. There is no other alternative. But just saying you accept a situation is not enough. It must be completely accepted in order to stop the conflict and tension. But so few people really know how to accept these conflicts. This is done by knowing and practicing the three A’s.

The Three A’s

The first A is acceptance—acceptance of the other fellow as an individual with rights and opinions of his own and also with his imperfections. There has been none perfect since Jesus. If the wife expects the husband to be perfect at all times, she will be disappointed, and vice versa. The second A is approval. A pat on the back is much better than a kick in the pants. It just naturally works that way. And it has been said that most of the conflict that arises between people is caused by the tone of voice in which they speak. The third great A—and by far the most important one—is adoration, or love. This suggests a great natural law: the law of love.

No man can ever violate any natural law. This is the central idea of our concept of totality. The law of love is a natural law, and no man can violate it. Natural law is simple, self-evident, universal, and inviolate. You can jump from a fourteen-story building, but you do not violate the law of gravity. Your broken body is simply the exemplification of the law. The cure for the emotional cause of disease is very simple. All one has to do is to stop attempting to violate the law of love.

The law of love is divided into two parts. First, love God; second, love thy neighbor. You cannot hate your neighbor and get by with it. He will become a pain in your neck. And it makes no difference how much he may have mistreated you, you still cannot afford to hate him. Worry, fear, and anxiety violate the first part of the law of love. The Sermon on the Mount teaches us not to worry about what we shall eat or wear. It teaches us to think not of tomorrow. The cure for the emotional cause of disease is to stop attempting to violate the law of love.

[Photo of author, with caption:] “Hate causes pain in the neck.” —Joe Nichols. (See original for image.)

The second great cause of disease is nutritional. But [before we discuss this], let me give you something of my own family history. My great-great-grandfather lived in South Carolina. He had 2,000 acres of very rich land. He was a successful farmer. He made a lot of money growing cotton and tobacco. He built a big house and raised and educated a large family. But when his sons were grown, they found the land was no longer making good crops, and the farm was no longer making money.

So my great-grandfather took the advice of Horace Greeley, and he “went west.” He moved to Tennessee, where he found a large, fertile farm. He did exactly the same thing that his father had done. He was a big man, 6 ft 6 in., and weighed 350 pounds. He was very industrious, worked hard, made a lot of money, built a big house, and raised and educated a big family. When his sons were grown, they found the farm had been literally mined year after year and was no longer making a living for the family.

So my grandfather moved to Alabama. He got together 2,000 acres of very rich land down on Horse Creek in Maringo County, about forty miles from Selma, Alabama, and here he did the very same thing that his father and grandfather had done. He had a large family. My father was the baby in a family of twelve. My grandfather even built a little town. They called the little settlement Nicholsville. He owned a sawmill, a gristmill, and the general store, and one of his daughters was the postmistress. By the time my father was grown, what do you suppose had happened? You guessed it. The farm was worn out, and he had to move.

He moved to Ashley County, Arkansas, down in the Mississippi Delta. He bought a rich farm, and the same old thing started all over again. He built a big house in town, where we also had a general store. But by the time I was grown, all the profits from the farm were going to pay for fertilizer and poison spray. So I had to move, but there was no place left for me to go. By this time the whole country had been settled, and most of the land [had been] exploited.

So I decided to study medicine. I graduated from the University of Arkansas with an MD degree in June 1932. In November 1933 I started practicing medicine in Atlanta, Cass County, Texas. This was in the depths of the great depression, and Cass County was one of the poorest places in Texas. The average production of corn was eight bushels per acre. In six months I was making more money than the president of the bank, who had been there a lifetime. You see, all the land was poor, and all the people were sick! I did not average fifty cents per office call nor more than one dollar for house calls, but I had volume.

Now I have a farm. I bought 1,000 acres of the poorest land in America. Most of it cost only $10 per acre. It was as hard as concrete and would hardly grow weeds when I got it. My ambition is to restore the fertility to this worn-out land. I believe I can make this farm worth a $100,000, and the expense of doing it is a legitimate deduction from income tax. This is the only way that I can create an estate for my own old age and for my boys. I believe that 100 years from now there will be a Nichols living in my brick house. With this introduction now let me talk to you about the nutritional cause of disease.

Nutritional Cause of Disease

We live in a country that has more good doctors, more great medical schools, more hospitals, more education, more great scientists, and more money than any other place on Earth. We hear much about the great scientific advances that have been made in public health and medicine, and it is true that great advances have been made in certain branches of medicine, but despite all this, everybody in the country is sick. I do not know anyone anywhere who does not have some physical disability. My own son had three bad teeth at the age of three!

It is hard to find a child in school without dental caries anymore. Last year we had more cancer than ever before. We had more heart disease. It is the leading cause of death, killing young people before the age of forty all over the land. We had more high blood pressure, more stomach ulcers, more rheumatism, more diabetes, and more mental disease. Fifty percent of the hospital beds in America are filled with mental patients. They are running out the top windows all over the land, and more mental hospitals are being built every day. We had more polio last year than ever before.

Perhaps we are not so smart after all. Maybe something is wrong here. There are places in the world where these degenerative diseases do not occur. There is a place in India, called Hunza, where a British physician, Sir Robert McCarrison, stayed seven years, looking without success for a cancer. These people live to be 110 years of age and die with their own teeth in their mouths. Seventy-year old men run twenty miles a day and think nothing of it. Sir Robert McCarrison said the reason these people have such excellent health is because they do three very simple things that we fail to do: they eat natural food grown on fertile soil, and they eat it fresh. We do none of these things.

The first great fundamental reason why all of us are sick, from the standpoint of nutrition, is because the land is worn out. The farmers of America have violated another one of God’s natural laws—nature’s law of return. This law states that if you take away from me, then you must return something to me. But our farmers have violated this law. They’ve cut down the trees, plowed up the land, planted cotton one year and corn the next, and even burned the stalks. We have constantly taken out and never put anything back. As a result all the land has become poor land. And poor land grows poor food, which makes poor people who are sick. Poor land grows food that is poor in vitamins, poor in minerals, poor in enzymes, and [contains] proteins of poor quality.

All this means sick people. The most common disease in America today is hypoproteinosis, that is, not consuming enough protein or consuming protein of poor quality. This is of tremendous significance. The vitamins, the enzymes, and the antibodies that give us resistance to disease are all proteinaceous substances.

At about the time all the land became worn out, along came science to the rescue. And in this country we have been taught to bow down and worship this word science. In this instance the scientist—through the chemical trust using the United States Department of Agriculture, the A&M colleges, and the county agents—gave to the farmers commercial NKP (nitrogen, potash, and phosphate) fertilizer. They said to the farmer, “If you will put this on your land, we promise it will grow twice as much, and it will put money in the bank.”

And of course it was true. The land did produce twice as much, and the farmer did put more money in the bank as a result of its use. [At least it] was true for a while. But then the farmer found the land required more and more fertilizer, and he got less and less in return. Unfortunately, NKP fertilizer does not make land rich. It merely drives out what remaining fertility is present and leaves, finally, a piece of dead, hard concrete. A hardpan, or plow sole, develops. A concrete slab would be a better name.

Chemical Farming Leads to Disease

The end result of chemical farming is always disease—first in the land itself, then in the plant, then in the animal, and finally in us. Everywhere in the world where chemical farming is practiced the people are sick. The use of synthetic chemicals does not make land rich. It makes it poorer than before.

There is one way and only one way to make land rich, and that is exactly like the good Lord does on the floor of the forest. He puts back into the land three parts dead plant matter and one part dead animal matter. That is what leaf mold contains. This puts everything back into the soil—the major elements plus the trace elements plus dead and decaying organic matter—and all in the proper proportions. And when we say dead and decaying matter, that presupposes that at one time the material had life. The leaf at one time was a living thing. This is of tremendous importance. You must have death and decay if you expect to have life and growth.

This is a natural cycle that no chemist can get around, no matter how many degrees he may have behind his name. The end result of the decaying process is amino acids and carbonic acids. The amino acids are the little building blocks that the plant uses to make proteins of high quality. How can a plant produce proteins of high quality when it has no amino acids present in the beginning? The answer is it cannot. This is the fundamental reason why the proteins produced on the farms of America are of poor quality.

So, the first great fundamental reason why all of us are sick is because the land is worn out.

I have three acres of what I consider the richest land in America. We made it rich by cleaning out the barns and the henhouses and saving the leaves and by planting Austrian winter peas for a winter cover crop. I believe there is a difference between the God-given free nitrogen that the Austrian winter peas put back into the soil through the little nodule on their roots and the kind [of nitrogen] most farmers buy in a sack of synthetic chemical fertilizer. I don’t know what the difference is, and I doubt that any chemist will ever know. Perhaps the “life factor,” whatever that is, could be the answer.

We have restored a fifty-acre field to a fertile state by cleaning the bushes, leveling the land, and planting legumes. We have also added ground limestone and raw rock phosphate. We are still using these natural rock fertilizers though we are not completely convinced they are even necessary. We are now subsoiling our land to break up the hardpan, and we find this procedure alone increases the growth of grass. And grass is the great healer. The way to change poor land to rich land is to put the land back in grass; then, for a year or two, mow the grass, and leave [the clippings] on the ground to rot. If we put back the plant matter, nature herself will furnish the animal matter with birds, rabbits, bugs, and earthworms.

Fertile soil is usually dark in color. It is soft. When it rains, the water soaks into the ground. Fertile soil is full of both life and death—death and decay of organic matter and life in the form of bacteria, molds, and earthworms.

Natural Food

We have tried to answer the question, what is fertile soil? The next reason we are all sick is we no longer eat natural food. What is natural food? Natural food simply means food that still has in it the natural vitamins, enzymes, and minerals that nature put there. Unfortunately, eighty percent of the food consumed by the average American has had [these nutrients] all taken out.

White sugar is the worst food in the American diet. It is so sorry that not even a worm will eat it. You never saw a worm in white sugar, and you never will. Raw sugar [on the other hand] is a natural food. White sugar is just like raw sugar except all the vitamins and minerals have been removed. Refining, they call the process. This is a good word, but it is the wrong word. Dead shot would be more descriptive. [Refiners] take raw sugar through fourteen steps in order to remove all the good part. That good part, blackstrap molasses, we feed to cattle. The pure sucrose [that remains]—i.e., white sugar, a chemical—we eat. White sugar will make you fat and give you energy, but that is all. Guess why the worm does not get into white sugar? He has sense enough to know better.

Why is all the good part removed? It is a selfish, commercial reason. It is done so that the sugar will keep. White sugar can be stored in 100-pound cloth sacks for years in dirty warehouses and still be sold for a profit. It is true that the love of money is the root of all evil. It is also the root of most of our disease.

Brown rice is one of the best foods in the world. Many people in the Orient live on it almost alone. It is one of the richest sources of natural vitamin B complex, which is essential to good health. White rice is exactly like brown rice except all the vitamins and minerals have been polished away, and for one reason only—so that the rice will keep in 100-pound bags and can be sold for a profit. White rice is raw starch, in my opinion, unfit for human consumption.

Our Daily Bread

Whole wheat flour is perhaps the most important of all foods because most people eat bread three times a day and seven days a week. White flour is also unfit for human consumption, first of all because all the vitamins, enzymes, and minerals have been removed. The kernel or wheat germ and the outside layers of the grain are removed in the milling of white flour. This means that crackers, spaghetti, macaroni, noodle soup, cake mixes, etc., are no good because the essential nutrients have been removed. The endosperm, or starchy part of the grain, is made into white flour. This part is necessary for energy, but without the vitamins, enzymes, and minerals, in proper proportions, we end up with a nation of fat, sick people.

There is another reason why white flour is unfit for human consumption. For thirty years it was bleached with nitrogen trichloride, a.k.a. “the agene process.” This chemical is a central nervous system poison. It gives puppies fits, and it is one of the reasons why fifty percent of the hospital beds in America are filled with mental patients. On October 1, 1949, most of the millers voluntarily changed to the chlorine process of bleaching. Chlorine is also a poison.

Still another reason why white flour is no good is it has been enriched. This, you are being constantly told over the radio and in the press, is a very scientific achievement that has made your daily bread such a valuable food. What is enriched bread? First, refiners take a perfectly good grain of wheat and remove all the vitamins and minerals. Then, they [take this] raw starch and put back into it three little, dead, synthetic chemicals—niacin, thiamine, and riboflavin—plus inorganic iron. These three synthetic vitamins are a part of the vitamin B complex. Yet natural B complex—and the wheat germ is one of the very best sources—contains twenty known parts as well as still-unknown factors. The germ is also our richest source of natural vitamin E, which has been proved to be essential to a normal cardiovascular system. The germ also, no doubt, contains enzymes and vitamins as yet unnamed.

All of these many essential nutrients are removed, and only three synthetic vitamins plus a little iron are added back. This is what we call “fragmentation,” and it violates our concept of totality. It seems to me that anybody with a dime’s worth of common sense could see that so-called science cannot forever get by with such a senseless scheme. In Canada it is against the law to enrich bread. In most states in this country it is against the law not to enrich bread. The Canadians are right, and we are nuts.

We have always thought of vitamin E as the reproductive vitamin [because] it is essential to normal reproduction. Veterinarians have known this for thirty years and have fed pure wheat germ oil to the barren heifer and to the bulls, with good results. Rats, if they get pregnant and if we remove all the vitamin E from their diet, will abort every time on the thirteenth day. One of the reasons why we have so much sterility in our young women is, no doubt, because eighty percent of the food they eat has had all the life taken from it.

The store-bought corn meal is a worthless food. It has been degerminated. This is said to improve the keeping quality. It does; it keeps the weevils out. It also keeps me out. If a sack of meal is not good enough for a weevil, I doubt if it is good enough for a man.

I tell all patients that they should never buy any food that has been enriched or has had a vitamin added. If the food is so sorry to start with that synthetic chemical vitamins have to be added, then it is not worth their money. This removes about ninety percent of the breakfast foods. They are no good. If they were, the bugs would get into them in the flimsy pasteboard boxes they come in, sitting around the dirty warehouses.

Fifty percent of the calories that the typical American eats come from three things: white flour, white sugar, and hydrogenated fats—that is, the compound shortenings and oleomargarine. Not one of these then, in my opinion, is fit to eat. Oleomargarine has been fortified with 15,000 units of vitamin A. That is one reason I think that it is no good. Butter does not have to be fortified.

Grade A Raw Milk

We drink raw milk at our house. I believe that the pasteurization of milk kills the life of the milk. Actually, what pasteurization did was to permit the dairyman to be dirty. Of course, people who live in cities and towns where Grade A raw milk is not available better use pasteurized milk; canned milk is not fit to drink. The only vitamin in it is vitamin D3, and that is synthetic. Yet this is what we feed the babies in America.

Canned milk, cornstarch, and synthetic vitamins is the modern diet of our babies, and we have more dental caries and more polio. This I believe to be one of the reasons for sick children. I doubt we will ever see much less polio unless the day comes when mothers can have natural food grown on fertile soil and then nurse their babies at the breast, as nature intended. They cannot nurse their babies now, and it is not because they want to play cards. It is because their milk is no good. And the reason their milk is no good is that what they eat is no good.

The best meats are the internal organs—liver, brains, heart, and kidneys. Fish is good. Seafood is the best. The ocean does not violate nature’s law of return. More goes into the ocean than comes out. The ocean is getting richer all the time, and the land is getting poorer. The very best source of natural vitamins A and D is from the liver of the cod, a saltwater fish. Wild game is extra good because usually it eats natural food grown on fertile soil. We have not started using commercial fertilizer out in the woods yet, for some strange reason. Neither do we have to use poison sprays, such as DDT, in the woods.

I believe that when we plant a seed in a piece of poor land and then surround it with NKP, we get a plant that is diseased. This plant puts on diseased fruit, and the good Lord, in his wisdom, sends the bugs to destroy it. This is nature’s law of the survival of the fittest. But one “scientific” application of DDT kills the bug, and then what do we do? We eat the diseased fruit plus the DDT. No wonder we are all sick.

Most of the eggs consumed by the American people are infertile. The stores will pay more for them. This is because they keep longer. But I believe it to be a violation of a natural law to keep the rooster off the yard. Pretty soon you have no eggs or chickens either. The fertile egg has in it “life.” It has been proved that the fertile egg has a nutritional value not found in infertile eggs.

Fresh Vegetables

The vegetables that we eat should be fresh. Turnip greens for dinner should be cut after breakfast. Canned goods do not taste like fresh ones. I believe that the flavor of foods is given by the vitamins and enzymes found only in the fresh leaf and in the kernel of the grain. The reason why we have to spend so much money for mustard, pepper, sauces, etc., is because eighty percent of what we eat is dead, and we have to put this [or that] condiment on it to get it down. What is worse than a hot dog bun that is twenty-four hours old, cold, and with no mustard or pickle on it? Really, it was no good in the beginning!

The fruit we eat is not too good unless it is tree ripened and in season. The oranges, grapefruit, and bananas [we eat] are all pulled off the tree before they get ripe. Why? They are pulled green so that they can be shipped and stored and sold for a profit. I believe that America’s brain could devise methods to distribute fresh vegetables and fruits to the people profitably. Modern highways and refrigerated trucks could answer the problem.

Of all the sweets, honey is the best. That is, provided it is wild honey.

Natural food grown on fertile soil, eaten fresh, is the answer to the nutritional cause of disease. Science is no longer science when it attempts to violate God’s natural law.

The restoration of the fertility of the soil would not only go a long way toward solving our health problems, it would also solve many other problems. The problems of floods and water shortages will never be solved until we restore the organic matter to the soil. 100 pounds of humus holds, like a sponge, 195 pounds of water. The usual 100 pounds of Cass County soil won’t hold 30 pounds of water. The construction of dams on the rivers will never solve the water problem. This only treats the symptoms of the disease. The underground water level in Texas will continue to fall until we restore organic matter to the soil. Just suppose all the land was rich again. Economic, political, social, and many other problems could be solved. It is said that war itself is really a search for fertile soil.

What can you, as bankers, do about all this? May I suggest a few practical points for your consideration? For years, past now, when a farmer came into our bank to borrow money, he was asked, how many acres do you plan to plant in cotton? The first question he is asked now is, how many acres of Austrian winter peas and vetch did you plant last year? He is encouraged in every way to plant winter cover crops. The bank’s motto has become “Let’s turn Cass County green this winter.”

The farmer is told that his credit rating at the bank will be improved if he cooperates in this program. Another thing many bankers could do would be to get a farm, like I did, and restore the fertility to it. The expense is a legitimate income tax deduction. And, it seems to me, bankers are going to have to learn how to make conservation loans to reliable farmers, the loans to be paid back over a period of from two to five years. This of course will require the services of an agriculture man in the bank to supervise these loans in the field. Many banks are already doing this.

By Joe D. Nichols, MD, President, Natural Food Associates, Chairman of the Board, Atlanta National Bank, Atlanta, Texas. Content originally presented before the 68th Annual Convention of the Texas Bankers Association, Galveston, Texas, May 12, 1952, and recorded in The Texas Bankers Record, May 1952. Reprinted by Natural Food Associates, October 15, 1954, and also by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research.

Reprint No. 58
Price – 10 cents
Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201

Note: Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research is a nonprofit, public-service institution, chartered to investigate and disseminate nutritional information. The attached publication is not literature or labeling for any product, nor shall it be employed as such by anyone. In accordance with the right of freedom of the press guaranteed to the Foundation by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the attached publication is issued and distributed for informational purposes.


Patrick Earvolino

Patrick Earvolino is a Certified Nutritionist and Special Projects Editor for Selene River Press, Inc.

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