By Doris Grant
Summary: Doris Grant was one of England’s greatest proponents of the natural-foods movement. An avid supporter of the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, she wrote many books and lectured widely to teach the British people how to live healthier lives, particularly through their food choices. Strong and active until the end of her life, Grant died in 2003 at the age of 98. This document includes a brief account of her life. From the Cambridge University Medical School Society Magazine, 1958. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 123.[The following is a transcription of the original Archives document. To view or download the original document, click here.]
Let Food Be Your Medicine
Preface: About Mrs. Doris Grant (1905–2003)
Before reading this marvelous article, written over a half-century ago, American readers might appreciate a little background on its author, Doris Grant. For over sixty years, this Englishwoman fought tirelessly against the commercial food industry and water fluoridaters in Britain. She exposed and upbraided what she called “food murderers” and won much support among the Britons of her day. Her words here will disabuse present day holistic proponents of the idea that they are the vanguard of understanding that nutrition is the foundation of health, and they will make readers appreciate just how long this historical struggle has engaged some of our most talented people—for well over 100 years now.
A farmer’s daughter, Grant was educated at Banff Academy and continued her studies in Glasgow and Rome. In her first few married years, she fought rheumatoid arthritis, which deteriorated to the point where she could only climb the stairs on her hands and knees. Medical treatment utterly failed her. She had a cousin who was a physician and suggested an unconventional diet consisting of “three columns of proteins, starches, and acid fruits” with the admonition “Don’t mix foods that fight!” Within weeks she started to recover. She investigated the source of these recommendations. It was the Hay method of food combining. Dr. William Howard Hay had introduced food combining in 1911, and Grant became a lifelong proponent, writing a number of best-selling books on the subject.
Grant’s first book on nutrition was published in England in 1937. She became well known for her book Feeding the Family in Wartime [see image of original book cover], which was published in the height of World War II in 1942. Though she encouraged, praised, and found enthusiastic support among individual British medical doctors, she was regularly attacked by the British Medical Association with the claim that she had no medical qualifications.
Ms. Grant was an eloquent supporter of Sir Robert McCarrison (Studies in Deficiency Disease, 1921) and relied on much of the research provided by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research (founded by Dr. Royal Lee). In fact, we found this wonderful article in an old volume of Lee Foundation reprints.
Doris Grant died at age ninety-eight on February 27, 2003. She and her husband gave interviews to BBC radio in her ninetieth year. She was active and kept her correspondence with friends around the world well into her ninety-eighth year.
Let Food Be Your Medicine
By Doris Grant, Cambridge University Medical Society Magazine, 1958
Voltaire wrote: “We put medicine about which we know little, into bodies about which we know less, to cure diseases about which we know nothing at all.” This remark is more apt today than at the time it was written. Never in the history of medicine have there been so many drugs for the physician to prescribe, and never has there been such an increase in the degenerative diseases.
In the many recent articles and letters appearing in medical journals, it is only too evident that physicians are becoming concerned at the greatly increased—and often indiscriminate—use of drugs at the present time. In the Lancet of December 1, 1956, an editorial headlined “Cautionary Cards” sounded a warning that the remedies in use today are so powerful that they can result in death if knowledge is not available concerning the patient’s previous treatment with drugs and serums. It would seem that the interaction of drugs with one another is fraught with danger, even when months or years separate their administration.
The editorial suggested that the only way to minimize this danger would be for everyone to go through life labeled with details of all drugs and injections received from birth upwards! Pity the poor babies today who have so many needles stuck into them that they have become veritable pincushions! In The Practitioner of January 1956, an article warned against the indiscriminate use of antibiotics, especially for minor infections: “They deprive the patient of the immunity from subsequent infection that he would have acquired if the infection had been allowed to run its course.”
From these articles and many others that have been published, it is obvious that physicians are becoming more and more concerned not only with the increased use of drugs but also with their frequently unpredictable and harmful side effects. Today, however, the average layman thinks that he has not had “his money’s worth” from the National Health Service [NHS] unless he has been given penicillin, pills, a bottle of medicine, or injections of some sort. There is undoubtedly a strong case for “placebo” pills, as suggested by Dr. Atkinson in the British Medical Journal of June 21, 1958. A chemist friend told the writer that he now sells 20,000 Phenobarbitone tablets (1/2 grain), whereas seven years ago he sold 500, and that it is unbelievable how people “stuff themselves” with patent medicines.
In spite of the fantastic consumption of medicine—which costs the NHS 87,000,000 pounds a year—more and more thinking people today are questioning the effectiveness of modern drugs and medicines, especially in regard to the degenerative diseases, and are refusing to be treated with them. Instead, they are turning to a sound diet of properly constituted foods as the only remedy and successfully proving the truth of Hippocrates’s own advice, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.”
As a result of books and articles published, the writer has received hundreds of letters from chronic sufferers in all walks of life who are now looking to food as the only hope and who frankly admit having lost faith in drugs. The following extracts from a few of these letters are a fair sample of this disillusionment:
“It is now over a year ago since I adopted a sound diet and stopped the drugs that various specialists of Harley Street and Yorkshire advised me to take for the rest of my life, which according to them was of short duration. I have been very near to death and indeed quite prepared to die, but thanks to the sound diet that I adopted, I am now a very fit person and doing all in my power to spread the knowledge of this diet and its relation to health.”
“For the past year, I have endured great pain and tried all kinds of treatments without much relief!”
“I have had all kinds of treatments from hospitals and doctors but all of no avail.”
“My doctor is frankly puzzled and just gives me aspirin tablets to relieve the pain. I am convinced that the food we eat encourages or discourages this complaint.”
“I have had all the usual hospital treatment, which only alleviates the pain with pills but doesn’t cure.”
“I have only been given tablets to relieve the pain. Have tried in vain to get information about what I should eat from my doctor and from two specialists at two hospitals.”
“One of my doctors said that I have too much acid in my body but made no comment on how to counteract it by eating or not eating this food or that. Consequently, I am still suffering great pain.”
“I have no time for doctors’ medicine or drugs.”
To have helped many similar, seemingly chronic cases back to health through improved nutrition has been the most rewarding experience the writer has ever known.
Nevertheless, the triumphs of modern medicine are many and some of them magnificent; that goes without saying. But as Dr. Frangcon Roberts stated in an article in The Sunday Times of April 12, 1953, these are confined to the acute diseases, and he frankly admits (as do most physicians) that where the chronic and degenerative diseases are concerned, cure is impossible. It is for these chronic and degenerative diseases in particular that food can play such an important role.
Until a few years ago, anyone who stressed the connection between food and health was regarded as a long-haired crank. Today, however, all progressive members of the medical profession are urging a reappraisal of our concept of nutrition, and much research work is being done. Irrefutable evidence is being accumulated that properly constituted food is a prerequisite of health—that even a partial deficiency of one or more of the accessory substances is associated with much subnormal health and development and with incidence of disease.
Recognition of the intimate relationship of food to health was recorded by the father of medicine himself. Since then, many other physicians have made valuable contributions to this evidence.
During the Hungarian campaign of 1750, Chief Surgeon Kramer of the Austrian army was confronted with an appalling outbreak of scurvy. He cured his soldiers by giving them fresh orange, lemon, or lime juice and wrote in his report to headquarters, “Scurvy is the most loathsome disease in nature, for which no cure is to be found in your medicine chest.” This incident was recorded in the book Sun Diet by Dr. Sanderson-Wells, the pioneer doctor-nutritionist who founded the Sanderson-Wells Lectures at the Middlesex Hospital.
About the middle of the eighteenth century, Captain Cook made the same discovery regarding the antiscorbutic powers of fresh oranges and lemons. As a result, in 1795, the Admiralty issued a daily portion of lime juice to protect the sailors from scurvy. The effect was dramatic. In the Royal Naval Hospital at Haslar in 1806 there was only one case of scurvy, whereas in 1760 there had been 1,754 cases.
At the end of last century, Dr. Eijkmann, principal medical officer of a big prison in Java, had a large number of cases of paralysis among his prisoners. Going home one day, he noticed that his poultry also had paralysis and found that both poultry and prisoners were being fed on polished white rice. He at once ordered brown, unpolished rice for his poultry [and observed] immediate improvement. He did likewise for his sick prisoners, and in a relatively short time the hospital was clear. These men had been suffering from beriberi.
In the early years of this century, Gowland Hopkins made his dramatic discovery of the vitamins, which helped hasten the birth of the “newer knowledge of nutrition.”
In 1913 Sir Robert McCarrison began his outstanding, epoch-making work on nutrition in India. By feeding experimental rats with the actual diets of various Indian races, he found that they evidenced all the [same] deficiency diseases peculiar to these races. He also fed rats on a highly vitamin-deficient diet such as commonly used by the poorer classes in England and found that it gave rise to two chief types of ailments—pulmonary and gastrointestinal.
It is significant that when Dr. McCarrison fed his rats on perfectly constituted diets in common use by people among whom peptic ulcer is rare, they remained free from it and in excellent health. It is also significant that the concurrent agricultural research work in India of another famous pioneer, Sir Albert Howard, corroborated this fact—that properly fed animals do not contract disease. His properly fed cows could rub noses with foot-and-mouth infected animals and remain immune.
Sir Robert McCarrison’s findings were also confirmed by the large scale experiments on vitamin B1 deficiency conducted by the late Sir Jack Drummond and his colleagues. In his Harben Lectures for 1935, Sir Jack said, “McCarrison is unquestionably right in insisting that vitamin deficiency…is directly or indirectly responsible for a very large proportion of ill health today.”
In 1939, 600 doctors of the County of Cheshire published their “Testament,” which has since become famous. In it they maintained, “Our daily work brings us repeatedly to the same point: this illness results from a lifetime of wrong nutrition.” They also maintained that the first of the two objectives of the National Health Insurance Act had not been attempted: the prevention of sickness.
This document recently inspired another ‘Testament’—a public declaration of the medical and dental members of the Council of the Soil Association—and was signed by more than 400 physicians and dentists. It was published in The Lancet of January 1957. No such document had ever before been published in a medical journal, and its impact was greatly strengthened by a sympathetic editorial. This declaration stresses the concept of organic wholeness and the vital relationships between soil, plant, animal, and man, and it expresses deep concern about the chemical and mechanical treatment of food from the soil to the table, “flour being an outstanding example.”
In the early part of this century, Professor (later Sir) Edward Mellanby made his pioneer investigations on the part played by diet in the causation of disease, particularly in the relation of vitamin D deficiency to rickets. And the result of his famous experiments on dogs eventually led to the banning of agene in bread in 1956.
Valuable contributions to food knowledge have been made in many different countries, but particularly so in America—at the Mayo Clinic, the Rockefeller Institute, and the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research, and by many eminent medical researchers. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, a book by one of these researchers, Dr. Weston Price, is a classic of its kind. Any government legislator reading this book would at once set about outlawing sophistication of food and fluoridation of drinking water. In fact, anyone connected with public health in any form should read this book.
In this country, at the present time, outstanding research on nutrition is being done by Dr. [Hugh] Sinclair of Oxford University, especially in the relationship of essential fatty acid deficiency to diseases of the heart and arteries. He is our foremost medical authority on nutrition in this country today, and his pronouncements should be heeded. In his World Health Day speech, published in the British Medical Journal of December 14, 1957, he says: “The new science of nutrition will shed much-needed light on one of the most fundamental, widespread, urgent, and inadequately managed problems in the whole domain of human welfare. For nutrition has now become the most important single environmental factor affecting health in every country in the world.”
It is now an accepted fact that food is the foundation of health—we are what we eat. Various publications of the World Health Organization and the League of Nations have borne witness to it. At Hot Springs, Virginia, in 1943, the United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture set its seal upon it. In 1935 a leading article in the British Medical Journal said: “There can be no doubt but that this newer knowledge of nutrition has placed in the hands of our profession a potent weapon against disease, a potent instrument in the promotion of physical efficiency and well-being. It behooves us, therefore, to become proficient in this knowledge, to apply it in the daily course of our work, and to spread it by every means in our power.”
It is now more than twenty years since the BMJ recommended that the medical profession “should become proficient in this knowledge,” and it is still not being adequately taught in medical schools today. In a League of Nations report, Nutrition and Public Health (1935), it says: “At present, medical students during the early years of their course are given a few lectures and demonstrations dealing with the physiology of nutrition, and they perhaps carry out a little laboratory work in this field; the subject is presented as a chapter of physiology and not as an integral part of preventative medicine.”
Reading this, medical students will understandably quail at the mere suggestion of yet another specialty being added to an already too full curriculum, but as Sir Robert McCarrison points out in his Cantor Lectures (published by Faber and Faber as Nutrition and National Health, a book that should be in every medical school library):
“Surely a subject that is ‘an integral part of preventive medicine’ must in the future be given a place in the medical curriculum commensurate with its importance. In its teaching we must be content with no half measures. The student must have the opportunity to see with his own eyes the havoc that is wrought in the various organs and tissues of animals subjected to faulty nutrition of various kinds and degrees.”
And so, until the new knowledge of nutrition is included in medical training, medical practice will continue to be “symptomatic”—to treat the symptom instead of the underlying cause and the part instead of the whole. “We overlook the fact that any measure of treatment that controls or subdues the symptoms of disease without eliminating the underlying causes cannot restore health,” says Dr. Warmbrand in Add Years to Your Heart.
The cause of most disease, as the 600 Cheshire doctors clearly defined it, is wrong nutrition. That food, however, can be the best medicine may be far too simple a remedy for our complicated twentieth-century minds to grasp. To have a blind faith in medicines as the answer to disease is so much easier than to make any personal effort.
It is a common failing to shirk responsibility where our health is concerned. Prejudice, habit, and apathy will have to be overcome, having come to regard as normal our subnormal states of health. Although many physicians today are nutritionally minded, it may take the medical profession as a whole a very long time to come round to the possibility of dietary factors being concerned in disease. We have a saying in Scotland: “There’s nane so blin’ as them that winna see.”
There may also be a subconscious fear of having to practice what is preached, and the injunction “physician, heal thyself” will take on a new significance. In the meantime the National Health Service pattern will have to be changed. Doctors need higher pay and must have fewer patients in order to practice good medicine from the physiological approach, and this should be made possible by a lowered drug bill.
The establishment of a Foundation of Research in Human Nutrition is now an urgency. Only when all the facts have been established by more research can the newer knowledge of nutrition be put into practice and included as a major subject in the medical curriculum. In this connection Sir Robert McCarrison maintains that this will do for medicine what asepsis has done for surgery, particularly in regard to preventive medicine.
It is encouraging to know that plans have already been suggested for establishing just such a foundation near Oxford University. Anyone who is interested in assisting this fundamental and greatly needed research in human nutrition should communicate with Dr. Sinclair, fellow of Magdalen College, who will be pleased to supply further information.
Judging from the constant requests received by the writer for names of physicians who prescribe food instead of drugs, it is not difficult to predict a great future for all nutritionally minded students and to see that they would provide a lasting and most important contribution to the relief of much unnecessary suffering and to the welfare of mankind.
By Doris Grant. Reprinted from Cambridge University Medical Society Magazine, Vol. 36, No. 1, 1958, by the Foundation for Nutritional Research.
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