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Food Confusion - Reappraise, Adopt a Back-to-Basics Approach with our Daily Regime

by Dr Paul Lloyd(more info)

listed in naturopathy, originally published in issue 236 - February 2017

Introduction - What has Hippocrates ever Done for Us?

True, he gave us the still-important Hippocratic Oath; but with regard to dietary advice and medicine, surely we have moved on since 400BC?  Well of course we have, but in so doing we have lost touch with one very important element of healthcare that has become outdated in the view of some mainstream scientists and doctors - the element of humorism.  However, humoral healthcare can be as relevant today as it was in antiquity; indeed, given our relatively sedentary lifestyles these days, readopting this approach to maintaining fitness is now probably even more necessary than ever.  For the sake of our health we need to re-evaluate the dietary regimes of past ages, the way people made medicines, and the ‘humoral’ advice that underpinned them both.  In advocating a back-to-basics approach I show that all food is medicine, not just herbs; and while a carefully selected humoral diet can help to keep the body, mind and spirit healthy, simple homemade medicines can be used to rectify many common ailments.  As Hippocrates said two and a half millennia ago, it is all a question of balance, of “putting to the body which it lacketh, or taking from the bodie things superfluous”.[1]

Cover Become Your Own Doctor

Humors and Food

In my latest book, Become Your Own Doctor: Lost Secrets of Humoral Healthcare Revealed, I have explained in great detail the makeup and nature of bodily humors, how people can recognize their own individual humoral makeup, how different foods can be used to reduce imbalances that bring about illness, and how to make a variety of organic medicines.[2]  But how do we know this system works?  Without necessarily realizing it, the claims made by marketers of many modern commercial wonder cures, which are aimed at the growing ‘back-to-nature’ community, are based squarely on humoral practice that ancient civilisations used to maintain their health.  These include, for example, the assertions of NU Lifestyle and Only Foods regarding the healing properties of lemon.[3] So certainly many people worldwide remain convinced of salubrity of natural food cures.  Indeed this has been the case for hundreds of years; for city and county records offices are full of letters, diaries and medical notebooks, written between circa 1500 and circa 1800, testifying to the effectiveness of humoral-based medicines.  These revealing manuscripts are available for any member of the public to consult.

As this is the case, we may well ask why the medical profession turned its back on humorism - a system in which the body is at one with its natural surrounding - in favour of chemical and mineral compounds.  Cynics claim that drug manufacturers, pharmacists and physicians adopted mineral and chemical compounds in order to mystify the medical profession, to create wealth for manufacturing companies, and justify practitioners’ salaries and prestige.  Whether or not this is the case, doctors tell us that medicine has in any case advanced.  We are told that we should trust the latest scientific advice, often published following cohort studies, even though it can be controversial or contradictory (think nutritional advice that constantly twists and turns to the point that many wonder how we have managed to survive).  In corroboration they claim that, generally speaking, we are fitter than ever before.  They also point to modern science’s inability to locate and identify some of the humors as being proof that they do not actually exist.

In defence of humorism, which I describe clearly and precisely in Become Your Own Doctor, the first thing I should say is that the system does not automatically lose its validity because of its extreme age.  In fact, as Hippocrates himself pointed out, this medical dietary knowledge predates him by some considerable time, and can be attributed to wise sages from ancient civilizations who bequeathed to us also mathematics, astronomy, the calendar, accurate time measurement, bookkeeping, law-making and civic society.  It is almost axiomatic, therefore, to suppose that their medical knowledge was based on a sound footing.  The next thing to consider is science’s inability to detect humors like ‘kholé’ and ‘melas kholé’.  This current incapacity is no less surprising than the one experienced by astrophysicists, for example, who cannot as yet find certain particles of matter that are postulated to exist.  Are we looking in the wrong place?

‘Blood’ is one of the humors - or is it?  Perhaps we are taking the words of Renaissance doctors too literally.  In Nexus Magazine I revealed that this humor is actually ‘particles’ contained within blood, known today as leukocytes.  I showed that the properties and functions of white blood cells such as lymphocytes and neutrophil are identical to the properties and functions attributed to the ‘blood’ humor by Hippocrates.  Furthermore, I revealed that the care for leukocytes, as defined by modern science, is indistinguishable from care for the ‘blood’ humor as described by physicians of old.[4]  As far as we are concerned, however, the important thing to know is that the system of humorism has been finely tuned, and its dietary regimes and medicines have been used successfully for centuries to maintain and improve physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.

An Individualistic Approach

Those of us who have adopted this ‘back-to-basics’ approach to health and nutrition know that humoral imbalance, which weakens the body and mind leaving one susceptible to adverse external influences, can be prevented or rectified by the patient (or his or her carer) by applying the extensive but easily understandable rules described in my book.[5]  I have shown that modern ‘off-the-shelf’ dietary advice, projected through the media and aimed at the general public, is fundamentally flawed in that it fails to take account of personal circumstances that can differ greatly.  In appearing to infer that one size fits all, we are told that we (the human race) should consume more of this and less of that if we are to avoid diabetes / cancer / heart attacks etc.  Much of the advice is contradictory, and some of it overturns long-standing convictions.[6]  Sadly, in our haste to embrace new medical / dietary advice, however subjective it may be, we have lost touch with traditional humoral-based healthcare that assuredly and correctly recognizes - indeed insists - that one size does certainly not fit all.  My book does not critique the modern medical profession or scientific research that, between them, are admirably enabling many people to enjoy longer lives; but like books published by doctors before the advent of chemical and mineral compounds it does recognize that our bodily requirements are individual, and that they may be maintained with the aid of individualistically-tailored diets and easily-made organic medicines.[7]  As humoral wellbeing is determined by the degree to which a person’s complexion deviates from the ‘golden mean’ in terms of heat and humidity, age, gender, fitness and occupation all have a bearing on healthcare dynamics.  Thus, advice that is appropriate to a sedentary female office worker in her fifties will necessarily be different to that which is right for a male manual labourer in his twenties.  As Dr Robert Croft notes in his book Paradise Within Us:

“for as much as neither the matter of Diet nor the quantity thereof … ought to be the same in all sorts of people, but very different according to the diversity of Ages, Complexions, Constitutions, and the like. It is therefore good that every man be well skilled in the Temperament of his [own] body and mind, that he may be a Rule unto himselfe in that which is best for him”.[8]

This applies to diet, but it does of course mean also that a medicine that works well for one person is not necessarily effective for everyone.  With this in mind it is far from uncommon to find several recipes in one old medical manual for treating the same condition, and consequentially alternative cures are provided in my book.  The lack of uniformity in curing illnesses reinforces the humoral position that diet and medicine should be seen as individualistic, and this is apparent also in today’s ‘off-the-shelf’ medicines where any given brand of cough mixture will work better for one person than it does for another.

Despite today’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to dietary advice, it does seem however that modern science might at long last be starting to catch up with ancient wisdom; for without actually referring to humorism an eminent scientist, Dr Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, has recently noted that an individualistic approach to the topic seems, after all, to be the best one.[9]  This is something that Hippocrates expressed with confidence twenty-four centuries ago, and for us to reembrace this concept now - refining our diets the humoral way, and making our own organic lotions and potions - may greatly improve our health and at once relieve pressure on our hard-pressed GPs.

Notes and References

1.         William Bullein. The Government of Health. Valentine Sims. London. 1595. p 4.

2.         Paul Lloyd. Become Your Own Doctor: Lost Secrets of Humoral Healthcare Revealed. Ayni. Winchester and Washington. 2016.

3.         http://nulifestyle.com/fruit-vinegar/lemon-vinegar/  and www.onlyfoods.net/lemon-oil.html . Accessed on 9 November, 2016.

4.         Paul Lloyd. ‘Ancient Knowledge of Leukocytes: A Lost Humor Found’. Nexus 23:4. 2016.

5.         Lloyd. Become Your Own Doctor. Chapter 2.

6.         For just one of many examples of contradictions see the advice on eating meat: www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-34615621 .

7.         Works that I have consulted typically include those written by professional physicians and other experts such as: Andrew Boorde. A compendyous regyment or a dyetary of healthe made in Mountpyllyer. Wyllyam Powell. London. 1547; Thomas Bright. A Treatise, Wherein is Declared the Sufficiencie of English Medicines. H. L. London. 1615; William Bullein. The Government of Health. Valentine Sims. London. 1595; Henry Butts. Dyets Dry Dinner Consisting of Eight Severall Courses. Thomas Creede. London. 1599; Thomas Cogan. The Haven of Health. Anne Griffin. London. 1636; Thomas Elyot. The castel of helth gathered … out of the chiefe authors of physyke, wherby euery manne may knowe the state of his owne body. Thomas Bertheleti. London. 1595); James Hart. Klinike, or The diet of the diseased. John Beale. London. 1633; Johannes de Mediolano. Regimen sanitatis Salerni. Translated by T Paynel. B. Alsop and T. Fawset. London. 1634; Thomas Moffett. Healths improvement. Thomas Newcomb. London. 1655; Henrik Rantzau. The English mans doctor. Translated by J. Harrington. Augustine Matewes. London. 1624; William Vaughan. Approved Directions for Health. T. Snodham. London. 1612; Tobias Venner. Via Recta ad Vitam Longam. Edward Griffin. London. 1620.

8.         Robert Croft. Paradise within us: or, The happie mind. B. Alsop and T. Fawcet. London. 1640.

9.         http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/01/11/a-personalized-diet-better-suited-to-you/?smid=fb-share&_r=0 .

Bibliography

Archer John. Every man his own doctor in two parts. Peter Lillicrap. London. 1671.

Bacon Roger. The cure of old age and preservation of youth. Tho. Flesher and Edward Evets. London. 1683.

Boorde Andrew. A compendyous regyment or a dyetary of healthe made in Mountpyllyer. Wyllyam Powell. London. 1547.

Bright Thomas. A Treatise, Wherein is Declared the Sufficiencie of English Medicines. H. L. London. 1615.

Brooks Humphrey. Ugieine, or A conservatory of health. R. W. London. 1650.

Bullein William. The Government of Health. Valentine Sims. London. 1595.

Burton Robert. The Anatomy of Melancholy. Iohn Lichfield and Iames Short. London. 1621.

Butts Henry. Dyets Dry Dinner Consisting of Eight Severall Courses. Thomas Creede. London. 1599.

Cheyne George. An Essay of Health and Long Life. George Strahan. London. 1724.

Cogan Thomas. The Haven of Health. Anne Griffin. London. 1636.

Croft Robert. Paradise within us: or, The happie mind. B. Alsop and T. Fawcet. London. 1640.

Elkes Richard. Approved medicines of little cost. Robert Ibbitson. London. 1651.

Elyot Thomas. The castel of helth gathered … out of the chiefe authors of physyke, wherby euery manne may knowe the state of his owne body. Thomas Bertheleti. London. 1595.

Goeurot Jean. The Regimen of Life. William How. London. 1578.

Gratarolo Guglielmo. A direction for the health of magistrates and studentes. William How. London. 1574.

Hart James. Klinike, or The diet of the diseased. John Beale. London. 1633.

Hippocrates. Aphorismes. ed. J. van Heurne. London. 1655.

Jonstonus Joannes. The idea of practical physic in twelve books. Peter Cole. London. 1657.

Langton Christopher. An introduction into phisycke. Edwarde Whytchurche. London. 1545.

Lloyd Paul. ‘Ancient Knowledge of Leukocytes: A Lost Humor Found’. Nexus 23:4. 2016.

Lloyd Paul. Become Your Own Doctor: Lost Secrets of Humoral Healthcare Revealed. Ayni. Winchester and Washington. 2016.

Mediolano Johannes de. Regimen sanitatis Salerni. Translated by T Paynel. B. Alsop and T. Fawset. London. 1634.

Moffett Thomas. Healths improvement. Thomas Newcomb. London. 1655.

Moore Philip. The Hope of Health. Ihon Kyngston. London. 1564.

Rantzau Henrik. The English mans doctor. Translated by J. Harrington. Augustine Matewes. London. 1624.

Vaughan William. Approved Directions for Health. T. Snodham. London. 1612.

Venner Tobias. Via Recta ad Vitam Longam. Edward Griffin. London. 1620.

Websites

http://classics.mit.edu/Hippocrates/epidemics.html.   Hippocrates, Of the Epidemics, translated by Francis Adams (written 400B.C.E.)

http://nulifestyle.com/fruit-vinegar/lemon-vinegar/

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/01/11/a-personalized-diet-better-suited-to-you/?smid=fb-share&_r=0.

www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-34615621 .

www.onlyfoods.net/lemon-oil.html

Further Information

Become Your Own Doctor: Lost Secrets of Humoral Healthcare Revealed Available from Anyi Books and Amazon

www.ayni-books.com/books/become-your-own-doctor

www.amazon.co.uk/Become-Your-Own-Doctor-Healthcare/dp/178535390X

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About Dr Paul Lloyd

Dr Paul Lloyd, specializing in the history of diet, nutrition and food practices, has lectured and taught medical history at The University of Leicester.  Although he has now retired from teaching, he remains an active researcher and writer.  In addition to his latest book, Become Your Own Doctor: Lost Secrets of Humoral Healthcare Revealed, he has also authored Food and Identity in England 1540–1640: Eating to Impress (London and New York, Bloomsbury Academic, 2015).  Some of his articles include: ‘Ancient Knowledge of Leukocytes: A Lost Humor Found’, in Nexus 23:4 (2016); ‘Dietary Advice and Fruit Eating in Late Tudor and Early Stuart England’, in Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 67:4 (2012), ‘The Changing Status of Offal: a fashionable food in England between 1545 and 1655’, in Food, Culture and Society 15:1 (2012); ‘Nutritious Foods and Consumption Choices in the Early Modern Period’, in Social History of Medicine 24:1 (2011); and ‘Making Waterfowl Safe to Eat: Medical Opinion and the Science of Transforming Hurtful Nature in Early Seventeenth-century England’, in Food and History 11:1 (2013).  You may follow Paul Lloyd on Facebook: www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010698308654, or at his website www.paullloyd.weebly.com

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