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NATURAL HYGIENE: What it is and from where it came- Part I

By Lisa Hagelthorn, Natural Health Consultant

Back in 1986, when I was searching out sensible information about diet and health, I had the great fortune to encounter the health science system called "Natural Hygiene" when I read the book "Fit for Life". At the time, I incorrectly assumed that the term Natural Hygiene referred only to maintaining bodily cleanliness. I was later to learn that the definition is actually much broader in scope. Natural Hygiene is a set of principles to apply in one's life to achieve and maintain optimal well-being, vibrant energy, and freedom from illness. These principles are based upon meeting the body's inherent, natural needs: fresh, pure air; pure water; moderate sunshine; regular exercise; adequate rest and sleep; fasting when ill; a diet of whole, organically-grown foods such as fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds eaten in their raw, natural state; eating foods in proper combinations for optimal digestion; emotional poise; right livelihood, and; nurturing relationships.

The application of these principles has helped me lose weight, overcome many unhealthy food eating habits, and improve my energy and health. And I have learned that Natural Hygiene has helped countless others transform their health and even completely recover from "incurable diseases", including David Klein and Roe Gallo as shown in their respective books, "The Fruits of Healing" and "Body Ecology".

The science of Natural Hygiene dates back to the early 1800's, before modern medicine appeared on the scene. Here is a brief synopsis of some of the highlights of Natural Hygiene's early history prior to the 20th Century. For a more comprehensive study of the subject, you may read chapter 12 of Victoria Bidwell's "Health Seeker's Yearbook", and Appendix B in Art Baker’s, "Awakening Our Self Healing Body." In the beginning...

1822 - Dr. Isaac Jennings, after practicing as a traditional medical doctor for 20 years without getting good results, using the common bleeding and drugging methods of that time, started to question these practices. As an experiment, he gave his patients bread pill placebos with instructions to get plenty of bed rest, to take the pills with water and to take no other food and drink. In other words, he fasted his patients (without their knowing it), and he got excellent results.

Being convinced of the remarkable recoveries obtained by the "Do Nothing Cure", he announced his revelation to the world, only to have it poorly received. Some of his patients got angry that they were given placebos and not true "medicines', and the medical doctors were not eager to embrace a system that did not revolve around their accustomed pills and potions. Despite the lack of acceptance, Jennings went on to write three books and became known as “The Father of Natural Hygiene."

1830 - 1900 - The Common People were sick and tired of being "sick and tired" and disenchanted with the medical procedures of the time. As a side note, it was interesting to learn during a recent visit I made to Williamsburg, Virginia, that when people became ill during this period, they preferred to remain at home, knowing that their chances of recovery would be greatly diminished in a hospital. Most people of this time ate a diet of salted, cured dried meats, and heavily cooked vegetables, wore heavy clothing and lived in poorly ventilated homes. Not surprisingly, they were often sick and they died at early ages. Meanwhile, fresh air and fruits and vegetables were considered harmful!

1830 - Charismatic Sylvester Graham, (the originator of the Graham cracker!) a Presbyterian minister and physiologist, came into the limelight and denounced the medical practices of the time. He lectured widely throughout the United States on the relationship of physiology to Hygiene, and he spoke to large and enthusiastic audiences wherever he went. Graham later opened the world's first healthfood stores and restaurants, and inspired the creation of "Grahamite" health retreats.

1830 - 1860 - At least 100 Hygienic homes, schools and sanitariums came into existence in the United States.

1833 - Dr. Russell Thacker Trall moved onto the hygienic scene as a crusader for his "Hygeio-Therapy." He combined all the principles of hygiene into one science and spread the word through teaching, writing and lecturing.

1844 - A European "water cure" system was introduced into the United States, called "Hydrotherapy." It involved little or no drugs, but rather the application of water as the main healing agent. Also, "Hydropathists" (or "water-curists") adopted some of the principles of Natural Hygiene, such as natural diet, exercise, fresh air and sunshine. Hydro-therapy and Hygiene became combined into one system for a period of time.

1853 - Dr. Russell Thacker Trall founded a college in New York aimed at training competent Hygiene teachers and lecturers. 1861- 1865 - The Civil War caused hygienic institutions to close and put a halt to the health reform movement, which didn't revive again until the 20th Century.

In Part II of this article in the next issue, we will look at how Natural Hygiene became revitalized in the 20th Century and what events lead to its still-rising popularity in recent years.



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