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“Why not research health, rather than disease?”
The Hunza of northern Pakistan were famous for their extraordinary vitality and health.
Dr Wrench argues that in part at least, this is because their food was not made ‘sophisticated’, by the artificial processes typically applied to modern processed food. How these processes affect our food is dealt with in great detail in this book.
The answer that Dr Wrench uncovered in his researches goes deeper than just the food, though. The real answer lies in what was special about the Hunza’s water supply.
A new edition, illustrated.
1 – The Hunza People
2 – A Revolution in Outlook
3 – The Shift to Experimental Science
4 – The Start
5 – Continuity and Heredity
6 – Other Whole-diet Experiments
7 – Fragmentation
8 – The Cause of Disease
9 – The Hunza Food
10 – The Cultivation of Hunza Food
11 – Progress by Return
12 – An Experiment
IT SHOULD be clearly understood that a doctor is someone so saturated with people’s illnesses and ailments that, if thoughtful, he is almost forced to look upon life as something heavily burdened by these defects.
I carry with me the profound impression of the first months I spent in the hospital wards and out-patient departments many years ago. I had come from the vigorous and exuberant life of an English public school, where everything that really absorbed my boyish interests was based on a glowing vitality and responsive health. After school hours there was plenty of time to let the muscles go – games, sports, ragging, bathing, or running and walking over untilled fields. All these things involved plenty of sunlight and wind or the raw cold, which made the blood flow.
Something of this life accompanies the early years of the medical student, but there is always the lure of hospital work to draw students back to its consuming interests. They’re caught in the meshes of the problems of disease, and they won’t be able to free their mind from it for the rest of their lives.
Impressions of youth are those that remain. They color all thought and experience, and they largely determine that thought and experience. The impact of the numerous diseases, and the suffering due to them, is a tremendous one. The impression that the microscope and the post-mortem room made upon me was so vivid that I used to sometimes walk about London with my eyes down and with the question ‘Why?’ on my lips, until I saw evidence of the many harmful objects of pathology upon the pavements.
The effect was not one of depression; that’s not the effect upon healthy youth. The effect instead stimulated me, as if I were facing an opponent who is stronger than I am at boxing. And here was truly an extraordinary opponent: the problem of disease, and why humans are so affected.
After debating with my fellow students again and again the question of why we have disease instead of health, I slowly, before I qualified, came to a further question. Why was it that as students we were always presented with sick or recovering people for our teaching, and never with the ultra-healthy? Why were we only taught disease? Why was it presumed that we already knew all about health in its fullness? The teaching was completely one-sided. Moreover, the basis of our teaching upon disease was pathology – namely, the appearance of that which is dead from disease.
We started from our knowledge of the dead, and from that, we interpreted the manifestations, slight or severe, of disease that threatened death. Through these various manifestations which fattened our textbooks, we approached health. However, by the time we reached real health, the studies were dropped. Their human representatives, the patients, were now well, and neither we nor our educators were any longer concerned with them. So we made no studies of the healthy – only the sick.
Disease was the reason for our specialized existences. There was also a great abundance of it. Between its abundance and the need we had for it, its inevitability was taken for granted. Gradually, however, a question forced itself upon me more and more insistently. Hadn’t some of this ‘inevitability’ attached to disease come about through our profession only viewing disease from within? What would happen if we reversed the process, and started by learning all we could about the healthiest people and animals we could find? This question constantly nagged at me, but unfortunately, I didn’t have the motivation that is part of the genius of discovery, which I so admire. Those who possess it grip an idea and never let it go. They are as passionate for it to get on in the world as a mother is for her children. They dare, as even weak animals do, to challenge hopeless odds on its behalf. After achieving a small local status in research, all I did was to apply for scholarships. I placed a subject of my own choice in my applications: to study the health of the healthiest people I could discover.
I did not, of course, succeed. My proposal was probably looked upon as ridiculous. To research health rather than disease was a complete reversal of the ‘normal’ outlook, which was confined to different aspects of disease. To the medical profession, disease is the base and substance of its structure. Health is just the top of the pyramid, where it itself comes to an end. To suggest reversing this was like asking someone to stand on their head to get the right point of view.
At any rate, my applications came to nothing, though I was offered work upon the accepted lines. I didn’t have the necessary conviction for this, so I gave up research and went into practice. I remained interested in very healthy people and read what I could about them, but the work imposed by the war and by practice in the following years kept me from anything more than an academic interest in the old question of why we couldn’t have health.
It was not until two years ago, when I had more leisure, that the following vivid sentence in the writings of Sir Robert McCarrison thawed my frozen hope:
“These people are unsurpassed by any Indian race in perfection of physique; they are long lived, vigorous in youth and age, capable of great endurance and enjoy a remarkable freedom from disease in general.”
Further study of his writings was very encouraging. Here was someone whose research was in health, and healthy people. In fact, he saw health as a problem, and produced answers to it. He wrote things about research into the reasons these people had unsurpassed health and physique.
In this way, it will be seen we come as researchers straight to health without intervention, and to health in the full dictionary sense of the word: wholeness – particularly, sound physique of every organ of the body and freedom from disease. This is the knowledge that we all want to have. We want to know what full health is, whether the tremendous part illness and ailments play in modern civilized countries is really necessary and, if not, upon what health primarily depends. We can ourselves attain to health – or at least with our modern skill in investigation we should be able to do so – if this full health exists in any part of our world today.
We will at least learn more about how to be healthy ourselves, and how to bring healthy children into the world, by studying successful human examples than we can by any other way.
By studying the wings of birds in flight, we have made our machines carry us through the air. In the same way, by studying one of the healthiest peoples of the world, we might so improve our methods of health that we can become a really healthy people ourselves.
A research in health is really promising. Well, this book is one. Let us see if the promise is fulfilled.
– Dr Guy Wrench