History of Food Combining
Since the dawn of medical history with the ancient Greeks, there have been reports of the ways in which food can cause and cure illness. But the main tradition of western medicine held that food cannot cause disease, and unquestioned tradition is very hard to shift.
Dr William Howard Hay (1866-1940) managed to produce more of a questioning of this tradition than most, but he was one of many who questioned the relationship between what we eat and our physical and mental health. Dr Rollier of Leysin, Switzerland, Dr Rasmus Alsaker and Dr J. H. Tilden of Denver were others who questioned the fashion for refined foods, and asked if they could be the cause of a rising tide of new diseases sweeping the world.
Dr Hay treated his patients according to the medical tradition for the first sixteen years of his practice, until his own ill health caused him to re-evaluate his approach to medicine. He had also observed his patients suffer increased ill health between 1891 and 1911, with more heart disease, circulatory disease, digestive disorders and cancers.
When he became seriously ill, he deduced that the only cause of this increase in disease that was common to all his patients, was the changes to more protein and more refined food in their diet. He decided that the only cure for his own ill health was to change his pattern of eating back to a more natural lifestyle, contrary to the conventional view at that time, which was that diet played little part in health, and medicines were needed to correct these ailments.
Dr Hay and others like him became convinced that these diseases could easily be prevented, and indeed cured, by following a more natural lifestyle. He studied all the food science that was available to him and constructed his now famous diet. He was the first person to benefit from his own improved lifestyle.
He followed the food combining diet that he devised himself, and impressed his fellow doctors with his rapid recovery. He put this practical experience to good use.
One report that strongly influenced Dr Hay was that of Dr Robert McCarrison, an officer in the British Army Medical Services, who observed extreme longevity in the Himalayas. The population subsisted on nuts and vegetables and fruit, mostly raw, whole grain bread, with small amounts of milk and cheese. He also observed that these people suffered very little disease, unlike the Europeans who imported their refined diets with them.
Dr Hay treated a lot of people with a wide range of chronic illness. He observed from his own practical experience and observation that many of these people, written off as incurable by their own doctor, recovered and then maintained good health when following his diets.
Dr Hay was appointed director of the Sun-Diet Health Foundation in 1927. The president of this foundation, at the age of 68, based his own good health on the exercise that he took, skipping with a rope 200 times, always running upstairs, and walking 4 to 5 miles each day. He would eat no breakfast, drank a pint of raw milk and a pint of orange juice for his lunch, and at night had a meal of salad, broth, cooked vegetables and the occasional dessert.
By 1935 Dr Hay was Medical Director of Hay System Inc and set out his ideas in 'A New Health Era'. Some of his ideas have not stood the test of time - he was not aware of the nature of smallpox and thought all disease might be caused by diet or living conditions- and our own knowledge of the internal workings of the human body have progressed a long way since he wrote the book. But in spite of this, his observations on diet and health still remain an accurate basis for a healthy lifestyle.