Weird Diets

I’ve been involved in the field of nutrition and health for many years, and I’ve seen various weird diets come and go. The weirdest ones tend to attract fanatical adherents who carry on with the eating program even when their health declines. Here are a few of the worst.

Weird Diets

MUCUSLESS DIET

One of the early ones was the “mucusless diet,” formulated by a German “professor” Arnold Ehret and published in a 1922 book called Mucusless Diet Healing System: Scientific Method of Eating Your Way to Health. Unfortunately, we don’t know the long-term effects of the diet on its inventor because Ehret died after falling on a curb and hitting his head two weeks after writing the book.

According to Ehret, “Every disease, no matter what name it is known by Medical Science, is Constipation. A clogging up of the entire pipe system of the human body. Any special symptom is therefore merely an extraordinary local constipation by more accumulated mucus at this particular place. Special accumulation points are the tongue, the stomach and particularly the entire digestive tract.” He preached that fruit was the perfect food and along with leafy vegetables was enough to sustain a human being in good health. He also advocated fasting, starting with a two- or three-day fast, and promoted longer fasts (up to forty days) once the body was used to going without food.

Arnold EhretJohn Harvey Kellogg
Arnold Ehret and John Harvey Kellogg promoted weird diets and had the same taste in facial hair.

Like many other practitioners in the early 20th century, Ehret was fixated on the bowels—his contemporary John Harvey Kellogg, for example, believed that three bowel movements per day were a sign of good health. “The average person has as much as ten pounds of un-eliminated feces in the bowels continually, poisoning the blood stream and the entire system,” wrote Ehret. “Think of it! My ‘Mucus Theory’ and ‘Mucusless Diet Healing System’ stand unshaken; it has proven the most successful ‘Compensation-Action’ so-called cure against every kind of disease. By its systematic application thousands of declared-incurable patients could be saved.”

Whereas conventional doctors of the time—also often fixated on the bowels–treated “clogged bowels” with arsenic preparations, Ehret advocated a strict vegan diet—which may have unclogged those stroppy bowels in the short term, but would starve you if you stuck to it, especially if you also engaged in punishing fasts.

Only fruit and leafy green vegetables were allowed. “All other foods of civilization, without exception, are mucus and acid forming, and therefore are harmful.” Apparently, Ehret’s “scientific” approach failed to realize that our mucous membranes are there for a purpose. . . to produce mucus.

Ehret railed against the “heavy breakfast,” calling it “the worst and by far the most unhealthy habit. No solid food should be eaten in the early morning at all if you desire to secure the best results.” He also warned against taking liquids with foods.  “If accustomed to tea or coffee, wait a short while after you have eaten before drinking. Soups should be avoided with meals, as the more liquid taken the more difficult for proper digestion. If a warm drink is desired, for instance, as a breakfast drink during the winter time, make a broth by cooking for a long time different kinds of vegetables, such as spinach, onions, carrots, cabbages, etc., and DRINK THE JUICE ONLY.”

Now Accepting Reservations for 2022

Unfortunately, the mucusless diet did not die with its inventor, but took on a life of its own.  Reprinted in 1953, his book is still out there urging a starvation diet as a way to bodily purity.  The most famous recent advocate for the diet was Apple CEO Steve Jobs who, for the better part of his life, consumed only fruits and vegetables until his death from pancreatic cancer in 2011. When Ashton Kutcher, who played the character of Jobs in the eponymous film, tried to follow the mucusless diet, he lost eighteen pounds but he ended up in the emergency room as his insulin levels fluctuated out of control

What could possibly go wrong on a diet of only fruits and vegetables? Malnutrition, low blood sugar, osteoporosis, dementia, anger and mood swings (Jobs was famous for this), to name but a few. The diet certainly will not prevent cancer, as proven by the example of the late Apple CEO. 

THE MEDICAL MEDIUM DIET

The Medical Medium diet is the brainchild of Anthony William, a brilliant marketeer and self-proclaimed medium who offers medical and health advice based on alleged communication with the spirit world.

Anthony William
Anthony William, the Medical Medium

William has published six books, several of which made it to the New York Times bestselling list. He has nearly three million followers on Instagram and over three million followers on Facebook as of 2021. His website contains at least one hundred seventy-seven revenue-generating affiliate links to Amazon products, such as nutritional supplements. 

For William, it’s not clogged bowels that cause all illness, but the Epstein-Bar virus, which he claims is responsible for “breast cancer, liver cancer, almost all lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, women’s reproductive cancers, leukemia, and many more.” William also suggests that the Epstein-Barr virus causes over 95 percent of thyroid issues.

To treat Epstein-Bar, he prescribes a treatment of B12 vitamins  along with high doses of celery juice.  His diet is largely vegan, with a big emphasis on fruits and vegetables—hence the need for B12 vitamins. William provides no proof that a specific virus has been isolated from the fluids or tissues of anyone suffering from Epstein-Bar.

According to William, the unhealthiest food is eggs, which have “become food for the dangerous pathogens, viruses, and bacteria in our bodies. If you’re struggling with any illness or symptom, such as Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, migraines, eczema, psoriasis, lupus, vertigo, eye floaters, acne, or brain fog, removing eggs from your diet will provide your body with the support it needs to heal.”

William cites the fact that eggs have proven the best medium for growing pathogens in a laboratory setting. Does this mean that eggs promote the growth of pathogens in the body, or merely that bacteria grow best on eggs because they are a very nutritious food?

Says William, “The eggs you eat can feed the pathogens, viruses, and bacteria deep within your liver. These growing pathogens, viruses, and bacteria can create symptoms and conditions like heart palpitations, fatigue, weight gain, hot flashes, anxiety, acne, and more. So when you eat an egg, you could be gradually worsening your condition without realizing it.” How many children (and spouses) are denied a breakfast of nutritious eggs and given celery juice instead based on the ravings of this nut case?

Many of our health problems come from a “stagnant, sluggish” liver, says William (taking a cue from the mucusless diet folks). “The liver is a campground for large variations of toxins, poisons, pathogens, and other antagonists and troublemakers. This is why it is important to cleanse your liver properly, like you can do with the 3:6:9 Cleanses in my book, Cleanse To Heal. On top of these poisons and pathogens in the liver, you have toxic heavy metals such as mercury, copper, aluminum, lead, nickel, cadmium, and arsenic. Over time, the pathogens and heavy metals feeding on eggs in your liver, proliferate and create a stagnant, sluggish liver.” 

So, according to William, the eggs you eat pass directly from the digestive tract to the liver, a miracle of anatomy!

His solution for a sluggish liver is sixteen ounces celery juice daily; a “heavy metal detox smoothie,” a sugary, pancreas-pummeling blend of bananas, blueberries, cilantro, orange juice, barley grass juice powder, spirulina and dulse; and the 3:6:9 Cleanse, which involves more celery juice, various vegetables and canned applesauce.

This vegan, no-fat diet is necessary because “the liver becomes sick when taxed with ‘excess’ fat.” Indeed, modern industrial seed oils are very bad for the liver (and everything else in the body), and William is right to tell his followers to avoid canola oil; but saturated fats support liver function.

Vitamin A from animal fats is critical to healthy liver function, but there is no true vitamin A in William’s diet, only lots of carotenes, which can tax our ability to make true vitamin A. Eggs, bacon and buttered toast will do more for your liver (and mood) than gallons of celery juice. Eating vitamin A-rich liver in one form or another several times per week is the recipe for gentle detoxification, robust energy and liver health—but in his tome Medical Medium Liver Rescue, William asserts that it is impossible to find clean, healthy liver on Planet Earth and compares eating liver to consuming radioactive nuclear waste.

William claims to have invented the celery juice fad. “Celery juice is one of the most profound ways, if not the most profound way, to restore digestive health. It is that powerful.” Reference please?  In fact, here is a challenge to my readers. Please find me one study, just one study, showing that drinking celery juice, or any kind of vegetable juice, helps the body ‘detoxify,’ which I define as increasing the amount of heavy metals or other measurable toxins given off in the urine.”

More from William: “For decades a grassroots global healing movement has been building: drinking 16 ounces of straight celery juice on an empty stomach every morning. Today, millions of people around the world are participating and experiencing the benefits for themselves.

Why? Because celery juice, when consumed in the right way, is a powerful and miraculous healing remedy and people are noticing the benefits it provides, such as clearer skin, improved digestion, less bloating, sustained energy, better mental clarity, weight loss, and stable moods, just to name a few.”

“People are healing from all kinds of acute and chronic illnesses, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, eczema, psoriasis, acne, SIBO, constipation, chronic fatigue syndrome, blood sugar issues, migraines, acid reflux, high blood pressure, addictions, adrenal issues, gout, allergies, autoimmune conditions, and countless others, from drinking plain celery juice daily.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were true!  Just one little warning: celery is one of the dirty dozen vegetables, loaded with pesticides.  So I hope all these folks drinking sixteen ounces of celery juice every day are using organic celery. While William warns his readers against toxins in liver, he does not think this fact about celery juice is important to mention to his readers.

THE ALL-RAW PRIMAL DIET

Aajonus Vonderplanitz (originally named John Richard Swigart) advocated a version of the “primal” diet consisting of fresh raw meat (never frozen), raw milk, raw honey and carrot juice, which he says helped cure him of many health problems.  This is certainly a better diet than the vegan diet of Ahret and Williams, and also better than many of the primal diets, which run the risk of calcium deficiency by avoiding dairy foods.  The problem with Aajonus’ diet is that it avoids salt—which Aajonus called a toxin.

Aajonus Vonderplantiz
Aajonus Vonderplanitz

Aajonus died in 2013 when a balcony he was standing on at his home in rural Thailand collapsed.  .  . but his diet lives on, especially popular with young men as a way of increasing muscle mass.  Celery juice seems to have replaced carrot juice, in the belief that celery juice will supply the sodium that’s missed by avoiding salt.  

However, there are only about 200 mg sodium in one cup celery juice.  The minimum human requirement for sodium is about 3500 mg per day, the amount in one and one-half teaspoons salt–some people require more and sodium intake in 1900 was about 7000 mg per day. So, it would take about seventeen cups celery juice per day to satisfy the minimum daily requirement for sodium. And since celery is one of the “dirty dozen” pesticide foods, organic celery is a must.  What is the cost of seventeen cups organic celery juice compared to 1.5 teaspoons unrefined salt?

The other problem is that you are not getting any chloride with celery juice, and we need chloride to make hydrochloride acid for digesting meat.  So even if you are eating a lot of meat, you could end up with a protein deficiency!

Another thing that could contribute to protein deficiency is the fact that all the meat is raw.  While traditional cultures consumed some of their meat raw, they also consumed their meat cooked—even the Inuit cooked a portion of their meat. Gentle cooking unfolds tight muscle proteins, making receptors more available for digestive enzymes.  All traditional cultures prepared some or even most of their meat by cooking it.  They also consumed some of their animal foods raw, but the Aajonus diet takes this observation to the extreme.

ASSESSING WEIRD DIETS

How do we assess these weird diets?  How do we look beyond the fantastic claims of their promoters?

Our best bet is to ask how these diets resemble the diets of healthy traditional people; the answer for the first two weird diets is “not at all!” All healthy traditional people consumed animal products—indeed went to great effort and risk to obtain animal products—so that fact alone eliminates any vegan regime.  And traditional peoples did not have blenders! They respected the fact that most raw plant foods are hard for human beings to digest (even when blended), and added them to the cooking pot, or steamed them in underground pits.

And please don’t tell me that we need to drink celery juice today because we live in a toxic world. . . so did traditional peoples, who were constantly breathing in smoke—inside their dwelling places and outside from the practice of burning large tracts of land.  Smoke is one of the most toxic substances on earth, yet these people did not suffer from lung disease or any other sign of toxicity.  That’s because their diets were rich in the key substance for detoxification: vitamin A. Fruits and vegetables do not provide us with vitamin A; only animal fats and organ meats do that.  I think that is good news—we can eat butter and pate to detoxify, instead of going hungry by fasting.

At the other extreme, a few traditional diets contained mostly animal foods—those living in Arctic climates had limited access to plant foods, but subsisted on seafood and game, and in the case of reindeer herders in Scandinavia, Russia and Mongolia, on meat plus milk and milk products.  According to Dr. Weston Price, the carnivorous northern Canadian Indians took care to consume the thyroid glands of the animals they killed, in order to avoid thyroid problems (carbohydrate foods are need for thyroid function; and those groups not having access to milk required bones for calcium, usually the bones of birds and small animals, ground up and added to their food.

Finally, salt is essential for life.  We need the sodium from salt for carbohydrate digestion, and the chloride portion of salt for meat digestion.  And since salt is the basis of cellular metabolism, we can’t live very long without it. Most traditional cultures had access to salt—often through trade—but if they didn’t, they took care to consume one specific salty food: blood.  The explorer Samuel Hearne, the first European to travel with the native Americans living above the Arctic circle, noted the practice of consuming blood, for example, in a dish called a beeatee: “Of all the dishes cooked by the Indians, a beeatee, as it is called in their language, is certainly the most delicious that can be prepared from caribou only, without any other ingredient. It is a kind of haggis, made with the blood, a good quantity of fat shred small, some of the tenderest of the flesh, together with the heart and lungs cut, or more commonly torn into small slivers; all of which is put into the stomach and toasted by being suspended before the fire on a string. . . . it is certainly a most delicious morsel, even without pepper, salt or any other seasoning.”

Unfortunately, Aajonus does not urge his followers to consume blood, nor even to emphasize fat and organ meats. While certainly more nutritious than our other two weird diets, his all-raw diet is bound to lead to deficiencies over the long term.

George Orwell once defined a health food nut as someone who by his eating habits divorced himself from human company in order to add a few years to the human carcass.  Indeed, these weird diets make it hard for adherents to celebrate good food in the company of other human beings, and they are very unlikely to live longer.

The tragic irony is that we do not have to eat punishing weird diets to be healthy.  We can enjoy all the food groups if we emphasize nutrient-density and proper preparation most of the time, and we never need refuse to share the occasional meal with family and friends who may not share our enthusiasm for traditional foods.

Learn the characteristics of healthy traditional diets from the Weston A. Price Foundation at westonaprice.org

Author: Sally Fallon Morell

Sally Fallon Morell is best known as the author of Nourishing Traditions®: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. This well-researched, thought-provoking guide to traditional foods contains a startling message: animal fats and cholesterol are not villains but vital factors in the diet, necessary for normal growth, proper function of the brain and nervous system, protection from disease and optimum energy levels.

11 thoughts on “Weird Diets”

  1. Hi Sally, interesting read, thanks! I note that the photo you have displayed with the subtext, “Anthony William, the Medical Medium” is actually of the tennis player Novak Djokovic (who I believe also has some public opinions on what constitutes a healthy diet/lifestyle, though perhaps a little more sensible then those you have detailed here).

  2. An excellent read that really took me back. I was the original junk food junkie as a kid and spent most of my adult life searching for answers to restore the health my early, deplorable diet had destroyed. And it was very frustrating, because the authors of the health books I read (I had Ehret’s silly book and a myriad of similar ones) possessed only one or two pieces of the health puzzle. Most had that one perfect diet for everyone, which was usually vegan and often named after them. The one author that helped me the most was Dr. Paavo Airola, a Finnish naturopath who thought everyone should be a lacto-vegetarian. He got me into raw milk, butter, yogurt and cheese, and introduced me to buckwheat, a “grain” I found I do very well with. But he believed red meat to be the enemy of mankind, so I avoided it, not realizing it was a food my body desperately needed. Finally, I discovered the works of Dr. Weston Price and Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez, and my search for health was over, for in my opinion when you combine their knowledge you have all of the health puzzle pieces. In a nutshell, Dr. Price showed me a variety of healthy, real world diets and Dr. Gonzalez showed me which of those diets was the perfect diet for me (I now consume and thrive on red meat like the Eskimos Dr. Price observed and raw milk, raw cheese and sourdough bread like the Swiss villagers Dr. Price studied — which I guess makes me a strawberry-blond Inuit!) and I believe Dr. Price’s classic Nutrition And Physical Degeneration and Dr. Gonzalez’s Nutrition And The Autonomic Nervous System to be the two most important health books ever written. (In addition, there’s a third health author who I’ve learned MUCH from: Sally Fallon Morell)

  3. I had read Arnold ehret’s book when I was on the brink of becoming vegan for three years. It’s so true that I ultimately ended up starving my body of real, deep nourishing nutrition and literally became a shell of myself. The turning point was when I realized I couldn’t even throw a basketball up into a hoop anymore (!!!) and several nerve issues began popping up. I, by grace, landed in a place where 8 backyard hens were in my care and began recovering my health with those beautiful eggs they laid daily. Thank god. And here I am today, a former weird diet subscriber, sipping bone broth with my 1 year old and feel the absolute best I’ve felt in my entire life.

  4. I appreciate and agree with most of what you wrote. I do, however, question your point on whether fresh juices are detoxifying as I know you all support the gaps protocol and that is a significant part of her diet. One of the references she gives is the book Healing the Gerson Way. Which I know isn’t a study. But she claims in her latest book Gut and Physiology syndrome that there have been hundreds of studies published on this very point. So I think it’s worth looking over. Thanks for sharing your thoughts all the same! Looking forward to seeing you again (and Natasha!) in October!!

    1. I happened on Nourishing Traditions by accident about 10 years ago, it’s become like the Bible to me! I was thrilled to find your website and Facebook page recently!
      I agree that it would be very difficult to get by on any of the weird diets for the long term, but I do think fasts and juice cleanses for periods of time can help people detox.
      I’m still a work in progress, trying to get my own body healthy. If more children were raised on Nourishing Traditions, what a difference that could make!
      I’d give everything to help that cause!
      Salut!

  5. Thank you Sally for your amazing blog! It’s always so fun to read. I loved the last part about how important it is to have a diet that can be enjoyed with family and friends, so true.

  6. What are the links to all the controlled, functional human large scale studies backing up your claims like the claim of a salt minimum requirement, of the hypothetical claimed effects of insufficient salt upon digestion and protein amino acids uptake?

    Or did someone at least do small scale human expeditions that really strongly suggested the claims you proposed?

    Has anyone actually tried testing the stomach acid levels of people who only eat raw meat not cooked and who don’t eat any salt to see if they actually have lower stomach acid?

    Has anyone ever measured the stools of people eating cooked versus raw meat in a well-designed, controlled study and physically measured a difference in how much of the protein / amino acids was absorbed?

    If so, where’s the link to that? Or in whose book is the claimed study / experiment?

    Thank you ahead of time for taking the time to answer my questions.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.