Hell's Kitchen and the Epidemic of Debilitating Health-Disorder Diseases: Radical Theories from the Fringe

By Rebecca Lewis

It is a well-known oddity of investigative science that new theories and insights usually have to come from the fringes. At the center of scientific thought are the entrenched perspectives and long-held theories that resist being challenged. They are accepted as truth, as are their hypothetical conclusions. It takes those who have not been thus indoctrinated to be able to view problems from a different perspective. And this perspective merits serious consideration from anyone trying to actually reach a clearer understanding of root problems.

Since the 1940's, a vast array of previously unknown or rare health disorders have appeared, and in the last generation, have become epidemic. Diabetes, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, to name a few, and childhood and teen disorders like asthma, ADHD, autism, and schizophrenia. I call them "health disorders" because they do not appear to be contagious, but are clearly increasing in epidemic proportions, a pattern that does not result from genetic degradation. 

Many new books are being written on the subject, some postulating that these diseases are environmental or nutritional (e.g. Our Stolen Future, Altering Eden, Hell's Kitchen, Breast Cancer and Iodine, The Orthomolecular Treatment of Schizophrenia), while other books are postulating that these diseases are caused by unsuspected germs, fungi, viral assaults to our immune systems, or misguided treatments (e.g. The Germ That Causes Cancer, Dissolving Illusions, Plague Time, Anatomy of an Epidemic).  Interestingly, some are even researching the chemical breakdown of the body, and resultant illnesses, related to ongoing emotional stresses and spiritual problems, such as fear, anger, abandonment, hatred. Organizations such as BeInHealth.org, and books such as The Biblical Foundations of Freedom (by Art Mathias) and A More Excellent Way (by Henry Wright), see physical healing and healthiness as a result of spiritual and emotional healing and deliverance. 

In my opinion, none of these views paint the whole picture. Instead, each must be taken in context and enlightened by the perspective of the others. Only then will we be able to see what's happening to our bodies and our world. But what does not seem to be in doubt is that humans are not the only ones struggling with new varieties of degenerative health conditions, with everything from the collapse of entire bee colonies to the gender-warping of the fish and reptiles that inhabit our fresh waters. Indeed, a lot of additional insight can be garnered by studying both animals and humans.

One of the most unique theories of the roots of degenerative disorder, is that presented by a book called Hell's Kitchen, written by a medical doctor who began his career as a zoo veterinarian. After spending nearly 20 years successfully figuring out how to keep a wide variety of zoo animals healthy and fertile, Dr. Joel Wallach realized that most of the modern degenerative human diseases were very similar to the nutritional diseases he was overcoming in zoo animals. He went back to medical school to train as a Naturopathic doctor, while doing his own research into the history of the development of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and most other health disorders that have developed in the Western world in recent times. 

Dr. Wallach's fascinating conclusion is that Americans began to fight increasing problems with obesity, diabetes, and many other degenerative diseases when they stopped fertilizing their fields with wood ash (potash) and later also their backyard gardens. In the late 1800's with the boom in the chemical industry, farms switched to using chemical fertilizers, with a handful of nutrients instead of the 91 found in wood ash. Homes ceased to use wood ash in their vegetable gardens as they slowly switched from cooking with wood fires to using natural gas and electric stoves, as well as coal and gas fireplaces. The result is a long-term decline in soil nutrients, and thus, the nutrients available in our foods. 

Wallach's book contains many intriguing insights, though it read more as a list of historical events interspersed with insights and comments. At times he seems reactionary to the medical establishment which has shunned him. One fascinating study he did with an Amish community led to his discovering he could virtually prevent muscular dystrophy in their children by ensuring adequate supplies of selenium to pregnant mothers. He benefited much from the many years he spent tracing the deficiencies and diseases that result from nutritional changes in diverse animal species. He has much to contribute to the discussion, applying his research techniques to the study of human health problems.

This book is a prime example of how people on the fringes of the medical community might come up with new perspectives which greatly contribute to understanding the roots of modern diseases.  I highly recommend reading this quirky book for the unique perspective it provides.

Rebecca Lewis is a curriculum development consultant who serves on the RWI's Advisory Board.