|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
Vegetarian World Forum
THE ENEMY WITHOUT AND WITHIN
ALTHOUGH there may not be fewer sick people now than in previous times, we must recognise that the nature of the diseases has changed considerably. To-day, infectious diseases such as typhoid, tetanus, and smallpox, are extremely rare. This is due to the considerable progress made by contemporary medicine and to new methods of treatment now available. Antiseptics, sulphonamides, antibiotics and vaccines work against the agents of infection and change recognized symptoms.
Degenerative or chronic diseases, on the other hand, are at present showing a marked tendency to increase, and occupy a predominant position. Heading the list of these diseases is cancer.
It was already known 1,500 years before Christ, and was called an ulcer. Hippocrates made a classification of ulcers 400 years before Christ.
Cancer generally appears in the form of a tumour; there are benign ones which develop slowly and malignant ones which develop rapidly. The tumours of this second type are cancers. In the development of a cancer, the following process takes place: for some reason which we do not yet know, a cell begins to multiply abnormally and very rapidly indeed. The growth of this parasitic tissue compresses the organs and the other tissues, and, what is more serious, the tumour as it forms kills and poisons the neighbouring cells and tissues. Through the lymphatic vessels, cancerous cells can be carried far from the site of the tumour into other parts of the body where they may develop secondary, or metastatic, cancerous tumours. Hence the necessity of quickly determining the first source and eliminating it.
WHAT are the causes of cancer? We do not know them all yet, but one of the chief factors which have been identified is chronic irritation. It has been found, for example, that the chafing of the bit in a horse's mouth can cause a cancer, as can also the rubbing of the harness in the case of draught animals.
Certain peoples suffer from well-defined cancers caused by their particular habits and customs; for instance, cancer of the scalp among Mohammedans, which is due to their using blunt razors. The natives of Kashmir suffer from a cancer of the abdomen caused by rubbing that part of the body with an earthenware vessel containing live coals. Betel chewing tends to promote cancer of the gums, smoking rough pipes that of the cheek, swallowing very hot food that of the cesophagus and stomach, etc.
Wounds and burns can cause cancers long after the scar has healed. They have been known to occur 50 years after a burn. Moreover, the slightest tumour of the breast can be cancerous, and must be dealt with in time.
Tar and soot contain chemical substances which are called carcinogenic. These substances can, by repeated friction on the skin, produce cancerous tumours, as in the cancer from soot among boy chimney sweeps. In the laboratory, cancer of the skin can be produced in mice by painting them with tar at regular intervals. These carcinogenic substances have been identified, and at the present time more than 500 of them are known.
Yet, when we consider which organs are most affected by cancer, we find that they are particularly those of the digestive tract. This is mainly the result of our irrational way of feeding ourselves. Our food is too highly seasoned. Meat, animal fats, spices, acids, tobacco and alcohol all slowly but surely attack the walls of the stomach, intestines and lungs. It is noteworthy that cancer is more widespread in the richer countries than in the others, and it is not an exaggeration to say that cancer is the disease of the over-civilised world. Cases of cancer of the digestive tract are infrequent among orthodox Jews, Moses having, over 3,000 years ago, forbidden the Israelites to eat pork, animal fat and blood. Several surgeons have pointed out that vegetarians are attacked less by cancer than are those who eat meat. The Hindus, who are vegetarians, are rarely afflicted with this disease. Meat is an irritant, for it contains all the waste matter left in the animal and all the toxins contained in the fat.
Health is not, as is commonly thought, a function of the appetite. We eat far too much. The restrictions due to the war have had beneficial results in many countries, among them Switzerland. Fast-days are also beneficial to health. Before beginning a meal, the Moroccan noble does not wish his guests a "good appetite" as the French do, but he expresses the traditional wish, "May God teach you moderation."
Alcohol also plays an important part in the prevalence of cancer. Regular consumption of it may provoke a chronic irritation. According to figures collected in England between 1881 and 1890, it was found that, in the case of men between 25 and 65 years of age, 47 deaths in every 1000 were caused by cancer. On classifying these by professions, the following figures emerged: grocers 34, clergy 35, coachmen 58, sailors 60, commercial travellers 63, innkeepers and brewers 70.
As an important factor, there is also tobacco; the products of the burning of tobacco do in fact contain carcinogenic substances (tar). By inhaling them, the smoker draws these substances into his lungs. Out of every 100 people with cancer of the lung, 96 are heavy smokers. Cancer of the lung is very rare among nonsmokers. For every 1000 men aged 25 who do not smoke, the chances of lung cancer are as follows: 1 man will die before 55, 2 before 65, 3 before 75. On the other hand, for heavy smokers, that is, for people who smoke more than 25 cigarettes a day, the probabilities are frightening; of every 1000 heavy smokers, 22 will die before 55, 54 before 65, 90 before 75. If many doctors still refuse to bow before the evidence, it is because many of them are hardened smokers and are trying to persuade themselves that tobacco is harmless. Tobacco is, therefore like alcohol, a poison; it is not a question of moderation, but of suppression.
HOW can we increase our resistance? By returning to simpler and more
natural feeding. Modern civilisation has upset the balance of our system
of nutrition. Man spoils everything he touches. He tries to improve upon
the products of nature, and the result is catastrophic. The essential
elements of our nutrition have in fact been deprived of their real nature,
simply in order to satisfy our palates. For a long time now, we have been
seeking a remedy for cancer, but nothing has been done to increase our
personal resistance to this disease. Yet natural foodstuffs contain the
necessary elements to reinforce our defences.
In previous times they used to use crude salt. This salt contained magnesium. Now, statistics have shown that the number of cases of cancer in a particular area diminished when the magnesium content of the salt was increased. Thus, in the province of Ravenna in Italy, where the salt contains practically no magnesium, the mortality from cancer is 96.77 per cent. In the district of Ban, where the proportion of magnesium is 0.26 per cent, the mortality from cancer is down to 19.99 per 1000 deaths. Crude salt contains an average of nearly 1.7 per cent of magnesium salt. Unfortunately chloride of magnesium has the property of attracting water, and therefore makes the salt damp. For this simple reason alone, chemists have taken to purifying salt by removing the magnesium from it. The salt which we use contains four times less magnesium, which corresponds to a loss of 40 to 50 grammes per head per year.
With bread, we have made the same mistake. Magnesium accumulates in the husk of the grain, the very part which is removed by sifting. White flour only contains 8 mgr. of magnesium, whereas brown flour contains 25 mgr. and wholemeal flour 62 mgr.
The writer has made a very fruitful experiment with pigeons in a town in France. He took two sets of pigeons; the first set was fed entirely on white bread, and the second on wholemeal bread. The pigeons fed on white bread all died on the 22nd day, whilst those fed on wholemeal bread remained perfectly healthy and vigorous. In a second experiment, the writer discovered that it was possible to save the pigeons fed on white bread, by changing their diet on the fifteenth day and straightaway giving them wholemeal bread.
It is the same with polished rice. When the Americans arrived in the Philippines, the natives lived on nothing but natural rice. The newcomers thought that the use of white rice was an undeniable sign of superior culture, and taught the natives to use only that. Result: the advent of beri-beri. What did they do then? Instead of putting the natives back onto their original food, they made extracts from the husks had been removed from the natural rice, and gave them as injections to the individuals suffering from beri-beri, who were cured. Such is the paradox of our civilization.
A conclusive experiment has been made in Japan. Rats fed on polished rice were made to absorb a caroinogenic substance; without exception, they were stricken with tumours of the liver. The same substance was injected into rats fed on untreated rice, who, in contrast, successfully resisted the disease. Thus, there are protective qualities in certain substances, which must not be taken away from them when they are used as foods.
Nor can we, at the present time, rely on vegetables. We do not know what we are buying, for civilisation has even affected the land. It employs chemical fertilisers which change the character of the soil. In consequence, fruits and vegetables are poorer in mineral salts and vitamins.
Wisdom lies not in the cure of disease, but in its prevention. The practical
way to strengthen our resistance to disease and to cancer is to return
to natural foodstuffs, crude salt, wholemeal bread, brown sugar, etc.,
and to vary our food as much as possible. There is nothing more foolish
than to eat the same thing every day. We must also eat a great deal of
fruit and vegetables, which are sources of mineral salts and vitamins.
Cancer is not hereditary; it can be avoided by a life which is healthy
and lived in conformity with nature. We do not live only for ourselves,
but we have obligations towards our fellows and descendants. We have a
duty to develop good health in ourselves in order to be able to hand it
on to our children, for "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also