Revolutionary health lessons straight from our founding fathers

Today is Bastille Day, known as La Fete Nationale, in France. It marks the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. And it’s the French equivalent of our Independence Day in the U.S.

In those days, France had close ties with the new United States. And this relationship between the two countries brought about some revolutionary developments in diet and nutrition, as well as a new awareness about “mind-body” medicine in the U.S.

Of course, the U.S. founding fathers played an integral role. In fact, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson all represented the early U.S. in the years before, during and after the American Revolution and the French Revolution.

They were also interested in diet and nutrition, the effects of the mind on health, as well as the role of a “vital energy” that animates life and the universe. For example, remember Franklin’s famous experiments with lightning, a kite, and a key?

King Louis XVI actually asked Franklin, while in France, to chair a panel to investigate a new form of energy healing brought to Paris from Vienna by Franz Anton Mesmer. Louis also invited other notable scientists of the time onto the panel, including chemist Antoine Lavoisier and Dr. Joseph Guillotine. (Ironically, Lavoisier was later beheaded with Guillotine’s “humane” invention for execution during the French Revolution.)

Mesmer’s new work led to the science of hypnotism, the “power of suggestion,” and mental visualization to overcome many health problems. Theoretically, “mesmerism” or “animal magnetism” stemmed from the idea that some kinds of bioenergy could influence health.

It eventually led to a new generation of “magnetic healers” during the 19th century, including Andrew Taylor Still and D. D. Palmer. They went on to found, respectively, osteopathic medicine and chiropractic medicine. As you know, chiropractic medicine uses the signature treatment of spinal manual therapy, shown to effectively treat back, neck and joint pain.

We all respond differently to mind-body healing

Another important development that came out of this time in history is the understanding that not all treatments work equally well for all patients.

For example, in the notable case of hypnosis, about 10 percent of patients are suggestible, or susceptible; about 10 percent are resistant; and everyone else falls on a spectrum in between. Drs. Herbert Spiegel and David Spiegel developed the hypnotic susceptibility scales during the 20th century to predict and apply what can be a very effective technique when performed with the right patients.

My colleague, Mike Jawer, and I also found that patients’ respond differently to other “mind-body” approaches, according to their personal susceptibility. In fact, we designed a simple psychometric survey to match the mind-body therapy best suited to your “emotional type.”

You can learn how to apply all these mind-body approaches by taking an online quiz or reading my book Your Emotional Type.

And, of course, for dealing with chronic pain, I incorporated all this knowledge into my new online Arthritis Relief and Reversal Protocol.

Diet and nutrition gain traction in 18th century

The idea of using diet and nutrition to prevent and treat all diseases was current at this time in history as well. For example, while in France, Thomas Jefferson acquired important culinary knowledge that brought much-needed variety to the American palate — and greatly influenced diet and nutrition in the United States. In fact, before Jefferson, much American fare appeared rather bleak. For example, puritans of New England ate boiled, dried fish, meat, porridge, and vegetables.

By contrast, Daniel Webster of Massachusetts and New Hampshire observed that Jefferson served his visitors meals in half-Virginia, half-French style during an early 19th century visit to Monticello.

Jefferson’s “French” fare at Monticello included such staples as Dijon mustard, French fried potatoes, Parmesan cheese, and vanilla ice cream. He also brought back waffles, from the Belgian border of France. (Perhaps starting a long tradition of “waffling” by American politicians). And let’s not forget to mention “macaroni,” which was called a real “feather in his cap.”

At Monticello, Jefferson grew more than 250 varieties of vegetables, including artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, peas, squash, and tomatoes. He also grew ingredients for healthy, raw salads, such as cress, endive, peppergrass, sorrel, and spinach, dressed with imported olive oil and tarragon vinegar. Modern science shows these same vegetables are also good for health.

Patrick Henry — who years earlier, in the Virginia House of Burgesses, cried, “Give me liberty or give me death!” — later accused Jefferson of becoming “Frenchified.” But Jefferson introduced just as many American styles to the French. For example, while U.S. Ambassador to France, Jefferson introduced American foods such as Indian corn, cantaloupe melon, cranberries, pecans, and sweet potatoes to the French.

Of course, Jefferson also gave us early advice about the third pillar of natural approaches to health. He famously stated, “Exercise and recreation are as necessary as reading.”

I have never forgotten that wise piece of advice from one of America’s great men. You too can keep reading about recreation, diet, nutrition, and mind-body medicine, every day, right here.


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