In his 1953 book Your Feet Are Killing You, Dr. Simon J. Wikler expounded his theory that just about every medical problem one could imagine (cancer, allergies, tooth decay, etc.) was caused by shoes. His solution was to go barefoot. Ideally all the time.
His theory was summarized in The Quarterly Review of Biology (Dec 1954):
The title of this book is not used as an eye-catching facetious comment about a foot-sore individual. The author, described as a "Doctor of Surgical Chiropody," uses the words in their literal sense. He believes that foot imbalance is responsible for such "degenerative diseases" as cancer, rheumatic fever, chronic fatigue, diseases of the uterus, sexual disturbances, neuroses, essential hypertension, chronic alcoholism, narcotic addiction, allergies, eyestrain, and dental caries. He postulates that proper foot care will do much to eliminate these ailments.
The chain of events leading to the development of these diseases is described as follows. The modern shoe deforms the human foot, causes the muscles to shrivel, and leads to foot imbalance. Even the feet of infants are distorted because they are firmly tucked in under blankets or covered by tight stockings. Upon bearing weight, the deformity of the feet leads to a rolling out of the legs that carries the femora into external rotation. This deprives the pelvis of its anterior support, and allows it to dip downward in front. The spine is therefore forced into exaggerated curves, so that the abdominal space is reduced and the chest cavity is compressed. The vital organs and the blood vessels and nerves are displaced or abnormally stretched. The abnormal stresses lead to cancer of the breast, stomach, prostate, and uterus. To substantiate his thesis the author offers case histories and statistics. In addition to the development of this concept, the writer uses the latter part of the book to enumerate some foot ailments and to describe briefly the symptoms and treatment.
In a medical reference book from the 1940s, The New People's Physician (1941), I came across these pictures of kids in classrooms and playing sports dressed only in their tighty-whities. They weren't students at a clothing-optional school. They were actually being treated for tuberculosis. In the days before antibiotics, sunlight therapy (or heliotherapy) was a popular cure for that disease.
"At Leysin, in the Alpes Vaudoises, Dr. A. Rollier instituted the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis and other tuberculous diseases by means of direct sunlight. The patients spend as much time as possible in the open air, exposed to the rays of the sun."
"Early cases of tuberculosis in young and vigorous people benefit considerably from treatment at high altitudes. Exercise and sport of a not too strenuous nature is advocated."
"At Perrysburg, N.Y., tubercular children study in an open-air schoolroom, stripped to the waist."
"Minimum clothing and maximum exposure to the sun contribute to improving the health of these tuberculous children at Perrysburg, New York. Outdoor classes and fresh air improve general health as well."
"Outdoor air and sunlight, even in the New England winter, are part of the treatment for child tuberculosis patients of the Meriden State Tuberculosis Sanitarium, Meriden, Conn."
An LA Times article (May 28, 2007) gives some background on the popularity of sunlight therapy for TB:
sunlight therapy, or heliotherapy as it was sometimes called (helios is the Greek word for sun), didn't become popular until a Swiss doctor, Auguste Rollier, began championing it in the early 1900s...
Rollier devised a detailed protocol for how, exactly, to sunbathe for health. He was convinced that early-morning sun was best and that sun exposure was most beneficial when the air was cool. When patients, most of whom had tuberculosis, arrived at his solaria, they first had to adjust to the altitude (his clinics were in the mountains) and then to the cool air. Once acclimated, Rollier slowly exposed them to the sun.
The patients were rolled onto sun-drenched, open-air balconies, wearing loincloths and covered from head to toe with white sheets. On the first day of treatment, just their feet peeked out from under the sheets, and only for five minutes. On day two, the sheets were pulled a little higher, and the patients were left in the sun a few minutes more. By day five, only the patients' heads were covered, their bodies left to soak up sun for more than an hour. After a few weeks, the patients were very tan -- and hopefully very healthy. (The therapy worked for many, but not all.)
And according to a fairly recent article in the Journal of Cell Biology, "Curing TB with Sunlight" (Mar 27, 2006), sunlight actually is a fairly effective treatment for tuberculosis:
Ultraviolet (UV) light makes vitamin D, and vitamin D turns on innate immunity to tuberculosis (TB), say Steffen Stenger (Universität Erlangen, Germany), Philip Liu, Robert Modlin (University of California, Los Angeles, CA), and colleagues...
The finding may explain why Hermann Brehmer's 19th century trip to the Himalayas cured him of his TB, and why the fresh air at his sanatoria helped cure others. “Our forefathers knew a lot more about this than we give them credit for,” says Modlin. Eventually, however, sanitoria coddled their patients behind glass, which would have blocked the beneficial UV light.
Coffee consumption protects the liver from alcoholic cirrhosis. The more coffee the better the effect according to a 22 year study involving 125,000 subjects. Tea does not have the same effect, ruling out caffeine as the cause. So, hit the coffee if you drink much but not for any other form of the disease as alcoholic cirrhosis is the only form it benefits.
Body Integrity Identity Disorder or BIID is when a person believes part of their body is foreign and should be removed. These people will sometimes harm themselves to reach their ideal. Some have laid on railroad tracks to get the offending limb either severed or mangled so badly it must be surgically removed. With that explanation in place let me introduce you to Jewel Shurping. Jewel claims to have been fascinated by blindness from childhood. As an adult she would go out in dark glasses with a white cane and feign blindness and taught herself braille. But she still desired to be blind for real as she felt she was meant to be from birth. So much so that she found a psychologist who was understanding of her disorder and the compelling need Ms. Shurping felt to become blind. The psychologist decided to help by administering drain cleaner into Jewel's eyes to fulfill her wish. Jewel claims to be very happy now with the exception of being disowned by her family when they became aware that her blindness was due to a deliberate act. As far as the helpful psychologist, there was no mention of that person's fate, perhaps they just walked away.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.