Great American Quacks Bar

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg

In 1876, at age 24, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg became the staff physician at the Photo of Dr. John Harvey KelloggBattle Creek Sanitarium (The San), a position he would hold for 62 years. Kellogg was not a true quack. His surgical skill was admired by the Doctors Mayo. A vegetarian, he advocated low calorie diets and developed peanut butter, granola, and toasted flakes. He warned that smoking caused lung cancer decades before this link was studied. Kellogg was an early advocate of exercise and "biologic living."

Nonetheless, Dr. Kellogg engaged in questionable medical practices. The San offered hydropathy, electropathy, mechanotherapy and  radium cures. For a time, Kellogg promoted "Fletcherizing" or chewing food until it slithered down the throat. He changed his mind about Fletcherizing when he decided that excessive chewing destroyed the fiber content of the food. Kellogg opposed sexual activity from masturbation to marital intercourse. A doctor, he never made love to his wife!

Kellogg 's great obsession was the bowel and elimination. According to Josh Clark :

From his earliest days as a doctor, Kellogg was fascinated with the bowel. "It was his favorite piece of anatomy," John Deutsch has written, "his first love." It held him in rapture. Once, when an Adventist interrogator framed all of his medical questions in terms of religious beliefs, Kellogg turned on him:

"Is God a man with two arms and legs like me?" he demanded. "Does He have eyes, a head? Does He have bowels?"

"No," the Adventist answered, deeply offended.
"Well I do," cried Kellogg," and that makes me more wonderful than He is!"
It was the bowel that got Kellogg's undivided medical attention. Ninety percent of all illness, he would calmly explain, originated in the stomach and bowel. "The putrefactive changes which recur in the undigested residues of flesh foods" were to blame, he explained. Guests who arrived at Battle Creek soon learned that their once-pristine bowel was now a sewer of autointoxication, full of poisons like creatin, skatol and indol.
Kellogg's influence and enthusiasm made the bowel not only an acceptable subject of polite conversation, but a national obsession. More and more people became convinced that their bowel must be given an antiseptic cleansing. Autointoxication begone! The medical wizard of Battle Creek could provide the answer. The bowel, poisoned by meat-eating, drinking, smoking and usually anything pleasurable, was poked, prodded and otherwise assaulted by attendants at the San.
Kellogg made sure that the bowel of each and every patient was plied with water, from above and below. His favorite device was an enema machine ("just like one I saw in Germany") that could run fifteen gallons of water through an unfortunate bowel in a matter of seconds. Every water enema was followed by a pint of yogurt -- half was eaten, the other half was administered by enema "thus planting the protective germs where they are most needed and may render most effective service." The yogurt served to replace "the intestinal flora" of the bowel, creating what Kellogg claimed was a squeaky clean intestine.
If a healthy dollop of yogurt was not enough to do the trick, more drastic steps were necessary. If autointoxication persisted and poisons remained, the offending stretch of intestine was removed. Kellogg performed as many as twenty operations a day.
The result, Kellogg claimed, was nothing short of medical revolution. By pumping yogurt cultures into the rectums of America's well to do, Kellogg claimed that he had managed to cure "cancer of the stomach, ulcers, diabetes, schizophrenia, manic depressives, acne, anemia ... asthenia, migraine and premature old age." There was nothing a clean bowel couldn't handle.

More About Dr. Kellogg


Video, The Road to WellvilleBOOKS

  • The Road to Wellville by T. Coraghessan Boyle. Fiction, 1993
  • Cornflake Crusade by Gerald Carson. Non-fiction, 1957





updated 8/21/00