In my studies to become a Nutritional Therapy Consultant (I did officially pass my test a week and a half ago - yay! More on that to come), I learned about a scientist who worked in the 1900s named Dr. Pottenger. I was instantly fascinated by his work, as it made absolute sense to me in relation to the myriad of health issues we are witnessing in society today. My goal today is to explain his research in an understandable manner and apply his findings in a practical manner. I hope you find this information as fascinating as I did!
When considering our overall health, it is important to consider a number of factors, including the inputs we are putting into our body (i.e. food), as well as what we received from our parents (i.e. our genes). It is also important to note how our own health will affect the lives of our children and grandchildren.
Dr. Pottenger did just this with his famous cat study from 1932-1942 which helped shed light on this notion of generational impacts, as he took information gained from the study of cats’ health over several generations.
In his main study, he had four groups of cats, each fed 1/3 of a basic diet which included, among other things, bones, cod liver oil, and raw meat. The other 2/3 of the diet varied from group to group (raw milk, pasteurized milk, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk).
After analyzing the groups over the course of several generations, the results that Pottenger found were remarkable. The cats fed raw milk were by far much healthier and more robust than that of the other three groups, especially the group fed sweetened condensed milk. What’s more is the fact that these noted negative effects on the latter three groups only deepened with each passing generation. In order to reverse the negative effects, it took four generations worth of proper nutrition (raw milk).
While the study itself was done on cats, the implications to humans follow a parallel pathway. Ever since the introduction of modern, processed foods made from white flour, sugar, and toxic vegetable oils, we’ve only seen each passing generation become sicker and unhealthier. These foods impact our overall health and well-being, which in turn is passed down to our offspring and their children as well.
This cycle continues, worsening each generation, until disease begins to become the norm for that family. Symptoms that we wouldn’t necessarily correlate to generations of poor nutritional choices begin to pop up. Why for instance do we have such troubles with infertility, weight loss resistance, diabetes, heart disease, ADHD, and depression in society today? We never struggled as much with any of these issues as we are currently, and at our current rate and path, we are only going to get worse. Our choices now are impacting the health of the next generation, whether we realize it or not.
To state it simply, if the first generation had some underlying malnutrition or health defects that were NOT managed properly (i.e. with a nutrient dense diet, exercise, stress management, digestive support, etc), that "defect" will continue onto the next generation AND will often proliferate (aka get worse) in the generations to come unless one of the generations takes great effect to reverse the damage.
For example, if a grandmother had digestion issues (bloating after meals, indigestion, etc) but never managed her symptoms, she would likely pass on similar symptoms onto her child. Her child, in turn, might have the same symptoms plus an intolerance to gluten or dairy (not an allergy quite yet), Then, if that "child" (now adult) doesn't manage his or her symptoms properly and has children, you might see the trail continue. This child might develop Crohn's or Celiac disease, severe digestive autoimmune conditions. This pattern will continue until one person in the generational chain decides to take action and improve his or her health before having children (ideally). This pattern also applies nicely with nutrient deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, and mental health disorders.
Therefore, it becomes all the more critical to stop the pattern before it can dig any deeper. Yes, it might take a few generations to sort itself out, but the power of changing our health through nutritional healing cannot be overlooked or undervalued, especially when the consequences can be so dire.