O ne of the founders of the post-World War II raw-foods movement who advocated the health benefits of wheat-grass and other "living" foods, such as sprouts. She was an apostle of the nineteenth-century Christian vegetarian movements in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. At a time of deep despair, while reading her Bible she heard Jesus's call to "become a minister and build my temples" (Wigmore 1975: 33). Her temples were not buildings but the course of treatments that relied on the natural and religious aspects of health and the sanatoria in which these were practiced. Wigmore thus came to see the body as God's temple: "A dedicated soul could exist in a disintegrating temple, but how much better would that be, how much more could it accomplish, if that same temple were functioning properly as HE had designed it to function!" (Wigmore 1985: 101). Christian belief and practice were the basis for Wigmore's dietary prescriptions. Christ, she believed, "followed the vegetarian way of life throughout his life" (Wigmore 1975: 68).
Wigmore's philosophy is based on the belief that all enzymes, vitamins, and minerals that the body needs to heal and maintain optimal health are found in natural foods in their original, uncooked state. She also incorporated forms of body hygiene, such as enemas with wheat-grass as methods that improved one's health. Wigmore coined the Living Foods Lifestyle©, which quickly became known as the Wigmore Diet, the Raw Food Diet, the Anti-Aging Diet, the Detoxifying Diet, the Living Foods Diet, and the Wheatgrass Diet, among other names. Wigmore believed consuming the "raw living foods" in her program purified and detoxified the body, giving it the power to reverse degenerative diseases ranging from cancer to eczema to asthma. She also believed that it treated mental illness and AIDS.
She first presented this system in Be Your Own Doctor (1975) in which she described her discovery as an accident of war:
Our provisions gone, we gnawed bark from the tree roots which had pushed through the walls and chewed grass my grandmother brought back from her ghost-like forays into the hellish nights . . . When I arrived in Middleboro, Massachusetts, I had perfect, strong teeth, but within twelve months of consuming coca-cola, doughnuts and other refined foods, I was forced to have four of my back teeth extracted. The dentist admitted that the wonderful American foods lacked the necessary nutritional elements of the rough diet of Europe.
(Wigmore 1975: 33)
The contrast between a healthy lifestyle in nature and the corruption of modern civilization is a theme of diet culture from at least the eighteenth century.
But the accidental discovery of such healthful living, ironically placed in the midst of the horrors of war, gives way to a need to see her grandmother's actions as part of a complete system of alternative medicine through food. Her autobiography Why Suffer? (1985) put forward the claim that her grandmother was the wise woman in their village of Cropos, Lithuania, where Wigmore was born and raised. What was an accident of war came to be part of a natural, alternative model of medicine that relied on herbs and vegetarian diet.
Her later life is colored by her illnesses, caused by American food and maltreatment at her father's hand. This maltreatment becomes concrete in the bread produced by her baker father, whom she decries as cruel, heartless, and unloving. Only the "coarse dark bread of Europe" could answer both her ailments and her father's lack of love (Wigmore 1985: 77). She suffered from colon cancer, arthritis, migraines, depression, and grey hair, all of which she blamed on "American eating habits." In order to treat these ailments, she turned to her "grandmother's cures." Wigmore also used wheatgrass and weeds to treat herself, curing herself even of gangrene through her natural healing approach (Wigmore 1985: 80-4).
Wigmore's volumes, like many of the handbooks of dieting cures from the nineteenth century, consist largely of testimonials and recipes. Many of the testimonials are from physicians cured of their ailments by wheatgrass therapies. Thus allopathic medicine is seen as failing even its advocates. For over thirty years, she promoted her philosophy through writing, lecturing, and giving demonstrations in countries all over the world.
In 1986, Wigmore published Overcoming AIDS and Other "Incurable Diseases" at a time when HIV/Aids had only just been identified. This identification came in 1981 with the recognition of clusters of infections and cancers among gay men. Wigmore's book is a compilation of her theories and her recipes, with only a few scattered pages actually devoted to AIDS. According to the claims of her book, AIDS is acquired only by those whose immune system is compromised because of poor nutrition. It is this compromised immune system that allows AIDS to take hold (Wigmore 1986: 8) "Therefore, the way we suggest to rectify this horrible malady is to strengthen and rebuild the immune system, by consuming blended, easy-to-digest Living Foods, organically grown in one's kitchen" (Wigmore 1986: 73). Wigmore was one of the first public advocates of an "alternative" therapy for HIV/AIDS.
Wigmore died in a fire at the age of eighty-four, but her raw living foods philosophy lives on in locations like the Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute (Aguada, Puerto Rico), the Ann Wigmore Foundation (San Fidel, New Mexico) and the Creative Health Institute (Union City, Michigan).
See also Alternative Medicine; Metcalfe; Natural Man; Vegetarianism
Anon. (2004) "The Foundation: About Dr. Wigmore," Ann Wigmore Foundation, available online at <http:// www.wigmore.org> (accessed April 21, 2006).
Anon. (2005) "About the Institute: Dr. Ann Wigmore," Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute, Inc., available online at <http://www.annwigmore.org/ about.html#wigmore> (accessed April 21, 2006).
Anon. (2005) "Dr. Ann Wigmore. Raw Living Foods: Directory of Resources." Available online at <http://
annwigmore.com/index.htm> (accessed April 21, 2006).
Wigmore, Ann (1975) Be Your Own Doctor: Let Living Food Be Your Medicine, New York: Hemisphere Press.
-(1986) Overcoming AIDS and Other "Incurable
Diseases": The Attunitive Way through Nature, Boston, Mass.: Ann Wigmore Foundation.
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