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Orthopathy (from the Greek ortho- right- + pathos suffering), also called Natural Hygiene (NH), is an alternative medical philosophy derived from naturopathy. It advocates a vegetarian, raw food diet with periods of intermittent fasting.[1]

According to Quackwatch, "Natural Hygiene is dangerous because it encourages prolonged fasting and discourages proven medical interventions."[1]


Orthopathy is explained by Herbert M. Shelton as:

Disease action no less than health action, is right action; yet it occasions suffering because of adverse conditions that have been imposed upon the body. So, by the term Orthopathy we mean right suffering.[2]

The orthopathy movement originated with Dr Isaac Jennings, who, after practicing traditional medicine for 20 years in Derby, Connecticut, began formulating his ideas about it in 1822.[3] Several other mostly later thinkers, including Sylvester Graham, likewise from Connecticut, influenced the movement or are considered important to it. Also, during the 1880s, Thomas Allinson developed his theory of medicine, which he called 'Hygienic Medicine.'

The founder of NH, Shelton, became a major writer on the topic, beginning with The Hygienic System: Orthopathy[4] in 1939, bestowing a new name on the discipline.

Shelton distinguished the method of Nature Cure from other medical schools of thought of its time, including naturopathy, heliopathy (sun cure,) homeopathy, 'bio-chemic', and what Shelton called allopathy (mainstream medicine.) Shelton originally recommended an almost vegetarian diet, then later a vegetarian one, then later a vegan one, but there are people who follow Natural Hygiene ideas and disagree with him. The Nature Cure movement and Shelton cite evidence ignored or underutilized by mainstream physicians, the observation that sick animals will rest and fast except for water.[citation needed]

Interest in NH was renewed in the 1980s following publication of Fit for Life and Living Health by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond.[1]

Several NH associations currently exist, including the National Health Association, which was founded by Shelton as the American Natural Hygiene Society, which condones The International Association of Hygienic Physicians was founded in 1978. The International Natural Hygiene Society was founded in 2003.[1]


For most ailments, Natural Hygienists also recommend rest and fasting with water, which rely on the body's recuperative powers. This is known as vis medicatrix naturae, the healing power of nature. Any other treatment type is said to interfere, and symptoms such as inflammation and vomiting are considered a natural part of healing.[4]

NH practitioners are opposed to most mainstream and alternative medical treatment, with the exception of surgery in certain situations, such as for broken bones and to 'remove a deadly secondary cause.'[4]

Consumption of 'incompatible' foods in one meal is said to lead to ill health, and consumption of 'compatible' foods is said to maintain it: Shelton defined food combining and seven groups of food, sorted by function as: supplying energy (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins); needed to build the body (proteins, salts, and water); and regulating bodily processes (minerals, vitamins, and water).[1][5]

Shelton rejected the germ theory of disease and considered vaccines and drugs, including tobacco, alcohol, coffee, tea, and chocolate, to be toxic.[4] Sugar (and honey, syrup) and refined, i.e. white, flour are similarly considered toxic. So are most herbs and spices, whether used for flavouring or herbalism.

Critics of Orthopathy have stated it is dangerous for recommending prolonged fasting instead of medical drugs and internal organ surgery; Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch stated that 'its recommended avoidance of dairy products is an invitation to osteoporosis.'[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Barrett, Stephen (2007-01-01). "A Critical Look at "Natural Hygiene"". Retrieved 2009-04-15. 
  2. ^ Fielder, John L., ed. (2001). Handbook of Natural Hygiene 1. Academy of Natural Living. ISBN 0958661154. 
  3. ^ Samuel Orcutt, Ambrose Beardsley, The history of the old town of Derby, Connecticut, 1642-1880: With biographies and genealogies. Press of Springfield Printing Co., 1880, p. 601
  4. ^ a b c d Herbert M Shelton, The Hygienic System vol. VI: Orthopathy, Dr. Shelton's Health School: San Antonio, Texas, 1941
  5. ^ Herbert M Shelton, The Hygienic System vol. II: Orthotrophy, Dr. Shelton's Health School: San Antonio, Texas, 1941