You can’t live in Michigan long without running into a building, or project, or something that is named after W.K. Kellogg, founder of the Kellogg cereal company and major philanthropist. It’s his brother, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, who is really the interesting one, though.kellogg

Dr. Kellogg was profiled (sort of) in the book and movie The Road to Wellville. In the movie, Anthony Hopkins delivers an inspired performance of Kellogg as a…well, pretty much total nutter.

Hopkins didn’t exaggerate all that much. Dr. Kellogg was ahead of his time in terms of some of his ideas about nutrition and health. He just always managed to take them to 11 in terms of strangeness, and threw in some General Jack Ripper’s theories on pollution of our precious bodily fluids for good measure.

Dr. Kellogg’s ideas are nicely profiled in the essay “Porn Flakes.” What we know now as ubiquitous foods–graham crackers and cold flaked cereal–actually are related to fears of masturbation and religious dietary edicts.

This all begins with Sister Ellen White, founder of the Seventh Day Adventists. In the late 1860’s, Battle Creek was home to the headquarters of the Adventists, and a vision (?) inspired White to found The Western Health Reform Institute, which became known as the Battle Creek Sanitarium.  The sanitarium treated the ‘Illness’ of being a upper-class American in the late 1800’s: too much food and a sedentary lifestyle.

granoseDr. Kellogg became the manager for the Sanitarium, and advocated the principles of his church as the Road to Wellness: no meat, lots of water, and exercise.  (In fact, Kellogg could legitimately claim to have invented the aerobics class: exercise to music.  Legwarmers were not developed until later, though.)

Here is where things go odd.  It wasn’t just drinking water he pushed; Kellogg also was a major enema advocate.  One of his inventions was an enema machine that could deliver 15 gallons of water in a single sitting (so to speak).  Water enemas were followed by yogurt–half eaten, the other half delivered below.

Kellogg is profiled in the book Quack! in part because of his invention of a shaking machine.  This vibratory chair was designed to prevent constipation by, literally,  shaking the shit out of the patient.   He also invented an Electkothekapeutical Chair (that is not a typo) to stimulate your innards.  (If you really NEED to know more, you can read his 1915 book Colon Hygiene online via Google Books.)

Why did you need a squeaky clean colon?

Kellogg’s 1881 sex education book Plain Facts for Old and Young explains. Food was related to sexual desire, and and too much sex (i.e, any sex) created poor health:

” Sexual precocity, idleness, pernicious literature, abnormal sexual passions, exciting and irritating food, gluttony, sedentary employment, libidinous pictures, and many abnormal conditions of life, are potent causes in exciting the vile practice…

After long abuse of the sexual organs, and in many cases after a short course of sin, the whole system becomes deteriorated; digestion is impaired, the muscles are weakened, the circulation is unbalanced, the nerves are irritable, the brain—especially the back and lower portion of it—is congested, the skin is torpid, the bowels are inactive, the general health is deranged in almost every particular.” (emphasis mine)

In other words, sex was bad, and sex made you sick. Meat was bad, and meat made you think of sex. Sex was bad….well, you begin to see the cycle.  Granola eating and enemas were a way to purify yourself, in addition to, of course, not having any sex.

Dr. Kellogg reputedly never had sex his entire life–I’ll leave his obsession with things anal and oral for you to analyze on your own.

Some of Kellogg’s ideas for ‘curing’ the problem of sex were pretty extreme.  That would include (from the same book I quoted above) circumcision of masturbating boys without any anesthesia:

” The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment….

And..well… for women:

“In females, the author has found the application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement.”

Since all of you are probably clutching your groin right now, I’ll leave the story of Dr. Kellogg’s Eugenics boosterism for another time.  I just find Dr. Kellogg fascinating and disturbing.

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. Ah ha ha ha ha! I’m SO thrilled that you posted this after our conversation yesterday!

    Well, the good thing about Dr. Kellogg’s never having sex is that there was no risk of him passing on his “nutter” genes to subsequent generations.

  2. The Road to Wellville is one of my favorite books and Kellogg one of my favorite batty historical figures of all time. Thanks for writing about him!

  3. Great “Post”ing! Someone even Dr. Mengele would have though weird, I think…?

  4. Wow, I was going to make a post with the same exact title today! Kidding, of course. How incredibly interesting though. I never knew any of this!

  5. Kellogg had a unique brand of nuttiness, but the idea that eating too much and the wrong foods cause illicit sex goes back a long way, a millennium or more.

  6. Sigh. I might have found my new favorite blog. Bugs, masturbation, porn….maybe I need to watch Naked Lunch again (I can think of at least two things wrong with that title)

  7. Well, I don’t think I have ever seen “granola” and “masturbation” used together like that before. A quick Google search confirms that Kellogg seems to be mentioned on a large proportion of web sites with those terms. The other bunch seem to be about the masturbation habits of “granola-type girls” (???).

    Interesting post!

  8. I’m sorry, I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to get through the entire post:-) You keep this up and you’ll become the next Dave Barry! Ok, maybe Erma Bombeck….Thanks for making my day, BG.

  9. I’m currently reading this book, in preparation for a talk I’m supposed to give about the Kelloggs in Michigan:

    John Money. The destroying angel: Sex, fitness, and food in the legacy of degeneracy theory, Graham Crackers, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, and American health history. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1985.

    It’s not a great book, but it does have a lot of fun references to all sorts of freaky source material. And I’m reasonably sure this is NOT what they actually want me to talk about. :)

  10. Hey Bug Girl: No way I could rationalize responding to this post at work, but I’m off today, so I can send you a qualified thanks. I think I’m finally starting to understand why TV seems to be mostly funded by yogurt and bran flake commercials (could it be considered progress that these commercials are soaked in sugar and sexual innuendo?).

    “Road to Wellville” both novel and dvd seem to be banned (or at least unavailable) in Canada. Since I’m still reeling from the last book I had to sneak across the border on your recommendation (“The Florence King Reader” – thank God she didn’t include any examples of her porn, or I would be ready for Battle Creek), I think I’ll wait until I stumble across it in a bookstore or late night TV.

    Speaking of TV, though, I stumbled across something called “Michigan Out of Doors” last night. Better make sure you do a good job with that talk – it looks like Michiganders deal summary justice to turkeys.

Comments are closed.