Food as ‘Poison’

All food which we obtain from the animal, plant and mineral kingdoms contains in it the forces belonging to these kingdoms and therefore works in opposition to the forces that shape the human body. Due to its foreign nature all food is poisonous to the human organism until it has been adequately transformed by our digestive activities. The forces of our individuality are actually strengthened by means of these activities of de-poisoning. Health is maintained by a proper balance between our personal powers of transformation and the character, intensity, and amount of outer substances and forces entering through eating and drinking.

Introductory Reading:


All Food is Slightly Poisonous to Our Organism

One of the fundamental tenets of modern nutritional science is that all food is safe for consumption if, in its production and preparation, basic hygienic rules are taken into account which prevent "the contamination of food by bacteria, poisonous chemicals or foreign bodies, such as glass, nails or insects." [1] Great stress is placed on preventing "multiplication of bacteria to levels which could cause food poisoning [2] … because of inadequate cooking/processing." [3] However, if we want to acquire a proper understanding of the link between food and poisoning we need to ask first: "What is poison? Every substance may be a poison. It is only a question of how it enters our body and of how much is taken at a time. Water is a strong poison, if one takes ten bucketfuls at one time. People do not reflect how relative the word 'poison' is, for it depends always upon the quantity" [4] of what we consume. There are, of course, substances which are listed as poisonous because of the knowledge of their negative impacts on the living organisms. But in regard to poisonous effects of substances we consume on a daily basis, such as food and drinks, things are more complex. For this reason we need to become familiar with specific factors that have influence on the poisonous nature of food substances.

In WHOLEFOOD VERSUS REFINED FOOD there is given a short description of the activities of digestion in the digestive tract which is a tube from seven to twelve metres long [5] running through our body. In the time food spends in the digestive tract which is extending from the mouth to the small intestine, it is radically transformed by means of breaking-down processes. And only after this transformation is completed, can the part which we have digested pass through the gut wall and became part of our lymph and blood circulation and thus provide nourishing substances for our body. What are the hidden reasons behind all these preparations?

One cause can be found in the fact that "in the process of nourishment we have to do with external substances, external articles of food, their composition and the form and manner in which they exist in our environment. So long as one holds to the conception that these nutritive substances are so much dead bulk – or at best masses containing that sort of life which one generally assumes to be in plants and other articles of food – it may appear as if all that is necessary is for the external substances taken into the organism as nutritive matter to be simply worked over by means of what we call the process of digestion in a broadest sense.

Many people imagine that they have to do with some sort of indeterminate substance taken in as food, a substance quite neutral in its relation to us which simply waits, when we have once taken it in, till we are able to digest it. But such is not the case. Articles of food are, after all not just bricks which serve in some sort of way as building material for the construction they are to help in erecting. Bricks are included in the architect's plan in any way he pleases to use them because they represent in relationship to the building a mass in itself quite inert. This is not true, however, of nutritive matter in its relation to the human being. For every particle of substance we have in our environment has certain inner forces, its own conformity to laws of nature. This is the essential element in any substance that it has its own inner laws, its own inner activities.

Accordingly, when we bring external nutritive substances into our organism – when we insert them into our own inner activity, so to speak – they do not simply consent to this at once as a matter of course but attempt first to develop their own laws, their own rhythms and their own inner forms of movement. Thus, if the human organism wishes to use these substances for its own purposes it must first destroy that vital activity which is peculiarly their own. That these substances do have their own laws can soon be felt by the human being when, for instance, a strong poison is conveyed through the digestive canal. He soon feels, in such a case, that the particular law belonging to this substance has mastered him, that these laws now assert themselves. Just as every poison has in general its own inner laws by means of which it carries out an attack on our organism, so it is with every substance, with all the nutriment that we take in. It is not something neutral, but rather it asserts itself in accordance with its own rhythm. This rhythm must be combated by the human being, so that it is not only a case of working over neutral building material within man's inner organisation, but rather that the peculiar nature of this building material must first be mastered." [6]

For that reason we cannot take food into our body in its original state. If we were to inject the liquidised content of a very small meal directly into our blood we would cause ourselves great harm, because our immune system would recognise this food as a foreign body and consequently attack it as a dangerous poison. [7] This is true for all food coming from the outer nature, because "the streaming of the physical world into man's organism has a poisonous, destructive effect."  [8] Because of this man has to counteract the poisonous nature of food in the digestive tract until it is properly processed. These activities are summarized in the following Arab proverb: "One eats oneself sick and digests oneself back to health." Here is revealed one of the important secrets of nutrition: Every food is at first poisonous to us until we de-poison it by the help of digestion!

Individual Strength versus Outer Substances and Forces

In our daily life we take into ourselves substances on a ongoing basis – "we breathe, we eat, we absorb the external world. But we must realize quite clearly that everything a human being takes in from the outside, is like something which should not really form part of him. There are many erroneous conceptions in the world regarding this process of absorbing substances and forces from outside. In reality, everything we eat is a tiny bit poisonous. For life consists in taking in nourishment and our not allowing it to become completely one with us: we offer resistance, and life really consists in this resistance, this defence. But of course, the substances which we take in as nourishment are so slightly poisonous that we are able to offer resistance. For if we take a real poison, it destroys us, because we are unable to defend ourselves against it." [9]

When we become familiar with the poisonous nature of our daily food, we might seek for a solution in radical minimizing of food intake. But this is not the right solution, because "we can see that the entire human organism grows strong in resisting elements in its environment. These forces of resistance are developed at all times and in all places. We could even say that the entire external world is 'poison' for man. Whether this 'poison' comes directly or indirectly, as a substance or as a force, it is taken into the organism, digested, and overcome, and thus we are enriched, developed and strengthened." [10]

If we apply this insight to the domain of nutrition we can find with the help of spiritual science "that the entire human organism is built up solely of things which were originally poison. We obtained the ability to eat the foods we do today, in that we learned to make ourselves immune to their harmful influences. We become all the more strong, to the extent that we incorporate substances into ourselves in this way. And we make ourselves weak with regard to nature when we reject her substances. What we have thus taken in from outer nature makes us strong and is of use to us." [11] Of course, this refers to the intake of natural foods, not to the intake of modern 'artificial' food products.

Our health depends on the balance between our inner forces of transformation and the strength and character of the foreign nature of the food substances we consume. It makes no sense to compare ourselves with others; each person needs to have adequate strength to transform any food that has been eaten. We have to choose such food that suits our personal characteristics and life circumstances. We have to take into account the quality of what we consume, because the modern methods of food production have made huge impacts on the nature of food available to us. And we must take more seriously the question of the proper quantity of food, because "an excess of nourishment can become a poisoning. A large number of illnesses are indeed illnesses connected with nourishment – that is to say, in nourishment no consideration is given to the fact that according to the kinds of foodstuffs only the proper amounts may be eaten, if they are to be really digested. So close together are nourishment and poisoning." [12]

This is due to the "general axiom that whatever approaches man from outside must be entirely worked over and transformed within him. And if we wish to look after a person's health it is of paramount importance to see to it that nothing enters into him that will remain as it was, nothing that cannot be dealt with by the human organism and transformed even if it is only quite minor in degree. This is not only the case in regard of substances – it is also the case in regard to forces."  [13] Therefore in the domain of nutrition all depends on the relationship between the amount of foreign substances and forces entering our organism via food or drink and our individual capacity for their transformation. If we want to keep healthy we need to be capable to de-poison everything we consume from day to day. We simply need to have enough individual power to overcome the foreign nature of all substances and forces that are entering our organism through eating and drinking.


With the help of this principle we can for the first time understand why eating can make us sick, for this would not be possible without the existence of the foreign – that is, poisonous – nature of food substances. This is especially true in the case of food intolerances and allergies where some representatives of medical science openly admit that they don't know why the human immune system "starts suddenly to attack a specific food substance as a foreign body." The answer is: Because it is foreign to the human organism! The real question is: What are the underlying reasons for a situation where a person can no longer de-poison even the 'daily bread'?

In fact, there are multiple reasons contributing to this and various degrees of sickness due to nutrition (which encompasses both eating and drinking):

One needs to be aware that bad quality food is the result of modern 'chemical' farming and food engineering, starting in the middle of 19th century and becoming a real force of 'progress' after the Second World War. In such short evolutionary period our bodies did not get used to and cannot properly transform such food, because it contains substances which have never before existed in human food. In addition, the use of highly sophisticated food processing technologies (such as homogenization, microwaving, etc.) is dramatically changing the inner structure of food products. The plague of troubles and diseases of the digestive tract, food intolerances, and allergies demonstrates that people have serious problems with overcoming the foreign nature of modern food products.

In the case of natural foods which human beings have been consuming for millennia we have already learnt to become immune to them. As far as natural foods are concerned, we should be consequently able to digest all food that was used in the traditional food culture to which our ancestors belong – in appropriate amounts, of course. But the quantities can vary from one person to another. There are some general quantity guidelines given in the HOLISTIC FOOD 'PYRAMID', but they are not prescriptive. In fact, each person must find amounts that suit their own individual needs, regardless of any guidelines.

Individuals can also develop new abilities to digest those natural foods coming from other traditional food cultures. This is especially important when a person lives in a foreign country, or if his or her parents are from different racial and/or national origins. In this way people become stronger, for they acquire new skills in a similar manner as when they learn to perform a new type of manual labour, such as for example sewing, carpentry, or cooking. In this way people learn to digest new types of food and simultaneously strengthen their own immune system. Of course, this works only with natural foods, not with human-made inventions which can be often called 'food imitation' or 'fake food'. [14]


  1. Richard A. Sprenger, The Food Hygiene Handbook,
  2. We cannot deal here with the important role of microorganisms in nature and consequently in nutrition. One of their tasks is described in THE SPIRITUAL BACKGROUND OF FOOD STORAGE. In regard to the topic of poisoning it is important to remember that many strains of microorganisms live in symbiotic relationship on human skin and inside the digestive tract (mainly in the large intestine), but they are immediately attacked by our immune system if they pass into our body.
  3. See note 1
  4. Rudolf Steiner, source unknown
  5. There are various lengths given in various scientific sources. The length of 7 metres is cited in the booklet Understanding Food & Nutrition (The British Medical Association, 2003), while the length of 12 metres is cited in the book Človeško telo (Human Body, Tehniška založba Slovenije, 2001).
  6. Rudolf Steiner, Prague, 23.03.1911; An Occult Physiology,
  7. In the case of intravenous feeding, nutritional formulas are used containing salts, glucose, amino acids, lipids and vitamins (Source: Wikipedia, Parenteral nutrition, April 2013). These are the same substances which are usually absorbed into the bloodstream in the small intestines after the food has been gone through the processes of de-poisoning in the digestive tract. Therefore in the case of nutritional formulas de-poisoning is achieved in the laboratory by artificial means.
  8. Rudolf Steiner, Stuttgart, 15.05.1908,
  9. Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, 28.10.1921;
  10. Gerhard Schmidt, The Essentials of Nutrition, Bio-Dynamic Literature, 1980
  11. Rudolf Steiner, quotations taken from the above source
  12. Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, 23.01.1924; Drugs, Poisons, Suicide, Alcohol, Stimulants, Digestion, Foods in the Light of Spiritual Science - Excerpts from the work of Rudolf Steiner, selected and translated by Richard Lewis, USA, no date
  13. Rudolf Steiner, Hamburg, 27.05.1910;
  14. For a more detailed characterisation of 'fake food' see real vs fake food.