Disease and the Conquest of the Americas

In his book, Born To Die, Cook explores the role that disease played in the European conquest of the Americas. Cook maintains that contrary to the Black Legend, so popular during colonial times and ever since, Old World diseases were immensely more successful than Spanish cruelty and atrocities in the conquering and subjugation of the indigenous peoples in the Americas.

While not denying that there were atrocities committed by Spaniards, Cook insists that the deaths of so many native peoples cannot be attributed to the atrocities exclusively, since “there were too few Spaniards to have killed the millions who were reported to have died” (Cook 9). Cook also points out that native peoples died wherever they came into contact with Europeans, be they Portuguese, English, French, or Dutch. The popularity of the Black Death was due, in large part, to what was occurring in Europe at the time. This was the period of the Spanish Armada and the Inquisition. Other nations used the Black Legend to justify taking actions against the Spaniards “in Europe or within their overseas territories” (Cook 8).

Cook begins his discussion where contact was first made: the island of Hispaniola. Within fifty years after contact, the native people were “virtually extinct” (Cook 16). According to Cook, this extinction of the Caribbean peoples “set a pattern that was repeated time and time again” in the Americas (Cook 16). Cook goes into much detail, in subsequent chapters, tracing the spread of diseases throughout the Latin American continent and North America. Numerous diseases afflicted the native peoples who had no immunity to them; smallpox, measles, influenza, typhus, bubonic plaque, yellow fever, and malaria spread quickly among the native peoples throughout the continents. These outbreaks of diseases were usually intensified through malnutrition and lack of medicines, and they were most often followed by pestilence, famine, and starvation. He draws his evidence concerning the disease epidemics mostly through missionaries’ and crown officials’ letters to the Spanish king.

Cook also refutes the accuracy of the Black Legend by insisting the Spaniards would not have committed indiscriminate slaughter of entire indigenous populations. Indeed, it was in the Spaniards’ best interests to protect the natives, since they needed the natives’ labor in the fields and mines. Cook contends that the Spaniards did take measures to protect the natives. They established quarantines to limit the spread of disease, but which were rarely successful. Spaniards also established laws to protect the natives from abuses by their employers or overseers, which the natives took full advantage in seeking justice from Spanish courts. These measures were undertaken to protect the Spaniards’ economic interests, no doubt, but they were undertaken, which disproves that Spaniards were indiscriminately murdering entire populations.

Unlike the Spaniards who tried to prevent the spread of disease, the English in the New England area of North America deliberately encouraged it. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, New England Puritans, deliberately and knowingly, gave the indigenous peoples “blankets infected with the smallpox virus” (Cook 213). Their motivation for these actions were to clear the land of people, who, they felt, stood in the way of their establishing “God’s City on a Hill” (Cook 213).

Cook contends that the “natural flow of epidemics followed normal trade and communications routes between groups of peoples” (Cook 209). This would explain how some communities fell victim to Old World diseases even before coming into contact with Europeans. It also would explain how many communities were not affected by diseases concurrently, but in many cases, it was years later before the epidemics showed up among their peoples.

Cook’s most convincing evidence to refute the Black Legend comes from his contention that it was not in the Spaniards’ best economic interest to wipe out entire communities of indigenous peoples from the area. The Spaniards needed their labor and, moreover, sincerely desired to convert them to Christianity. The laws passed by Spaniards to protect the natives from cruelty and exploitation, and the establishment of quarantines, further testify that the Black Legend is fundamentally untrue.

Cook offers compelling evidence in support of his refutation of the Black Legend, but the manner he presents the evidence is, on the whole, rather disjointed and confusing. His tendency to lump many different epidemics in different regions and at different time periods invariably forces the reader to continuously search for the particular time and place.

His writing style reads more like a collection of statistics, except for Chapter Two, which was rather lively and interesting. The reason it is more interesting is because Cook provides personal insights of the natives’ responses (e.g. running away to evade infection) and the effects of the epidemics (e.g. the struggle for power between Atahualpa and his brother Huascar after the prior Inca ruler succumbed to disease).

Despite the text being dry and hard to follow, it is very beneficial in refuting the common belief of the Black Legend. Although I have long known that disease played a role in the conquest of the Americas, I also believed that the Black Legend was the primary factor that brought conquest to fruition (so strongly was this belief that my personal name for Columbus Day is Mass Murder Day). While I still believe that European cruelties were excessive, I now see that disease, propagated by pestilence and malnutrition, was the cause of the majority of the deaths in the Americas.

Cook, Noble David. Born to Die: Disease and New World Conquest, 1492-1650. Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Gluten Free Diet Should Be Considered For Everyone With Neurological And Psychiatric Symptoms

Brain dysfunction may be the only or the main sign of gluten related disease. Dr. Mario Hadjivassiliou recently reported at the International Celiac Symposium that his neurology clinic has followed over 300 patients with gluten sensitivity presenting with various symptoms. In his clinic the most common gluten related neurological disorder is ataxia, a condition of impaired balance, present in almost half. However peripheral neuropathy, myopathy, headaches, and seizures are also neurological manifestations of gluten related brain disorders.

Gluten ataxia, the most common cause of previously unexplained ataxia, is associated with gut disease in only about a third. Usually there is an absence of the specific antibodies in the blood diagnostic for celiac disease but elevated gliadin antibodies. Brain tissue examined after brain biopsies or an autopsy has been found to contain deposits of gliadin and/or tissue transglutaminase in the absence of antibodies in the blood.

About 60% of patients with gluten ataxia have shrinkage of the cerebellum portion of their brain. They also may have irreversible loss of brain Purkinje cells. MRI scans of the brain often reveal bright white spots in this area rather than the area where this occurs in multiple sclerosis, a condition that may be mimicked by gluten injury.

Gluten causes 34% of all unexplained sporadic axonal neuropathies. Gluten sensitive enteropathy is 10 times more common in these people. I recently treated a woman who had years of a known diagnosis of such a neuropathy though she had never been tested for celiac disease. She came to me after I diagnosed her daughter’s celiac disease. Though she does not meet strict criteria for celiac disease she has the major gene for celiac and has elevated gliadin antibodies in her stool and blood. Increased intraepithelial lymphocytes were seen on duodenal biopsy but not sufficient to confirm celiac disease. Yet she is improved on a gluten free diet. Dr. Hadjivassiliou has confirmed to me personally by e-mail that these neuropathies will get worse with continued gluten ingestion but most improve with gluten free diet though it may take several years to do so. Long standing symptoms may never completely reverse.

This makes it very important not to delay considering gluten as a cause of neurological symptoms nor delay diagnostic testing or institution of a gluten free diet. In my opinion a gluten free diet trial should be offered or considered for all neurological and psychiatric symptoms. However, I encourage anyone considering such a diet to first undergo adequate testing for celiac disease first because once a gluten free diet is initiated the tests may be falsely negative within 2-3 weeks of the diet. Even if the tests are negative for celiac disease before restricting gluten then a trial of gluten free diet is suggested. Regarding gluten and the brain Dr. Hadjivassiliou was quoted as saying “there is a historical misconception that gluten sensitivity is solely a disease of the gut…to recognize the neurological impact, you have to appreciate it is a systemic disorder.” This is my personal and professional experience as a gastroenterologist who is Food Allergies Specialist – the Food Doc and celiac disease expert who is regularly corresponding with people from all over the world as the Food Doc.

Millions of Americans Are Dying of Scurvy-Like Diseases

“Millions of Americans Are Dying of Scurvy-like Diseases” – but Medical Doctors are not trained to recognize it or treat it. This is a hush-hush subject because most doctors will not even talk about it. If you think I’m exaggerating, just try to discuss the content of this article with your doctor. At the very mention of the subject, my heart specialist’s blood pressure steamed to red hot in his face and he nearly threw me out of his examining room. Well I simply ask you to read this article and evaluate for yourself.

Let me remind you of the disease, Scurvy. It was a disease that usually hit seamen who traveled for months at sea. These were men who started their voyage as hardy and healthy as any group could be. But after months at sea their bodies were breaking down and they were dying. What was the problem? It was simple: their diet was lacking a certain nutrient. The solution was a simple fruit containing vitamin C. Now, I don’t know who discovered this solution, but my guess is that Limes were distributed by some fearless group of Multilevel Marketers.

Let’s relate that bit of disease history to today’s disease environment in America. We are fighting Cancer, Heart Attack, Stroke, Diabetes, Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Lupus etc., etc., etc. Americans are suffering and dying from these diseases, but they are all diseases that often respond to various food supplements. Most doctors begin their treatments, however, with radical drugs and procedures that have at best questionable benefits in comparison with their side effects – permanent dreadful side effects. And many times such drugs or procedures are no more effective than some of the poorer quality food supplements, which usually have no side effects.

There are, however, a growing number of doctors who for the most part speak very softly to their peers, and who are using as a first line of medical care, the best food supplements they can find. Those brave doctors are getting excellent results for many of their patients without degrading the patient’s quality of life. And still leaving open the opportunity of the more aggressive treatments for those who need them.

Of course some supplements are achieving better results than others. The better supplements have years of traditional testing to demonstrate that they have few or no side effects. They also have years of scientific data by reputable men of science to say that there is good reason to expect desired results. (ex. – Search for the word Mangosteen on http://www.pubmed.gov.) Finally listen to some of those neglected testimonies to see if they match the laboratory expectations.

Let me repeat for emphasis – many diseased and dying Americans, some even who have had their treatments terminated by their physicians because the aggressive treatment was failing, are recovering after being given certain food supplements.

Medical professionals – open your eyes: see some of these results and call current-day killer and painful diseases by what they are – nutrient deficient diseases just like scurvy. Sure we need the aggressive medicines and procedures, but not as the normal first line treatment. Give selected nutrients a chance before using something with undesirable and permanent side effects. Most people with these diseases trust their doctors to be giving them the best treatment available.

I don’t suggest abandoning science, but look for supplements with reasonable data from solid research organizations. Be skeptical – sure! – but don’t be so blind, try it, and don’t just turn your noses to the wind, waiting for the FDA to approve something that is not on their platter.

For more information contact the author: [email protected], or call direct 805-388-9995.

Importance of Pest Control for Homeowners

The importance of pest control can’t be denied as these creatures carry a number of diseases and infest your bedrooms and kitchens. Therefore, they need to be controlled if you want to keep yourself and your kids healthy. Rodents, for instance, may drop feces on your food in the kitchen. Eating this contaminated food may cause you to fall sick. Let’s find out more.

Bugs, spiders and insects

Typically, most bugs live outside your home. So, if you come across a few of them crawling or flying inside your home, chances are that they got in your house with your dog or groceries. This is not a problem at all. The problem occurs when you see these insects regularly despite eliminating those using special products. If this is the case, chances are that your house is infested.

In this situation, you might want to call an experienced exterminator. Usually, these tiny creatures carry bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella. They can cause intestinal illnesses.


Just like bugs, rodents may cause damage to your property in addition to make you sick. For instance, rats carry several viruses, such as bubonic plague, tularemia, salmonella and Hantavirus, to name a few. Since these creatures travel thousands of miles, they spread around disease, fleas and microscopic freeloaders.

If you keep these insects away from your property, you can keep your family safe and healthy. Again, hiring the services of an exterminator is the best way to get rid of these annoying creatures. Just make sure you take these steps as soon as possible. After all, you don’t want to end up with a disease or property that needs heavy repairs.


Wasps are known for their aggression and viciousness. In fact, their stings may even make you seriously sick. Wasps are of different kinds and make their nests in different parts of your home, such as garden, lawn and eaves, just to name a few. Generally, they don’t mess with humans. However, if you provoke them, they can attack you in defense.

The problem is that they can sting you several times out of aggression. If you are allergic to bee stings, you may die in a few minutes once a wasp stings you. Therefore, it’s important that you remove their nests and hives from your property as soon as you come across them.

Pest Control

Different types of pests, such as mice and cockroaches can create nets in your house. And most of them tend to make nests in hidden areas of a building. They don’t need more than a few days to build colonies in your home. At the end of the day, you will pay the price for the health conditions or property damages caused by these creatures.

In short, if you don’t want to put your life or your property at risk, we suggest that you don’t allow these pests to build their nests in your house. If your house is already infested, we suggest that you hire the services of a good pest control service.