Henry Bieler was born in 1893 in Milford, Ohio. In about 1905 his family moved to Cincinnati. He studied medicine at the Ohio-Miami Medical College and graduating with his MD in 1916. He started his medical practice in West Virginia's coal region, moving to Twin Falls, Idaho in about 1922, followed by Pasadena, California in 1926, before settling permanently in Capistrano Beach, California in 1954. Bieler practiced medicine for more fifty years, and gained a reputation as a gifted healer who was able to cure or control difficult health conditions. He died in his home in 1975.
As a medical student Bieler suffered from severe asthma, but none of his professors were able to help him. This affliction continued into his early career, growing worse with time. In 1923, the year after he moved to Idaho, he met Agustin Levinson, a professor from Malta, who traveled and gave lectures on human dietary habits. While taking the professor to view the Twin Falls, Bieler had a massive asthma attack. Professor Levinson waited for the attack to pass, then explained what he believed was the cause and how to cure it by diet. Levinson’s cure worked, and he is credited as the person who first aroused Bieler's interest in diet therapy. Bieler began using diet as the main tool for himself and, increasingly, for treating his patients. Levinson and Bieler corresponded until the late 1940s, exchanging books and other materials. It was through him that Bieler learned of John H. Tilden in Denver and later of George S. Weger in Redlands, California. Bieler studied their books on diet therapy for various ailments, and became interested in biochemistry and nutrition. The Tilden Weger Bieler chair in Preventive Medicine was named in their honor at Columbia University's College of Physicians & Surgeons, in the Department of Medicine.
Bieler believed that the human body has an inherent capacity for health, and that disease can be cured through proper nutrition. He did not believe that germs are the primary cause of disease (see germ theory), but rather that germs accompany disease as a result of disturbed function. Bieler believed that disturbed function was the result of poor lifestyle, especially consuming improper food, and that disease could be cured through therapeutic diet.
Bieler's reputation of success using diet to treat disease attracted numerous celebrity patients. Among these were M.F.K. Fisher, Gloria Swanson, Jeanette MacDonald, Anthony Quinn, Greer Garson, Hedda Hopper, Greta Garbo, Gloria Stuart, and Lucille Ball. Hedda Hopper, whom he treated for exhaustion, is quoted on the back cover of Food is Your Best Medicine (1st edition) saying "I’ve known him for twenty-five years and if I’d always taken his advice, I’d never have had a sick day during all that time." While the successes were many, treatment of actress Allison Hayes was associated with a continued decline in health, later found to result from lead contamination in a bone meal supplement. This case was pivotal in prompting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate food supplements. Although Bieler treated many high-profile patients, he shunned participation in celebrity culture, priding himself in treating all who came to him, regardless of social status and fame.
Dr. Bieler was often at odds with the American Medical Association because he believed that drugs are harmful and advised his patients to avoid them. His approach to treating his patients may have been very dangerous, had any of them developed a serious illness requiring the use of drugs like antibiotics, one which could not be remedied through lifestyle changes, the illness would have gone untreated and would possibly have resulted in the patients' death.
In 1965 Dr. Bieler wrote the book Food is Your Best Medicine, published by Random House, a compilation of over fifty years of work treating disease by diet. This book, which became a best seller, is still in print (Ballantine Books division of Random House), and has been translated into many other languages. The book was highly controversial at the time. Bieler refused to include any "diets" or recipes in the text because he believed that every person has different body chemistry and, therefore, different needs. In 1972 he wrote a second book, The Natural Way to Sexual Health, with co-author Sarah Nichols, which did have recipes added by his editor/agent between the time he submitted the manuscript and when the book was published. Bieler's publications and recordings of lectures are archived at the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation including a Bibliography containing 16 citations.
At the time of his death in 1975 he was working on a book called The Incurables, dedicated to the memory of Martin F. Fischer one of his professors from medical school whom he greatly respected. The book dealt with specific diseases like cancer, lupus, diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, gout, and even the common cold. In it, he wrote what he felt caused the disease and how chemistry could be reversed for control or cure. This book was completed by an associate, Reigh Parker-Burch, in 2013 and is titled "Conquering the Incurables".
About the Author, from Food is Your Best Medicine:
Dr. Henry G. Bieler studied medicine at the University of Cincinnati, where he came under the lifelong influence of Dr. Martin Fischer, the great physiologist and philosopher. For over fifty years he has been a doctor and treated motion picture stars, coal miners, politicians and professional men, farmers and Pasadena dowagers. He has brought thousands of healthy babies into the world, including his own children and grandchildren. He himself is his own best example of the person his patient can become.
After his death in 1975 the last sentence was altered to “He died in October 1975”.