Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, 73, a physician who gained international attention with his claims about the natural healing power of water, died of complications from pneumonia Nov. 15 at Inova Fairfax Hospital. He had lived in Falls Church for 22 years.
Dr. Batmanghelidj gathered both criticism and acclaim over the years for his assertions that a regime of water can treat a vast array of human illnesses. "You are not sick, you are thirsty," he proclaimed.
Millions of people bought his 1992 self-help book, "Your Body's Many Cries for Water," which stated that most pain and sickness is a result of chronic dehydration of the body. The book has been translated into 15 languages and continues to attract readers and controversy from those who question its lack of scientific rigor.
Dr. Batmanghelidj, known as Dr. B., said he concluded through years of reading and research that ordinary water will prevent and cure depression, asthma, arthritis, back pain, migraines, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis and many other illnesses. He also opposed the use of costly drugs for treating illnesses, saying, you "don't treat thirst with medication."
"We have made the mistake of assuming that because water is freely available and costs nothing, the body cannot probably fall short of it. I believe that most physical pains are signals that the body needs rehydrating -- and that we ignore these signals at our peril," he said in a 1994 interview with the Independent in London.
His work, which grew from his experience helping prison inmates in his native Iran, reached acceptance more at the consumer level than with the medical community. Some in the medical and alternative medicine professions viewed his "water cure" as unorthodox and "extremely naive."
Dr. Batmanghelidj did not seem to mind, saying on his Web site that he was on a "God-given assignment to research the awesome medicinal properties of water and share the information with the scientists and the public."
Dr. Batmanghelidj, who was born into a politically prominent family, graduated from Fettes College in Scotland. He also was a graduate of St. Mary's Hospital Medical School of London University, where he studied under Sir Alexander Fleming, who shared the Nobel Prize for the discovery of penicillin.
He practiced medicine in the United Kingdom before returning to Iran, where he played a key role in the development of hospitals and medical centers. He also helped establish sport projects for youth in Iran, including the construction and management of the Ice Palace in Tehran, said to be the first ice skating and sports complex in the Middle East.
In 1979, after the Iranian Revolution, Dr. Batmanghelidj was a political prisoner in Evin Prison for two years and seven months. It was there his research into water's curative powers began.
Without the benefit of medicine, he told an ulcer patient with severe abdominal pains to drink two glasses of water. The patient's pain receded within minutes. He said he later treated more than 3,000 fellow prisoners who suffered from peptic ulcer, viewing the prison environment as an "ideal stress laboratory."
After his release from prison in 1982, Dr. Batmanghelidj came to the United States and continued his exploration of the role of water metabolism in the human body. He published several other books, lectured and presented scientific papers at U.S. and international conferences.
He created the Foundation for the Simple in Medicine and Global Health Solutions, a Falls Church-based publishing company, to promote public awareness of the health values of water.
His marriage to Lucile Batmanghelidj ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife, Xiaopo Huang Batmanghelidj of Falls Church; three children from the first marriage, Ardeshir Batmanghelidj of Salisbury, Mass., Camila Batmanghelidj of London and Babak Batmanghelidj of McLean; and four grandchildren.