Scenario (pick one):

  • You accidentally travel through time
  • Your time machine runs out of fuel or breaks
  • Your time machine gets stolen
  • A vengeful wizard banishes you to another time/dimension
  • You accidentally travel to a parallel Earth
  • You intentionally travel to a parallel Earth and get stuck

Let's say you end up stuck in a friendly medieval-tech-level community that is willing to let you stay and help get you on your feet. So even though you'll miss high-tech society, you're going to be able to survive.

However, medieval-level communities don't know much about nutrition, vitamins, minerals, etc, and you'd rather not get scurvy or any other of the nasty diseases caused by nutrient deficiencies. As a bonus, helping your community to become healthier will improve your standing with them, which certainly wouldn't hurt.

How would you go about making sure that you will be getting enough of all of the necessary nutrients?

  • $\begingroup$ If you eat what the locals are eating, you won't have a deficiency unless everyone does, and that's bad for a permanent population. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 8:21
  • $\begingroup$ See the discussion in one of the answers, and the unusual form of White Fang's answer. In your use of Second Person, was that a device to mean "someone, generically, in general" or did you literally mean "you, the reader, with your individual peculiarities and unique history, what would you do?" $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 8:31
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz I meant "someone, generically, in general". That answer was not the kind that I was expecting. $\endgroup$
    – Rob Watts
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ This seems a bit like asking, "you're in the middle of the ocean in a boat with a hole in the bottom. Water is coming in fast. How do you purify it to be drinkable?" Answer: You don't. If you're in that situation, you have bigger things to worry about! $\endgroup$
    – Benubird
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Benubird I don't see why you think it's like that - I specifically mentioned that immediate survival is not an issue thanks to the friendly community. $\endgroup$
    – Rob Watts
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 16:50

3 Answers 3


You may be surprised to hear that you would have very little to do. Medieval diets were actually very healthy in terms of lots of veg, fruit, etc. The main problem was getting enough food, not the balance of food. For example see this BBC article.

Scurvy was only an issue on long shipboard travel, and then only because of the fact that for example dried fruit still lost its vitamin C and Eskimos found one of the few meat diets that included vitamin C. These two factors combined to make it very hard to identify the cause.

If you want to help people then the main low-tech improvements you can make is developing chimneys with a proper draw to get smoke out of homes, improved agriculture and irrigation to increase food yield, and hygiene to avoid spreading of disease.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ i agree, by just knowing to things like what foods have proteins or certain vitamins in them, you know what to eat to keep yourself healthy. if anything, my only warning would be to NOT TAKE ANY MEDIEVAL DOCTOR'S ADVICE REGARDING NUTRITION. or to be more accurate, doctor/barber/dentist/blacksmith. basically, don't listen if they suggest anything involving possession or bloodletting $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 18:17
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ I think you could broaden this to not take Medieval Doctor's advice on anything. $\endgroup$
    – Jim2B
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 19:22
  • $\begingroup$ The question was: "How would you go about making sure that you will be getting enough of all of the necessary nutrients?" He was not asking for a rebuttal to one of his statements, only allowing people to let their minds roam free, pick a topic and say on here what they would do in such a situation. $\endgroup$
    – White Fang
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 22:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @WhiteFang This site is about worldbuilding, not plot building. He's asking about how a generic person with modern knowledge transported through time would help improve the diet of locals using that knowledge. The answer is that there is not much he can do as their diet was already pretty good. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB you need to read the question again. He says nothing about what you'd do to help people around you, only about how you would get the essential nutrients you need. He implies that you may improve your standing with the local people by helping their nutrition, but he never says anything about it being necessary, far less being your entire answer. You are the one creating new the world here, this question allows your mind to create a scenario. $\endgroup$
    – White Fang
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 22:07

There have been a number of answers and comments on doctors in the Middle Ages, so perhaps we should clarify a bit here.

If you are physically injured, anything from a broken bone to a battlefield injury like a sword cut, you will probably be treated by a barber (the red and white striped pole actually symbolically hearkens back to that time). Barbers would perform what we would call first aid and surgery, and were actually pretty good at it. I recall a show where an English battlefield was excavated, and one of the soldier's skeletons had a massive axe or pole arm cut across the face. Closer examination showed that he didn't die of this injury, in fact the edges of the cut bone had healed over, so he obviously recovered enough to soldier on perhaps several years after the injury.

On the other hand, best stay away form a physician, since they were the purveyors of what passed for science and medical knowledge in the day. Identifying illness as being caused by noxious vapours was about as close as they came to modern medicine, otherwise they were busy attempting to balance the "humours" of your body through bloodletting and so on.

How this relates to nutrition? Since barbers were close observers and had practical knowledge of the human body though their profession, they would probably be able to tell you in a general sense if your diet was not right ("look at the tone of your skin. And your hair is thinning out more than it should"). While this isn't prescription level stuff, like "eat more fish", you would at least have an understanding from a professional observer that you should start thinking more about your diet, hygiene and other health related matters.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ They found the remains of Tyrion Lannister in an English Battlefield?!?! $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 0:04

If a vengeful wizard banishes me to another dimension, it will be because I have done something to spite him. I will most likely have done this intentionally, because the bastard sure deserves it.

I would most likely not be able to bring anything with me, because a wizard has no mercy. A wizard would most likely send me with just the clothes on my back and the shoes on my feet, and I would be on my merry way.

I would be transported to some place in Northern Switzerland in a small, rural mountain community. I would be taken in by the friendly inhabitants of said village as a lost traveler, and set on my way. I would work as much as I could in such a place to keep a roof above my head and food in my belly, and probably would take in with a family that would be willing if I am not able to raise enough money to buy a house.

As a previous commenter has said, it was not that people were getting poor food, in fact, the food they ate then were free of all this artificial, processed crap we are being fed today, and were eating much better than we are today (at least in America. I will hopefully know enough to stay away from their doctors, and just hoping beyond hope that I do not catch any sickness, because I will be very miserable and unable to work.

If the villagers do not choose to take me in and cast me off as a spy, I will be forced to live in the wild by myself. I will try to trek through what I can in the hopes of finding another village, but if I cannot, I'm pretty much screwed without much basic survival skills. If I manage, somehow, to supplement my diet with fruits and berries and the occasional animal, that is, if I don't get poisoned by something I prepared poorly, I will continue a nomad-like lifestyle, carrying a burning stick and maybe some coals if I can manage to my next destination.

I will fashion for myself a bow out of animal's hide and a stick, sharpening arrows on rocks to bide my time, and maybe fire harden a couple of spears to throw at a passing deer. I'll find myself a nice cup, maybe a rock, and customize it to my liking. I will have to conserve my energy along the way, resting frequently. It will be a hard life, but I may have a chance of making it through.

This was a very interesting question; thank you for asking it! :)


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