Luther's diseases were caused by the way he lived rather than by genetic disposition. Years of malnutrition in the monastery, long days and nights of hard mental labor, as well as his later thorough enjoyment of food, drink, and sex had their effect on Luther's health.

During his exile at the Wartburg, Luther was plagued by stomach disorders and constipation. "The Lord has afflicted me with painful constipation," he told Melanchthon in May 1521. "I did not sleep all night and still have no peace. Please pray for me."

From 1526 on, Luther endured sporadic gall and kidney-stone attacks, which reminded him of death because of the excruciating pain. He frequently talked about these attacks, complaining about pain. He distrusted physicians and linked the experience to the kind of Anfechtungen [combination physical illness and depression] sent by God to remind Christians that life is indeed a struggle with sin, death, and the Devil.

"I was dead"

One of his worst kidney-stone attacks occurred when Luther attended the convention of the Schmalkald League in 1537. He told his wife, Katie, "I had not been healthy there for more than three days, and from the first Sunday to this night, not one little drop of water passed from me; I had no rest nor did I sleep, and I was unable to retain any drink or food. In summary, I was dead; I commended you, together with the little ones, to God and to my gracious Lord, since I thought that I would never again see you in this mortal life.… But many people prayed to God so hard on my behalf that their tears moved God to open my bladder this night … and I feel as if I were born again."

Those who were with Luther during this attack heard him ...

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