INSTINCT originally guided man in the choice of foods best suited to his individual necessities, as also in choosing the time most suitable for the taking of such food; but civilization has created for man certain artificial environments, habits, and appetites, in the confusion of which his instincts are largely lost, which makes it incumbent upon him to be guided by rule and reason, rather than by impulse, in these matters.
Certain dietetic indiscretions are set forth here, which, if indulged, would minimize any lasting benefit that might be realized from a strict conformity to rules of combination. These are hasty eating, eating between meals, too large a variety at one meal, over-eating, drinking at meals, and the use of artificial stimulants.
Hasty Eating. Digestion begins in the mouth. But when food is improperly masticated, it enters the stomach with only slight alteration. The ptyalin of saliva is not present in sufficient quantity, under such conditions, to produce any effect on the preliminary digestion of starches, with the result that the food passes through the duodenum practically unchanged, and in coarse particles, where it is likely to produce irritation. One authority says :
“Although much of the mechanical preparation and mixing of foods is of a necessity done in the stomach, some of it may advantageously be done in the mouth. The stomach should not be required to perform the function of the gizzard of a fowl.” “Human Foods,” page 227.
Hasty eating, or bolting of food, is a fruitful cause of over-eating. The food does not remain in the mouth long enough, under this condition, to give the satisfaction that it gives when thoroughly masticated; so, in an effort to satisfy the craving for food, more is taken than the body requires. This habit leads, moreover, to the taking of too large a quantity in too short a time, which serves to paralyze, as it were, the nerve impulses that communicate with the brain, and as a result, the important message “Enough” does not reach the brain until an excess of food has been consumed.
When farinaceous foods (breads, cereals, potato, etc.) are well chewed and intimately mixed with saliva, they are more efficiently digested, and go farther, less food being required than when not well digested. Bread made from the entire grain requires more mastication before it can be swallowed than does spongy white bread, and itself promotes good digestion. Dry foods, which in-duce mastication, should have a prominent place in the dietary.
Eating Between Meals. In order to have health and efficiency, the body must be supplied with wholesome food, at regular intervals, and nothing between meals. This is absolutely necessary to insure the secretion of digestive juices for transforming the food into healthy blood and tissue. The glands will then form the habit of pouring out the proper juices into the stomach at meal-times every day, for nature does everything on time. On the other hand, eating at untimely seasons and between meals leads to the disorder of these delicate glands, so they will not perform their work properly.
It is a general custom to serve the meals too closely together. The stomach should have time to dispose of one meal before another is introduced, with an interval of rest between; because the muscles of the stomach need rest after active work, just as do the muscles of the arm. The glands must have time to become recharged with a good quality of digestive juices. At least five or six hours should intervene between meals.
“If you keep your digestive mill constantly grinding, it will soon wear out.”
Large Variety. The researches of Pavlov brought out the interesting fact that for each kind of food, such as bread, milk, vegetables, meat, fruit, etc., a different kind of digestive juice is required. Hence the wisdom of limiting the number of foods at one meal to a select few. The human body, though intricate and complicated in its structure, is nevertheless very simple in its automatic control when adjusted to its original environment of simplicity in diet. Any tendency toward monotony or sameness in meals may be avoided by having variety at different meals. The following words are to the point :
“A disordered stomach produces a disordered, uncertain state of mind. . . . Many a plan that would have been a blessing to the world has been set aside, many unjust, oppressive, even cruel measures have been carried, as the result of diseased conditions due to wrong habits of eating.
“Here is a suggestion for all whose work is sedentary or chiefly mental ; let those who have sufficient moral courage and self-control try it: At each meal take only two or three kinds of simple food, and eat no more than is required to satisfy hunger. Take active exercise every day, and see if you do not receive benefit.” “Ministry of Healing,” page 310.
The taking of any considerable number of foods at one meal, even though they be not antagonistic to one another, is bound to overtax the digestive organs, and so favor fermentation and poisoning, rather than nourish the system. The Canadian Confectioner and Baker says concerning the use of a large variety of food at one meal:
“The reason why there are so many dyspeptics found, is not that we work harder nor even worry more than our fathers did, but we eat too much and too many things. If our grandfathers could only see what we put into our stomachs at a single sitting, they would turn in their graves ! Is it any wonder, then, that there is so little real relish for food?” Quoted in “Baker’s Review,” October, 1912.
Overeating. “The feast is worse than the fast” if it tempts the appetite beyond the legitimate needs of the body, or if it brings together elements that the digestive organs are unable to cope with. Overtaxation of the digestive organs is a bad form of dissipation, and is said to be the cause of more disease, either directly or indirectly, than is caused by all alcoholic dissipation combined. Mr. W. Earl Flinn, well-known lecturer, says on this point :
“It is probable that in most civilized countries more people die because of the failure of the body to eliminate the waste than because of an inability to procure food necessary to sustain life. Most of our ailments, as well as our constant failure to attain our highest physical efficiency, are due to the accumulation of unhealthy waste products which cannot be cleared away by the body machinery.” Elmira “Star Gazette,” November 8, 1911.
The United States Public Health Service says of the evils of overeating :
“Gluttony, always at fault, is all the more glaring in a land where a plentiful food supply permits it to be more general. The sallow, fat cheeks, the aching joints and irascible temper of the prosperous overfed are far too common.” “Health News,” January 31, 1917.
Drinking at Meals. The practice of washing the food down with drink at mealtime is detrimental to health, for well established scientific reasons. It hinders the flow of saliva; it dilutes the gastric juice; encourages poor chewing ; causes hasty eating ; induces overeating ; and when drink is taken cold or iced, stops digestion.
Artificial Stimulants. Stimulants are great deceivers, because of the immediate effect they have upon the body. By their use, a weak person is temporarily made to feel strong; not because they impart strength to the body, for this they are unable to do, but because they whip up the flagged energies to increased action. They draw upon the reserve strength, and are but a short cut to physical bankruptcy. As to the deceptive nature of popular stimulants, Dr. Alexander Haig says:
“Stimulation is not strength, but force rendered a little more quickly available, and is invariably followed by an exactly corresponding amount of depression, when the force is used up and must be replaced.”
“It has been truly said that the man who relies upon stimulants for strength is lost, for he is drawing upon a reserve fund which is not completely replaced, and physiological bankruptcy must inevitably ensue. This is what stimulants, such as tea, coffee, alcohol, tobacco, opium, and cocaine, do for those who trust in them; they none of them introduce albumen, available for con-version into force and urea, they merely aid in the calling out of the reserves.” “Diet and Food,” pages 40, 123.
Meat is stimulating, on account of the presence of certain waste and poisonous substances always found in animal flesh. One can get the same exhilaration from a cup of beef tea as from brandy. Wash the excretory products out of meat and it is tasteless and insipid. These artificial stimulants create abnormal appetite, usually mistaken for hunger, with the result that the digestive organs are burdened with a quantity of food which the system will be taxed to dispose of.
About Tea and Coffee. The effect of the drug caffeine in coffee is to stimulate the nervous system. It removes the sense of fatigue, but cheats the body by producing sleeplessness. Its use is often followed by palpitation of the heart and indigestion. Dr. Harvey W. Wiley is quoted on this point :
“For my part, believing, as I do, in the eternal principles of energy, and that you cannot get something for nothing, I am unable to see how the stimulation produced by a drug like caffeine can secure any energy except at a corresponding expense.”
“That caffeine is a lethal poison in not very large doses is thoroughly established by Dr. Slant’s work on rabbits, guinea pigs, cats, and dogs. The evil effects of extensive drinking of coffee and tea are well known to all members of the medical profession.” ”Journal of the American Medical Association,” May 11, 1912.
Dr. Gilman Thompson, professor of medicine in the Cornell University College, New York, says concerning the effects of tea :
“The ill effects of excessive tea drinking the ‘tea habit’ are referable to its action on the digestive and nervous systems, and are cumulative. If taken in large quantities with meals, tea precipitates the digestive ferments, retards the activity of digestion, and may occasion gastric irritation and catarrh. Constipation usually results. The effect of the ‘tea habit’ on the nervous system is to overstimulate and then depress it, first producing restlessness, worry, and insomnia, and finally muscular tremors, sensory disturbances, and palpitation.”
“In a recent report upon insanity in Ireland, tea is mentioned as a contributing factor.” “Practical Dietetics,” pages 250, 251. Dr. Alexander Haig says of tea:
“In taking tea, . . . man is taking pure poison and no nourishment whatever, and with the introduction and diffusion of tea and coffee throughout the land, there has come about a very great increase in all uric acid diseases.” “Uric Acid in the Causation of Disease,” page 804.