It has been pointed out that the digestive tract being the oldest part of our animal organism is particularly likely to be upset whenever anything happens to the whole body, either in the way of physical disease or mental distress.
Most indigestion, in other words, is not due to actual organic disease of the organs of digestion. Most indigestion is reflex. Some of it is reflex from blood disease or heart disease. The largest part is reflex from nervous disease. It is truly nervous dyspepsia.
Take the case of “biliousness.” Most doctors scoff at the idea of there being any such thing as biliousness. And in the literal interpretation of the term, they are right. Biliousness means a disease due to the absorption of bile or the abnormal accumulation of bile in the system. No such condition can be proved to exist.
Yet patients continue to complain of biliousness. What do they mean by it? Usually they say it comes on in attacks. The symptoms are a logy feeling, a feeling of stoppage of the intestines, a little nausea, headache, and spots before the eyes. They always feel that if they can get “cleaned out” they will be better. This gets all the bile out of their systems, according to their theory.
Yet medical men say their theory is wrong. That there is no such thing as biliousness. But, you may ask, if it isn’t biliousness, what is the cause of these sensations they have?
Well, the real hints to the situation are that it comes on in attacks, with nausea, headache, and spots before the eyes. In short, what they call “biliousness” is usually a mild form of migraine. And migraine is a functional disease of the nervous system.
The reflex dyspepsia of gallstones is another very frequent form of indigestion in which the exciting cause is outside the stomach. True enough, gallstones form in the gallbladder and the gallbladder is part of the digestive system. But to the extent that the gallbladder is outside the actual muscular tube of the stomach and intestines when it sets up symptoms ascribable to them, the symptoms are reflex.
I am referring now to gallbladder symptoms that are readily recognized as originating in the gallbladder. In other words, not to colic from gallstones or pain over the gallbladder due to inflammation. The reflex symptoms are different. When patients with reflex gall-bladder symptoms are observed by the x-ray the entire stomach and intestinal tract are seen to be in a state of spasm. This is the cause of the symptoms of abdominal constriction, nausea, eructation of gas, and other dyspeptic symptoms of gallbladder disease. It is, of course, one of the forms of dyspepsia that can be relieved by surgery.