Tea, coffee, cocoa and all alcoholic beverages are best left alone. People use one or another of these drinks largely because physicians do not sufficiently stress their ill-effects.
When a mother feeds cocoa to her child, she is under the impression that cocoa (or cocoa-flavored products, malted milk, etc.) is a health-building food. She does not know that in every ounce of cocoa there is an effective dose that may irritate the vital organs, the heart, the liver, the kidneys, the nervous system, and in fact, every cell of the child’s body. The poor mother is often acting on the advice of a physician in feeding her child cocoa mixed with milk, in order to “increase” the nourishing value of the milk. Even coffee is sometimes used by an overanxious parent to doctor up the child’s milk, when, because of lack of hunger, the child refuses to take it plain.
Since the laws which govern the functions of the body are not well understood by the public, the precepts of good health are tram-pled upon to a very great extent. The habit of indulging in intoxicating beverages is found to grow with the age of the individual, because as age advances the body becomes more and more saturated with retained waste matter and consequently “bracers” are taken to support the degenerating organism from morning till night. On rising, the body is usually still tired and the senses are blurred. The break-fast cup of coffee seems to work like magic, by producing a sense of false well-being. The body is being artificially stimulated, however, and much damage is done to body and mind by the stimulating but poisonous beverages.
Coffee, tea and cocoa all contain certain substances which lead to disease, to the degeneration of every vital structure of the body that is necessary to health and life.
A well-known scientific authority, Dr. Edward Smith, demonstrated that work is done more easily under the influence of caffeine but that an increased sense of fatigue follows. The cells of the body may do more work temporarily than they would do naturally. The after-effect is exhaustion of the cells, with a decreased store of energy in them.
Another authority, Dr. H. H. Rugby, said: “Caffeine is a genuine drug poison. It tends to form the drug habit. It causes permanent disorder or disease of the heart in its structure and function, and also of the nervous system.”
Caffeine or coffee tends to increase blood pressure. Dr. Kellogg, of the Battle Creek Sanatorium, observed that dropping the use of coffee for a short period will bring abnormally high blood pressure down twenty to forty points.
Another authority, Tibbles, found that “Coffee cripples the liver. It destroys the glycogenic function of the liver; therefore coffee may be a cause of diabetes.” By glycogenic function of the liver is meant the natural function of the liver in changing the digested starches and sugars of carbohydrate foods into glycogen, or liver sugar, for storage until it is needed by the economy of the body. When the liver cannot convert digested carbohydrate (glucose) into glycogen, glucose enters the blood in abnormally excessive amounts and diabetic symptoms may appear.
Alcohol is a narcotic beverage. Its immediate effect in small doses is to stimulate the body. In large doses it is a narcotic. Alcohol has a paralyzing effect on the nervous system. Professor Kronecker of Berne, Switzerland, demonstrated that a 2 per cent alcoholic solution (Bavarian beer) will paralyze a frog’s heart.
Ordinary beer and hard cider contain twice to three times as much alcohol. Wine contains ten to twenty per cent alcohol, brandy and whiskey 40 to 60 per cent.
Asylums for the mentally and physically defective have their quotas of patients suffering from alcoholic degeneration.
People who take an occasional drink, even of the mildest alcoholic beverage, may not show any pronounced immediate ill effects on their health, but in time the body will show its marks in a weak heart, a bad liver, poorly working digestive system, bad kidneys, and nervous disease of one form or another. A considerable percentage of the disease afflictions of middle age and old age are no doubt due to the cumulative effects of alcohol.
An important special point about food and alcohol must be stressed. Faulty digestion of a meal, especially if the food has been poorly selected and combined, will cause its breaking down into products of fermentation, a certain amount of which will be alcohol. Eating haphazard meals with starches and sugar in excessive amounts will lead to alcoholic fermentation. For example, a breakfast of fruit sweetened with sugar, cereal or pancakes with sugar makes a fermentable mixture in the stomach. Under these conditions, normal digestion is seldom possible.
A closing word: caffeine is also a kidney poison and paralyzes the absorption power of the convoluted tubules of the kidneys. Even the flavors of coffee and tea are injurious to health. The volatile oils in coffee and tea damage the hemoglobin, depress the central nervous system, cause irregularity of the heart and shortens the breath, according to Burnham; yet very few doctors forbid coffee to patients who are already suffering from such symptoms.
Briefly, these beverages contribute their share to the development of chronic disease and premature death in middle life.