The excessive use of certain portions of the brain tends to withdraw the nervous energy from other portions; so that when one part is debilitated by excess, another fails by neglect. For example, a person may so exhaust the brain power in the excessive use of the nerves of motion by hard work, as to leave little for any other faculty. On the other hand, the nerves of feeling and thinking may be so used as to withdraw the nervous fluid from the nerves of motion, and thus debilitate the muscles.
Some animal propensities may be indulged to such excess as to produce a constant tendency of the blood to a certain portion of the brain, and to the organs connected with it, and thus cause a constant and excessive excitement, which finally becomes a disease. Sometimes a paralysis of this portion of the brain results from such an entire exhaustion of the nervous fountain and of the overworked nerves.
Thus, also, the thinking portion of the brain may be so overworked as to drain the nervous fluid from other portions, which become debilitated by the loss. And in this way, also, the overworked portion may be diseased or paralyzed by the excess.
The necessity for the equal development of all portions of the brain by an appropriate exercise of all the faculties of mind and body, and the influence of this upon happiness, is the most important portion of this subject, and will be more directly exhibited in another chapter.
In a work which aims to influence women to train the young to honor domestic labor and to seek healthful exercise in home pursuits, there is special reason for explaining the construction of the muscles and their connection with the nerves, these being the chief organs of motion.
The muscles, as seen by the naked eye, consist of very fine fibres or strings, bound up in smooth, silky casings of thin membrane. But each of these visible fibres or strings the microscope shows to be made up of still finer strings, numbering from five to eight hundred in each fibre. And each of these microscopic fibres is a series or chain of elastic cells, which are so minute that one hundred thousand would scarcely cover a capital O on this page.
The peculiar property of the cells which compose the muscles is their elasticity, no other cells of the body having this property. At Fig. 51 is a diagram representing a microscopic muscular fibre, in which the cells are relaxed, as in the natural state of rest. But when the muscle contracts, each of its numberless cells in all its small fibres becomes widened, making each fibre of the muscle shorter and thicker, as at Fig. 52. This explains the cause of the swelling out of muscles when they act.
Every motion in every part of the body has a special muscle to produce it, and many have other muscles to restore the part moved to its natural state. The muscles that move or bend any part are called flexors, and those that restore the natural position are called extensors.
Fig. 53 represents the muscles of the arm after the skin and flesh are removed. They are all in smooth silky cases, laid over each other, and separated both by the smooth membranes that encase them and by layers of fat, so as to move easily without interfering with each other. They are fastened to the bones by strong tendons and cartilages; and around the wrist, in the drawing, is shown a band of cartilage to confine them in place. The muscle marked 8 is the extensor that straightens the fingers after they have been closed by a flexor the other side of the arm. In like manner, each motion of the arm and fingers has one muscle to produce it and another to restore to the natural position.
The muscles are dependent on the brain and nerves for power to move. It has been shown that the gray matter of the brain and spinal marrow furnishes the stimulating power that moves the muscles, and causes sensations of touch on the skin, and the other sensations of the several senses. The white part of the brain and spinal marrow consists solely of conducting tubes to transmit this influence. Each of the minute fibrils of the muscles has a small conducting nerve connecting it with the brain or spinal marrow, and in this respect each muscular fibril is separate from every other.
When, therefore, the mind wills to move a flexor muscle of the arm, the gray matter sends out the stimulus through the nerves to the cells of each individual fibre of that muscle, and they contract. When this is done, the nerve of sensation reports it to the brain and mind. If the mind desires to return the arm to its former position, then follows the willing, and consequent stimulus sent through the nerves to the corresponding muscle; its cells contract, and the limb is restored.
When the motion is a compound one, involving the action of several muscles at the same time, a multitude of impressions are sent back and forth to and from the brain through the nerves. But the person acting thus is unconscious of all this delicate and wonderful mechanism. He wills the movement, and instantly the requisite nervous power is sent to the required cells and fibres, and they perform the motions required. Many of the muscles are moved by the sympathetic system, over which the mind has but little control.
Among the muscles and nerves so intimately connected, run the minute capillaries of the blood, which furnish nourishment to all.
Fig. 54 represents an artery a a, which brings pure blood to a muscle from the heart. After meandering through the capillaries at c, to distribute oxygen and food from the stomach, the blood enters the vein, b, loaded with carbonic acid and water taken up in the capillaries, to be carried to the lungs or skin, and thrown out into the air.
The manner in which the exercise of the muscles quickens the circulation of the blood will now be explained. The veins abound in every part of every muscle, and the large veins have valves which prevent the blood from flowing backward. If the wrist is grasped tightly, the veins of the hand are immediately swollen. This is owing to the fact that the blood is prevented from flowing toward the heart by this pressure, and by the vein-valves from returning into the arteries; while the arteries themselves, being placed deeper down, are not so compressed, and continue to send the blood into the hand, and thus it accumulates. As soon as this pressure is removed, the blood springs onward from the restraint with accelerated motion. This same process takes place when any of the muscles are exercised. The contraction of any muscle presses some of the veins, so that the blood can not flow the natural way, while the valves in the veins prevent its flowing backward. Meantime the arteries continue to press the blood along until the veins become swollen. Then, as soon as the muscle ceases its contraction, the blood flows faster from the previous accumulation.
If, then, we use a number of muscles, and use them strongly and quickly, there are so many veins affected in this way as to quicken the whole circulation. The heart receives blood faster, and sends it to the lungs faster. Then the lungs work quicker, to furnish the oxygen required by the greater amount of blood. The blood returns with greater speed to the heart, and the heart sends it out with quicker action through the arteries to the capillaries. In the capillaries, too, the decayed matter is carried off faster, and then the stomach calls for more food to furnish new and pure blood. Thus it is that exercise gives new life and nourishment to every part of the body.
It is the universal law of the human frame that exercise is indispensable to the health of the several parts. Thus, if a blood-vessel be tied up, so as not to be used, it shrinks, and becomes a useless string; if a muscle be condemned to inaction, it shrinks in size and diminishes in power; and thus it is also with the bones. Inactivity produces softness, debility, and unfitness for the functions they are designed to perform.
Now, the nerves, like all other parts of the body, gain and lose strength according as they are exercised. If they have too much or too little exercise, they lose strength; if they are exercised to a proper degree, they gain strength. When the mind is continuously excited, by business, study, or the imagination, the nerves of emotion and sensation are kept in constant action, while the nerves of motion are unemployed. If this is continued for a long time, the nerves of sensation lose their strength from over-action, and the nerves of motion lose their power from inactivity. In consequence, there is a morbid excitability of the nervous, and a debility of the muscular system, which make all exertion irksome and wearisome.
The only mode of preserving the health of these systems is to keep up in them an equilibrium of action. For this purpose, occupations must be sought which exercise the muscles and interest the mind; and thus the equal action of both kinds of nerves is secured. This shows why exercise is so much more healthful and invigorating when the mind is interested, than when it is not. As an illustration, let a person go shopping with a friend, and have nothing to do but look on. How soon do the continuous walking and standing weary! But, suppose one, thus wearied, hears of the arrival of a very dear friend: she can instantly walk off a mile or two to meet her, without the least feeling of fatigue. By this is shown the importance of furnishing, for young persons, exercise in which they will take an interest. Long and formal walks, merely for exercise, though they do some good, in securing fresh air, and some exercise of the muscles, would be of triple benefit if changed to amusing sports, or to the cultivation of fruits and flowers, in which it is impossible to engage without acquiring a great interest.
It shows, also, why it is far better to trust to useful domestic exercise at home than to send a young person out to walk for the mere purpose of exercise. Young girls can seldom be made to realize the value of health, and the need of exercise to secure it, so as to feel much interest in walking abroad, when they have no other object. But, if they are brought up to minister to the comfort and enjoyment of themselves and others, by performing domestic duties, they will constantly be interested and cheered in their exercise by the feeling of usefulness and the consciousness of having performed their duty.
There are few young persons, it is hoped, who are brought up with such miserable habits of selfishness and indolence that they can not be made to feel happier by the consciousness of being usefully employed. And those who have never been accustomed to think or care for any one but themselves, and who seem to feel little pleasure in making themselves useful, by wise and proper influences can often be gradually awakened to the new pleasure of benevolent exertion to promote the comfort and enjoyment of others. And the more this sacred and elevating kind of enjoyment is tasted, the greater is the relish induced. Other enjoyments often cloy; but the heavenly pleasure secured by virtuous industry and benevolence, while it satisfies at the time, awakens fresh desires for the continuance of so ennobling a good.
The person who decides what shall be the food and drink of a family, and the modes of its preparation, is the one who decides, to a greater or less extent, what shall be the health of that family. It is the opinion of most medical men, that intemperance in eating is one of the most fruitful of all causes of disease and death. If this be so, the woman who wisely adapts the food and cooking of her family to the laws of health removes one of the greatest risks which threatens the lives of those under her care. But, unfortunately, there is no other duty that has been involved in more doubt and perplexity. Were one to believe all that is said and written on this subject, the conclusion probably would be, that there is not one solitary article of food on God's earth which it is healthful to eat. Happily, however, there are general principles on this subject which, if understood and applied, will prove a safe guide to any woman of common sense; and it is the object of the following chapter to set forth these principles.
All material things on earth, whether solid, liquid, or gaseous, can be resolved into sixty-two simple substances, only fourteen of which are in the human body; and these, in certain proportions, in all mankind.
Thus, in a man weighing 154 lbs. are found, 111 lbs. oxygen gas, and 14 lbs. hydrogen gas, which, united, form water; 21 lbs. carbon; 3 lbs. 8 oz. nitrogen gas; 1 lb. 12 oz. 190 grs. phosphorus; 2 lbs. calcium, the chief ingredient of bones; 2 oz. fluorine; 2 oz. 219 grs. sulphur; 2 oz 47 grs. chlorine; 2 oz. 116 grs. sodium; 100 grs. iron; 290 grs. potassium; 12 grs. magnesium; and 2 grs. silicon.
These simple substances are constantly passing out of the body through the lungs, skin, and other excreting organs.
It is found that certain of these simple elements are used for one part of the body, and others for other parts, and this in certain regular proportions. Thus, carbon is the chief element of fat, and also supplies the fuel that combines with oxygen in the capillaries to produce animal heat. The nitrogen which we gain from our food and the air is the chief element of muscle; phosphorus is the chief element of brain and nerves; and calcium or lime is the hard portion of the bones. Iron is an important element of blood, and silicon supplies the hardest parts of the teeth, nails, and hair.
Water, which is composed of the two gases, oxygen and hydrogen, is the largest portion of the body, forming its fluids; there is four times as much of carbon as there is of nitrogen in the body; while there is only two per cent as much phosphorus as carbon. A man weighing one hundred and fifty-four pounds, who leads an active life, takes into his stomach daily from two to three pounds of solid food, and from five to six pounds of liquid. At the same time he takes into his lungs, daily, four or five thousand gallons of air. This amounts to three thousand pounds of nutriment received through stomach and lungs, and then expelled from the body, in one year; or about twenty times the man's own weight.
The change goes on in every minute point of the body, though in some parts much faster than in others; as set forth in the piquant and sprightly language of Dr. O. W. Holmes [Footnote: Atlantic Almanac, 1869, p. 40.], who, giving a vivid picture of the constant decay and renewal of the body, says:
"Every organized being always lives immersed in a strong solution of its own elements."
"Sometimes, as in the case of the air-plant, the solution contains all its elements; but in higher plants, and in animals generally, some of the principal ones only. Take our own bodies, and we find the atmosphere contains the oxygen and the nitrogen, of which we are so largely made up, as its chief constituents; the hydrogen, also, in its watery vapor; the carbon, in its carbonic acid. What our air-bath does not furnish us, we must take in the form of nourishment, supplied through the digestive organs. But the first food we take, after we have set up for ourselves, is air, and the last food we take is air also. We are all chameleons in our diet, as we are all salamanders in our habitats, inasmuch as we live always in the fire of our own smouldering combustion; a gentle but constant flame, fanned every day by the same forty hogsheads of air which furnish us not with our daily bread, which we can live more than a day without touching, but with our momentary, and oftener than momentary, aliment, without which we can not live five minutes."
"We are perishing and being born again at every instant. We do literally enter over and over again into the womb of that great mother, from whom we get our bones, and flesh, and blood, and marrow. 'I die daily' is true of all that live. If we cease to die, particle by particle, and to be born anew in the same proportion, the whole movement of life comes to an end, and swift, universal, irreparable decay resolves our frames into the parent elements."
"The products of the internal fire which consumes us over and over again every year, pass off mainly in smoke and steam from the lungs and the skin. The smoke is only invisible, because the combustion is so perfect. The steam is plain enough in our breaths on a frosty morning; and an over-driven horse will show us, on a larger scale, the cloud that is always arising from own bodies."
"Man walks, then, not only in a vain show, but wrapped in an uncelestial aureole of his own material exhalations. A great mist of gases and of vapor rises day and night from the whole realm of living nature. The water and the carbonic acid which animals exhale become the food of plants, whose leaves are at once lungs and mouths. The vegetable world reverses the breathing process of the animal creation, restoring the elements which that has combined and rendered effete for its own purposes, to their original condition. The salt-water ocean is a great aquarium. The air ocean in which we live is a 'Wardian case,' of larger dimensions."
It is found that the simple elements will not nourish the body in their natural state, but only when organized, either as vegetable or animal food; and, to the dismay of the Grahamite or vegetarian school, it is now established by chemists that animal and vegetable food contain the same elements, and in nearly the same proportions.
Thus, in animal food, carbon predominates in fats, while in vegetable food it shows itself in sugar, starch, and vegetable oils. Nitrogen is found in animal food in the albumen, fibrin, and caseine; while in vegetables it is in gluten, albumen, and caseine.
It is also a curious fact that, in all articles of food, the elements that nourish diverse parts of the body are divided into separable portions, and also that the proportions correspond in a great degree to the wants of the body. For example, a kernel of wheat contains all the articles demanded for every part of the body. Fig. 55 represents, upon an enlarged scale, the position and proportions of the chief elements required. The white central part is the largest in quantity, and is chiefly carbon in the form of starch, which supplies fat and fuel for the capillaries. The shaded outer portion is chiefly nitrogen, which nourishes the muscles, and the dark spot at the bottom is principally phosphorus, which nourishes the brain and nerves. And these elements are in due proportion to the demands of the body. A portion of the outer covering of a wheat-kernel holds lime, silica, and iron, which are needed by the body, and which are found in no other part of the grain. The woody fibre is not digested, but serves by its bulk and stimulating action to facilitate digestion. It is therefore evident that bread made of unbolted flour is more healthful than that made of superfine flour. The process of bolting removes all the woody fibre; the lime needed for the bones; the silica for hair, nails, and teeth; the iron for the blood; and most of the nitrogen and phosphorus needed for muscles, brain, and nerves.
Experiments on animals prove that fine flour alone, which is chiefly carbon, will not sustain life more than a month, while unbolted flour furnishes all that is needed for every part of the body. There are cases where persons can not use such coarse bread, on account of its irritating action on inflamed coats of the stomach. For such, a kind of wheaten grit is provided, containing all the kernel of the wheat, except the outside woody fibre.
When the body requires a given kind of diet, specially demanded by brain, lungs, or muscles, the appetite will crave food for it until the necessary amount of this article is secured. If, then, the food in which the needed aliment abounds is not supplied, other food will be taken in larger quantities than needed until that amount is gained. For all kinds of food have supplies for every want of the body, though in different proportions. Thus, for example, if the muscles are worked a great deal, food in which nitrogen abounds is required, and the appetite will continue until the requisite amount of nitrogen is secured. If, then, food is taken which has not the requisite quantity, the consequence is, that more is taken than the system can use, while the vital powers are needlessly taxed to throw off the excess.
These facts were ascertained by Liebig, a celebrated German chemist and physicist, who, assisted by his government, conducted experiments on a large scale in prisons, in armies, and in hospitals. Among other results, he states that those who use potatoes for their principal food eat them in very much larger quantities than their bodies would demand if they used also other food. The reason is, that the potato has a very large proportion of starch that supplies only fuel for the capillaries and very little nitrogen to feed the muscles. For this reason lean meat is needed with potatoes.
In comparing wheat and potatoes we find that in one hundred parts wheat there are fourteen parts nitrogen for muscle, and two parts phosphorus for brain and nerves. But in the potato there is only one part in one hundred for muscle, and nine tenths of one part of phosphorus for brain and nerves.
The articles containing most of the three articles needed generally in the body are as follows: for fat and heat-making—butter, lard, sugar, and molasses; for muscle-making—lean meat, cheese, peas, beans, and lean fishes; for brain and nerves—shell-fish, lean meats, peas, beans, and very active birds and fishes who live chiefly on food in which phosphorus abounds. In a meat diet, the fat supplies carbon for the capillaries and the lean furnishes nutriment for muscle, brain, and nerves. Green vegetables, fruits, and berries furnish the acid and water needed.
In grains used for food, the proportions of useful elements are varied; there is in some more of carbon and in others more of nitrogen and phosphorus. For example, in oats there is more of nitrogen for the muscles, and less carbon for the lungs, than can be found in wheat. In the corn of the North, where cold weather demands fuel for lungs and capillaries, there is much more carbon to supply it than is found in the Southern corn.
From these statements it may be seen that one of the chief mistakes in providing food for families has been in changing the proportions of the elements nature has fitted for our food. Thus, fine wheat is deprived by bolting of some of the most important of its nourishing elements, leaving carbon chiefly, which, after supplying fuel fur the capillaries, must, if in excess, be sent out of the body; thus needlessly taxing all the excreting organs. So milk, which contains all the elements needed by the body, has the cream taken out and used for butter, which again is chiefly carbon. Then, sugar and molasses, cakes and candies, are chiefly carbon, and supply but very little of other nourishing elements, while to make them safe much exercise in cold and pure air is necessary. And yet it is the children of the rich, housed in chambers and school-rooms most of their time, who are fed with these dangerous dainties, thus weakening their constitutions, and inducing fevers, colds, and many other diseases. The proper digestion of food depends on the wants of the body, and on its power of appropriating the aliment supplied. The best of food can not be properly digested when it is not needed. All that the system requires will be used, and the rest will be thrown out by the several excreting organs, which thus are frequently over-taxed, and vital forces are wasted. Even food of poor quality may digest well if the demands of the system are urgent. The way to increase digestive power is to increase the demand for food by pure air and exercise of the muscles, quickening the blood, and arousing the whole system to a more rapid and vigorous rate of life.
Rules for persons in full health, who enjoy pure air and exercise, are not suitable for those whose digestive powers are feeble, or who are diseased. On the other hand, many rules for invalids are not needed by the healthful, while rules for one class of invalids will not avail for other classes. Every weak stomach has its peculiar wants, and can not furnish guidance for others.
We are now ready to consider intelligently the following general principles in regard to the proper selection of food:
Vegetable and animal food are equally healthful if apportioned to the given circumstances.
In cold weather, carbonaceous food, such as butter, fats, sugar, molasses, etc., can be used more safely than in warm weather. And they can be used more safely by those who exercise in the open air than by those of confined and sedentary habits.
Students who need food with little carbon, and women who live in the house, should always seek coarse bread, fruits, and lean meats, and avoid butter, oils, sugar, and molasses, and articles containing them.
Many students and women using little exercise in the open air, grow thin and weak, because the vital powers are exhausted in throwing off excess of food, especially of the carbonaceous. The liver is especially taxed in such cases, being unable to remove all the excess of carbonaceous matter from, the blood, and thus "biliousness" ensues, particularly on the approach of warm weather, when the air brings less oxygen than in cold.
It is found, by experiment, that the supply of gastric juice, furnished from the blood by the arteries of the stomach, is proportioned, not to the amount of food put into the stomach, but to the wants of the body; so that it is possible to put much more into the stomach than can be digested. To guide and regulate in this matter, the sensation called hunger is provided. In a healthy state of the body, as soon as the blood has lost its nutritive supplies, the craving of hunger is felt, and then, if the food is suitable, and is taken in the proper manner, this sensation ceases as soon as the stomach has received enough to supply the wants of the system. But our benevolent Creator, in this, as in our other duties, has connected enjoyment with the operation needful to sustain our bodies. In addition to the allaying of hunger, the gratification of the palate is secured by the immense variety of food, some articles of which are far more agreeable than others.
This arrangement of Providence, designed for our happiness, has become, either through ignorance, or want of self-control, the chief cause of the many diseases and suffering which afflict those classes who have the means of seeking a variety to gratify the palate. If mankind had only one article of food, and only water to drink, though they would have less enjoyment in eating, they would never be tempted to put any more into the stomach than the calls of hunger require. But the customs of society, which present an incessant change, and a great variety of food, with those various condiments which stimulate appetite, lead almost every person very frequently to eat merely to gratify the palate, after the stomach has been abundantly supplied, so that hunger has ceased.
When too great a supply of food is put into the stomach, the gastric juice dissolves only that portion which the wants of the system demand. Most of the remainder is ejected, in an unprepared state; the absorbents take portions of it into the system; and all the various functions of the body, which depend on the ministries of the blood, are thus gradually and imperceptibly injured. Very often, intemperance in eating produces immediate results, such as colic, headaches, pains of indigestion, and vertigo.
But the more general result is a gradual undermining of all parts of the human frame; this imperceptibly shortening life, by so weakening the constitution, that it is ready to yield, at every point, to any uncommon risk or exposure. Thousands and thousands are parsing out of the world, from diseases occasioned by exposures which a healthy constitution could meet without any danger. It is owing to these considerations, that it becomes the duty of every woman, who has the responsibility of providing food for a family, to avoid a variety of tempting dishes. It is a much safer rule, to have only one kind of healthy food, for each meal, than the too abundant variety which is often met at the tables of almost all classes in this country. When there is to be any variety of dishes, they ought not to be successive, but so arranged as to give the opportunity of selection. How often is it the case, that persons, by the appearance of a favorite article, are tempted to eat merely to gratify the palate, when the stomach is already adequately supplied. All such intemperance wears on the constitution, and shortens life. It not infrequently happens that excess in eating produces a morbid appetite, which must constantly be denied.
But the organization of the digestive organs demands, not only that food should be taken in proper quantities, but that it be taken at proper times.
Fig. 56 shows one important feature of the digestive organs relating to this point. The part marked LM shows the muscles of the inner coat of the stomach, which run in one direction, and CM shows the muscles of the outer coat, running in another direction.
As soon as the food enters the stomach, the muscles are excited by the nerves, and the peristaltic motion commences. This is a powerful and constant exercise of the muscles of the stomach, which continues until the process of digestion is complete. During this time the blood is withdrawn from other parts of the system, to supply the demands of the stomach, which is laboring hard with all its muscles. When this motion ceases, and the digested food has gradually passed out, nature requires that the stomach should have a period of repose. And if another meal be eaten immediately after one is digested, the stomach is set to work again before it has had time to rest, and before a sufficient supply of gastric juice is provided.
The general rule, then, is, that three hours be given to the stomach for labor, and two for rest; and in obedience to this, five hours, at least, ought to elapse between every two regular meals. In cases where exercise produces a flow of perspiration, more food is needed to supply the loss; and strong laboring men may safely eat as often as they feel the want of food. So, young and healthy children, who gambol and exercise ranch and whose bodies grow fast, may have a more frequent supply of food. But, as a general rule, meals should be five hours apart, and eating between meals avoided. There is nothing more unsafe, and wearing to the constitution, than a habit of eating at any time merely to gratify the palate. When a tempting article is presented, every person should exercise sufficient self-denial to wait till the proper time for eating arrives. Children, as well as grown persons, are often injured by eating between their regular meals, thus weakening the stomach by not affording it any time for rest.
In deciding as to quantity of food, there is one great difficulty to be met by a large portion of the community. The exercise of every part of the body is necessary to its health and perfection. The bones, the muscles, the nerves, the organs of digestion and respiration, and the skin, all demand exercise, in order properly to perform their functions. When the muscles of the body are called into action, all the blood-vessels entwined among them are frequently compressed. As the veins have valves so contrived that the blood can not run back, this compression hastens it forward toward the heart; which is immediately put in quicker motion, to send it into the lungs; and they, also, are thus stimulated to more rapid action, which is the cause of that panting which active exercise always occasions. The blood thus courses with greater celerity through the body, and sooner loses its nourishing properties. Then the stomach issues its mandate of hunger, and a new supply of food must be furnished.
Thus it appears, as a general rule, that the quantity of food actually needed by the body depends on the amount of muscular exercise taken. A laboring man, in the open fields, probably throws off from his skin and lungs a much larger amount than a person of sedentary pursuits. In consequence of this, he demands a greater amount of food and drink.
Those persons who keep their bodies in a state of health by sufficient exercise can always be guided by the calls of hunger. They can eat when they feel hungry, and stop when hunger ceases; and thus they will calculate exactly right. But the difficulty is, that a large part of the community, especially women, are so inactive in their habits that they seldom feel the calls of hunger. They habitually eat, merely to gratify the palate. This produces such a state of the system that they lose the guide which Nature has provided. They are not called to eat by hunger, nor admonished, by its cessation, when to stop. In consequence of this, such persons eat what pleases the palate, till they feel no more inclination for the article. It is probable that three fourths of the women in the wealthier circles sit down to each meal without any feeling of hunger, and eat merely on account of the gratification thus afforded them. Such persons find their appetite to depend almost solely upon the kind of food on the table. This is not the case with those who take the exercise which Nature demands. They approach their meals in such a state that almost any kind of food is acceptable.
The question then arises, How are persons, who have lost the guide which Nature has provided, to determine as to the proper amount of food they shall take?
The best method is for several days to take their ordinary exercise and eat only one or two articles of simple food, such as bread and milk, or bread and butter with cooked fruit, or lean meat with bread and vegetables, and at the same time eat less than the appetite demands. Then on the following two days, take just enough to satisfy the appetite, and on the third day notice the quantity which satisfies. After this, decide before eating that only this amount of simple food shall be taken.
Persons who have a strong constitution, and take much exercise, may eat almost any thing with apparent impunity; but young children who are forming their constitutions, and persons who are delicate, and who take but little exercise, are very dependent for health on a proper selection of food.
It is found that there are some kinds of food which afford nutriment to the blood, and do not produce any other effect on the system. There are other kinds, which are not only nourishing, but stimulating, so that they quicken the functions of the organs on which they operate. The condiments used in cookery, such as pepper, mustard, and spices, are of this nature. There are certain states of the system when these stimulants may be beneficial; such cases can only be pointed out by medical men.
Persons in perfect health, and especially young children, never receive any benefit from such kind of food; and just in proportion as condiments operate to quicken the labors of the internal organs, they tend to wear down their powers. A person who thus keeps the body working under an unnatural excitement, live faster than Nature designed, and the constitution is worn out just so much the sooner. A woman, therefore, should provide dishes for her family which are free from these stimulating condiments.
It is also found, by experience, that the lean part of animal food is more stimulating than vegetable. This is the reason why, in cases of fevers or inflammations, medical men forbid the use of meat. A person who lives chiefly on animal food is under a higher degree of stimulus than if his food was chiefly composed of vegetable substances. His blood will flow faster, and all the functions of his body will be quickened. This makes it important to secure a proper proportion of animal and vegetable diet. Some medical men suppose that an exclusively vegetable diet is proved, by the experience of many individuals, to be fully sufficient to nourish the body; and bring, as evidence, the fact that some of the strongest and most robust men in the world are those who are trained, from infancy, exclusively on vegetable food. From this they infer that life will be shortened just in proportion as the diet is changed to more stimulating articles; and that, all other things being equal, children will have a better chance of health and long life if they are brought up solely on vegetable food.
But, though this is not the common opinion of medical men, they all agree that, in America, far too large a portion of the diet consists of animal food. As a nation, the Americans are proverbial for the gross and luxurious diet with which they load their tables; and there can be no doubt that the general health of the nation would be increased by a change in our customs in this respect. To take meat but once a day, and this in small quantities, compared with the common practice, is a rule, the observance of which would probably greatly reduce the amount of fevers, eruptions, headaches, bilious attacks, and the many other ailments which are produced or aggravated by too gross a diet.
The celebrated Roman physician, Baglivi, (who, from practicing extensively among Roman Catholics, had ample opportunities to observe,) mentions that, in Italy, an unusual number of people recover their health in the forty days of Lent, in consequence of the lower diet which is required as a religious duty. An American physician remarks, "For every reeling drunkard that disgraces our country, it contains one hundred gluttons—persons, I mean, who eat to excess, and suffer in consequence." Another distinguished physician says, "I believe that every stomach, not actually impaired by organic disease, will perform its functions, if it receives reasonable attention; and when we perceive the manner in which diet is generally conducted, both in regard to quantity and variety of articles of food and drink, which are mixed up in one heterogeneous mass—instead of being astonished at the prevalence of indigestion, our wonder must rather be that, in such circumstances, any stomach is capable of digesting at all."
In regard to articles which are the most easily digested, only general rules can be given. Tender meats are digested more readily than those which are tough, or than many kinds of vegetable food. The farinaceous articles, such as rice, flour, corn, potatoes, and the like, are the most nutritious, and most easily digested. The popular notion, that meat is more nourishing than bread, is a great mistake. Good bread contains more nourishment than butcher's meat. The meat is more stimulating, and for this reason is more readily digested.
A perfectly healthy stomach can digest almost any healthful food; but when the digestive powers are weak, every stomach has its peculiarities, and what is good for one is hurtful to another. In such cases, experiment alone can decide which are the most digestible articles of food. A person whose food troubles him must deduct one article after another, till he learns, by experience, which is the best for digestion. Much evil has been done, by assuming that the powers of one stomach are to be made the rule in regulating every other.
The most unhealthful kinds of food are those which, are made so by bad cooking; such as sour and heavy bread, cakes, pie-crust, and other dishes consisting of fat mixed and cooked with flour. Rancid butter and high-seasoned food are equally unwholesome. The fewer mixtures there are in cooking, the more healthful is the food likely to be.
There is one caution as to the mode of eating which seems peculiarly needful to Americans. It is indispensable to good digestion, that food be well chewed and taken slowly. It needs to be thoroughly chewed and mixed with saliva, in order to prepare it for the action of the gastric juice, which, by the peristaltic motion, will be thus brought into contact with every one of the minute portions.
It has been found that a solid lump of food requires much more time and labor of the stomach for digestion than divided substances. It has also been found, that as each bolus, or mouthful, enters the stomach, the latter closes, until the portion received has had some time to move around and combine with the gastric juice, and that the orifice of the stomach resists the entrance of any more till this is accomplished. But, if the eater persists in swallowing fast, the stomach yields; the food is then poured in more rapidly than the organ can perform its duty of preparative digestion; and evil results are sooner or later developed. This exhibits the folly of those hasty meals, so common to travelers and to men of business, and shows why children should be taught to eat slowly.
After taking a full meal, it is very important to health that no great bodily or mental exertion be made till the labor of the stomach is over. Intense mental effort draws the blood to the head, and muscular exertions draw it to the muscles; and in consequence of this, the stomach loses the supply which it requires when performing its office. When the blood with its stimulating effects is thus withdrawn from the stomach, the adequate supply of gastric juice is not afforded, and indigestion is the result. The heaviness which follows a full meal is the indication which Nature gives of the need of quiet. When the meal is moderate, a sufficient quantity of gastric juice is exuded in an hour, or an hour and a half; after which, labor of body and mind may safely be resumed.
When undigested food remains in the stomach, and is at last thrown out into the bowels, it proves an irritating substance, producing an inflamed state in the lining of the stomach and other organs.
It is found that the stomach has the power of gradually accommodating indigestive powers to the food it habitually receives. Thus, animals which live on vegetables can gradually become accustomed to animal food; and the reverse is equally true. Thus, too, the human stomach can eventually accomplish the digestion of some kinds of food, which, at first, were indigestible.
But any changes of this sort should be gradual; as those which are sudden are trying to the powers of the stomach, by furnishing matter for which its gastric juice is not prepared.
Extremes of heat or cold are injurious to the process of digestion. Taking hot food or drink, habitually, tends to debilitate all the organs thus needlessly excited. In using cold substances, it is found that a certain degree of warmth in the stomach is indispensable to their digestion; so that, when the gastric juice is cooled below this temperature, it ceases to act. Indulging in large quantities of cold drinks, or eating ice-creams, after a meal, tends to reduce the temperature of the stomach, and thus to stop digestion. This shows the folly of those refreshments, in convivial meetings, where the guests are tempted to load the stomach with a variety such as would require the stomach of a stout farmer to digest; and then to wind up with ice- creams, thus lessening whatever ability might otherwise have existed to digest the heavy load. The fittest temperature for drinks, if taken when the food is in the digesting process, is blood heat. Cool drinks, and even ice, can be safely taken at other times, if not in excessive quantity. When the thirst is excessive, or the body weakened by fatigue, or when in a state of perspiration, large quantities of cold drinks are injurious.
Fluids taken into the stomach are not subject to the slow process of digestion, but are immediately absorbed and carried into the blood. This is the reason why liquid nourishment, more speedily than solid food, restores from exhaustion. The minute vessels of the stomach absorb its fluids, which are carried into the blood, just as the minute extremities of the arteries open upon the inner surface of the stomach, and there exude the gastric juice from the blood.
When food is chiefly liquid, (soup, for example,) the fluid part is rapidly absorbed. The solid parts remain, to be acted on by the gastric juice. In the case of St. Martin, [Footnote: The individual here referred to—Alexis St. Martin—was a young Canadian, eighteen years of age, of a good constitution and robust health, who, in 1822, was accidentally wounded by the discharge of a musket which: carried away a part of the ribs, lacerated one of two lobes of the lungs, and perforated the stomach, making a large aperture, which never closed; and which enabled Dr. Beaumont (a surgeon of the American army, stationed at Michilimackanac, under whose care the patient was placed) to witness all the processes of digestion and other functions of the body for several years.] in fifty minutes after taking soup, the fluids were absorbed, and the remainder was even thicker than is usual after eating solid food. This is the reason why soups are deemed bad for weak stomachs; as this residuum is more difficult of digestion than ordinary food.
Highly-concentrated food, having much nourishment in a small bulk, is not favorable to digestion, because it can not be properly acted on by the muscular contractions of the stomach, and is not so minutely divided as to enable the gastric juice to act properly. This is the reason why a certain bulk of food is needful to good digestion; and why those people who live on whale-oil and other highly nourishing food, in cold climates, mix vegetables and even sawdust with it to make it more acceptable and digestible. So in civilized lands, fruits and vegetables are mixed with more highly concentrated nourishment. For this reason also, soups, jellies, and arrow-root should have bread or crackers mixed with them. This affords another reason why coarse bread, of unbolted wheat, so often proves beneficial. Where, from inactive habits or other causes, the bowels become constipated and sluggish, this kind of food proves the appropriate remedy.
One fact on this subject is worthy of notice. In England, under the administration of William Pitt, for two years or more there was such a scarcity of wheat that, to make it hold out longer, Parliament passed a law that the army should have all their bread made of unbolted flour. The result was, that the health of the soldiers improved so much as to be a subject of surprise to themselves, the officers, and the physicians. These last came out publicly and declared that the soldiers never before were so robust and healthy; and that disease had nearly disappeared from the army. The civic physicians joined and pronounced it the healthiest bread; and for a time schools, families, and public institutions used it almost exclusively. Even the nobility, convinced by these facts, adopted it for their common diet, and the fashion continued a long time after the scarcity ceased, until more luxurious habits resumed their sway.
We thus see why children should not have cakes and candies allowed them between meals. Besides being largely carbonaceous, these are highly concentrated nourishments, and should be eaten with more bulky and less nourishing substances. The most indigestible of all kinds of food are fatty and oily substances, if heated. It is on this account that pie-crust and articles boiled and fried in fat or butter are deemed not so healthful as other food.
The following, then, may be put down as the causes of a debilitated constitution from the misuse of food. Eating too much, eating too often, eating too fast, eating food and condiments that are too stimulating, eating food that is too warm or too cold, eating food that is highly concentrated, without a proper admixture of less nourishing matter, and eating hot food that is difficult of digestion.
There is no direction in which a woman more needs both scientific knowledge and moral force than in using her influence to control her family in regard to stimulating beverages.
It is a point fully established by experience that the full development of the human body and the vigorous exercise of all its functions can be secured without the use of stimulating drinks. It is, therefore, perfectly safe to bring up children never to use them, no hazard being incurred by such a course.
It is also found by experience that there are two evils incurred by the use of stimulating drinks. The first is, their positive effect on the human system. Their peculiarity consists in so exciting the nervous system that all the functions of the body are accelerated, and the fluids are caused to move quicker than at their natural speed. This increased motion of the animal fluids always produces an agreeable effect on the mind. The intellect is invigorated, the imagination is excited, the spirits are enlivened; and these effects are so agreeable that all mankind, after having once experienced them, feel a great desire for their repetition.
But this temporary invigoration of the system is always followed by a diminution of the powers of the stimulated organs; so that, though in all cases this reaction may not be perceptible, it is invariably the result. It may be set down as the unchangeable rule of physiology, that stimulating drinks deduct from the powers of the constitution in exactly the proportion in which they operate to produce temporary invigoration.
The second evil is the temptation which always attends the use of stimulants. Their effect on the system is so agreeable, and the evils resulting are so imperceptible and distant, that there is a constant tendency to increase such excitement both in frequency and power. And the more the system is thus reduced in strength, the more craving is the desire for that which imparts a temporary invigoration. This process of increasing debility and increasing craving for the stimulus that removes it, often goes to such an extreme that the passion is perfectly uncontrollable, and mind and body perish under this baleful habit.
In this country there are three forms in which the use of such stimulants is common; namely, alcoholic drinks, opium mixtures, and tobacco. These are all alike in the main peculiarity of imparting that extra stimulus to the system which tends to exhaust its powers.
Multitudes in this nation are in the habitual use of some one of these stimulants; and each person defends the indulgence by certain arguments:
First, that the desire for stimulants is a natural propensity implanted in man's nature, as is manifest from the universal tendency to such indulgences in every nation. From this, it is inferred that it is an innocent desire, which ought to be gratified to some extent, and that the aim should be to keep it within the limits of temperance, instead of attempting to exterminate a natural propensity.
This is an argument which, if true, makes it equally proper for not only men, but women and children, to use opium, brandy, or tobacco as stimulating principles, provided they are used temperately. But if it be granted that perfect health and strength can be gained and secured without these stimulants, and that their peculiar effect is to diminish the power of the system in exactly the same proportion as they stimulate it, then there is no such thing as a temperate use, unless they are so diluted as to destroy any stimulating power; and in this form they are seldom desired.
The other argument for their use is, that they are among the good things provided by the Creator for our gratification; that, like all other blessings, they are exposed to abuse and excess; and that we should rather seek to regulate their use than to banish them entirely.
This argument is based on the assumption that they are, like healthful foods and drinks, necessary to life and health, and injurious only by excess. But this is not true; for whenever they are used in any such strength as to be a gratification, they operate to a greater or less extent as stimulants; and to just such extent they wear out the powers of the constitution; and it is abundantly proved that they are not, like food and drink, necessary to health. Such articles are designed for medicine and not for common use. There can be no argument framed to defend the use of one of them which will not justify women and children in most dangerous indulgences.
There are some facts recently revealed by the microscope in regard to alcoholic drinks, which every woman should understand and regard. It has been shown in a previous chapter that every act of mind, either by thought, feeling, or choice, causes the destruction of certain cells in the brain and nerves. It now is proved by microscopic science [Footnote: For those statements the writer is indebted to Maudsley, a recent writer on Microscopic Physiology.] that the kind of nutrition furnished to the brain by the blood to a certain extent decides future feelings, thoughts, and volitions. The cells of the brain not only abstract from the blood the healthful nutrition, but also are affected in shape, size, color, and action by unsuitable elements in the blood. This is especially the case when alcohol is taken into the stomach, from whence it is always carried to the brain. The consequence is, that it affects the nature and action of the brain-cells, until a habit is formed which is automatic; that is, the mind loses the power of controlling the brain, in its development of thoughts, feelings, and choices as it would in the natural state, and is itself controlled by the brain. In this condition a real disease of the brain is created, called oino-mania, (see Glossary,) and the only remedy is total abstinence, and that for a long period, from the alcoholic poison. And what makes the danger more fearful is, that the brain-cells never are so renewed but that this pernicious stimulus will bring back the disease in full force, so that a man once subject to it is never safe except by maintaining perpetual and total abstinence from every kind of alcoholic drink. Dr. Day, who for many years has had charge of an inebriate asylum, states that he witnessed the dissection of the brain of a man once an inebriate, but for many years in practice of total abstinence, and found its cells still in the weak and unnatural state produced by earlier indulgences.
There has unfortunately been a difference of opinion among medical men as to the use of alcohol. Liebig, the celebrated writer on animal chemistry, having found that both sugar and alcohol were heat-producing articles of food, framed a theory that alcohol is burnt in the lungs, giving off carbonic acid and water, and thus serving to warm the body. But modern science has proved that it is in the capillaries that animal heat is generated, and it is believed that alcohol lessens instead of increasing the power of the body to bear the cold. Sir John Koss, in his Arctic voyage, proved by his own experience and that of his men that cold-water drinkers could bear cold longer and were stronger than any who used alcohol.
Carpenter, a standard writer on physiology, says the objection to a habitual use of even small quantities of alcoholic drinks is, that "they are universally admitted to possess a poisonous character," and "tend to produce a morbid condition of body;" while "the capacity for enduring extremes of heat and cold, or of mental or bodily labor, is diminished rather than increased by their habitual employment."
Prof. J. Bigelow, of Harvard University, says, "Alcohol is highly stimulating, heating, and intoxicating, and its effects are so fascinating that when once experienced there is danger that the desire for them may be perpetuated."
Dr. Bell and Dr. Churchill, both high medical authorities, especially in lung disease, for which whisky is often recommended, come to the conclusion that "the opinion that alcoholic liquors have influence in preventing the deposition of tubercle is destitute of any foundation; on the contrary, their use predisposes to tubercular deposition." And "where tubercle exists, alcohol has no effect in modifying the usual course, neither does it modify the morbid effects on the system."
Prof. Youmans, of New-York, says: "It has been demonstrated that alcoholic drinks prevent the natural changes in the blood, and obstruct the nutritive and reparative functions." He adds, "Chemical experiments have demonstrated that the action of alcohol on the digestive fluid is to destroy its active principle, the _pepsin, thus confirming the observations of physiologists, that its use gives rise to serious disorders of the stomach and malignant aberration of the whole economy."
We are now prepared to consider the great principles of science, common sense, and religion, which should guide every woman who has any kind of influence or responsibility on this subject. It is allowed by all medical men that pure water is perfectly healthful and supplies all the liquid needed by the body; and also that by proper means, which ordinarily are in the reach of all, water can be made sufficiently pure.
It is allowed by all that milk, and the juices of fruits, when taken into the stomach, furnish water that is always pure, and that our bread and vegetable food also supply it in large quantities. There are besides a great variety of agreeable and healthful beverages, made from the juices of fruit, containing no alcohol, and agreeable drinks, such as milk, cocoa, and chocolate, that contain no stimulating principles, and which are nourishing and healthful.
As one course, then, is perfectly safe and another involves great danger, it is wrong and sinful to choose the path of danger. There is no peril in drinking pure water, milk, the juices of fruits, and infusions that are nourishing and harmless. But there is great danger to the young, and to the commonwealth, in patronizing the sale and use of alcoholic drinks. The religion of Christ, in its distinctive feature, involves generous self-denial for the good of others, especially for the weaker members of society. It is on this principle that St. Paul sets forth his own example, "If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend." And again he teaches, "We, then, that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves."
This Christian principle also applies to the common drinks of the family, tea and coffee.
It has been shown that the great end for which Jesus Christ came, and for which he instituted the family state, is the training of our whole race to virtue and happiness, with chief reference to an immortal existence. In this mission, of which woman is chief minister, as before stated, the distinctive feature is self-sacrifice of the wiser and stronger members to save and to elevate the weaker ones. The children and the servants are these weaker members, who by ignorance and want of habits of self-control are in most danger. It is in this aspect that we are to consider the expediency of using tea and coffee in a family.
These drinks are a most extensive cause of much of the nervous debility and suffering endured by American women; and relinquishing them, would save an immense amount of such suffering. Moreover, all housekeepers will allow that they can not regulate these drinks in their kitchens, where the ignorant use them to excess. There is little probability that the present generation will make so decided a change in their habits as to give up these beverages; but the subject is presented rather in reference to forming the habits of children.
It is a fact that tea and coffee are at first seldom or never agreeable to children. It is the mixture of milk, sugar, and water, that reconciles them to a taste, which in this manner gradually becomes agreeable. Now suppose that those who provide for a family conclude that it is not their duty to give up entirely the use of stimulating drinks, may not the case appear different in regard to teaching their children to love such drinks? Let the matter be regarded thus: The experiments of physiologists all prove that stimulants are not needful to health, and that, as the general rule, they tend to debilitate the constitution. Is it right, then, for a parent to tempt a child to drink what is not needful, when there is a probability that it will prove, to some extent, an undermining drain on the constitution? Some constitutions can bear much less excitement than others; and in every family of children, there is usually one or more of delicate organization, and consequently peculiarly exposed to dangers from this source. It is this child who ordinarily becomes the victim to stimulating drinks. The tea and coffee which the parents and the healthier children can use without immediate injury, gradually sap the energies of the feebler child, who proves either an early victim or a living martyr to all the sufferings that debilitated nerves inflict. Can it be right to lead children where all allow that there is some danger, and where in many cases disease and death are met, when, another path is known to be perfectly safe?
The impression common in this country, that warm drinks, especially in winter, are more healthful than cold, is not warranted by any experience, nor by the laws of the physical system. At dinner, cold drinks are universal, and no one deems them injurious. It is only at the other two meals that they are supposed to be hurtful.
There is no doubt that warm drinks are healthful, and more agreeable than cold, at certain times and seasons; but it is equally true that drinks above blood-heat are not healthful. If a person should bathe in warm water every day, debility would inevitably follow; for the frequent application of the stimulus of heat, like all other stimulants, eventually causes relaxation and weakness. If, therefore, a person is in the habit of drinking hot drinks twice a day, the teeth, throat, and stomach are gradually debilitated. This, most probably, is one of the causes of an early decay of the teeth, which is observed to be much more common among American ladies, than among those in European countries.
It has been stated to the writer, by an intelligent traveler who had visited Mexico, that it was rare to meet an individual with even a tolerable set of teeth, and that almost every grown person he met in the street had merely remnants of teeth. On inquiry into the customs of the country, it was found that it was the universal practice to take their usual beverage at almost the boiling-point; and this doubtless was the chief cause of the almost entire want of teeth in that country. In the United States, it can not be doubted that much evil is done in this way by hot drinks. Most tea-drinkers consider tea as ruined if it stands until it reaches the healthful temperature for drink.
The following extract, from Dr. Andrew Combe, presents the opinion of most intelligent medical men on this subject. [Footnote: The writer would here remark, in reference to extracts made from various authors, that, for the sake of abridging, she has often left out parts of a paragraph, but never so as to modify the meaning of the author. Some ideas, not connected with the subject in hand, are omitted, but none are altered.]
"Water is a safe drink for all constitutions, provided it be resorted to in obedience to the dictates of natural thirst only, and not of habit. Unless the desire for it is felt, there is no occasion for its use during a meal."
"The primary effect of all distilled and fermented liquors is to stimulate the nervous system and quicken the circulation. In infancy and childhood, the circulation is rapid and easily excited; and the nervous system is strongly acted upon even by the slightest external impressions. Hence, slight causes of irritation readily excite febrile and convulsive disorders. In youth, the natural tendency of the constitution is still to excitement, and consequently, as a general rule, the stimulus of fermented liquors is injurious."
These remarks show that parents, who find that stimulating drinks are not injurious to themselves, may mistake in inferring from this that they will not be injurious to their children.
Dr. Combe continues thus: "In mature age, when digestion is good, and the system in full vigor, if the mode of life be not too exhausting, the nervous functions and general circulation are in their best condition, and require no stimulus for their support. The bodily energy is then easily sustained by nutritious food and a regular regimen, and consequently artificial excitement only increases the wasting of the natural strength."
It may be asked, in this connection, why the stimulus of animal food is not to be regarded in the same light as that of stimulating drinks. In reply, a very essential difference may he pointed out. Animal food furnishes nutriment to the organs which it stimulates, but stimulating drinks excite the organs to quickened action without affording any nourishment.
It has been supposed by some that tea and coffee have, at least, a degree of nourishing power. But it is proved that it is the milk and sugar, and not the main portion of the drink, which imparts the nourishment. Tea has not one particle of nourishing properties; and what little exists in the coffee-berry is lost by roasting it in the usual mode. All that these articles do, is simply to stimulate without nourishing.
Although there is little hope of banishing these drinks, there is still a chance that something may be gained in attempts to regulate their use by the rules of temperance. If, then, a housekeeper can not banish tea and coffee entirely, she may use her influence to prevent excess, both by her instructions, and by the power of control committed more or less to her hands.
It is important for every housekeeper to know that the health of a family very much depends on the purity of water used for cooking and drinking. There are three causes of impure and unhealthful water. One is, the existence in it of vegetable or animal matter, which can be remedied by filtering through sand and charcoal. Another cause is, the existence of mineral matter, especially in limestone countries, producing diseases of the bladder. This is remedied in a measure by boiling, which secures a deposit of the lime on the vessel used. The third cause is, the corroding of zinc and lead used in pipes and reservoirs, producing oxides that are slow poisons. The only remedy is prevention, by having supply-pipes made of iron, like gas-pipe, instead of zinc and lead; or the lately invented lead pipe lined with tin, which metal is not corrosive. The obstacle to this is, that the trade of the plumbers would be greatly diminished by the use of reliable pipes. When water must be used from supply-pipes of lead or zinc, it is well to let the water run some time before drinking it and to use as little as possible, taking milk instead; and being further satisfied for inner necessities by the water supplied by fruits and vegetables. The water in these is always pure. But in using milk as a drink, it must be remembered that it is also rich food, and that less of other food must be taken when milk is thus used, or bilious troubles will result from excess of food.
The use of opium, especially by women, is usually caused at first by medical prescriptions containing it. All that has been stated as to the effect of alcohol in the brain is true of opium; while, to break a habit thus induced is almost hopeless, Every woman who takes or who administers this drug, is dealing as with poisoned arrows, whose wounds are without cure.
The use of tobacco in this country, and especially among young boys, is increasing at a fearful rate. On this subject, we have the unanimous opinion of all medical men; the following being specimens.
A distinguished medical writer thus states the case: "Every physician knows that the agreeable sensations that tempt to the use of tobacco are caused by nicotine, which is a rank poison, as much so as prussic acid or arsenic. When smoked, the poison is absorbed by the blood of the mouth, and carried to the brain. When chewed, the nicotine passes to the blood through the mouth and stomach. In both cases, the whole nervous system is thrown, into abnormal excitement to expel the poison, and it is this excitement that causes agreeable sensations. The excitement thus caused is invariably followed by a diminution of nervous power, in exact proportion to the preceding excitement to expel the evil from the system."
Few will dispute the general truth and effect of the above statement, so that the question is one to be settled on the same principle as applies to the use of alcoholic drinks. Is it, then, according to the generous principles of Christ's religion, for those who are strong and able to bear this poison, to tempt the young, the ignorant, and the weak to a practice not needful to any healthful enjoyment, and which leads multitudes to disease, and often to vice? For the use of tobacco tends always to lessen nerve-power, and probably every one out of five that indulges in its use awakens a morbid craving for increased stimulus, lessens the power of self-control, diminishes the strength of the constitution, and sets an example that influences the weak to the path of danger and of frequent ruin.
The great danger of this age is an increasing, intense worldliness, and disbelief in the foundation principle of the religion of Christ, that we are to reap through everlasting ages the consequences of habits formed in this life. In the light of his word, they only who are truly wise "shall shine as the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars, forever and ever."
It is increased faith or belief in the teachings of Christ's religion, as to the influence of this life upon the life to come, which alone can save our country and the world from that inrushing tide of sensualism and worldliness, now seeming to threaten the best hopes and prospects of our race.
And woman, as the chief educator of our race, and the prime minister of the family state, is bound in the use of meats and drinks to employ the powerful and distinctive motives of the religion of Christ in forming habits of temperance and benevolent self-sacrifice for the good of others.
Both the health and comfort of a family depend, to a great extent, on cleanliness of the person and the family surroundings. True cleanliness of person involves the scientific treatment of the skin. This is the most complicated organ of the body, and one through which the health is affected more than through any other; and no persons can or will he be so likely to take proper care of it as those by whom its construction and functions are understood.
Fig. 57 is a very highly magnified portion of the skin. The layer marked 1 is the outside, very thin skin, called the cuticle or scarf skin. This consists of transparent layers of minute cells, which are constantly decaying and being renewed, and the white scurf that passes from the skin to the clothing is a decayed portion of these cells. This part of the skin has neither nerves nor blood-vessels.
The dark layer, marked 2, 7, 8, is that portion of the true skin which gives the external color marking diverse races. In the portion of the dark layer marked 3, 4, is seen a network of nerves which run from two branches of the nervous trunks coming from the spinal marrow. These arc nerves of sensation, by which the sense of touch or feeling is performed. Fig. 58 represents the blood-vessels, (intermingled with the nerves of the skin,) which divide into minute capillaries that act like the capillaries of the lungs, taking oxygen from the air, and giving out carbonic acid. At a, and b are seen the roots of two hairs, which abound in certain parts of the skin, and are nourished by the blood of the capillaries.
At Fig. 59 is a magnified view of another set of vessels, called the lymphatics or absorbents. These are extremely minute vessels that interlace with the nerves and blood-vessels of the skin. Their office is to aid in collecting the useless, injurious, or decayed matter, and carry it to certain reservoirs, from which it passes into some of the large veins, to be thrown out through the lungs, bowels, kidneys, or skin. These absorbent or lymphatic; vessels have mouths opening on the surface of the true skin, and, though covered by the cuticle, they can absorb both liquids and solids that are placed in close contact with the skin. In proof of this, one of the main trunks of the lymphatics in the hand can be cut off from all communication with other portions, and tied up: and if the hand is immersed in milk a given time, it will be found that the milk has been, absorbed through the cuticle and fills the lymphatics. In this way, long-continued blisters on the skin will introduce the blistering matter into the blood through the absorbents, and then the kidneys will take it up from the blood passing through them to carry it out of the body, and thus become irritated and inflamed by it.
There are also oil-tubes, imbedded in the skin, that draw off oil from the blood. This issues on the surface and spreads over the cuticle to keep it soft and moist. But the most curious part of the skin is the system of innumerable minute perspiration-tubes. Fig. 60 is a drawing of one very greatly magnified. These tubes open on the cuticle, and the openings are called pores of the skin. They descend into the true skin, and there form a coil, as is seen in the drawing. These tubes are hollow, like a pipe-stem, and their inner surface consists of wonderfully minute capillaries filled with the impure venous blood. And in these small tubes the same process is going on as takes places when the carbonic acid and water of the blood are exhaled from the lungs. The capillaries of these tubes through the whole skin of the body are thus constantly exhaling the noxious and decayed particles of the body, just as the lungs pour them out through the mouth and nose.
It has been shown that the perspiration-tubes are coiled up into a ball at their base. The number and extent of these tubes are astonishing. In a square inch on the palm of the hand have been counted, through a microscope, thirty-five hundred of these tubes. Each one of them is about a quarter of an inch in length, including its coils. This makes the united lengths of these little tubes to be seventy-three feet to a square inch. Their united length, over the whole body is thus calculated to be equal to twenty-eight miles. What a wonderful apparatus this! And what mischiefs must ensue when the drainage from the body of such an extent as this becomes obstructed!
But the inside of the body also has a skin, as have all its organs. The interior of the head, the throat, the gullet, the lungs, the stomach, and all the intestines, are lined with a skin. This is called the mucous membrane, because it is constantly secreting from the blood a slimy substance called mucus. When it accumulates in the lungs, it is called phlegm. This inner skin also has nerves, blood-vessels, and lymphatics. The outer skin joins to the inner at the month, the nose, and other openings of the body, and there is a constant sympathy between the two skins, and thus between the inner organs and the surface of the body.
Those vessels of the body which draw off certain portions of the blood and change it into a new form, to be employed for service or to be thrown out of the body, are called secreting organs. The skin in this sense is a secreting organ, as its perspiration-tubes secrete or separate the bad portions of the blood, and send them off.
Of the internal secreting organs, the liver is the largest. Its chief office is to secrete from the blood all matter not properly supplied with oxygen. For this purpose, a set of veins carries the blood of all the lower intestines to the liver, where the imperfectly oxidized matter is drawn off in the form of bile, and accumulated in a reservoir called the gall-bladder. Thence it passes to the place where the smaller intestines receive the food from the stomach, and there it mixes with this food. Then it passes through the long intestines, and is thrown out of the body through the rectum. This shows how it is, that want of pure and cool air and exercise causes excess of bile, from lack of oxygen. The liver also has arterial blood sent to nourish it, and corresponding veins to return this blood to the heart. So there are two sets of blood-vessels for the liver—one to secrete the bile, and the other to nourish the organ itself.
The kidneys secrete from the arteries that pass, through them all excess of water in the blood, and certain injurious substances. These are carried through small tubes to the bladder, and thence thrown out of the body.
The pancreas, a whitish gland, situated in the abdomen below the stomach, secretes from the arteries that pass through it the pancreatic juice, which unites with the bile from the liver, in preparing the food for nourishing the body.
There are certain little glands near the eyes that secrete the tears, and others near the mouth that secrete the saliva, or spittle.
These organs all have arteries sent to them to nourish them, and also veins to carry away the impure blood. At the same time, they secrete from the arterial blood the peculiar fluid which it is their office to supply.
All the food that passes through the lower intestines which is not drawn off by the lacteals or by some of these secreting organs, passes from the body through a passage called the rectum.
Learned men have made very curious experiments; to ascertain how much the several organs throw out of the body, It is found that the skin throws off five out of eight pounds of the food and drink, or probably about three or four pounds a day. The lungs throw off one quarter as much as the skin, or about a pound a day. The remainder is carried off by the kidneys and lower intestines.
There is such a sympathy and connection between all the organs of the body, that when one of them is unable to work, the others perform the office of the feeble one. Thus, if the skin has its perspiration-tubes closed up by a chill, then all the poisonous matter that would have been thrown out through them must be emptied out either by the lungs, kidneys, or bowels.
When all these organs are strong and healthy, they can bear this increased labor without injury. But if the lungs are weak, the blood sent from the skin by the chill engorges the weak blood-vessels, and produces an inflammation of the lungs. Or it increases the discharge of a slimy mucous substance, that exudes from the skin of the lungs. This fills up the air-vessels, and would very soon end life, were it not for the spasms of the lungs, called coughing, which throw off this substance.
If, on the other hand, the bowels are weak, a chill of the skin sends the blood into all the blood-vessels of the intestines, and produces inflammation there, or else an excessive secretion of the mucous substance, which is called a diarrhea. Or if the kidneys are weak, there is an increased secretion and discharge from them, to an unhealthy and injurious extent.
This connection between the skin and internal organs is shown, not only by the internal effects of a chill on the skin; but by the sympathetic effect on the skin when these internal organs suffer. For example, there are some kinds of food that will irritate and influence the stomach or the bowels; and this, by sympathy, will produce an immediate eruption on the skin. Some persons, on eating strawberries, will immediately be affected with a nettle-rash. Others can not eat certain shell-fish without being affected in this way. Many humors on the face are caused by a diseased state of the internal organs with which the skin sympathizes.
This short account of the construction of the skin, and of its intimate connection with the internal organs, shows the philosophy of those modes of medical treatment that are addressed to this portion of the body.
It is on this powerful agency that the steam-doctors rely, when, by moisture and heat, they stimulate all the innumerable perspiration-tubes and lymphatics to force out from the body a flood of unnaturally excited secretions; while it is "kill or cure," just as the chance may meet or oppose the demands of the case. It is the skin also that is the chief basis of medical treatment in the Water Cure, whose slow processes are as much safer as they are slower.
At the same time it is the ill-treatment or neglect of the skin which, probably, is the cause of disease and decay to an incredible extent. The various particulars in which this may be seen will now be pointed out. In the management and care of this wonderful and complex part of the body, many mistakes have been made.
The most common one is the misuse of the bath, especially since cold water cures have come into use. This mode of medical treatment originated with an ignorant peasant, amid a population where outdoor labor had strengthened nerves and muscles and imparted rugged powers to every part of the body. It was then introduced into England and America without due consideration or knowledge of the diseases habits, or real condition of patients, especially of women. The consequence was a mode of treatment too severe and exhausting; and many practices were spread abroad not warranted by true medical science.
But in spite of these mistakes and abuses, the treatment of the skin for disease by the use of cold water has become an accepted doctrine of the most learned medical practitioners. It is now held by all such that fevers can be detected in their distinctive features by the thermometer, and that all fevers can be reduced by cold baths and packing in the wet sheet, in the mode employed in all water-cures. Directions for using this method will be given in another place.
It has been supposed that large bath-tubs for immersing the whole person are indispensable to the proper cleaning of the skin. This is not so. A wet towel, applied every morning to the skin, followed by friction in pure air, is all that is absolutely needed; although a full bath is a great luxury. Access of air to every part of the skin when its perspiratory tubes are cleared and its blood-vessels are filled by friction is the best ordinary bath.
In early life, children should be washed all over, every night or morning, to remove impurities from the skin. But in this process, careful regard should be paid to the peculiar constitution of a child. Very nervous children sometimes revolt from cold water, and like a tepid bath. Others prefer a cold bath; and nature should be the guide. It must be remembered that the skin is the great organ of sensation, and in close connection with brain, spine, and nerve-centres: so that what a strong nervous system can bear with advantage is too powerful and exhausting for another. As age advances, or as disease debilitates the body, great care should be taken not to overtax the nervous system by sudden shocks, or to diminish its powers by withdrawing animal heat to excess. Persons lacking robustness should bathe or use friction in a warm room; and if very delicate, should expose only a portion of the body at once to cold air.
Johnson, a celebrated writer on agricultural chemistry, tells of an experiment by friction on the skin of pigs, whose skins are like that of the human race. He treated six of these animals with a curry-comb seven weeks, and left three other pigs untouched. The result was a gain of thirty-three pounds more of weight, with the use of five bushels less of food for those curried, than for the neglected ones. This result was owing to the fact that all the functions of the body were more perfectly performed when, by friction, the skin was kept free from filth and the blood in it exposed to the air. The same will be true of the human skin. A calculation has been made on this fact, by which it is estimated that a man, by proper care of his skin, would save over thirty-one dollars in food yearly, which is the interest on over five hundred dollars. If men will give as much care to their own skin, as they give to currying a horse, they will gain both health and wealth.
There is no duty of those persons having control of a family where principle and practice are more at variance than in regulating the dress of young girls, especially at the most important and critical period of life. It is a difficult duty for parents and teachers to contend with the power of fashion, which at this time of a young girl's life is frequently the ruling thought, and when to be out of the fashion, to be odd and not dress as all her companions do, is a mortification and grief that no argument or instructions can relieve. The mother is often so overborne that, in spite of her better wishes, the daughter adopts modes of dress alike ruinous to health and to beauty.
The greatest protection against such an emergency is to train a child to understand the construction of her own body and to impress upon her, in early days, her obligations to the invisible Friend and Guardian of her life, the "Former of her body and the Father of her spirit," who has committed to her care so precious and beautiful a casket. And the more she can be made to realize the skill and beauty of construction shown in her earthly frame, the more will she feel the obligation to protect it from injury and abuse.
It is a singular fact that the war of fashion has attacked most fatally what seems to be the strongest foundation, and defense of the body, the bones. For this reason, the construction and functions of this part of the body will now receive attention.
The bones are composed of two substances, one animal, and the other mineral. The animal part is a very fine network, called cellular membrane. In this are deposited the harder mineral substances, which are composed principally of carbonate and phosphate of lime. In very early life, the bones consist chiefly of the animal part, and are then soft and pliant. As the child advances in age, the bones grow harder, by the gradual deposition of the phosphate of lime, which is supplied by the food, and carried to the bones by the blood. In old age, the hardest material preponderates; malting the bones more brittle than in earlier life.
The bones are covered with a thin skin or membrane, filled with small blood-vessels which convey nourishment to them,
Where the hones unite with others to form joints, they are covered with cartilage, which is a smooth, white, elastic substance. This enables the joints to move smoothly, while its elasticity prevents injuries from sudden jars.
The joints are bound together by strong, elastic bands called ligaments, which hold them firmly and prevent dislocation.
Between the ends of the bones that unite to form joints are small sacks or bags, that contain a soft lubricating fluid. This answers the same purpose fur the joints as oil in making machinery work smoothly, while the supply is constant and always in exact proportion to the demand.
If you will examine the leg of some fowl, you can see the cartilage that covers the ends of the bones at the joints, and the strong white ligaments that bind the joints together.
The health, of the bones depends on the proper nourishment and exercise of the body as much as that of any other part. When a child is feeble and unhealthy, or when it grows up without exercise, the bones do not become firm and hard as they are when the body is healthfully developed by exercise. The size as well as the strength of the bones, to a certain extent, also depend upon exercise and good health.
The chief supporter of the body is the spine, which consists of twenty-four small bones, interlocked or hooked into each other, while between them are elastic cushions of cartilage which aid in preserving the upright, natural position. Fig. 61 shows three of the spinal bones, hooked into each other, the dark spaces showing the disks or flat circular plates of cartilage between them.
The spine is held in its proper position, partly by the ribs, partly by muscles, partly by aid of the elastic disks, and partly by the close packing of the intestines in front of it.
The upper part of the spine is often thrown out of its proper position by constant stooping of the head over books or work. This affects the elastic disks so that they grow thick at the back side and thinner at the front side by such constant pressure. The result is the awkward projection of the head forward which is often seen in schools and colleges.
Another distortion of the spine is produced by tight dress around the waist. The liver occupies the right side of the body and is a solid mass, while on the other side is the larger part of the stomach, which is often empty. The consequence of tight dress around the waist is a constant pressure of the spine toward the unsupported part where the stomach lies. Thus the elastic dials again are compressed; till they become thinner on one side than the other, and harden into that condition. This produces what is called the lateral curvature of the spine, making one shoulder higher than the other.
The compression of the lower part of the waist is especially dangerous at the time young girls first enter society and are tempted to dress according to the fashion. Many a school-girl, whose waist was originally of a proper and healthful size, has gradually pressed the soft bones of youth until the lower ribs that should rise and fall with every breath, become entirely unused. Then the abdominal breathing, performed by the lower part of the lungs, ceases; the whole system becomes reduced in strength; the abdominal muscles that hold up the interior organs become weak, and the upper ones gradually sink upon the lower. This pressure of the upper interior organs upon the lower ones, by tight dress, is increased by the weight of clothing resting on the hips and abdomen. Corsets, as usually worn, have no support from the shoulders, and consequently all the weight of dress resting upon or above them presses upon the hips and abdomen, and this in such a way as to throw out of use and thus weaken the most important supporting muscles of the abdomen, and impede abdominal breathing.
The diaphragm is a kind of muscular floor, extending across the centre of the body, on which the heart and lungs rest. Beneath it are the liver, stomach, and the abdominal viscera, or intestines, which are supported by the abdominal muscles, running upward, downward, and crosswise. When these muscles are thrown out of use, they lose their power, the whole system of organs mainly resting on them for support can not continue in their naturally snug, compact, and rounded form, but become separated, elongated, and unsupported. The stomach begins to draw from above instead of resting on the viscera beneath. This in some cases causes dull and wandering pains, a sense of pulling at the centre of the chest, and a drawing downward at the pit of the stomach. Then as the support beneath is really gone, there is what is often called "a feeling of goneness." This is sometimes relieved by food, which, so long as it remains in a solid form, helps to hold up the falling superstructure. This displacement of the stomach, liver, and spleen interrupts their healthful functions, and dyspepsia and biliary difficulties not unfrequently are the result.
As the stomach and its appendages fall downward, the diaphragm, which holds up the heart and lungs, must descend also. In this state of things, the inflation of the lungs is less and less aided by the abdominal muscles, and is confined chiefly to their upper portion. Breathing sometimes thus becomes quicker and shorter on account of the elongated or debilitated condition of the assisting organs. Consumption not unfrequently results from this cause.
The heart also feels the evil. "Palpitations," "flutterings," "sinking feelings," all show that, in the language of Scripture, "the heart trembleth, and is moved out of its place."
But the lower intestines are the greatest sufferers from this dreadful abuse of nature. Having the weight of all the unsupported organs above pressing them into unnatural and distorted positions, the passage of the food is interrupted, and inflammations, indurations, and constipation, are the frequent result. Dreadful ulcers and cancers may be traced in some instances to this cause.
Although these internal displacements are most common among women, some foolish members of the other sex are adopting customs of dress, in girding the central portion of the body, that tend to similar results.