1 *Natural Hygiene, H. Lahmann. M.D. London: Swan Sonnenschein*.
Food, then, to be satisfactory, must contain all of these elements; and the proportions should be about fifteen of the carbon class (fat and sugar), and five of the nitrogen class (albumen), and one of salts. It is in order to keep the proportion between carbon and nitrogen that potatoes are taken with meat, and are better for that purpose than bread, which itself contains much of the nitrogenous elements. Cheese by itself is much too strong a food, and needs to be taken with bread, and perhaps butter as well.
Proper food, then, which I have said is the first requisite for the healthy stomach, consists of food-substances combined in proper proportions according to their nature, and, of course–if cooked at all–properly cooked.
There is much dispute about alcohol, as to whether it is a food or not in the proper sense of the word. If it be a food, it is an uncommonly poor one. It is a carbohydrate, that is certain, and it is capable of being absorbed into the blood; but it no sooner gets there than every organ does its best to get rid of it, and if any of it undergoes a change in the blood, it can only be a very small proportion. It is a safe rule to make, never to consider anything as a food when there is any doubt about whether it is a food or not. There are plenty of things about which there is no doubt. Let these be taken as food, and if the doubtful articles are taken at all, let it be for some other reason, and not with the idea of nourishing the body.
Alcohol brings me to the question of drinks. Actually there is only one drink-water. Beer, tea, coffee, and the rest, are drinks, it is true, but they owe their property of thirst- quenching to the water they contain, not to the substances which flavour them. Milk is a drink, but it contains so much food, which becomes solid as soon as it enters the stomach, that it should only be taken as a drink at mealtimes by those who are not able to take much solid food. It is well, as mentioned in the previous chapter, not to drink much of any liquid during a meal, but to take a good draught before it, or after it is over.
Some people have a great distaste for cold water, and some cannot digest it. For them hot water or toast-water may be substituted, when other drinks are objectionable.
The second great requisite for the stomach, that I pointed out, is -Proper quantity of food.
The stomach requires a certain mass of food for it to work on. A healthy stomach will have nothing to do with essences or condensed foods; it requires bulk in order that its muscular coat may have something to grasp and contract on, and its secretion something to mix with. It is for this reason that the starchy foods, like potatoes, are the best to eat with meat, because the latter contains nutriment in so condensed a form that substances less rich must be added to make up sufficient bulk. When foods are prescribed in small quantity, and in light form, it is because the stomach is in an abnormal condition.
This leads me to speak of the third requisite-Proper rest.
When the stomach has dealt with a meal, pouring out its secretion, and by means of its muscular action reducing it to a proper state for further digestion in the intestines, it passes it on. Then the stomach has rest, and the other organs take up the work. The effort it has gone through is no light one, and it needs time to recover itself. If this time of rest is broken by subsidiary meals, or indulgence in confectionery, the stomach resents it, and the result is indigestion. Unless under special circumstances, no food whatever should be taken between meals, and a good five hours should be allowed between one meal and another. Three meals a day-at 8, I, and 7 o’clock is the best arrangement in an ordinary way. The middle meal should be very light if much active brain-work has to be done in the afternoon. In the morning the stomach is most vigorous, and a substantial meal can be taken then, though active work must be begun soon after. In the evening the powers of the body are more exhausted by the day’s exertions, and yet a substantial meal can be taken at that time, as it is followed by a period of rest and relaxation.
To those in delicate health rest of body, before and after food, is almost as essential as rest of stomach. The robust may sit down to a hearty repast immediately after fatiguing employment. Not so the delicate: for them rest is necessary both before a meal and after. I have known invalids unable to take the lightest meal without suffering indigestion, if they took it immediately after the seemingly slight fatigue of dressing; whereas, if they rose a little earlier, so as to give themselves a quarter of an hour’s rest before the meal-time, they ate with more appetite and digested their food without trouble.