Man and His Stomach
Guidance in Matters of Health
ANY stomach, and particularly the human stomach, is like the manufacturing department of a
great business organization. In it raw materials are worked over into new and valuable forms. Like a business concern, it is most successful when its manufacturing process is one in which the largest and most valuable results are obtained with speed, accuracy and the least expenditure of labor.
A few years ago it was erroneously believed that germs were necessary to digestion. That the stomach would harbor them while they in turn would help the stomach to digest the food. This theory was held in order to bolster up a practice of eating foods that introduced and fostered germs. Humanity for centuries ate indiscriminately all manner of foods. The taste was perverted. In some of these foods germs were discovered. Not knowing how to explain the presence of a thing so evil without conflicting with their desires, men said, “germs are good.” It has been recently proved, however, by many experiments, that when a healthy man eats food with no germs in it, there will be no germs in his stomach, and he will enjoy a perfectly healthy digestion, providing the food has been selected and eaten properly.
Digestion is performed by the alimentary canal, a long tube extending from the mouth through the entire length of the trunk of the body. The opening of this tube back of the mouth is the pharynx, the portion from the pharynx to the stomach, a distance of
nine inches, is called the esophagus. The stomach is a pear-shaped sack into which this tube broadens, holding about three pints. The alimentary canal, continuing from the stomach, is a winding tube, an inch or more in diameter, and about twenty-five feet long. This tube is called the intestines. If a portion of grain is eaten, it is taken into the mouth and ground. Its presence causes the salivary glands to take a juice, called saliva, from the blood and pour it into the mouth. The saliva mixes with the food. which passes into the pharynx. Here mental control ends. It then passes into the esophagus, where muscular fibers above the food contract, and others below it relax, so that it is forced along into the stomach. When this food enters the stomach, that organ arouses from a quiet condition to one of activity, the blood flows to it in increased amount, so that its inner coat turns from a pale color to a deep red. This lining membrane, or inner coat, becomes filled with blood that flows into its^ minute blood vessels. In this inner coat there are multitudes of tiny gastric glands, which, when the blood flows freely to the stomach, readily pour out large quantities of gastric fluid upon the food. The food is partially digested by the warm liquids and the constant motion of the stomach. That portion which is digested and fit to sustain the system passes directly through the lining of the stomach into the blood vessels, taking with it the gastric juice. That portion of the food which is not digested
in the stomach, passes little by little through the pylorus, or lower gate, into the intestines. The first few inches of the intestines form what ;s called the duodenum. This serves as a second stomach. It is here that two peculiar fluids, the bile and the pancreas, are received by a branched duct. By the action of these fluids, the food in the intestines becomes changed into a milky substance called chyle, portions of which readilv enter the blood through the walls of the intestines. Other portions are taken up by tubes and carried to the blood.
This is a simple description of the methods by which food is absorbed into the body. If food were properly selected, taken at correct intervals, and chewed a sufficient length of time, the stomach would perform its duty and most of the ills that flesh is heir to would be avoided.
The stomach is a most willing servant. It really loves its master, and frequently performs such labors as none but a slave would endure. Horace Fletcher has recently evolved a theorv. founded upon thousands of experiments, which maintains that of the necessary requirements the matter of chewing will alone suffice. According to him, 'man has been given the sense of taste to guide him in his eating, and to maintain a just relationship between his food and his stomach. So long as there is anv taste, he si vs. the food should remain in the mouth. That which remains when there is no longer anv taste should be rejected as unfit. By this method the taste is satisfied when the necessarv amount of food has been sent to the stomach, and therefore it is ’mrossible to overcrowd the stomach. Bv this method also only that portion of food which is nourishing gets past the taste into the svstem. And the taste being onre tho_oughly satisfied. does not rail for more until the nroper time. This unconsciously regulates the hours of meals. As it is now, food is ordinarily rushed into the stomach half chewed, waste and all, filling it with rubbish until it is
overloaded, before the taste is satisfied. Then the hard-working stomach finds that it has twice as much labor before it as it would have if the food had been properly chewed, besides having so much waste material that it will get but half the nourishment necessary for the system. In so far Mr. Fletcher’s theory is absolutely incontrovertible.
He further maintains that even food which contains poisons and injurious substances, if chewed until it disappears involutarily without a conscious act of swallowing, is rendered harmless, and if it contains anything pleasing to the taste, becomes to some degree good food.
There is no doubt that the entire theory of Mr. Fletcher could be substantiated, were the taste of man normal. But it has been proved that man’s taste is not normal. There has been a gradual extinction of instinct progressing among the civilized branches of the human race. Instinct is the means by which animals are warned of danger. Most of the wilder kinds know what to eat and what to avoid. The Indian is only a little less protected by his instincts. But civilized man has cultivated perverse and unnatural appetites for so long that the natural protective instincts can no longer be trusted. Even savages led to adopt the habits of civilizaron degenerate. and this is orobablv one of the causes of their extinction.
In this day there is a growing conviction of the necessitv for a selection of food based imon other grounds than man’s taste. The stomach must be protected against a perverted taste bv the mind. Some foods which are in themselves good, if eaten together, form combinatons in the stomach which work injury. There are other foods, such as celerv. olives and manv other aristocrats of the table wh:ch men have been inveigled bv friends and custom into paying court to. which the stomach recognizes in their true light as idling vagabonds who can be put to no use.
Many of these foods are like the
bait thrown to the ravens by the Tartars. The Tartars do not raise these ravens from young birds, but catch them when they are about half-grown. They leave a handful of small pebbles smeared with blood in the underbrush. The ravens, swallowing them, are unable to fly and are easily captured. There are many people who have pebbles in their stomach, and cannot rise above the low level of a sluggish life.
But the stomach is not to be fooled. Beneath the condiments it recognizes the refuse. It can only groan and struggle, a perfect machine put to profitless labors.
As a result of this haphazard selection, often before a child is ten years old the stomach is worn out, so that the secreting and motor functions fail, and, as an eminent physician has pur it, “becomes almost as inert as a pocket in a coat.” Then, having lost the ability to purify and disinfect itself it becomes the held of every unclean and hateful germ which thrives in such an environment. The stomach no longer protects the intestines from the invasion of pathogenic and proteid decomposing germs, and the whole alimentary canal soon becomes the habitat of microbes, varied in species, each manufacturing its own toxin or ptomaine, and altogether flooding the system with poisonous substances which overwhelm the liver and pervert every vital process.
The blame for disorder of digestion is often laid by irritable dyspeptics at the door of the stomach, when these disorders are actually due to the action of germs which get in with the food they select. These germs decompose the food and produce poisonous substances which irritate the stomach and cause soreness, heartburn, waterbrash, regurgitation of the food, and through reflex action, pain in the back, so-called spinal irritation, pain beneath the shoulder blades and in the region of the heart, neuralgia, sick headaches and numberless other ailments. More of these poisons get into the blood with the food, causing
vertigo, mental dullness, confusion of thought, blurred vision, numbness, pricking, crawling, tingling, and even sudden attacks of unconsciousness or nervous apoplexy.
At a meeting of the American Medical Association, Dr. J. H. Kellogg read a paper condemning vinegar on account of its powerful inhibitory influence upon salivary digestion. In the discussion which followed it was suggested that the stimulating effect of vinegar upon the salivary glands and the extra amount of saliva produced might more than balance the lessened power of the saliva to digest, resulting from the presence of this acid. The same was urged in favor of salt, pepper and other condiments. As a result of this, the following experiments were made : One ounce of various kinds of food and fluids was taken and chewed for a few seconds and then put into a vessel for weighing. The difference in weight before chewing and after represented the amount of saliva which had been added. The granose used in the experiments is a dry, well-cooked preparation of wheat. One ounce of granose produced 59.79 grams of saliva. An ounce of granose with two grains of salt added, produced 58.80 grams. 'When sprinkled with pepper it produced 59.1 grams. With strong cider, 55.9 grams. An ounce of moist bread produced 31.1 grams. An ounce of raw apple, 38.1. An ounce of milk, 3.82. An ounce of pea soup, 5.82.
We see by this discussion and these experiments that the effect of different foods upon the functions of the body are at best but imperfectly understood, even among physicians. Dr. Kellogg’s experiments prove that the salivary glands do not need any artificial stimulants, that the best service is rendered by them when they are given natural food without seasoning or softening of any kind. When flavoring comes naturally, as in fruits and certain vegetables, it has been found that the salivary glands do respond. The significance of this appears in a new philosophy. Man, by gradual
growth of error in the use of foods, has already nullified the protection originally afforded by his guiding sense of taste. In following error he has already long ceased to consult the dictates of the organs which nature gave him for use, and is thereby modifying them. If one organ can be so modified, all organs can be proportionately modified, and he can change his whole nature. It is evidently the purpose in evolution, however, that certain organs which have been threatened with extinction should be preserved. To accomplish this, the spirit of inquiry appears in the minds of men, which will result in knowledge sufficient to select food and to eat it, that their organs will be given a legitimate exercise and so be preserved.
By the selection of his food man may become the arbiter of his destiny. He may preserve and enlarge any of his faculties, or weaken and destroy them. It all depends upon the extent to which he uses the natural functions given him. If, for instance, he selects foods, such as dry grains, etc., which call for large quantities of saliva to moisten and prepare them, and which, when taken into the stomach, thoroughly nourish his body, the salivary glands will wax strong and efficient, remaining with him. On the other hand, should he choose wet foods exclusively, or those which, because of some acid, promptly retard the flow of saliva, the glands will grow weak and gradually disappear. This is actually the case with fishes, and may become so with Americans. They eat in a hurry, chase their food past the salivary glands, which stand aghast in gaping impotence, without giving them a chance to do their work. The place of saliva is supplied by copious draughts of tea, coffee, water, milk or beer. This not only tends toward the elimination of the salivary glands, but the amount of saliva immediately produced is altogether inadequate to digest the starchy elements of the food in the acid medium of the stomach contents, and the small amount which
is produced is rendered less efficient by dilution. So the body grows weak in the bargain.
What wonder that starch indigestion is becoming almost a universal complaint, when people fail to chew their food and supply saliva. Yet people wonder why they cannot digest starchy foods. The abundant provision made in the human body for the digestion of starch—first, the saliva ; second, the bile and pancreatic juice; third, the intestinal juice, and, final!}", the liver—is evidence that nature intended man to live largely upon farinaceous foods. The arguments of those who insist that men should live on fruits and nuts alone, leaving out the grains and vegetables, which form the necessary complement of these, and make the perfect diet, are based, not upon physiological facts, but upon their own personal experiences. Not long ago, at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, the stomach of a prominent advocate of this doctrine was examined, and it was found to be greatly dilated and almost completely inert. The exclusive use of fruits and nuts gave no work to many of the organs supplied for the disposal of food. This is also true of all the digestive forces required for this purpose. Could the advocate of this doctrine convert the world, it is easy to see how the stomach would soon become an inert sac for the deposit of fruit juices. It will be seen that the saliva being designed to digest the starch, all food containing any portion of starch must be thoroughly chewed. Grains, potatoes and other starchy vegetables particularly require the action of saliva. The gastric juice will very readily digest the material in which the starch has been transformed into glucose, or a sort of fluid which the stomach by its action can thorouhgly mix with the gastric juice. Pepsin in the gastric juice is principally of use in the digestion of proteids.
Gastric juice is a fluid formed by the numerous glands in the inner lining of the stomach. It is composed of water, hydrochloric acid, various
salts, pepsin and renning. Like the saliva, which only handles starch, the gastric juice only digests the proteids or nitrogeneous elements in food.
The pepsin in the gastric juice acts upon the proteids and changes them into what is called peptone, which remains such until it is being taken into the blood, when it becomes what is called serum-albumen. The hydrochloric acid, when present in the gastric juice in a normal amount, guards the body from infection,.¿gainst disease germs, which enter with the food. When this protection is removed, as it is in some diseased conditions, myriads of germs develop in the stomach. When these are present they produce sick headaches and a long list of ailments. It has been found that until the stomach is cleansed and two per cent, of hydrochloric acid is established by a proper diet, these conditions will continue. Drugs may relieve the pains, but they do not cure. The germs flourish, producing poisons which practically wreck the system. We may find relief from pain in drugs, and by our present methods of indiscriminate eating, accidentally use a proper diet, which the stomach takes advantage of and recovers. The . next meal, however, may again carry to it material that operates to stultify and disorganize its functions. It would seem, in the light of these facts, when modern research has been able to discover the method by which the digestive organs work, and the food materials required to keep them normally and successfully employed, that civilization would at once concern itself sufficiently to create and adopt a system of food selection and eating that would meet the requirements. The hydrochloric acid also dissolves the material which surmounts the particles of proteid, so that the pepsin can act upon it.
The renning gathers the casein of milk together, and the pepsin converts it into peptone.
The gastric juice will digest a certain amount of food, after which, if more is added, it will not act.
The stomach, through its friendly and intimate relationship with all the parts of the body, knows just what nourishment each part requires. At every mealtime the multitudes of glands and cells stand like willing and intelligent little workmen, ready to pour out the fluids they have prepared in just sufficient amounts. They expect that the brain, guided by the taste and its own knowledge of the body’s requirements, will send enough of the proper material and no more. But, in reality, few minds are acquainted with the presence, let alone the expectations, of their glands and cells. Busy with the affairs of its neighbors the brain of man has not yet had time to concern itself about the organization of its own dwelling.
The food as it leaves the stomach is in a more or less fluid condition, and is strongly acid. When it enters the duodenum, or second stomach, the bile and pancreatic juice change it to an alkaline nature, thus preventing further action of the pepsin of the gastric juice, and facilitating the action of the pancreatic juice, which splits up part of the fat of the food into free fatty acid and glycerine. Then some of the alkaline salts of the bile unite with this free fatty acid and form a soap. This soap then acts upon the remaining unchanged fat and forms an emulsion.
What remains of the food after the duodenum has extracted nourishment passes into the small intestine, where the intestinal juice acts upon it and ■completes the process of digestion. This intestinal juice possesses the properties of all the other digestive fluids, and so corrects any of the oversights of the others up to the limit of its capacity.
Now listen to the mind:
“Oh, what do I care about the pancreatic juice, the duodenum or whatever it is? This stuff is too learned for me.” We would suggest, however, that these names stand for things as real, and much of as intimate importance to us as the names 6f the Vanderbilts, the McCluskies and our
interesting and peculiar neighbors. Possible war in Europe is one thing, but war in the stomach and against the whole body is another, and so vital that if neglected may end our human connections and interests entirely.
The difficulties and trials of a hardworked and conscientious stomach are quaintly illustrated by a story of Mary Henry Rossiter's in which she says :
“The stomach examined its various pits and depressions with great anxiety. Its wrinkles deepened when it discovered the cause of the disturbances which had broken its rest for hours. A mass of decaying ani fermenting food was still moving over its lower surface, while millions of germs were dancing about and multiplying at a tremendous rate.
“ ‘This is terrible F groaned the stomach, ‘but what can I do? My muscular tissues worked as hard as they could for five or six hours, and the gastric juices dissolved everything possible. It is the imperative business of the pylorus to keep its orifice shut against everything but chyme ; certainly this stuff is not ready for the duodenum.’ And the stomach churned up a long string of connecting tissue and several pieces of wilted celery.
“ ‘Good morning,’ said a peptic gland to a pyloric gland near by.
“ ‘Good morning,’ replied the other, as both began to bestir themselves for the day’s work.
“ T do hope that our dear stomach will not have so much to do to-day as it did yesterday.’
“‘Yes, indeed,’ rejoined the second, putting the final touches on a drop of juice. ‘It was so exhausted last night when the last bit of chyme squeezed through the pylorus, that I am sure it couldn’t have contracted another time : no matter what came into it.’
“ ‘And the worst of it is,’ continued the peptic gland, ‘there is a wretched residue of indigestible things that could not get through the pylorus at all, and they have been here all night.
Those hateful germs are swarming all over the stuff, and are getting disgustingly fat and happy. 1 did hope that we were going to starve them out, but the chance is evidently gone for the present.’
“ ‘It’s all on account of the chicken salad, olives,coffee, ice cream and cake that came rushing down here, pell-mell, late last night, just as we thought we had everything tidy and ready to leave,’ said the pyloric gland, which was a very domestic and neat little body. ‘For my part, I think the mouth didn't do just right. It knew very well that the stomach had not had a moment's rest all day, and I think it might have been a little more considerate.'
" ‘But, my dear child,’ remonstrated the peptic gland, which was more of a philosopher, ‘the mouth could not help it. The poor thing has to do just what the man says, and you know yourself that he is a perfect tyrant.’
“ ‘But he must be a very wonderful being—that man,’ said the little pyloric gland, ‘to be able to defy and control the laws of nature in the way he does.’
“‘Wonderful, truly!' said the other, dyspeptically; ‘for my part I. don't believe any more that the man knows a thing. I think he's an imbecile.’
“ 'For mercy's sake,’ exclaimed the pyloric gland, secreting several drops of gastric fluid in its excitement, ‘what makes you think that?’
“But before this question could be answered, the two glands became aware of a hurried rhythmical movement along the esophagus not far away, and suddenly a gulp of hot coffee came plunging into the stomach. Several pieces of half-chewed toast mixed with oatmeal, sugar and cream, followed immediately. Then came a large mass of beefsteak, then another and another. These were thickly covered with pepper, butter and mustard, and accompanied by small, hard pieces of fried potatoes. For several minutes the half-masticated steak and potatoes came tumbling down without an instant’s pause ; then, after a brief
respite, the esophagus swallowed in two buttered pancakes, a quantity of maple syrup and a doughnut.
“The stomach moaned and stirred feebly.
“ ‘What better evidence of imbecility do you want than that?”
“The stomach, recovering from the shock of the arrival of the meal, began calling for the gastric juices to come to its help. The latter needed no urging, but in numberless little globules ventured out from the tiny ducts, clung timidly for a moment to the edges of the alveoli, and then began to drop off bravely on the nearest mouthfuls ; soon a steady stream of digestive fluid enveloped the entire mass of food, while the stomach’s muscular layers began to contract, gently churning and mixing every portion of the breakfast. The mucous lining smoothed out its folds to make more room, and all the blood corpuscles in the neighborhood crowded close to the transparent membrane. S'o wonderful are the resources of nature, and so vigorously did the stomach attack its task, that possibly even the heterogeneous conglomeration of incompatibilities collected in this breakfast might have been reconciled and assimilated, had not the man, at this moment, felt thirsty. The mouth, the pharynx and the esophagus had been so irritated by the condiments forced against their surfaces that they set up a lusty cry for water; hence, no sooner had the stomach put its energies in motion than a sudden flood of ice cold water swept down into it, stopping all the secretions, driving the corpuscles back from the walls, and paralyzing every activity. It was some time before the corpuscles ventured back to their work, and began to warm up the poor little glands that were stiff with cold. By and by a few drops of gastric juice oozed slowly forth and began a desultory work on the saturated food. By degrees the muscular tissues resumed operations, and the process of digestion was again under way.
“The stomach would have begun
to ache had it not learned by experience that if it did the man would sen! down a pill or a powder that would merely stop the pain and make matters still worse.
“On this occasion, as many times before, the stomach turned again to its vast army of little helpers. In them it never found disappointment. On the morning in question every^ particle of gastric juice that had been able to recover its vital power and to get a foothold on the coarse, chilled masses of food, was earnestly at work dissolving connective tissue and making peptones. The acids of the stomach were breaking down the albuminous walls of the fat cells so as to set free their oily contents, and dissolving also the mineral salts. Not being able to act upon fats or starch, the gastric juice could not do much with the fried potatoes, the oatmeal or the toast. This was unfortunate, since none of the food had remained in the mouth long enough to be acted upon by the salivary glands; therefore, a large share of it could now be removed from the stomach only by peristalsis.
“ ‘It is really pathetic,’ remarked the pyloric gland, which was watching the struggle from the door of its duct, ‘to see how hard those juices work. They are giving their lives for the sake of the man, and yet he never lifts a finger to make their sacrifice easier.”
“ ‘What I am worried about,’ said the peptic gland, ‘is that we are not going to have any time to rest before the luncheon comes down. Not that I mind so much on my own account working when I am tired, but I have already secreted all the gastric juice I had prepared for, and I cannot possibly get any more ready so soon. I am sorry for the poor stomach, too. It is always so mortified when it has to force into the intestines food that is not properly reduced.’
“ ‘Well,’ exclaimed the other, T should like just once to lay my nerves on that man. I am only a weak little, ignorant gastric gland, but I know I try as hard as I can to do what na-
ture tells me, and I am sure that man does not, or else he has never paid, enough attention to what she says to know. Sometimes I think he has never heard that it makes any difference w'hat he eats ; then, again, I think that he doesn’t care ; that he j ust eats things that make that horrid little palate feel good, and doesn’t care a thing about all the rest of us. I don’t know, but I get all confused when I think about it.’
“But the patient little glands and all the other activities of the stomach had no more time for social amenities that day. It would be tedious to tell of the ice-cold ginger ale that sent a shiver through every cell of the digestive organs ; of the luncheon that followed the ginger ale; of the peppery soup that made the salivary glands feel lazy, and tore the lining of the esophagus ; of the cold roast pork and the Saratoga chips that sank
like lead to the bottom of the soup; of the olives, the jelly, the salad, the pepper-sauce, the ice cream, the chocolate cake that made the stomach’s afternoon one long Spanish torture; to tell again of the evening dinner, the roast chicken and French potatoes, the cucumbers and vinegar, the tomatoes with mayonnaise dressing, the coffee with green apple pie and imported cheese. Perhaps it is cruel to mention the Welsh rarebit and the pint of beer that came down about midnight.
“Suffice it to say that the man was sick in the night. When a soft, kind tube descended through the gullet to take away its revolting and intractable burden, the heart-broken stomach that had worked so faithfully and conscientiously for forty years, heard the man say between groans : T have a beastlv stomach. Were it not for that, I should be a happy man !’ ”— Ainslee’s Magazine.