PERHAPS you drive a car. If so you can realize, without a great stretch of imagination, that gasoline isn’t everything—that if the engine is not fit to deliver power the finest motor fuel in the world cannot inspire it to function.
And so it is with the human body. Food alone cannot make the man, and the mere process of ingesting nourishment will not prove a magic cure-all. The human system is a trifle more complicated than that, and there is little to be gained by eating if we are not in a position to utilize the food we consume. In other words, the first step to be taken in the correcting of a diet is to determine whether the person to be fed is able to benefit from the form and quantity of nutriment supplied. If not the cause must be located and removed.
Thousands of people in the Dominion today are suffering malnutrition, not because of insufficient foods but because their systems cannot utilize the nourishment furnished them. In the words of the nutrition expert “these people are not ‘free to gain’.”
By “free to gain” we mean physically and mentally fit to digest and assimilate properly the foods given, therefore being unready to gain weight and health, despite the food afforded them.
The excellent work being done by those conducting nutrition classes, nutrition research and feeding clinics proves that there are five reasons or causes responsible for the condition of those who are not "free to gain.”
These reasons are—physical defects, lack of discipline, over fatigue, improper food habits and improper health habits. At first glance it may seem that too little importance is laid on food selection and preparation—but that vital subject is considered under the heading of improper food habits.
The most active agent against proper nutrition is found in the first reason: physical defects. Of these there are legion, and their existence and treatment is a subject for a physician, not a-food expert. The nutrition worker can carry on where the physician stops—when the mal-nourished one is able to utilize the foods that are selected for him.
Before diets are prescribed physical examinations are necessary. Often physical defects harmful to our health and fatal to proper nutrition are found.
INASMUCH as the best results from A nutritional feeding seem to occur in the treatment of children, and inasmuch as it is in infancy and youth that we must build our bodies, for the purposes of this article we will deal with the child of school age.
Those who are expert in the examining of school children have learned to distinguish one defect from another at a glance, and it is not at all out of the ordinary to see a doctor run his eye over a class of perhaps thirty children and pick out at least a dozen suffering from one of the more common physical defects that do so much to cause malnutrition.
The writer was fortunate enough recently to share the desk at which one of these experts was "reviewing” a class of
children that had been brought before
A little girl of perhaps twelve sidled shyly up to the desk at which this physician’s assistant sat—record open before
The little girl presented a card. It was the teacher’s report. The doctor’s assistant handed it to me for inspection.
“Age 13-4, Weight 65 lbs, Height 58 in. Health—good, Conduct—good. Underweight 24 per cent, Overweight, none.
“General Remarks. Seems happy and healthy—but is very finicky and uncertain about he1meals. Mother reports she will not drink milk unless compelled to do so. Appetite irregular.”
“All right, Elizabeth,” said the doctor at my side, “that will do.”
Across the school record, opposite her name the assistant wrote “Lack of discipline.” The doctor nodded and signaled the next child—a boy of perhaps twelve.
While the assistant was studying this boy’s card the doctor turned to me, and said in an undertone: “See, that boy is a
mouth breather. Bad tonsils and adenoids there. Let me show you.”
Calling the boy to him he flashed his light into the lad’s mouth. The tonsils were enormous.
“Adenoids and tonsils,” he told the assistant. Then again to me—"Notice his card. It will tell a story.”
And it did, for under general remarks I read that this boy’s parents had followed the best feeding advice possible and that the boy had co-operated faithfully. But still he remained thirty per cent, underweight.
"As long as those diseased tonsils consume his vitality and those adenoids prevent natural breathing that lad will remain underweight and mal-nourished. Four thousand Calories a day couldn’t put him over the top.”
“Over the top,” in the parlance of the nutrition worker, means reaching the point of normal health and weight.
Some Radical Diagnoses
AS THE stream of children passed the desk their various troubles were quickly located and action taken to eliminate them. After that the problem would be merely one of correct feeding.
Not all the cases were as simple as those just mentioned. There was one little girl, for example, who presented a puzzling problem She was subject to violent pains in her stomach, especially after she had eaten heartily. They were severe enough to keep her away from school two and three days at a time. The particular foods that caused them could not be isolated.
The mother was almost frantic—and the little girl had grown thin from suffering. The doctor at the desk heard the details of this strange malady and gave his diagnos:s with a single word: “Appendicitis.”
The child had been suffering for months, ever in danger of an acute attack. Within six weeksafter her operation she was gaining weight and health with great strides.
Then there was the little boy who
couldn’t take on weight and who didn’t seem interested in anything. He was listless—and unhappy. Nothing could bring him out of the lethargy that seemed to have enveloped him.
The doctor pronounced his trouble tuberculosis—and set about to make the cure. In a year, the doctor promised, right living and right eating would bring him over the top.
We have not sufficient space to tell of the many troubles that may affect our physical beings and of the manner in which they put obstacles in the way of health and happiness. Suffice to say that we must locate and conquer a child’s physical defects before we can expect to secure results from corrective feeding.
Next to physical defects we find that lack of discipline is the greatest enemy of proper nutrition. Lack of discipline may express itself in any one of a hundred ways: the man or woman overweight may lack the discipline of will necessary to make her deny the appetite the sweets or over-rich foods it craves; lack of discipline causes the child to demand sweets between meals, to refuse to eat this or that and to develop an antipathy for the foods that are good for him. Lack of discipline causes us to fail to keep regular hours, to remember to drink water regularly, to masticate properly and to do the many other things necessary to our welfare.
Children Work Too Hard
OVERFATIGUE is more common among children than with adults. It is caused by late hours, by too strenuous play or exercise, by too much work and by worry.
The writer is personally acquainted with at least a dozen children whose malnutrition was entirely due to over-fatigue. One little lad was almost thirty per cent, underweight and was failing steadily. He was falling farther and farther behind, both physically and in his school work. No matter how hard he worked and no matter how carefully he observed the rules of correct eating he could find no relief. Tearfully he came to the physician in charge of that particular school. He didn’t know what to do—he worked as hard as he could and he did everything he could, but somehow his brain wouldn’t work, and somehow his little body would not gain strength.
He studied after school and at nights, and he studied Saturdays and Sundays but still his mind seemed heavy and wouldn't work for him.
The answer to his problem was plain over-fatigue. Sickness had put him behind and in his efforts to catch up he had overtaxed his already depleted store of vitality and had over-tried and overtired himself. In consequence his system could not perform its functions and the foods he ate were only half assimilated. The harder he worked the more fatigued he became, and the more fatigued he became the more his system suffered. And, of course, the more his system suffered the farther he fell behind. And so he was caught in a vicious circle.
Rest and light food was the answer for him. Within a month his appetite again demanded the normal amount of food and
his improvement was, from then on, steady. He is not underweight today.
Over-fatigue is a relentless enemy and a destroyer of health. Do not permit your child, or yourself, to become over-fatigued. If your child falls behind do not attempt to force him forward by extra work— only harm can result from this. He needs rest, not work.
Improper food habits are the next faults to consider. Regarding the selection and preparation of food several articles will appear in MacLean’s. Fast eating, insufficient mastication, etc. etc., compose the various angles of this fault.
Improper health habits is the last classification. Lack of attention to cleanliness; of body, of home, of foods, of teeth and of play conditions form part of these improper habits. The clothing we wear and put on our children also are vital factors in the matter of health habits.
The way our children play and the manner in which they conduct themselves when out of our sight are all matters to be considered in this respect.
Fresh Air a Vital Factor
THRESH air is a vital factor in our health habits—and this, together with water,
will be the subject of a special article to appear in these columns shortly.
Without going into detail regarding these five reasons for our children’s failure to be “free to gain,” we can readily realize how necessary it is to correct such faults before expecting great results from corrective feeding. To attempt to feed a child back to health in spite of tonsils and adenoids, in spite of bad health habits and lack of discipline; to attempt to force enough food into a child suffering from some disease or defect, is, to put it mildly, the essence of folly.
It is so easy to guarantee against physical defect. A careful examination by a competent physician is all that is required. Surely it is little enough to pay for an assurance of his future health.
If your child is undernourished or displays any of the signs of malnutrition go first to your physician. Then, when you know the child is free to gain, plan your corrective feeding campaign and live up to it.
In an early issue we will run charts showing the correct weight for children of various ages and heights, also maps showing how records are kept to show the curve of progress under correct feeding.
These charts will enable you to determine whether or not your child is receiving proper nourishment.
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