Copyright
Anna M. (Anna Mary) Galbraith.

Personal hygiene and physical training for women online

. (page 8 of 30)
Online LibraryAnna M. (Anna Mary) GalbraithPersonal hygiene and physical training for women → online text (page 8 of 30)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


foods. Raw and rare meats are more easily digested than
well-done meats; in other words, cooking lessens the
digestibility of meats. Veal and pork are both very
dijB&cult of digestion. Steak should be broUed and never
fried; all fried foods are very difficult to digest.

Milk is the most digestible of aU foods if consumed in a
reasonable way. The addition of Vichy or lime-water
renders the milk less liable to form tough clots, hence
renders it more digestible. Boiled milk is more digestible
than raw milk ; boiling increases the toughness of the curd,
but it destroys all bacteria.

Milk is a fluid only outside of the body; when it enters
the stomach, it is converted by the rennin into a solid clot;
the clot formed in the stomach of infants is much less firm
and more easily digested. Anything which will prevent
the formation of this clot will hasten its digestion. The
milk should be sipped slowly, and not a tumblerful gulped
down at a swallow. Bread or cracker, broken up in the
milk, aids in its digestion; also the addition of equal parts
of barley or aerated waters. Buttermilk and kumiss are
more easily digested than cow's milk. A glass of milk is
digested in about two hours.



94 PERSONAL HYGIENE FOR WOMEN

Vegetables differ from aniraal food in containing a much
greater proportion of material which, for man, is indi-
gestible and much less nutritive material. Vegetables
and fruits are both rendered more digestible by cooking.

Cane-sugar, especially in strong solution, is an irritant
to the stomach. The liver makes all the sugar that is
needed in the system when none is taken in the food.
In addition to this, all the starch that is taken as food is
converted into sugar in the body. Many foods contain
sugar, as honey, molasses, milk, raisins, dates, figs, and,
indeed, all kinds of fruit.

When sugar is taken in excess, it undergoes fermenta-
tion in the alimentary canal, being converted into alcohol,
carbonic and acetic acids. This fermentation and its
products impede the work of the liver, make the system
run with friction, prevent the elimination of effete
products, and, after long-continued use, cripple all the
processes of life.

Butter suppUes to most people the largest amount of fat
they take, but its use should be supplemented with the
fats of fresh meat and of bacon. It is easily digested by
most persons, except when it is rancid; it then causes
dyspepsia and diarrhea. As a rule, it may be said that
decomposing fats of all kinds disagree with the system.

Common salt in moderate quantity is essential to the
economy, but its excessive use is harmful. All highly
spiced or seasoned foods should be avoided. Condiments
improve the appetite, but they are irritating to the
stomach, and should be eaten sparingly.

Vinegar. — The acid of vinegar, being a fermentation
acid, renders the digestion of many foods with which it is
taken more difficult, while vegetable acids, such as lemon-
juice and citric or tartaric acid, do not cause that ob-
jectionable effect. Thus, cucumber salad, made with the
vegetable freshly cut, w^hen dressed with vinegar, is so
difficult of digestion as to be for many persons almost
poisonous; whereas if lemon-juice is used instead of vine-
gar in the dressing, it can be easily and comfortably



THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM AND GOOD DIGESTION 95

digested by the same persons. Vinegar retards salivary-
digestion and the digestion of those carbohydrates with
which it is combined.

Tea, coffee, and cocoa all retard gastric digestion.
Cocoa is the most nutritious. Both tea and coffee are
pure stimulants. Coffee should never be taken more
than twice a day, and the amount should be limited to
one cupful of coffee at breakfast and a demi-tasse after
dinner. Its well-known power as a brain stimulant leads
to drinking it in excess; it then seriously interferes with
digestion, and its continuous excessive use may lead to
chronic dyspepsia and insomnia.

The amount of harm done by tea depends to a great
extent on the way in which it is made and the quantity
which is taken.

Tea improperly made is capable of doing so great an
amount of harm to the digestive and nervous systems
that emphasis must be laid on the necessity of making it
properly.

The Prcper Method of Making Tea. — The water should
be freshly boiled ; the tea-pot heated, so that the water will
be maintained at the boiling-point ; one teaspoonful of tea
is allowed to the cup. The tea is measured out, put in the
tea-pot, and the requisite amount of boiling water poured
over it. It is then allowed to stand on the kitchen table,
not the range, from two to three minutes, and should then
be strained into the tea-pot for the table and served.
Unless the tea-leaves are strained off, the infusion contin-
ues for some time; this extracts the tannic acid and the
bitter principles. In addition, the prolonged infusion
dissipates the volatile oil, to which much of the fragrance
of a good cup of tea is due. As it is almost impossible to
have the requisite amount of care exercised in the making
of tea in the kitchen, it is much better that it should be
made on the table. Sugar detracts from the healthfulness
of the beverage.

Water constitutes about two-thirds of the weight of the
body, so that water is both a tissue-builder and a food.



96 PERSONAL HYGIENE FOR WOMEN

About 4| pints of water are given off daily in the form of
the various excreta and exhalations, but, since about one-
half of the solid foods taken consist of water, 3 pints of
water taken as such is sufficient to counterbalance the loss.

The Temperature of Foods and Drinks. — The ideal
temperature of food and drinks is about that of the body
itself. Gold food is difficult to digest, for it does not
excite the stomach sufficiently, nor does it possess the
stimulating properties of a hot meal.

Extremes of temperature in foods should be avoided,
as tending to produce local injury to the stomach; from
45° to 130° F. are probably the limits of safety.

Drinks at a temperature of 122° F. are sufficient to
wann the body, and a temperature of 45° F. is sufficient to
cool it. In both extremes there is danger of exciting
gastric catarrh. The temperature best suited to quench
the thirst is from 50° to 70° F. Ices should be avoided,
as they may cause dyspepsia, neuralgia about the heart,
and even acute dilatation of the stomach.

Factors which Favor Good Digestion. — The stomach
acts as a reservoir, and renders the taking of meals pos-
sible. The capacity of the stomach varies in different
individuals; it contains from 2 to 4 pints of liquids, or
about 2 pounds of solids. The process of digestion con-
tinues from about four to five hours; by the end of that
time the stomach is empty.

This gives us a very useful hint as to the length of time
that must elapse between meals. If a fresh meal is intro-
duced into the stomach before it has had time to empty
itself, the process of digestion is started afresh, and the
stomach is robbed of the necessary rest between • two
periods of activity.

As a rule, three meals a day has been found to be the
best arrangement, and there should be an interval of five
hours between meals. If possible, dinner, which is the
principal meal of the day, should be taken at the end of the
day, after its work is over, so that comparative repose
may be enjoyed after it. The meals must be served at



THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM AND GOOD DIGESTION 97

the same hour every day. The perfectly healthy woman
should never take anything to eat between meals.

Gentle exercise may aid digestion, while severe exercise,
by diverting much blood and nervous energy to the mus-
cles, would have an adverse effect. Sleep directly after a
hearty meal is injurious and sometimes proves fatal,
because there is a depression of the circulation, and the
digestive processes may stop absolutely during sleep.
The best employment after a hearty meal is frivolous
conversation, which keeps the heart alive, without making
too great demands on the brain.

A hearty meal should never be eaten when one is ex-
hausted or greatly fatigued. Half an hour's rest before
dinner is a great aid to digestion.

Certain conditions are imperative in order to maintain
a healthy state of the digestive organs and of the body.
These are both physical and psychic. A good caterer,
a good cook, a cheerful frame of mind, and the proper
leisure to eat the meal are all essential factors.

The influence of the psychic on the process of digestion
has not been sufficiently well understood. It is intimately
bound up with the sensations of appetite and hunger.
Appetite is the most powerful excitant of the gastric
juice. Hence the importance for digestion of such im-
portant aids to appetite as agreeable surroundings, a well-
appointed table, and good cooking.

A very practical point is that gastric secretions may be
whoUy arrested by violent emotions. On the completion
of a hearty meal, which has been eaten with the greatest
relish, the arrival of a telegram containing the intelligence
of the death of a friend or of a heavy financial loss causes
the dinner to lay like lead on the stomach. This shows
the important role played by the nervous system over the
secretion of the digestive juices.

Water. — With the proper mastication of the food there
will be less desire to drink water during the meal; a glass
of water should be slowly taken at the end of the meal.

Water is not absorbed by the stomach, but passes
7



98 PERSONAL HYGIENE FOR WOMEN

directly into the small intestine. A pint of hot water
escapes into the intestiae in about three-quarters of an
hour after it is taken. Hot water has a powerful stimulat-
ing effect on the peristalsis of the stomach, and so is a very
material aid to sluggish digestion. It should be taken one
hour before meals, so as to wash out the stomach, and not
to fill it up at the time the meal is taken.

Water is a very dangerous vehicle for infection. The
only sure method of rendering water harmless is by boiling.
The addition of a little wine or even spirits does not destroy
the germs.

The mineral waters promote digestion, by causing an
earlier and more abundant secretion of the gastric juice.

Defecation. — The waste matter which collects in the
lower bowel must be evacuated every day. Allowed to
remain longer than this, the digestive system is clogged by
the non-removal of worn-out material, and the blood is
constantly absorbing matter which is poisonous to the
body. Decomposition goes on without being suspected
by the sufferer.

Overeating. — It is generally recognized that mental
efficiency is very dependent on bodily conditions. The
question how best to maintain the body in its highest
degree of efficiency becomes a vital one to every person.

Professor Chittenden, of Yale University, one of the
foremost physiologists of the day, as the result of scientific
experimentation carried on, on himself, on professional
men, on a group of university athletes, and on a squad of
United States soldiers, reached the following conclusions:
that men eat far too much, that incalculable energy is
wasted by our bodies in getting rid of the surplus food,
that overeating causes a host of needless ailments, and
that better health, increased efficiency, and enhanced
probabilities of longevity would certainly follow the general
adoption of a dietary standard, calling for not more than
one-half the proteid food which common custom has
established as the general standard. He is convinced that
we eat too much and that we eat too rapidly.



THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM AND GOOD DIGESTION 99

Obese patients grow fat because they overeat, but with
a thorough mastication of the food their appetites would
be satisfied with far less food than they have been ac-
customed to eat and the superfluous fat would drop off.

Thorough mastication is also useful to thin persons,
who have been in the habit of bolting their food, and have
gotten indigestion as the result. They eat less food under
this system, but they get fat under it.

When such an excess of proteids is taken into the body
that it cannot be disposed of in the ordinary process
of oxidation or burning up, there are solid chunks of
unburned material that must be gotten rid of by the liver
and kidneys, which is injurious to them. As a result, the
liver and kidneys are overworked in their efforts to rake
down the ash produced by the combustion of proteids
within the body, and eventually are not able to dispose
of the surplus; gastro-intestinal disturbances, bilious
attacks, gout, rheumatism, and other diseases follow.

The chief factors leading to overeating are the uses of
wines and condiments at dinner and elaborate course
dinners. The first two overstimulate the appetite, and
the great variety offered by the latter tempt the appetite,
and make it possible to eat more than one could if the bill
of fare were more limited and simple.

Dietary in Sedentary Occupations. — The important
considerations in the question of a diet are what to eat,
how to eat, and how much to eat. The appetite is not a
safe guide in very many cases, because persons engaged
in sedentary occupations, who take next to no outdoor
exercise, are frequently in a run-down condition and have
very poor appetites.

It is not that the average woman eats too much, but
that she does not eat the right kind of things. She eats
too little fresh meat and eggs, and drinks too little milk.
She eats very much too much sweets, in the form of pastry,
cake, or candy, and the lunch is not sufficiently nourish-
ing.

The age and occupation of the individual are important



100 PEESONAL HYGIENE FOR WOMEN

factors to be taken into consideration in making out the
dietary.

The following dietary has proved to be the most satis-
factory for women having no occupation or a sedentary
one. On it women have maintained good health, and
many other women have recovered their health.

Breakfast. — Fruit, bacon and eggs, breakfast hominy,
rolls or toast and butter, a glass of milk, and one cup of
coffee.

The fruit may be any raw fruit in season, except apples
or bananas; apples should always be cooked for breakfast,
because they are more easily digested; bananas are too
heavy and indigestible to be served for breakfast. Stewed
prunes are good and especially laxative.

Bacon is not a necessity, though it is an appetizer.
Eggs may be served in any way, but they are most diges-
tible if soft-boiled or poached.

The hominy is boiled in water and served as a vege-
table, with a little salt and butter, but no sugar.

It will be noted that the cereal so generally served for
breakfast is omitted. The only excuse for eating a cereal
is plenty of sugar and good cream. The cream can be
taken in the milk, and the amount of sugar used is apt to
cause fermentation. The whole forms a coating over the
walls of the stomach, which prevents the action of the
gastric juice on the rest of the food. In addition to this,
after the cereal is eaten the appetite is generally gone.
It is difficult of digestion, and should only be eaten by
those who take a great deal of outdoor exercise.

Luncheon. — Hamburg steak, or a made dish from the
meat left over from the previous day's dinner, creamed
potatoes, stewed fruit, bread and butter, a glass of milk,
and one cup of tea. Oysters served up in a variety of
ways make an appetizing dish for luncheon.

Dinner. — Soup should always be served except in very
hot weather. A roast or other substantial fresh meat,
two vegetables, a salad, fruit, or a made dessert with cake,
a demi-tasse of coffee after dinner. A glass of water is



THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM AND GOOD DIGESTION 101

served with each meal; it should be taken after the meal is
finished, and one glass is as much as should be taken.

Vinegar should never be placed on the table, nor be
used in salad dressings, for reasons which have already
been given.

For a French dressing, lemon-juice should be substi-
tuted for vinegar. The following are the correct pro-
portions: take one tablespoonful of lemon-juice, one
tablespoonful of water, and two tablespoonfuls of oHve
oil. Mix well, and pour over the salad just before serving.

The greatest variety possible in the menu from day to
day is advised, but not any greater variety for the daily
meals than that given above.

Heart Failure and Other Ills as the Result of
Chronic Underfeeding. — A long-continued deficiency
of food or improper kinds of food leads eventually to
general malnutrition, anemia, and finally to failure of the
heart itself. At first the muscles of the heart and cells
of the brain are nourished at the expense of other struc-
tures, from which a definite daily quantity is taken to
provide their supplies of albumin, but there comes a time
when these organs also suffer.

DebiHty from underfeeding comes on so insidiously
that it is often far advanced before being recognized by
the sufferer. Frequently it is only by comparing the
present condition with that of six months ago, and
noting the greatly decreased power of endurance, that the
woman realizes that something must be wrong. Further,
this condition constitutes part of a vicious circle ; with the
decline of strength, there is often a decline of appetite,
which leads to a further loss of both, and a more or less
decided collapse eventually occurs.

This underfeeding may have occurred as a result of
ignorance, or from an ill-advised dieting for disease, as,
for instance, rheumatism or gout, or from poverty.

An expression often employed by this class of sufferers
is that they have "lost heart." It is believed by some
authorities that this depressed feeling is caused by the



102 PERSONAL HYGIENE FOR WOMEN

fact that the heart muscle is at last sharing with the other
muscles in the general malnutrition. As a result of this,
the heart probably fails and dilates, and is perhaps never
again able to keep up the same blood-pressure, to produce
the same muscular nutrition, and the former strength of
muscle, nerve, and will-power. A nutritious diet and rest
with massage are the best means to restore as far as pos-
sible the ill effects of such a condition.

Two points stand out boldly in this connection. In the
first place, there must be sufiicient proteid food ingested
to protect the organism from body loss; and, secondly,
there must be a sufiicient heat value in the fats or carbo-
hydrates to protect the body fat of the person and so
prevent emaciation. In regard to the proteid require-
ment, it has been found, by investigation, that about
300 gm. of meat per day is necessary.

In this state of the system there is a weakening of the
digestive organs; the more their nutrition fails through
not eating, the less they are able to digest. This is often
seen in dyspepsia, and the first step in the cure is to com-
pel them to eat more.

The tubercle bacillus seems to find a particularly
favorable soil in ill-nourished persons. The association
between bad feeding and scrofula is weU established, and
an improvement in nutrition is often followed by their
cure.

Another danger of underfeeding is the effect on the
mind. There is not only a lowering of the mental power,
but a feeling of dissatisfaction, discomfort, depression,
culminating sometimes in hallucinations and insanity,
which imperfect nutrition of the mind is apt to produce.
A hungry man is an angry man.

Deficient diet, like all morbid conditions, both corporeal
and mental causes a vitiating and degenerating infiuence.
Famine is naturally the mother of crimes and vices, not
onty of such sort as will satiate the gnawing desire for
food, but of general violence and lawlessness, ill temper,
avarice, lust, and cruelty.



THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM AND GOOD DIGESTION 103

The love of purposeless destruction, exhibited by the
Parisian communists in our own day, may be fairly
credited to deficient food. No well-fed people could have
wrecked the Vendome Column, or burnt the Town Hall
and the Tuileries, of which they were so proud. "They
were like hungry children smashing their dolls."

The Causes of Indigestion. — Normally, the process
of digestion is effected unconsciously; the individual is
not aware that she has a stomach. It may be accepted
as an axiom, that when any organ or any part of the body
persistently obtrudes itself on the attention of the owner,
there is some abnormal or pathologic condition present.

Some of the more prominent causes of indigestion are:
imperfect mastication, septic stumps of teeth, an excessive
quantity of food, improper kinds of food, food taken at
too frequent intervals, alcohol, tea, and coffee, and ex-
haustion of the nervous system.

Imperfect Mastication. — Defective teeth are responsible
for much imperfect mastication of food. The opposing
teeth may have been lost, or soreness of the gums or
sensitive teeth may prevent the act of mastication from
being properly performed.

When the food is not sufficiently well subdivided, the
saliva and gastric juice cannot mix properly with it,
gastric digestion will be retarded on account of the small
area of food presented, and the prolonged stay of food in
the stomach increases the opportunities for fermentation.
Since chewing is one of the chief excitants of the flow of
saliva, it is much better that the work should be done in
the mouth than in the kitchen.

Septic Teeth. — As a result of these, microorganisms may
be swallowed with the food and act injuriously on the
stomach. They may irritate the mucous membrane and
set up a chronic gastritis, or these bacteria may cause a
fermentative process in the stomach.

An excessive quantity of food may produce symptoms
by its bulk in several ways : it may so distend the stomach
as to give rise to sensations of weight, fullness, and pain;



104 PERSONAL HYGIENE FOR WOMEN

or the amount of food taken may be in excess of the powers
of the gastric juice to digest, and digestion in the stomach
may be so prolonged that the stomach cannot empty
itself before the next meal; or the bulk of food may be so
excessive as to mechanically impede the movements of
the stomach; or excessive bulk of a vegetable nature will
interfere with its own digestion, by increasing the peristal-
sis in the small intestine to such a degree that it will be
moved along before it has had time to digest.

Improper or Indigestible Foods. — For practical purposes,
the digestibility of any food may be gauged by the length
of time which it remains in the stomach, since the stomach
expels the food as soon as it has been reduced to a semi-
fluid consistence. Certain articles of diet so react on
each other as to produce an insoluble substance. For
example, strong tea, taken with any meat meal, converts
the albumin of the meat into a dense precipitate that is
absolutely indigestible. Glaret and coffee both delay
digestion. Again, the combination, already mentioned,
of vinegar with the carbohydrates, as in salads. Cheese
is one of the most indigestible of substances. All fried
foods are highly indigestible, because the fat envelops
the food, and has to be melted off before the gastric juice
can act on the substance of the food itself. Pastry is
very indigestible. Of the vegetables, beans, while
highly nutritious, are exceedingly difficult of digestion;
also boiled cabbage, cauliflower, hot breads, iced drinks,
ice-cream, and water-ices.

Food May be taken at Too Frequent Intervals. — Digestion
is not completed until the last particle of food has passed
out of the stomach into the duodenum. If a fresh meal is
introduced into the stomach before this has occurred, the
process of digestion is started afresh before the stomach
has had time for the rest it must have between two periods
of activity. This is a physiologic law which is habitually
violated in the prevailing custom of afternoon teas.

Alcohol is a direct irritant to the coats of the stomach,
and its use forms one of the most frequent causes of gastric



THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM AND GOOD DIGESTION 105

diseases of the present day. The injurious effects of alco-
hol upon the stomach are that it acts as a local irritant,
producing dilatation of the vessels of the stomach and
subsequent gastritis; by overstimulating the secretion of
hydrochloric acid, it leads to hyperacidity of the stomach;
the tartrates and malates contained in wine are decom-
posed in the stomach, setting free organic acids, while
the acetic acid and yeast in beer set up an acetic acid fer-
mentation in the stomach-contents. Alcoholic drinks,
when taken in large quantity, eventually produce dilata-



Online LibraryAnna M. (Anna Mary) GalbraithPersonal hygiene and physical training for women → online text (page 8 of 30)