Isaac G. Briggs.

Epilepsy, Hysteria, and Neurasthenia online

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Then eat the meal slowly and thoroughly. Conversation may lighten and
lengthen a meal, but avoid politics, "shop" and topics of that type. What
is wanted at table is wit, not wisdom.

Water may be drunk with meals, provided it is drunk between eating, and not
while masticating, for it has decidedly beneficial effects upon the
digestive functions. Water is usually forbidden with meals because if
patients drink while eating, the water usurps the functions of saliva, and
moistens the bolus, which is then swallowed with little or no mastication.
If you cannot drink between mouthfuls, then drink only between meals.
_Never drink while food is in the mouth!_

After the meal, lie down on the right side for half an hour, _resting_, and
so directing all available nerve-energy to getting digestion well under

Indifferent appetites must be tempted by wholesome dishes made up in a
variety of enticing ways. Fats are good, but must be taken in a tasty form.
Eat fruit deluged with cream.

The crux of digestion is to

"_Chew_! CHEW!! and KEEP ON CHEWING!!!" for until food is thoroughly
masticated there will be no relief. The only part of the whole digestive
process placed under the control of consciousness is mastication, and,
paradoxically, it is the only part that consciousness usually ignores.

A healthy man never knows he has a stomach; a dyspeptic never knows he has
anything else, because he will not _eat_ his food, but throws it into his
stomach as the average bachelor throws his belongings into a trunk.

A varied, tasty diet, thoroughly chewed and salivated, with rest before and
after meals, is the only means of curing dyspepsia, for no medicine can
supply and properly distribute nerve-energy.

Digestive pills are all purgatives, with a bitter to increase appetite, and
occasionally a stomachic, bound together with syrup or soap. Practically
all contain aloes, and very rarely a minute quantity of a digestive ferment
like pepsin. Taken occasionally as purges, most digestive pills would be
useful, but none are suited to continuous use, and the price is, as a rule,
out of all proportion to the primary cost, while one or two are, frankly,
barefaced swindles.

The analyses of the British Medical Association give the following as the
probable formulæ for some well-known preparations:

Beecham's Pills.............................Aloes; ginger.
Holloway's Pills............................Aloes; ginger.
Page Woodcock's ............................Aloes; ginger; capsicum;
cinnamon and oil of
Carter's Little Liver.......................Aloes; podophyllin;
Pills liquorice.
Burgess' Lion Pills.........................Aloes; ipecacuanha; rhubarb;
jalap; peppermint.
Cockle's Pills..............................Aloes; colocynth; jalap.
Barclay's Pills.............................Aloes; colocynth; jalap.
Whelpton's Pills............................Ginger; colocynth; gentian.
Bile Beans..................................Cascara; rhubarb; liquorice;
Cicfa.......................................Cascara; capsicum; pepsin;
diastase; maltose.

* * * * *



"Simple diet is best; many dishes bring many diseases,"
- Pliny.

"Alas! what things I dearly love -
puddings and preserves -
Are sure to rouse the vengeance of
All pneumogastric nerves!"
- Field.

The man who pores over a book to discover the exact number of calories
(heat units) of carbohydrates, proteins and fats his body needs, means
well, but is wasting time.

In theory it is excellent, for it should ensure maximum work-energy with
minimum use of digestive-energy, but in practice it breaks down badly, a
weakness to which theories are prone. One man divided four raw eggs, an
ounce of olive oil, and a pound of rice into three meals a day.
Theoretically, such a diet is ideal, and for a short time the experimenter
gained weight, but malnutrition and dyspepsia set in, and he had to give
up. The best diet-calculator is a normal appetite, and fancy aids digestion
more than a pair of scales.

In spite of rabid veget- and other "arians", most foods are good (making
allowances for personal idiosyncrasy) if thoroughly masticated. The
oft-quoted analogy of the cow is incorrect, for herbivora are able to
digest cellulose; but even cows masticate most laboriously.

Meat juices are the most digestion-compelling substances in existence, and
a little meat soup, "Oxo" or "Bovril" is an excellent first course.

No one needs more than three meals per day, while millions thrive on one or
two only, which should be ready at fixed hours; for the stomach when
habituated becomes congested and secretes gastric juice at those hours
without the impulse of the will, is ready to digest food, and gets that
rest between-times which is essential to sound digestion. The man who has
snacks between meals, and chocolates and biscuits between snacks can never
hope to get well.

To eat the largest meal at midday, as is the custom of working-men, is
best, provided one can take half an hour's rest afterwards.

Drink a pint of tepid water half an hour before every meal. If the stomach
be very foul, add a teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda to the water.

The question of alcohol is a vexed one, but Paul's "Take a little wine for
thy stomach's sake," is undoubtedly sound advice, though had Paul been
trained at a London hospital, he would have added "after meals".
Unfortunately, moderation is usually beyond the ability of the neuropath,
and consequently he should be forbidden to take alcohol at all. Spirits
must be avoided.

Moderately strong, freshly made tea or coffee may be consumed in reasonable

Vegetable salads are excellent if compounded with liquids other than
vinegar or salad oil, and of ingredients other than cucumbers, radishes,
and the like.

Take little starchy food and sweetmeats. It may surprise those with "a
sweet tooth" to learn that, to the end of the Middle Ages, sugar was used
only as a medicine. Meat must be eaten - if at all - in the very strictest
moderation, and never more than once a day. Eggs, fish and poultry - in
moderation too - take its place.

Healthy children need very little meat, while it is a moot point if
children of unstable, nervous build need any at all. The diet at homes for
epileptics is usually vegetarian, and gives excellent results.

Never swallow skin, core, seeds or kernels of fruits, many of which,
excellent otherwise, are forbidden because of the irritation caused to
stomach and bowels by their seeds or skins.

Bromides are said to give better results if salt is not taken. A little may
be used in cooking, if, as is usually the case, the patient has to eat at
the common table, but condiments are unnecessary and often irritating to
delicate stomachs.

The diet of nervous dyspeptics must be very simple, and though it is trying
and monotonous to forgo harmful dainties in favour of wholesome dishes, it
is but one of the many limitations Nature inflicts on neuropaths. Many an
epileptic, after believing himself cured, has brought on a severe attack by
an imprudent meal. La Rochefoucauld says: "Preserving the health by too
strict a regimen is a wearisome malady", but it is open to all men to
choose whether they will endure the remedy or the disease.

Most men eat six times the minimum and twice the optimum quantity of food
per day. For every one who starves, hundreds gorge themselves to death.
"Food kills more than famine", and the poor, who eat sparsely from
necessity, suffer far less from gout, cancer, rheumatism and other
food-aggravated diseases than the rich.

Most books give detailed lists of foods to be eaten and to be avoided, but
this we believe is productive of little good.

Let the patient eat a mixed diet, well and suitably cooked, taking what he
fancies in reason, masticating everything thoroughly, and gradually
eliminating foods which experience teaches him are difficult for him to

* * * * *



"Causing a symptom to disappear is seldom the cure of
any ill; the true course is to _prevent_ the symptom."

Rings of muscle cause wormlike movements of the bowels, and so propel
forward food and waste. Weakening of these muscles or their nerve controls
from any cause, results in a "condition of the bowels in which motions
occur only when provoked by medicines or injections". In some cases though
motions occur freely, food ingested is retained too long in the digestive

The blood extracts what water it needs from the fluid waste in the large
bowel, but when the weak muscles allow this to remain too long, an excess
of moisture is removed, leaving hard, dry masses, painful to pass.

When the fæces reach the anus, they cause an uneasy feeling, which directs
us to seek relief, but if we neglect this impulse the bowel may become so
insensitive that it ceases to warn its owner of the need to evacuate.
Meantime, the muscles which expel the fæces get weak, so that every motion
needs a strong effort of will, and much harmful straining.

Much misery is caused by false modesty in the presence of others. It can
never be immodest to attend to the calls of Nature, and such
hypersensitiveness is dangerous, for rupture, piles, fissure, prolapse,
fistula, are often due to straining.

Lack of exercise weakens the intestinal and abdominal muscles. Unsuitable
or imprudent foods or drinks, indigestion, excessive worry, and anything
that lowers the general health tend to produce constipation.

Bacteria flourish freely in fæces, and though it is doubtful whether the
"Auto-intoxication" so freely ascribed to them, is supported by facts, it
cannot be doubted that, whatever the precise mechanism by which the effects
are produced, constipation does result in a lowering of the resistance to
disease. More frequent fits, colic, foul breath, headache right across the
forehead, lost appetite, drowsiness, skin eruptions, irritability,
insomnia, melancholia and anæmia (especially the "green sickness" of women,
usually connected with menstrual irregularities) are but a few of many ills
partly or wholly due to or consequent upon constipation.

The symptoms of constipation of the small bowel are dry stools, usually
light in colour.

To cure this type, more water should be drunk, so that the waste may pass
to the large bowel in a fluid state. Drink freely between meals, especially
in summer, when profuse perspiration often causes obstinate constipation.

The symptoms of constipation of the large bowel are furred tongue, foetid
breath, sallow or jaundiced complexion, and mottled stools of round, hard
balls, the first portion being very firm, and the remainder nearly liquid.
There are occasional attacks of colic.

The first step towards cure is to form regular habits. At a suitable time,
say shortly after breakfast, or after supper if you suffer from
hæmorrhoids, go to the lavatory, whether you feel uncomfortable or not.
Wait patiently, do not try to hasten matters by violent straining, and if
for some weeks there is little improvement, do not despair, for the habits
of a lifetime are not overcome in five minutes, just because you have
decided to amend your careless ways. A short, brisk walk beforehand often

If necessary, use a chamber and "squat" as savages do. In this position,
the thighs support the abdomen, and force is exerted without straining.
Massaging the abdomen by firmly rubbing it round and round, clockwise, with
the hand, often does good, as does pressure with a finger on the flesh
between the end of the backbone and the anus. Try every method before
taking purgatives, for with patience and determination these are rarely

Carefully cooked and "concentrated", easily digested and "pre-digested"
foods contain little residue; every meal should contain some indigestible
matter to stimulate the intestines. Brown bread, porridge, lettuce, cress,
apples and coarse vegetables are all good for this purpose, but if taken
too freely may cause heartburn and flatulence. Meat, milk, fish, eggs and
most patent foods have not enough waste. Boiled milk is very constipating.

Purgatives, injections and medicines, alone, are useless, for the bowel
becomes still more insensitive to natural calls under the artificial
stimulation of drugs, on which it becomes so entirely dependent that
without their aid it will not act.

It may be necessary to clean out the bowel by an enema.

Make a lather with clean warm water and plain soap, and fill the enema
syringe (a half-pint size is useful). Smear the nozzle with vaseline, lean
forward and insert into the anus, pointing a little to the left. Press the
bulb, withdraw the nozzle, retain the liquid a few moments and a desire to
go to stool will be felt.

A simpler plan is to buy glycerin suppositories. One is inserted into the
anus and acts like an injection. It must be clearly understood that these
are emergency measures.

If internal piles come down at stool, do not allow them to remain and get
engorged with blood. See that your hands are scrupulously clean, and your
nails closely cut and free from dirt; then moisten the middle finger with a
little vaseline taken to the lavatory for the purpose, and gently return
the hæmorrhoids, sitting down for a few minutes to retain them.

A mild purge may be taken once a week with advantage. Glauber's Salts
(Sodium Sulphate), Cascara Sagrada, and liquid paraffin are all good, while
Castor Oil Globules are suited for children.

For flatulence, take a 10-minim capsule of Terebine after meals, or
charcoal, either as French Rusks ("Biscols Fraudin") or a teaspoonful of
powdered charcoal between meals. One drop of creosote on a lump of sugar,
peppermint water, and sal volatile may also be used. Sufferers should toast
bread, and use sugar sparingly.

Patent medicines almost invariably contain a brisk aperient.

* * * * *



"Better to hunt in fields for health unbought,
Than fee the doctor for a nauseous draught."
- Dryden.

If men but realized what complicated machines they were, they would use
themselves better. In the body are 240 bones and hundreds of muscles. The
heart, no bigger than the clenched fist, beats 100,000 times a day; the
aerating surface of the lungs is equal in area to the floors of a
six-roomed house, and by means of its minute blood-vessels which would
stretch across the Atlantic, 500 gallons of blood are brought into contact
with over 3,000 gallons of air every day.

Seven million sweat-glands, 30 miles long, get rid of a pint of liquid and
an ounce of solid waste each day while it takes a tube 30 feet long, with
millions of glands, to deal with a sip of milk.

Man's finest steam engine turns one-eighth of the energy supplied into
work; nature's engine, muscle, turns one-third into work. The body contains
9 gallons of water, enough carbon to make 9,000 lead pencils, phosphorus
for 8,000 boxes of matches, iron for 5 tacks, and salt enough to fill half
a dozen salt-cellars.

Over 40 food-ferments have been found in the liver; there are 5,000,000 red
and 30,000 white blood corpuscles in a space as big as a pin's head, each
one of which travels a mile a day and lives but a fortnight, millions of
new ones being built up in the bone-marrow every second; a flash of light
lasting only one eight-millionth of a second, will stimulate the eye, which
can discriminate half a million tints. The ear can distinguish 11,000
tones, and is so sensitive that we hear waves of air less than one
sixty-thousandth of an inch long; a mass of almost liquid jelly - for 81 per
cent of the brain is water, and Aristotle thought it was a wet sponge to
cool the hot heart - sends out impulses ordering our every thought and act,
and stores up memory, we know not how or where.

There are 10,000,000,000 of cells in the brain cortex alone, and 560,000
fibres pass from the brain down the spinal cord.

A clear, watery cell, no larger than the dot on an "i" encloses factors
causing genius or stupidity, honesty or roguery, pride or humility,
patience or impulsiveness, coldness or ardour, tallness or shortness, form
of head or hands, colour of eyes and hair, male or female sex, and the
thousand details that make a man.

Yet man uses this marvellous mechanism but carelessly, and the widespread
poverty, the worry and discord in the lives of the happiest, our ignorance,
the evil habits we contract, and the vice, miseries, diseases and labours
to which most expectant mothers are too often exposed, explain why one baby
in every eight never walks; why but four of them live to manhood; why less
than 40 years is now man's average span; and why this brief space is filled
with suffering and misery, from which many escape by self-destruction.

Sound children do not come from unclean air, surroundings, habits,
pursuits, passions and parents. Children conceived in unsuitable
surroundings by unsuitable parents, die; must die; ought to die. They are
not built for the stern battle of life.

* * * * *

"Where the sun does not enter, the doctor does!"
- Italian proverb.

Plenty of fresh, clean air is essential to health.

In all rooms a block of wood nine inches high should be inserted beneath
the whole length of the bottom sash of the window. This leaves a space
between the top and bottom sashes through which fresh air passes freely,
without draught, both night and day, for it should never be closed. A handy
man will fit a simple device to prevent the windows being forced at night,
but better let in a burglar than keep out air.

If it be cold or draughty in the bedroom, hang a sheet a foot from the
window, put more blankets or an overcoat on the bed, or put layers of brown
paper above the sheets, _but never close the window_.

You can take too much of many good things, but never too much pure air.

Cleanliness. Keep the body clean by taking at least one hot bath per week;
per day if possible. Much filth is excreted by your sweat-pores; why let it
cake on skin and underlinen, and silently silt up your thirty miles of skin
canals, thus overworking the other excretory organs, and gradually
poisoning yourself?

Neuropaths always suffer from sluggish circulation of the extremities, and
to improve this, hot and cold baths, spinal douches and massage are
excellent. A hot bath (98-110° F.) ensures a thorough cleansing, but it
brings the blood to the surface, where its heat is quickly lost, enervating
one, and causing a bout of shivering which increases the production of heat
by stimulating the heat-regulating centre in the brain. Baths above 110° F.
induce faintness. To prevent shivering, take a cold douche after the hot
bath, and have a brisk rub down with a coarse towel, when a delightful,
warm glow will result. Do not freeze yourself, or the reaction will not
occur; what is wanted is a short, sharp shock, which sends the blood racing
from the skin, to which it returns in tingling pulsations, which brace up
the whole system. The douche is over in a few seconds, and may be enjoyed
the year round, commencing in late Spring.

The cold bath must not be made a fetish. If the glow is not felt, give it
up, and bathe in tepid (85-92° F.) or warm (93-98° F.) water. When started
in the vigour of youth, the cold bath may often be continued through life,
but it is unwise to commence in middle life. Parents should never force
their children to take cold baths, to "harden them".

Other Hygienic Points. Tobacco is undesirable for neuropaths, save in

Clothes should be light, loose, and warm. Epileptics should wear low, stiff
collars, half a size too large, with clip ties. Such a combination does not
form a tight band round the neck, and can quickly be removed if necessary.
Wear thick, woollen socks, and square-toed, low-heeled, double-soled boots.
Hats should be large, light, and of soft material. Woollen underwear is
best. Change as often as possible, and aim at health, not appearance.

Let all rooms be well lighted, well ventilated, moderately heated, and
sparsely furnished with necessities. Shun draperies, have no window boxes,
cut climbing plants ruthlessly away from the windows, and never obstruct

Buy Muller's "My System", which gives a course of physical exercises
without apparatus, which only take fifteen minutes a day. The patient must
conscientiously perform the exercises each morning, not for a week, nor for
a month, but for an indefinite period, or throughout life.

Finally, remember that so few die a natural death from senile decay because
so few live a natural life.

* * * * *



"O magic sleep! O comfortable bird
That broodest o'er the troubled sea of the mind
Till it is hushed and smooth."
- Keats.

Some men need only a few hours' sleep, but no one ever overslept himself in
natural slumber. There are anecdotes of great men taking little sleep, but
their power usually consisted in going without sleep for some days when
necessary, and making up for it in one long, deep sleep. Neuropaths require
from 10-13 hours to prepare the brain for the stress of the next day, but
quality is more important than quantity.

Patients go to bed tired, but cannot sleep; fall asleep, and wake every
other hour the night through; sleep till the small hours, and then wake, to
get no more rest that night; only fall asleep when they should be rising;
or have their slumber disturbed by nightmare, terrifying dreams, heart
palpitation, and so on.

Noise often prevents sleep. A clock that chimes the quarters, or a watch
that in the silence ticks with sledge-hammer beats, has invoked many a
malediction. Traffic and other intermittent noises are very trying, as the
victim waits for them to recur. Townsmen who seek rural quiet have got so
used to town clatter, that barking dogs, rippling streams, lowing cows,
rustling leaves, singing birds or chirruping insects keep them awake. Too
much light, eating a heavy supper, all tend to banish repose, as do also
violent emotions which produce toxins, torturing the brain and causing
gruesome nightmares.

Grief and worry - especially business and domestic cares - constipation,
indigestion, bad ventilation, stimulants, excitement and a hearty supper
are a few of the many causes of insomnia.

In children sleeplessness is often due to the bad habit of picking a child
up whenever it cries, usually from the pain of indigestion due to having
been given unsuitable food. Feed children properly, and train them to
regular retiring hours. School home-work may cause insomnia; if so, forbid

Man spends a third of his life in the bedroom, which should be furnished
and used for no other purpose. Pictures, drapery above or below the bed,
and wallpaper with weird designs in glaring colours are undesirable. The
wall should be distempered a quiet green or blue tint, and the ceiling
cream. A bedroom should never be made a storeroom for odds and ends, nor is
the space beneath the bed suitable for trunks; least of all for a
soiled-linen basket.

Some time before retiring, excitement and mental work should be avoided.
The patient should take a quiet walk after supper, drink no fluid, empty
bladder and bowels, and take a hot foot-bath.

Retire and rise punctually, for the brain, like most other organs, may be
trained to definite habits with patience.

If sleeplessness be ascribed, rightly or wrongly, to an empty stomach, a
glass of hot milk and two plain biscuits should be taken in bed; dyspeptics
should take no food for three hours before retiring. If the patient wakes
in the early morning he may find a glass of milk (warmed on a spirit-stove
by the bedside) and a few plain biscuits of value.

A victim of insomnia should lie on his side on a firm bed with warm, light
coverings, open the window, close the door, and endeavour to fix his
attention on some monotonous idea; such as watching a flock of white sheep
jump a hedge. Think of trifles to avoid thinking of troubles.

How often do we hear people complain that they suffer from insomnia, when

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Online LibraryIsaac G. BriggsEpilepsy, Hysteria, and Neurasthenia → online text (page 5 of 10)