Sources: Papers On Health

(See also Digestion; Assimilation.) This subject leads

naturally to a consideration of food in relation to it. The trouble

usually is that food easily enough digested by others causes distress

to the patient. Here we at once see that cooking plays a most

important part. Potatoes, for example, when steeped for half-an-hour in

hot water, which is changed before they are boiled, are much more easy

of digestion. The water in which they have been steeped is found

green with unripe sap, which is all removed. Where unripe juice is

present in any root, this method of cookery is a good one. Eggs placed

in boiling water, and allowed to remain so till the water is getting

cool--say half-an-hour--are often found to be much more easily

digested than as usually prepared. What we aim at in these

illustrations is to show that digestion depends on the relation of the

food taken to the juices of the stomach which are to dissolve it. It

must be brought into a digestible state if weak stomachs are to deal

with it.

Greasy, heavy dishes must always be avoided. Also unripe fruit. The

diet should be spare, as very often indigestion proceeds simply from

the stomach having had too much to do.

A very easily digested food is fine jelly of oatmeal made in the

following way:--Take a good handful of the meal and put it in a basin

with hot water, sufficient to make the mixture rather thin. Let it

steep for half-an-hour. Strain out all the rough particles, and boil

the milky substance till it is a jelly, with a very little salt. To an

exceedingly weak patient you give only a dessertspoonful, and no more

for half-an-hour. If the patient is not so weak you may give a

tablespoonful, but nothing more for half-an-hour. In that time the very

small amount of gastric juice which the stomach provides has done its

work with the very small amount of food given. Really good blood,

though only very little, has been formed. The step you have taken is a

small one, but it is real. You proceed in this way throughout the whole

day. The patient should not swallow it at once, but retain it in the

mouth for a considerable time, so that it may mix with the saliva.

By this, or by porridge made from wheaten meal, you may secure good

digestion when the gastric juice is scanty and poor; but we should not

like to be restricted to that. We want a stomach that will not fight

shy of any wholesome thing. We must treat it so that when suitable food

is offered it may be comfortably digested.

Now, there is an exceedingly simple means for putting the glands in

order when they are not so. About half-an-hour before taking any food,

take half a teacupful of water as hot as you can sip it comfortably.

This has a truly wonderful effect. Before food is taken, the mucous

membrane is pale and nearly dry, on account of the contracted state of

the arteries. In many cases the glands that secrete the gastric juice

are feeble; in others they seem cramped, and far from ready to act when

food is presented. The hot water has the same effect on them as it has

everywhere else on the body--that of stimulating the circulation and

bringing about natural action. It looks a very frail remedy; but when

we can, as it were, see these glands opening and filling with arterial

blood the instant they are bathed in this same water, and see how ready

they become to supply gastric juice for digestion, the remedy does not

look so insignificant.

We have, in scores of cases, seen its effects in the most delightful

way. Persons who have to our knowledge been ill and miserable with

their stomachs for years have become perfectly well from doing nothing

but taking half a teacupful of hot water regularly before taking any

food. It is true that great good is effected in cases of this kind by

giving the weakened organ light work to do for a time. Wonders are done

by feeding with wheaten-meal biscuits and water for some time,

beginning with a very small allowance, and seeing that every mouthful

is thoroughly chewed. Great things, too, are accomplished with such

wheaten-meal porridge as we have already mentioned. But we feel

disposed to regard the half-teacupful of hot water regularly before

eating as the chief means of cure. It is wonderfully cheap: it goes

hard with the druggist if his customers need nothing but a little hot

water. Still, from what we have seen, and from what some of the very

highest authorities have told us, we come more and more to look to this

simple remedy as about all that is required inwardly to cure the worst

cases of indigestion.

A little pepsin added to the hot water may be of use; also in cases of

acidity a few drops of white vinegar mixed with the water will be found


Soda, iron, lime, charcoal, even tar pills are used as remedies for

indigestion; but none of them do much good, and some are highly

injurious. If used at all, their use should be temporary, and under

good medical advice.

If pain is felt, the stomach may be greatly soothed by soft fine lather

(see Lather and Soap). It acts in such cases like a charm. Spread it

gently over the stomach, and wipe it off with a soft cloth. Cover again

with fresh lather. Do this five or six times, and cover up the last

coat with a soft cloth.

All indulgences which tend to weaken the stomach are to be avoided.

Alcohol and tobacco must be given up. Over-excitement must be avoided,

and abundance of fresh air breathed, if a cure is to be expected.

Where sudden and violent pain comes on after meals, a poultice or hot

fomentation applied directly over the stomach is the best remedy at the

time. See Flatulence.