Sources: Nerves And Common Sense
WE all know that we have a great deal to do. Some of us have to work
all day to earn our bread and butter and then work a good part of
the night to make our clothes. Some of us have to stand all day
behind a counter. Some of us have to sit all day and sew for others,
and all night to sew for ourselves and our children. Most of us have
to do work that is necessary or work that is self-imposed. Many of
us feel busy without really being busy at all. But how many of us
realize that while we are doing work outside, our bodies themselves
have good, steady work to do inside.
Our lungs have to take oxygen from the air and give it to our blood;
our blood has to carry it all through our bodies and take away the
waste by means of the steady pumping of our hearts. Our stomachs
must digest the food put into them, give the nourishment in it to
the blood, and see that the waste is cast off.
All this work is wholesome and good, and goes on steadily, giving us
health and strength and new power; but if we, through mismanagement,
make heart or lungs or stomach work harder than they should, then
they must rob us of power to accomplish what we give them to do, and
we blame them, instead of blaming ourselves for being hard and
The strain in a stomach necessary to the digesting of too much food,
or the wrong kind of food, makes itself felt in strain all through
the whole system.
I knew a woman whose conscience was troubling her very greatly. She
was sure she had done many very selfish things for which there was
no excuse, and that she herself was greatly to blame for other
people's troubles. This was a very acute attack of conscience,
accompanied by a very severe stomach ache. The doctor was called in
and gave her an emetic. She threw a large amount of undigested food
from her stomach, and after that relief the weight on her conscience
was lifted entirely and she had nothing more to blame herself with
than any ordinary, wholesome woman must have to look out for every
day of her life.
This is a true story and should be practically useful to readers who
need it. This woman's stomach had been given too much to do. It
worked hard to do its work well, and had to rob the brain and
nervous system in the effort. This effort brought strain to the
whole brain, which was made evident in the region of the conscience.
It might have come out in some other form. It might have appeared in
irritability. It might even have shown itself in downright ugliness.
Whatever the effects are, whether exaggerated conscience,
exaggerated anxiety, or irritability, the immediate cause of the
trouble in such cases as I refer to is in the fact that the stomach
has been given too much to do.
We give the stomach too much to do if we put a great deal of food
into it when it is tired. We give it too much to do if we put into
it the wrong kind of food. We give it too much to do if we insist
upon working hard ourselves, either with body or brain, directly
after a hearty meal.
No matter how busy we are we can protect our stomachs against each
and all of these three causes of trouble.
If a woman is very tired her stomach must necessarily be very tired
also. If she can remember that at such times even though she may be
very hungry, her body is better nourished if she takes slowly a cup
of hot milk, and waits until she is more rested before taking solid
food, than if she ate a hearty meal. It will save a strain, and
perhaps eventually severe illness.
If it is possible to rest and do absolutely nothing for half an hour
before a meal, and for half an hour after that insures the best work
for our digestion. If one is pretty well, and cannot spare the half
hour, ten or fifteen minutes will do, unless there is a great deal
of fatigue to be conquered.
If it is necessary to work right up to mealtime, let up a little
before stopping. As the time for dinner approaches do not work quite
so hard; the work will not lose; in the end it will gain--and when
you begin work again begin lightly, and get into the thick of it
gradually. That gives your stomach a good chance.
If possible get a long rest before the last meal, and if your day is
very busy, it is better to have the heartiest meal at the end of it,
to take a good rest afterward and then a walk in the fresh air,
which may be long or short, according to what other work you have to
do or according to how tired you are.
I know many women will say: "But I am tired all the time; if I
waited to rest before I ate, I should starve."
The answer to that is "protect your stomach as well as you can. If
you cannot rest before and after each meal try to arrange some way
by which you can get rid of a little fatigue."
If you do this with attention and interest you will find gradually
that you are less tired all the time, and as you keep on steadily
toward the right path, you may be surprised some day to discover
that you are only tired half the time, and perhaps even reach the
place where the tired feeling will be the exception.
It takes a good while to get our misused stomachs into wholesome
ways, but if we are persistent and intelligent we can surely do it,
and the relief to the overstrained stomach--as I have said--means
relief to the whole body.
Resting before and after meals amounts to very little, however, if
we eat food that is not nourishing.
Some people are so far out of the normal way of eating that they
have lost a wholesome sense of what is good for them, and live in a
chronic state of disordered stomach, which means a chronic state of
disordered nerves and disposition. If such persons could for one
minute literally experience the freedom of a woman whose body was
truly and thoroughly nourished, the contrast from the abnormal to
the normal would make them dizzy. If, however, they stayed in the
normal place long enough to get over the dizziness, the freedom of
health would be so great a delight that food that was not nourishing
would be nauseous to them.
Most of us are near enough the normal to know the food that is best
for us, through experience of suffering from food which is not best
for us, as well as through good natural instinct.
If we would learn from the normal working of the involuntary action
of our organs, it might help us greatly toward working more
wholesomely in all our voluntary actions.
If every woman who reads this article would study not to interfere
with the most healthy action of her own stomach, her reward after a
few weeks' persistent care would be not only a greater power for
work, but a greater power for good, healthy, recuperative rest.