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Causes of Indigestion

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These may be divided into three classes : I. causes connected with the taking of food ; II. causes connected with the process and organs of digestion ; and III. causes connected with other organs, or with general conditions of the body.

I. Causes of Indigestion connected with Food.—Under the first class come many causes, some of which have been already incidentally noted. They are connected with quantity of food, the quality of food, the length of time between meals, the length of time taken to meals.

Many people believe that almost everyone regularly eats more than is necessary. How ever that may be, it is certain that many people habitually over-eat, and that the fashionable style of dining tempts one to excess. For it is certain that when one partakes of a great variety of dishes, taking small quantities of each, the appetite is stimulated and maintained long past the time when satisfaction should have been felt. No absolute rule can be laid down except this, that the food that is neces sary is just the quantity that will repair the waste of the body, and minister to any pro cesses of growth that may be going on. Con sequently, the hard - working man requires more than the man of idleness or ease. [In the chapters on Foon details on this subject are entered into.] As an ordinary rule, satisfac tion indicates that sufficient has been con sumed.

As regards quality of food, enough for the present purpose has been said on pages 191 to 193. But it ought to be evident that tea and bread and butter, which seem to constitute the never-ending, unvarying diet of very many working-men, their wives, and children, is not a proper kind of diet. From a very consider able experience the writer can say that a very large proportion of diseases, beginning with in digestion and leading on to others, which are common among the working-classes is due to improper diet such as has been mentioned. The question has, of course, another side. The quality of food may be improper because it is too rich, or the food may be in itself very diffi cult of digestion. Thus foods rich in fats are likely to be indigestible, and the flesh of most hell-fish, lobster, &c., is difficult of digestion. A fish supper, in which oysters, lobsters, or crabs form a part, is not unlikely to lead to an uncomfortable night, and various digestive troubles—headache, loss of appetite, &e.—next day.

Many people are peculiar in having an aver sion to certain ordinary articles of diet which agree well with others, but are certain to cause them trouble if taken. Tea, coffee, and alcohol are very apt to cause indigestion. Recent

observations made by a French physiologist seem to show that the active principle of tea and coffee seriously delays the digestion of a meal with which it is given. At least the constant use of tea is bad, and specially if it is not freshly prepared, and if it is made very strong, as it frequently is. As to alcohol, no doubt small quantities used during a meal are in many cases a stimulant to sluggish digestion, but this fact is too often used as an excuse. It is the rule that the habitual use of alcohol, even in nips, leads to chronic catarrh of the stomach (p. 234), and to degenerative con ditions of the liver, both extremely common causes of most intractable forms of indiges tion. With many people tobacco directly pro vokes dyspepsia.

The times of meals are of very great import ance. We have seen (p. 204) that after an ordinary meal the stomach will be occupied with its business for three to four hours. If only that interval elapses between several meals, the stomach has no rest between meals, but is no sooner done with digesting one than it is required to attack another. A short time should, therefore, be given between each meal, in which the stomach may renew its energies. Thus an interval of five or six hours should elapse between two meals. On the other hand, too long an interval is hurtful, and specially when, as is usual, the long fast is followed by a heavy meal. This is the error to which busi ness men are liable. Nothing, or a quite in sufficient quantity, is taken between the time when they breakfast and the time, usually late in the afternoon, when, business over, they return home. They then dine, and the temp tation to forget the worries of business in the pleasures of eating and drinking is great, and leads them to prolong the time at table, and to stimulate the appetite with variety—with sauces, condiments, &c. Not only is this hurt ful, from the excess to which it tends, but the stomach is probably not in a good condition for digesting even an ordinary meal, because of the degree of tiredness and of exhaustion, greater or less, that is the result of the day's work. Properly the business man should have a mid-day meal sufficient to maintain his ener gies, but light enough to ensure that it does not render him less fit for business, and when he returns home let him dine, but more spar ingly, so that the remainder of the evening is not spent in a dull, half-asleep fashion, the result of a heavy meal, taken after an ex hausting day of work without timely nourish ment.

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