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paper inserted in the memoirs of the academy of Bologna, "that young persons treated in this way have, in some instances, been cured, and in others remarkably relieved; and that old persons, and those in whom the complaint was already far advanced, had at least found in this plan a more or less powerful obstacle to its progress, and a prolongation of life." Some -examples of the utility of the practice are given in the work from which this extract is made.
I do not think that an impartial examination of facts will allow us to attribute effects more favorable than those I have described, to the use of a vegetable instead of the mixed diet of common life, aided even by avoiding fermented liquors. They are, as I have said, prolonging life to a certain degree, and rendering disease more mild. But no instances have been given of the eradication of deep constitutional disease, where the symptoms were well marked and unequivocal. On the contrary, such symptoms have been known to arise under a strict regimen of this kind, of which, in the sequel, I shall cite some examples.
I know that very different opinions on these subjects are held both by practitioners and by the people. Persons who have for years used the common diet without inconvenience, say, that at some former period of their lives they labored under severe and dangerous illness, for which they were enjoined to practice a rigid abstemiousness; and to this practice they ascribe their recovery. But I would ask, if the diet caused their former illness, how happen they to bear a recurrence to it without a recurrence of the symptoms? It is clear, then, that they do not think their disease was caused by the mixed diet, but that there was some peculiar medicinal power in a temporary abstemiousness. And that British practitioners in general entertain similar ideas, is clear from the rigid abstinence they enjoin in acute diseases, under the name of the antiphlogistic regimen. In this respect, the English are said to be more strict than other nations. And it is thought that life itself is preserved by this strictness.
Without at all disputing the propriety of this strictness—for I think it perfectly proper—I must doubt greatly its efficacy, at least as far as it claims to preserve life. For having seen severe attacks of inflammatory disease, where a regimen of this kind had been followed for months, and even for years; having even suffered in my own person an exceedingly severe inflammatory sore throat, when it had been followed very nearly two years, I cannot but ask what effeet can it be supposed to have on the issue of such a disease, when resorted to only on the spur of the occasion, and continued for a few days, or it may he for a few weeks? I question not, then, that their issue depends infinitely more upon the antecedent habits, than upon any effect of regimen during their invasion. And if this be true, it would seem that those foreigners who are much more sparing of animal food in their daily habits, but much less rigid than the English under illness, do not appear, in these respects, to be less enlightened than our countrymen.
Under the influence of opinions, common to all British practitioners, of the great importance of the antiphlogistic regimen in inflammatory diseases, I myself proposed in a former work (Inquiry into the Origin, Symptoms, and Cure of Constitutional Diseases, p. 50). to render it more perfect, and, as I thought, more efficacious* by attending to the fluid, as much as to the solid matter used, and substituting pure instead of common water. And I still think that I reasoned right, supposing the common opinion to be just. But being now fully assured that the operation of regimen of all kinds is, as far as it regards the safety of the patient, exceedingly slow; that the effect of the ingesta (of any kind whatever), upon the issue of these diseases can, during the course of the disease, be hardly calculated; and that a strict attention to the antiphlogistic regimen itself may tend to the comfort of the patient, but possess little or no influence on the event; being, I say, assured of these facts, I think any more minute attention than what is commonly paid, would be frivolous and unnecessary.
I can therefore pay little attention to the relations of the extraordinary benefits of vegetable diet, in persons who have afterward used, for a length of time, the customary diet of the country, without perceptible injury. If, in fact, disease be caused by diet, if not the immediate symptoms, still the diseased state of the constitution is really attributable to this source, the constitution should improve by a change of diet, and either the same symptons, or at least the same diseased state of constitution, should recur upon relapsing into the former habits. Such only can be allowed to be a legitimate proof. In other cases, such as I have alluded to, the abstinence enjoined may have been beneficial, but the restoration to health must be conceived to have been due to other causes.
The objections to vegetable food: paleness and loss of flesh j that the feeble require nourishing diet; differences of constitution; uneasiness from vegetables; that eating flesh injures only by excess; that it is not unfavorable to intellect; that it has been found useful in disease.— How far liking justifies the practice.—Fish, milk.—The cookery of vegetables.
In questions which must ultimately be decided by experience, I know not whether it is necessary or useful to employ much, time in argument. Perhaps to lay a simple statement of the facts before the public is the most proper and the most powerful argument that can be employed. If, therefore, I consider shortly some of the objections which I have heard made to the use of a vegetable regimen, it is because I have thought some respect was due to the quarters from which they have proceeded; and still more to popular opinion, which, it is unfortunately too true, is vehemently adverse to it.
The pallidness and shrinking of the features and of the whole body, which sometimes succeed the disuse of animal food, is apt to excite an alarm, and a fear of essential and irretrievable injury to the constitution. Let us consider how impossible it is that this should be otherwise, and therefore how little is to be apprehended from it.
Animal food commonly gives a more succulent habit, a greater fullness, and, at the same time, a higher color to the face. It may be suspected that all the fibres become softer; that the force of aggregation of the molecules which compose them is diminished. In the healthy, the high color of the face is not unpleasing, though coarse. In the lads in the service of butchers it may be observed the most distinctly. In others of feebler stamina it is an habitual flush.
This color it is which most imposes upon superficial observers. To see a pallid child or young person become more ruddy, from what is called better living, is a pleasure which it is difficult to resist; and to observe the color fade from an opposite treatment, without alarm, requires a thorough confidence in the justness of principles, which the ignorant and the timid can hardly be supposed to possess. It ought, therefore, to be considered what it really indicates.
In fact, what can it indicate but an excitation of all the small
vessels of the face? This excitation cannot be supposed to be confined to the surface of the cheeks, but must extend to all the contiguous parts; to the internal as well as the external; to the parts within the cranium as well as the integuments; in a word, to the organ which regulates and connects all the other organs of the body—to the brain itself. If, therefore, the use of animal food be an unnatural custom, its primary operation is to give an unnatural excitation to the brain; and all its consequences of improved color, increased strength, and even of apparently improved health, must be reckoned consequences of this excitation.*
A further consequence is, that life is, in all its stages, hurried on with an unnatural and unhealthy rapidity. We arrive at puberty too soon; the passions are developed loo early :f in the male they acquire an impetuosity approaching to madness; the females breed too quick; processes which ought to be distinct and successive are blended together and confounded; women who ought to be nurses become pregnant, even with the child at the breast ;\ finally, the system becomes prematurely exhausted and destroyed: we become diseased and old when we ought to be in the middle of life.
After all that has been said, I can hardly be so misunderstood as if I asserted all this to be, in fact, the operation of ani
* Professor Sweetzer, of this city, in his interesting work on consumption, remarks: "That if diet is superabundant and exciting, a plethoric and inflammatory state of the system will be induced, highly incompatible with the equable and healthful play of the different functions, and tending indirectly to waste the energies of life. How often is it that iat, plethoric, flesh-eating children, their faces looking as if the blood were just ready to ooze out, are with the greatest complacency exhibited by their parents as patterns of health! But let it be ever remembered, that condition of the system popularly called rude or full health, and the result of high feeding, is too often closely bordering on a state of disease." The good sense of these remarks must be apparent to every one who thinks.—S.
t In all the cases of precocious menstruation—and I have known a number—such as in whom this function has appeared at the age of twelve or thirteen years, there has been very free use of and a great desire for flesh meat. I have been particular in noticing this fact.
I will admit that a very free use of milk, eggs, butter, salt, and other stimulants, might easily cause preocious puberty, without the use of flesh, especially in the hot-bed and unnatural life of cities.—S.
t I have known more cases than one in the city of New York of flesheating mothers, of very feeble health, who yet have become pregnant, time after time, on an average of nearly every year, and each and every timo after the first, while the child was yet at the breast. The undue stimulus of animal food has evidently a strong influence in these cases of premature pregnancy.—S.
mal food alone. All the habitual irritations appear to have similar effects on the body; they stimulate to excessive action, which is followed by premature exhaustion. But I cannot doubt that such would be the operation of animal food alone, if every other cause of disease were removed. An experiment which, as I have heard, has often been made upon chickens, illustrates its general action on animal bodies.* They feed hens upon flesh, to make them lay eggs faster. Every thing, therefore, that has been said in favor of animal diet; of its strengthening, and invigorating, and fattening, and so forth,f may be perfectly true; and still the consequences drawn from these appearances may be false, and its use may be, notwithstanding, radically improper.
Now, if a body be, to the senses, modified by the action of animal food; if it be enlarged, and bloated, and reddened, it must necessarily happen that by its abstraction these effects must cease, and appearances the very opposite of these may be expected to take place, that is to say, the body may be expected to diminish, and to condense, and to become paler. If the face be highly colored or flushed, it may be expected to lose in a measure this appearance. A load of fat, which is but an incumbrance to its bearer, may perhaps vanish, and so the clothes may hang about the body. But if neither this color nor this fatness be health, nor indicative of health, what is there to fear from the loss of them? If, on the contrary, these appearances are wholly morbid, we surely ought rather to be pleased than mortified that we have got rid of them.J
* I need hardly say, of animals not by nature carnivorous. Chicken are probably, in some degree, omnivorous. Though seeds is their favorite food, they would, I suppose, pick up insects, worms, slugs, etc.
t Mr. Malthus was, I have little doubt, deceived from not making this distinction. He says, " Even in Norway, notwithstanding the disadvantage of a severe and uncertain climate, from the little I saw in a few weeks' residence in the country, and the information I could collect from others, I am inclined to think that the poor were, on the average, belter off than in Kngland. Their houses and clothing were superior, and though they had no white bread, they had much more meat, fish, and milk than our laborers; and I particularly remarked that the farmers' hoys were much stouter and healthier-looking lads than those of the same description in Kngland." If such a diet gave a more healthy race of people than ono thut was principally farinaceous, all that I have said must he wrong. But tho tables of mortality prove the contrary; and, therefore, these appearances of stoutness and good looks, in the younger part of the community, are not indicative of superior health.
t That the mere loss of flesh, and, to some degree, strength—circum •lances which must sometimes, though by no means always, occur—on commencing vegetable diet, are not necessarily unfavorable, is abundantly