With the stomach and other digestive organs in a state of perfect health, one is entirely unconscious of their existence, save when of feeling of hunger calls attention to the fact that food is required, or satiety warns us that a sufficient amount or too much has been eaten. Perfect digestion can only be maintained by careful observance of the rules of health in regard to habits of eating.
If the food is eaten too rapidly, it will not be properly divided, and when swallowed in coarse lumps, the digestive fluids cannot readily act upon it. On account of the insufficient mastication, the saliva will be deficient in quantity, and, as a consequence, the starch will not be well digested, and the stomach will not secrete a sufficient amount of gastric juice. It is not well to eat only soft or liquid food, as we are likely to swallow it without proper chewing. A considerable proportion of hard food, which requires thorough mastication, should be eaten at every meal.
Drinking Freely at Meals
Drinking Freely at Meals is harmful, as it not only encourages hasty eating, but dilutes the gastric juice, and thus lessens its activity. The food should be chewed until sufficiently moistened by saliva to allow it to be swallowed. When large quantities of fluid are taken into the stomach, digestion does not begin until a considerable portion of the fluid has been absorbed. If cold foods or drinks are taken with the meal, such as ice-cream, ice-water, iced milk or tea, the stomach is chilled, and a long delay in the digestive process is occasioned.
“The Indians of Brazil carefully abstain from drinking when eating, and the same custom prevails among many other savage tribes.
Eating between Meals
The habit of eating apples, nuts, fruits, confectionery, etc., between meals is exceedingly harmful, and certain to produce loss of appetite and indigestion. The stomach as well as the muscles and other organs of the body requires rest. The frequency with which meals should be taken depends somewhat upon the age and occupation of an individual. Infants take their food at short intervals, and owing to its simple character, are able to digest it very quickly. Adults should not take food oftener than three times a day; and persons whose employment is sedentary say, in many cases at least, adopt with advantage the plan of the ancient Greeks, who ate but twice a day. The latter custom is quite general among the higher classes in France and Spain, and in several South American countries.
Simplicity in Diet
Taking too many kinds of food at a meal is a common fault which is often a cause of disease of the digestive-organs. Those nations are the most hardy and enduring whose dietary is most simple. The Scotch peasantry live chiefly upon oatmeal, the Irish upon potatoes, milk, and oatmeal, the Italian upon peas, beans, macaroni, and chestnuts; yet all these are noted for remarkable health and endurance. The natives of the Canary Islands, an exceedingly well-developed and vigorous race, subsist almost chiefly upon a food which they call gofio, consisting of parched grain, coarsely ground in a mortar and mixed with water.
Eating when Tired
It is not well to eat when exhausted by violent exercise, as the system is not prepared to do the work of digestion well. Sleeping immediately after eating is also a harmful practice. The process of digestion cannot well be performed during sleep, and sleep is disturbed by the ineffective efforts of the digestive organs. Hence the well-known evil effects of late suppers.
Eating too Much
Hasty eating is the greatest cause of over-eating. When one eats too rapidly, the food is crowded into the stomach so fast that nature has no time to cry, ‘Enough,’ by taking away the appetite before too much has been eaten. When an excess of food is taken, it is likely to ferment or sour before it can be digested. One who eats too much usually feels dull after eating.
Excess of Certain Food Elements
When sugar is too freely used, either with food or in the form of sweetmeats or candies, indigestion, and even more serious disease, is likely to result. Fats, when freely used, give rise to indigestion and ‘biliousness.’ An excess of albumen from the too free use of meat is harmful. Only a limited amount of this element can be used; an excess is treated as waste matter, and must be removed from the system by the liver and the kidneys. The majority of persons would enjoy better health by using meat more moderately than is customary in this country.
Deficiency of Certain Food Elements
A diet deficient in any important food element is even more detrimental to health than a diet in which certain elements are in excess.