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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/1508

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Diet of the Sick.—It is not possible to lay down universal laws on the diet of sick persons. Given any two persons suffering from disease, the temperament, the disease, and the needs of the one may be entirely different from those of the other. One may be in danger of collapse from weakness; another may be in a high fever. One may need to make blood and regain strength, the other may be suffering from a lifetime of overfeeding and underwork. It is evident that to feed all these people alike would be ridiculous. What suits some patients might injure others. There are besides many persons hopelessly ill, for whom food and physic can do no more than keep them alive with the least possible discomfort. One can only make the food pleasant to the eye and taste, and easily digestible, remembering always, that in the course of any long illness the human machine is so worn that the least extra strain may stop its working altogether. It is with such cases as these that the art of sick-room cookery is of most avail.

Roughly speaking, the fundamental idea of sick-room diet is (1) to select food that will provide the necessary nourishment, and will not strain any digestive organs that may be affected; (2) to compensate for any waste or drain upon the system. Untrained persons often have a superstitious faith in the cravings of the sick, and will disobey the doctor to gratify the patient. If a doctor knows his business, he ought to be trusted and obeyed. But it is well known that even in health people crave for and obtain things to eat and drink that do them harm. Why should a diseased appetite be more dependable than a healthy one?

In some cases (notably after fever) the patient develops a surprising appetite, which, in the state of his digestive organs, it would be dangerous to gratify, while other patients will actually sink from exhaustion while refusing all food.

Overfeeding gives no Strength.—Nothing is more common than to find some such reasoning as this: " All invalids are more or less weak; weakness is to be cured by food; all persons in poor health should be persuaded or coerced into taking as much food as possible." It is