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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/1511

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forgotten that not what a man swallows feeds him, but what he is able to digest and assimilate out of what he swallows. To overload feeble digestive organs is the surest way of preventing them from doing even as much work as they could do if they were allowed to work quietly. Again, a little wise starvation is Nature's cure, and the best for many complaints.

Diet as a Cure.—There are not a few diseases where the only hope of cure or alleviation lies in rigid abstention from some sorts of food. Diet can often cure where drugs are useless or worse.

Food or Physic?—Many well known remedies are thought to be physic because they are prescribed by the doctor and sold by the chemist, but they are, in reality, foods. The best example is cod-liver oil, the most digestible of all fats, given often to consumptive and other persons, who either cannot take other fats, or who do not like any fat, and will not force themselves to swallow fat food as they do to take fat physic. Cream, or any other fat, if it is digested, answers the same purpose as oil.

Certain Rules apply to all sick-room feeding. Give little food and often. It is a mistake to persuade a patient to swallow large quantities at once. What is eaten willingly and with relish does more good than double the amount swallowed with disgust. At the same time, it must be remembered that when people are very ill they will often refuse to swallow anything, though they are actually sinking for want of food.

Let the food come at stated times, and punctually. A very weak patient faints and flags if the hour is stretched to an hour and a quarter. A convalescent looks forward to meals as the great event of the day, and frets and worries if they do not come to time. As a rule, a patient should not be awakened to be fed, though it may sometimes be necessary. Amateur nurses often forget to feed in the small hours of the morning, when the patient's strength is always at the lowest ebb. If obliged to wait a long time the patient loses the desire to eat, and often turns against the food when brought.

When there is no appetite, give such food as affords most nourishment for the least work, either to the digestive organs or to the teeth. If the patient is very weak the exertion of eating, even without mastication, is already very severe. Put the greatest amount of nourishment into the smallest space, and let the food be already divided.

Let such work of digestion as there must be fall on the part of the patient that is best able to bear it, as to which the doctor should be the best judge.

Only just so much as the patient is likely to eat should be taken into the sick-room, and what remains should be at once removed. Never keep any food standing by the bedside. Never leave food about a sick-room; if the patient cannot eat it when brought to him, take it away, and bring it to him in an hour or two's time. Miss Nightingale says: "To leave the patient's untasted food by his side from meal to