Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/245

This page has been validated.
233
INDIGESTION AND NERVOUS DEPRESSION.

moved from the action of the gas. This gas is rarely generated in the intestine in such a quantity as to give rise to symptoms of acute poisoning, but it has sometimes this effect. A case is recorded by Senator[1] in which a strong and previously healthy man became affected with a slight gastro-intestinal catarrh in consequence of some error in his diet, and on the second day afterward he had frequent eructations, smelling strongly of sulphuretted hydrogen. At the same time he suddenly became collapsed, pale, giddy, and with a rapid, small, compressible pulse. This lasted for one and a half to two minutes, and then passed off. The urine which he passed shortly afterward contained sulphuretted hydrogen. On the same day he had a second attack of a similar sort, and then, the bowels having been opened, he recovered completely. Nor is sulphuretted hydrogen the only gas which may be formed in the stomach. Marsh-gas is sometimes formed there too, and, in an exceedingly interesting case recorded by Dr. Ewald,[2] the quantity was so great that it first attracted the patient's attention by taking fire as it issued from his mouth while he was lighting a cigar. In this curious case the formation of gas alternated with the production of a great quantity of acid fluid in the stomach, which led to vomiting, or, as the patient himself expressed it, sometimes his gas factory and sometimes his vinegar-factory was at work. It is possible that this gas may be formed in small quantities in many more cases than has hitherto been suspected, but its absorption does not seem to have anything like the same deleterious action as that of sulphuretted hydrogen. Nor was the acetic acid which was found by chemical analysis to exist in the acid secretion of the stomach in this case likely to be productive of any injurious effects after its absorption. But butyric acid, which is sometimes formed in the stomach in other cases of indigestion, has been shown by O. Weber to be a powerful poison acting chiefly on the nerve-centers.

It seems probable, however, that the substances, both gaseous and solid, formed in the stomach and absorbed from it, are upon the whole less poisonous in cases of indigestion than those which are produced lower down in the intestinal canal. We often find that patients are affected with severe gastric disorder without any affection of the nerve-centers beyond the weakness produced by the inability to digest food, while in many persons the mere omission to evacuate the contents of the bowels at the usual time will lead to a headache in the course of the day. No doubt such a headache as this may be due, to some extent, to the nervous irritation caused by the presence of the fæces in the intestine, but it seems quite possible that it is also due to the absorption of some of the fæcal matter itself. Nor do we at present know what effects are produced by the absorption of the various digestive juices themselves. That such absorption takes place there can be

  1. "Berliner klin. Wochenschr.," 1868, No. 24.
  2. "Reicherts und Du Bois-Reymond's Archiv.," 1874, p. 217.