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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/742

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

cines; costiveness, as an after-effect of pleuritic affections, will soon yield to fresh air and a vegetable diet.

Worms.—Intestinal parasites are symptoms rather than a cause of defective digestion, and drastic medicines (calomel, Glauber's-salt, etc.) are merely palliatives; even a change of diet may fail to afford permanent relief if the general mode of life favors a costive condition of the bowels. Like maggots, maw-worms seem to thrive only on putrescent substances, on accumulated ingesta in a state of self-decomposition, and disappear as soon as exercise, cold fresh air, and a frugal diet have reestablished the functional vigor of the digestive organs.

Diarrhœa.—An abnormal looseness of the bowels is an effort of Nature to rid the stomach of some irritating substance, and suggests the agency of a dietetic abuse, either in quantity or in quality. An excessive quantum even of the healthiest food will purge the bowels like a drastic poison, unless the alimentary wants—and consequently the assimilative abilities of the system—have been increased by active exercise. On the hunting-grounds of the upper Alps, an Austrian sportsman can assimilate a quantity of meat which the kitchen artists of the best Vienna restaurant could not have foisted upon the stomach of an indolent burgher. Dysentery medicines can be entirely dispensed with if one can get the patient to try the effect of Nature's two specifics—fasting and pedestrian exercise. Combined they will only fail when opiates have produced an inflammatory condition of the bowels, in which case a grape-or water-cure must precede the more radical remedies. The languor of dysentery is always combined with a fretful restlessness, and should not be mistaken for the exhaustion that calls for repose and food: the patient is safe if we can fatigue him into actual sleepiness, or anything like a genuine appetite; when the digestive organs announce the need of nourishment, they can be relied upon to find ways and means to retain it.

Constipation.—A slight stringency of the bowels should never be interfered with; in summer-time close stools are consistent with a good appetite and general bodily vigor. Aperient medicines provoke a morbid activity of the bowels, followed by a costiveness that differs from a summer constipation as insomnia differs from a transient sleeplessness. In England and the United States the use of laxative drugs has repeatedly become epidemic and in its consequences a true national misfortune;[1] and a sad majority of otherwise intelligent parents are still afflicted with the idea that children have to "take something"—in other words, that their bowels have to be convulsed with

  1. "If the bowels become constipated, they are dosed with pills, with black draughts, with brimstone and treacle, and medicines of that class, almost ad infinitum. Opening medicines, by constant repetition, lose their effects, and therefore require to be made stronger and stronger, until at length the strongest will scarcely act at all; . . . the patients become dull and listless, requiring daily doses of physic until they almost live on medicine." (H. Chavasse, "Advice to a Mother," p. 388.)