Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/328

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exasperating mental emotions. For it is a curious and not quite explained but incontestable fact that a short fit of anger is often enough not only to derange but to completely arrest the digestive process for a whole day. Close behind the stomach is a group of ganglia, the solar plexus, which sends out a large number of nerve-filaments that communicate with the brain, and thus suggest the physiological explanation of the curious phenomenon, though its final or teleological purpose is somewhat less apparent. Haller connects it with the fact that anger vitiates the saliva (teste, the virulent bite of enraged animals), and suggests that by a wise arrangement of Nature the suspension of the assimilative process may preserve the chyle from the contamination of malignant humors; and, in connection with the same subject, Camper mentions the circumstance that fear often acts as a sudden cathartic, perhaps for the purpose of easing the stomach, and thus preparing the body for emergencies—the necessity of flight, for instance. Speculations of that sort lead to a field of curious but rather recondite biological metaphysics; but the empirical fact remains, and partly suggests the rationale of another fact—namely, that pleasurable mental emotions act as a benignant digestive tonic. Hence, perhaps, the peptic beatitude of "jolly paunches," fellows who seem constitutionally unable to see the gloomy side of earthly concernments, and wax fat on the prescription of Democritus, "Ride, si sapis." The autocrat of the dinner-table should, therefore, peremptorily exclude all conversational topics of an irritating character, as well as all business talk. A remarkable influence on the action of the bowels can be exerted by mechanical laughter—I mean, the agitation of the diaphragm by means of a forcible and long-continued chuckle. Laurence Sterne mentions that he was able to keep up this factitious kind of laughter for minutes together, with or without the association of risible ideas. On solitary evenings that talent could be utilized as a physiological compensation for the absence of merry friends.

For the effects of mental worry, and nervousness (often the aftereffect of stimulating medication), the best remedy, next to out-door work, is a liberal allowance of sleep; and metropolitans who can not afford to join the summer exodus should at least remove their beds to a suburban cottage, far from the sleep-murdering noise of the business centers.

But neither long sleep nor short meals can save dyspeptics who will insist on swallowing their food smoking hot. The walls of the stomach are lined with a nerve-interwoven delicate membrane, which suffers from scalding fluids as much as any other tegumental tissues of the body, and by daily torrefactions becomes either callous or chronically inflamed, and in either case less fit for the performance of its important functions. Our forefathers served their viands steaming hot, but stuck at least to cool drinks, but hot French soups were soon followed by hot tea and hot coffee. The "second breakfast," as