Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/217

This page has been validated.

coffee. If the man of sessions stoops, he damages his lungs; if he leans against the edge of the table, he may endanger his stomach; but, as sure as he sits, he compresses the region of the vena portæ. Obstructions of that vein are favored by two circumstances: it has to pass a double system of capillaries, and, before it can reach the liver, it has to pump its heavy blood upward. Sooner or later the incessant pressure results in varicose enlargements, actual obstruction occurs, the vein-bags become engorged and at last inflamed, and their rupture discharges the blood, which mingles with the secretions of the rectum, and causes that incessant pricking and burning that make haemorrhoids (emerods, piles) as troublesome as a combination of itch and gout. An astringent diet aggravates the evil by inspissating the blood and retarding the process of circulation. The stricken Philistines obtained relief by sacrificing golden fac-similes of the afflicted parts, and cauterizations temporarily free the obstructed passages; but the days of miracles are past, and, as long as the cause continues to operate, it would not avail the patient to sacrifice his entire stock of emerods. Inunctions of warm tallow will palliate the itch. Common mutton-tallow serves that purpose as well as any patent ointment, for itch and its cognate complaints are not amenable to the influence of the faith-cure. The radical remedies are gymnastic's and an aperient diet. The gymnastic specifics are the exercises that promote deep and full respiration, and at the same time react on the abdominal cavity, as spear-throwing, swinging by the arms, and dumb-bell practice. The diet should be digestible, and as fluid as possible; while exercise stimulates the circulation, the diluents will attenuate the blood, and thus obviate the proximate cause of the disorder. If the patient has to stick to his office, he should procure a combination-desk (which any carpenter can construct without infringement of patents), and stand and sit by turns.

The ancients kept slaves who had to work all day, sitting before a primitive grist-mill, and it is possible that hæmorrhoids are really a very antique complaint. But during the age of gymnastics and unfrequent meals it is not probable that people suffered much from maw-worms. Parasites are marvelous colonizers. Wherever the ground is prepared for their reception, the seed is sure to make its appearance. There are about sixty different kinds of mildew, a special variety for nearly every special kind of fruit or vegetable; and, if a decaying berry of the rarest sort is exposed to the open air, it will soon be covered with its specific kind of mold. A piece of putrid flesh will attract blow-flies, even where flies of that sort have never been seen before. The germs of numberless parasites fill the air, and each species, after its kind, will promptly fasten upon every sort of decaying or stagnant organic matter, even in the interior of the body. But in the living organism of the human system such stagnations are wholly abnormal. In the economy of the digestive organs peptic disintegration should