Confusion sometimes arises when the stomach is blamed for disturbances which originate elsewhere. One day a very sick-looking girl came to me with eager expectation written all over her face. Her stomach was misbehaving and she had heard that I could cure nervous indigestion. It needed little more than a glance to know that she was suffering from organic heart trouble. A boy of sixteen had been taking a stomach-tonic for three months, but the thin, wiry pulse pointed to a different ailment. His digestive disturbances were merely the echo of an organic disease of the kidneys. When the body is burdened by disease, it may have little energy left for digesting food, but in that case the trouble must be sought in other quarters than the stomach.
Aside from a few organic difficulties, there is almost no real disease of the stomach. Its misdoings are not matters of food and chemistry, muscle-power and nerve supply, but are the end results of slips in the mental and emotional life of its owner.
=Fads Dynamogenic.= What is it that gives the impetus to fads about eating, or about religious belief? Are they advocated by the individual whose libido is finding abundant expression in the natural channels of business and family life, or by his less fortunate brother who can gain a sense of power only by means of some unaccustomed idea? William James says:
This leads me to say a word about ideas considered as dynamogenic agents or stimuli for unlocking what would otherwise be unused reservoirs of individual power.... In general, whether a given idea shall be a live idea depends more on the person into whose mind it is injected than on the idea itself. Which is the suggestive idea for this person and which for that one? Mr. Fletcher’s disciples regenerate themselves by the idea (and the fact) that they are chewing and re-chewing and super-chewing their food. Dr. Dewey’s pupils regenerate themselves by going without their breakfast—a fact, but also an ascetic idea. Not every one can use these ideas with the same success.
Because it is so adaptable and sturdy, the stomach lends itself readily to these devices for gaining self-expression; but the danger lies in bringing the process of digestion into conscious attention which interferes with automatic functioning. Still further, the disregard of physiological chemistry is likely to deprive the body of food-stuffs which it requires.
The average person is too sensible to be carried off his feet by the enthusiasm of the health-crank, but as most of us are likely to pick up a few false notions, it may be well to be armed with the simple principles of food chemistry in order to combat the fads which so easily beset us and to know why we are right when we insist on eating three regular meals of the mixed and varied diet which has proved best for the race through so many years of trial and experience.