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Dietetics and Its Affect on Physical and Mental Health

Jul 23, 2008
Life is a perpetual function; it has for its seat the organs which, working and modifying themselves incessantly, have a constant tendency to revert to their primitive type Thence a continual current of exchanges, the upkeep of which is borne by alimentation. According to its nature, it preserves in a normal state the composition and the texture of the organs, or rather transforms slowly then: substance and, with it the functional acts.

Nothing therefore is of greater importance than to know how to feed oneself properly, nothing is, however, more difficult or more misunderstood, and directly it is a question affecting mankind, we have to take note of tradition and sentiment with regard to one of the main conditions upon which closely depends individual health, family prosperity and the improvement of constitutions.

It is well known how to feed an ox, a cow, a horse or a sheep, so as to make them produce the maximum of meat, of milk, of work or of wool, one knows less well how to feed a man Alimentation has vaned with epochs, peoples and prevailing ideas , it varies mucli at the present day, and this grave and complex problem of the daily repair of the instruments of life, without a superfluous capital or deficit, is still determined most often empirically or according to preconceived notions.

Some, believing that they see the principal source of physical vigour and voluntary energy in flesh food, wish to have it in plenty, others protest that we already consume too much meat, that it charges the liver and blood - with poisons and waste products and that it ought, on the contrary, to be much reduced. Others extol vegetarianism and say that it suffices for all our needs and renders us less susceptible to disease.

Many medical men today forbid alcoholic liquors, such as wine and beer, which they declare are at least useless, if not poisonous, others believe them to be stimulating and even precious nourishment One prescribes salt and spiced dishes, another forbids them Yesterday, we were advised to drink as little as possible while eating , today, it is necessary to purify the blood by an abundance of watery drinks to carry off all poisons and residues.

Nevertheless alimentation goes on if irrationally, it leaves every day a deficit or else, on the contrary, a vexatious excess of fat, flesh, water or mineral salts, and the effects of this careless diet accumulating in the midst of the gradually modified nutritive plasmas and the organs undergo a slow degeneration, health is enfeebled, the constitution becomes more and more affected, the tissues worn out and disease is established.

It is of the utmost importance therefore that man should learn how to feed himself rationally and to preserve his youth and his strength while there is yet time. It is also necessary that the physician should know how to prescribe for him the most efficacious diet, if he falls ill there are simple rules which respond to these fundamental needs which I believe can be found in dietetics.

These fundamental rules are divided into three parts. The first would include the general principles of normal diet for a healthy man. The second would explain the nature and application of each of the alimentary substances. The third would study the variation of diet according to individuals, races, climates and ages in health and in sickness.

The laws of alimentary dietetics have a triple origin tradition when it has withstood time and theory, physiological knowledge of the normal function of the organs, chemical statistics which connect the composition and daily expenditure of the organs with the composition and the balance-sheet of the foodstuffs. These three classes of considerations should support and explain each other, and alone are valuable in establishing the rules of good alimentary dietetics, those which flow simultaneously from these three sources of our knowledge and satisfy them.

A long empiricism has introduced little by little bad habits into our customs relating to alimentation. It appears to me that the various diseases, which one is accustomed to attribute vaguely to delicate temperaments, to faulty constitutions and to idiosyijcrasies, are most often derived from defective methods of nourishment, individual or hereditary.

Arthritis, gout, megrim or neuralgic conditions, neurasthenia, dyspepsia, gastralgia, rickets, arteriosclerosis and many affections of the skin can be attributed directly or indirectly to exaggerated or indiscreet habits of diet. Physical and intellectual deterioiation which alcohol begets, and in an indirect way many affections of the heart, liver and kidneys, indeed some of the forms of diabetes itself, may be attributed directly or indirectly to exaggerated or indiscreet habits of diet and can be modified or made to disappear with them.

It is useful then that the numerous and delicate problems connected with the study of diet, in health or in sickness, should be examined by a biologist and a chemist, by the clear and penetrating light which our modern chemical knowledge throws on these important questions. More can be found out about this in the subject of dietetics.
About the Author
Malcolm Blake has researched and written about diet, health and fitness. To see more of his writing, visit his article about flat stomach exercise
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