Elmer D. Barber, D. O.
Dietetics, which, properly defined, is that branch
of hygiene which relates to the proper use of food, so as to adapt the
quantity and quality of the diet to the particular state of each person,
and to extract the greatest quantity of nutriment from a given quantity
of nutritive matter, is a subject of vast import to all, and altogether
too generally disregarded.
Naturally, it has been copiously written upon, and
while, as on most all other subjects, there have been not only slight variations
of opinion, but complete conflict, many physiological truths have undoubtedly
been evolved, and some things of importance, perhaps, discovered and set
forth by nearly every thinker, observer, experimentalist, and author.
However, there is no system of government, of religion, of ethics, of philosophy,
or of science that is complete in the knowledge of men, nor can there be,
in real sense, a perfect system outside of that which comprises all, and
which is the Creator's handiwork, and is under the laws of the Omnipotent.
Man is finite and limited in conception and execution. He gets but
glimpses of the truth - the superficial view of things. He succeeds
in tracing nothing to its beginning or ultimate termination, and rarely
sees more than a few of the numerous sides, colors, and shapes.
But we are now in an age of intense progress.
The social world is vigorously combating selfishness and injustice, and
establishing systems of equity; the mechanical world is making gigantic
strides; the scientific world is rapidly disengaging, itself from mere
theories, hypotheses, and guess work, and, with Nature as a guide, applying
her principles is effectually proving their efficacy by the results obtained.
All are getting nearer to Nature.
There is, though, a tendency, and it is a thing
to be regretted, that founders and practitioners of new methods, however
good they may be, are unable or unwilling to perceive good in other methods
than their own.
We ought ever to be on the watch for, and have our
eyes and ears accessible to, truths, that we may be enabled to grasp and
take possession of them, though they eject us from our fostered opinions
or trodden paths of life. To decline to consider truth because not
prevalent or popular, or because it appears antagonistic to the settled
course of our past existence, is to render verdict without evidence.
No mere prejudice should be allowed to influence
the osteopath in accepting or repelling established facts. There
are methods of accelerating and effecting cures besides righting displacements,
which students of therapeutics may easily discover.
In considering the subject of dietetics, it may be divided into three
1. When to eat.
2. What to eat.
3. How to eat.
Almost the entire attention of dietarians has been directed
to the latter two, while the former has been regarded (or, rather, disregarded)
as settled by the established habit of the people.
But how fortunate for humankind that occasionally a Franklin
swings wide the door, looks into the household, and discovers within the immutable
workings of Nature.
The above division of the subject could well have begun with
"Why" to eat. In everything we do, in order to perform the work properly,
there must be an aim, an end to be accomplished. Nature in all her varied
forms and functions has a definite object, the attainment of which we perceive
everywhere in cause and effect.
To understand some of these important purposes, observation
and investigation is being pursued now as never before, and the value of the
discoveries rated by results rather than theory.
The taking of food, then, is designed to succor some special
History is so replete with reminders showing how mankind
are wont to differ in opinions, even in regard to the simplest commonplace matters
of life, that it can hardly be wondered at that people, even at the present
time, are not familiar with the correct nature of these deeper subjects, and
that they are often confounded.
If in many matters we apprehended their true significance,
undoubtedly our tactics would effectually change.
Too many, alas! think, or at least infer by their actions,
that the sole object is attained if they can succeed in introducing food, as
much of it as possible, and without regard to quality, into their perhaps delicate
and overworked stomachs.
It is a common fault that vastly more food is taken than
is physiologically required, thus not only affecting metabolic equilibrium,
but overtaxing the digestive organs and the nervous system.
It is not the quantity or quality of food taken into the stomach, but the amount
and kind digested, absorbed, and made use of in the economy, that gives us good
blood, nerves, muscles, bones, and fat.
Perfect digestion will insure good assimilation and nutrition;
but if poor, the blood is furnished half-digested, fermented material, irritating
the nerves and organs. The result may be disease, the weakest part or
organ giving way first.
Food replaces the waste of the body tissues - this is the
end of food, the "’why’ to eat." We get our exhausted strength back
by rest and sleep - our waste restored by food.
To those of insight this fact will immediately present itself as a Principle
of great meaning, and is especially a striking feature to be well considered
by brain-workers who have but little manual labor to perform.
Much might be said as to the necessity of the requisite amount
of sleep; and of the need of not permitting undue mental or physical work to
directly impair digestive power. But the college of experience is a perpetual
fountain of enlightenment.
In entering upon the consideration of when to eat, it is
with the utmost confidence, inspired by those who have tested the "better way
of living," and knowledge, gained through experience, that to abstain from all
nutriment until the vital power within shall have put the living organism in
such a normal condition as to demand pabulum for the renewal of wasted tissue,
or a further supply for the production of animal heat through the medium of
a divine-given instinct, is to clear the complexion; reduce surplus fat; restore
lack of flesh; feel conscious of a better digestion; reveal the power of the
soul within through the sparkling eyes; brighten the source of all physical,
mental, and moral energy; disperse any tendency to fullness of the face and
flushness in the head; bring keenness of appetite, and such enjoyment of meals
as childhood days only knew; experience a lightness and quickness of step, a
more elastic spring in all the limbs, and an absence of the fullness and unpleasantness
after eating, so often felt before; and to know that the food does not lie so
long in the stomach - the useful organ has gone out of the gas-producing business.
In illness, to urge nutriment prior to completion of "destructive
assimilation" and the recurrence of a natural desire for food only tends to
burden and retard vital action, and to lessen the chance of recovery for the
There is a remedy, that is the greatest of all, to create
hunger, a genuine appetizer, one that you will undoubtedly habitually make use
of when you learn of its natural adaptability and effectiveness, for it never
fails to cause the keenest hunger, relish, and delight, is absolutely safe in
its operation, and available to all. By its constant use eating becomes
The sense of refreshment does not come when food is taken
without hunger, even in health, as there is restriction of both digestion and
The mucous lining of the stomach is both an excretory and
absorbing membrane; it dispatches its wonderful solvent juices when hunger suggests
the need. There is immediate digestion, immediate absorption, and an immediate
and continuous feeling of refreshment until hunger is satiated, which is one
of the most keenly delightful in human experiences.
But what is hunger? The identity of true hunger is
so apt to be confused with acquired appetite or morbid craving that the uninitiated
are likely to arrive at a too sudden conclusion.
Dr. Dewey, the originator of the "no breakfast" method and
author of "The New Science of Living: The New Gospel of Health," a grand book
of life - a gleam of life in every sentence and on every page a glow of precious
truth,- defines hunger as "a condition arising from general activities, attended
with a sense of fatigue and a desire for nourishing food." In other words, it
is a call for both rest and refreshment - rest first, food next. This
need must always depend upon the degree of exhaustion of the brain batteries
and the loss through the muscle activities. Hunger is a sense that is
meant to express the degree of waste, but it is so involved with brain fatigue
that it is seldom manifest in a natural way. Only the laborer in the free
fresh air who has no mental taxing can have the most natural hunger.
As a rule, mind-workers eat vastly more than waste indicates.
What need can there be to tax the digestive powers and the
power-house of the human plant - the brain - in the morning, after a night's
sleep and rest which has recharged the electric batteries with renewed strength,
restored the whole system to its physiological balance, and occasioned but very
little waste of the body materials?
There is ample ground by which to determine that the omission
of the morning meal is based on the soundest physiology.
"But," you say, "I am hungry in the morning. I cannot
give up breakfast. Breakfast is my best meal. I have always eaten
breakfast. I could not do my forenoon's work if my breakfast were denied
me. I would be too weak. I believe I would faint."
My friend, think.
Is it not possible that your morning desire is not a natural
hunger, but seeming hunger, being only appetite, the acquired result of a life-long
untimely meal, thus only an impetus of the force of habit?
We are such creatures of circumstances, such slaves to acquired
If the tippler's craving for his morning dram, the smoker's
draft of the stinging weed, or any of the numerous habitudes of the day which
are not physiological, but still persisted in, because, even with the realization
of their damnific traits they think they "cannot do without it," and will not
appoint minds quartermaster over their sensualities, is any argument tending
to convince that your morning impulse may be but the response to the impressive
tinkling of Mr. Habit's bell, then couple this with the easily deducible fact
that morning hunger, after a sufficient period of invigorating sleep, is a physiological
By transferring the first meal to the noonday hour, or waiting
until adequate waste-producing exertions to guarantee a natural calling for
pabulum, and insure a more vigorous digestion and rapid absorption, the changes
for the better bodily and mentally, will soon decide the future course of action
that should be pursued.
By following this physiological method of living your friends
will soon notice the change that is being wrought within you, and it will require
no scrutinizing to detect your increased store of cheerfulness.
Cheer of mind is a primal law of life. Cheer is to
digestive energy what a current of air is to the flame. There cannot be
even a slight dejection without proportionately reducing the supply of the supporting
and constructive materials, by diminishing the very motive power of the digestive
function, and causing not apparent, but real exhaustion or decrease of mental
and physical power.
It may be thought that if no breakfast is eaten, then a late
supper would be advantageous. This is erroneous.
There should be completion of digestion before the condition
of sleep is entered.
It is Nature's design that digestion should take place after
the general muscular activities have generated a demand, and with the body in
an upright attitude. To be performed aright, this is requisite; and the
infliction of penalty for every non-observance of Nature's laws is infallible.
The erect posture facilitates the circular movement, known as peristaltic action,
of the food around the walls of the stomach. In the lying posture the
pressure of the food affects the dependent portions of the stomach, and the
mechanical operation is imperfect; besides, in this position, especially during
sleep, there is the minimum necessity for digestive energy, there being so little
waste from cell-destruction.
The sympathies and relations between the stomach and the
batteries of the brain are very intimate, and a constant call is made upon these
batteries to furnish power during the process of digestion.
Digestion is a tax upon the brain centers under the best of digestive conditions;
one that involves loss of mental and physical energy during its active stage.
There can be no complete rest or recharging of the exhausted
batteries if masses of fermenting food disturb and compel them to action.
Many are beginning to realize that the amount and the food
to be passed through the alimentary canal, in order to produce rich blood, preserve
the health of body and mind, and prolong life, must be from a physiological
standpoint. Some who are living - and very well - on only one meal a day,
taken at the meridional hour, would not turn back to the old way, and have indeed
good reasons to be enthusiastic.
Good works can be procured on the quality and pureness of
food, and it is desirable to have knowledge of their nature, but it will be
a surprise to those who adopt the "better way" what a splendid judge of the
bill of fare natural hunger is.
The food should be thoroughly masticated and mixed with saliva
for reasons we all are familiar with, but too careless about.
Abolishing the habit of drinking at meals will incite slower
eating and more thorough mastication and insalivation.