January 1, 1885
FUNCTIONAL AND INFLAMMATORY DISEASES OF THE STOMACH. BY SAMUEL G. ARMOR, M.D., LL.D.
Functional Dyspepsia (Atonic Dyspepsia, Indigestion).
The dietary treatment of dyspepsia was described: the diet, for instance, of bodily labor should consist largely of digestible nitrogenous food, and meat, par excellence, should be increased in proportion as muscular exercise is increased.
FUNCTIONAL AND INFLAMMATORY DISEASES OF THE STOMACH.
BY SAMUEL G. ARMOR, M.D., LL.D.
Functional Dyspepsia (Atonic Dyspepsia, Indigestion).
As a rule, the food should be such as will require the least possible exertion on the part of the stomach. Raw vegetables should be forbidden; pastries, fried dishes, and all rich and greasy compounds should be eschewed; and whatever food be taken should be eaten slowly and well masticated. Many patients digest animal better than vegetable food. Tender brown meats, plainly but well cooked, such as beef, mutton, and game, are to be preferred. Lightly-cooked mutton is more digestible than beef, pork, or lamb, and roast beef is more digestible than boiled. Pork and veal and salted and preserved meats are comparatively indigestible. Bread should never be eaten hot or fresh—better be slightly stale—and bread made from the whole meal is better than that made from the mere starchy part of the grain. Milk and eggs and well-boiled rice are of special value.
But to all these general dietetic rules there may be exceptions growing out of the peculiarities of individual cases. These should be carefully studied. The aged, for obvious reasons, require less food than the young; the middle-aged, inclined to obesity and troubled with feeble digestion, should avoid potatoes, sweets, and fatty substances and spirituous liquors; persons suffering from functional derangements of the liver should be put, for a time, on the most restricted regimen; while, on the contrary, the illy fed and badly-nourished require the most nutritious food that can be digested with comfort to the patient.
To these general predisposing causes may be added indigestion occurring in febrile states of the system. The cause here is obvious. In all general febrile conditions the secretions are markedly disturbed; the tongue is dry and furred; the urine is scanty; the excretions lessened; the bowels constipated; and the appetite gone. The nervous system also participates in the general disturbance. In this condition the gastric juice is changed both quantitatively and qualitatively, and digestion, as a consequence, becomes weak and imperfect—a fact that should be taken into account in regulating the diet of febrile patients. From mere theoretical considerations there can be no doubt that fever patients are often overfed. To counteract the relatively increased tissue-metamorphosis known to exist, and the consequent excessive waste, forced nutrition is frequently resorted to. Then the traditional saying of the justly-celebrated Graves, that he fed fevers, has also rendered popular the practice. Within certain bounds alimentation is undoubtedly an important part of the treatment of all the essential forms of fever. But if more food is crowded upon the stomach than can be digested and assimilated, it merely imposes a burden instead of supplying a want. The excess of food beyond the digestive capacity decomposes, giving rise to fetid gases, and often to troublesome intestinal complications. The true mode of restoring strength in such cases is to administer only such quantities of food as the patient is capable of digesting and assimilating. To this end resort has been had to food in a partially predigested state, such as peptonized milk, milk gruel, soups, jellies, and beef-tea; and clinical experience has thus far shown encouraging results from such nutrition in the management of general fevers. In these febrile conditions, and in all cases of general debility, the weak digestion does not necessarily involve positive disease of the stomach, for by regulating the diet according to the digestive capacity healthy digestion may be obtained for an indefinite time.
Exhaustion of the nerves of organic life strongly predisposes to the atonic forms of dyspepsia. We have already seen how markedly the digestive process is influenced by certain mental states, and it is a well-recognized fact that the sympathetic system of nerves is intimately associated with all the vegetative functions of the body. Without a certain amount of nervous energy derived from this portion of the nervous system, there is failure of the two most important conditions of digestion—viz. muscular movements of the stomach and healthy secretion of gastric juice. This form of indigestion is peculiar to [p. 441]the ill-fed and badly-nourished. It follows in the wake of privation and want, and is often seen in the peculiarly careworn and sallow classes who throng our public dispensaries. In this dyspepsia of exhaustion the solvent power of the stomach is so diminished that if food is forced upon the patient it is apt to be followed by flatulence, headache, uneasy or painful sensations in the stomach, and sometimes by nausea and diarrhoea. It is best treated by improving in every possible way the general system of nutrition, and by adapting the food, both in quantity and quality, to the enfeebled condition of the digestive powers. Hygienic measures are also of great importance in the management of this form of dyspepsia, and especially such as restore the lost energy of the nervous system. If it occur in badly-nourished persons who take little outdoor exercise, the food should be adapted to the feeble digestive power. It should consist for a time largely of milk and eggs, oatmeal, peptonized milk gruels, stale bread; to which should be added digestible nitrogenous meat diet in proportion to increased muscular exercise. Systematic outdoor exercise should be insisted upon as a sine quâ non. Much benefit may be derived from the employment of electric currents, and hydrotherapy has also given excellent results. If the indigestion occur in the badly-fed outdoor day-laborer, his food should be more generous and mixed. It should consist largely, however, of digestible nitrogenous food, and meat, par excellence, should be increased in proportion to the exercise taken. Medicinally, such cases should be treated on general principles. Benefit may be derived from the mineral acids added to simple bitters, or in cases of extreme nervous prostration small doses of nux vomica are a valuable addition to dilute hydrochloric acid. The not unfrequent resort to phosphorus in such cases is of more than doubtful utility. Some interesting contributions have been recently made to this subject of gastric neuroses by Buchard, Sée, and Mathieu. Buchard claims that atonic dilatation of the stomach is a very frequent result of an adynamic state of the general system. He compares it to certain forms of cardiac dilatation—both expressions of myasthenia. It may result from profound anæmia or from psychical causes. Mathieu regards mental depression as only second in frequency. Much stress is laid upon poisons generated by fermenting food in the stomach in such cases. It may cause a true toxæmia, just as renal diseases give rise to uræmia. Of course treatment in such cases must be addressed principally to the general constitution.
But of all predisposing causes of dyspepsia, deficient gastric secretion, with resulting fermentation of food, is perhaps the most prevalent. It is true this deficient secretion may be, and often is, a secondary condition; many causes contribute to its production; but still, the practical fact remains that the immediate cause of the indigestion is disproportion between the quantity of gastric juice secreted and the amount of food taken into the stomach. In all such cases we have what is popularly known as torpidity of digestion, and the condition described is that of atony of the stomach. The two main constituents of gastric juice—namely, acid and pepsin—may be deficient in quantity or disturbed in their relative proportions. A certain amount of acid is absolutely essential to the digestive process, while a small amount of pepsin may be sufficient to digest a large amount of albuminoid food. [p. 442]Pure unmixed gastric juice was first analyzed by Bidder and Schmidt. The mean analyses of ten specimens free from saliva, procured from dogs, gave the following results:
Lack of the normal amount of the gastric secretion must be met by restoring the physiological conditions upon which the secretion depends. In the mean time, hydrochloric and lactic acids may be tried for the purpose of strengthening the solvent powers of the gastric secretion.
EXCITING CAUSES.—The immediate causes of dyspepsia are such as act more directly on the stomach. They embrace all causes which produce conditions of gastric catarrh, such as excess in eating and drinking, imperfect mastication and insalivation, the use of indigestible or unwholesome food and of alcohol, the imperfect arrangement of meals, over-drugging, etc.
Of exciting causes, errors of diet are amongst the most constantly operative, and of these errors excess of food is doubtless the most common. The influence of this as an etiological factor in derangement of digestion can scarcely be exaggerated. In very many instances more food is taken into the stomach than is actually required to restore tissue-waste, and the effects of such excess upon the organism are as numerous as they are hurtful. Indeed, few elements of disease are more constantly operative in a great variety of ailments. In the first place, if food be introduced into the stomach beyond tissue-requirements, symptoms of indigestion at once manifest themselves. The natural balance betwixt [p. 443]supply and demand is disturbed; the general nutrition of the body is interfered with; local disturbances of nutrition follow; and mal-products of digestion find their way into the blood. Especially is this the case when the excessive amount of food contains a disproportionate amount of nitrogenous matter. All proteid principles require a considerable amount of chemical alteration before they are fitted for the metabolic changes of the organism; the processes of assimilative conversion are more complex than those undergone by fats and amyloids; and it follows that there is proportional danger of disturbance of these processes from overwork. Moreover, if nitrogenous food is in excess of tissue-requirement, it undergoes certain oxidation changes in the blood without becoming previously woven into tissue, with resulting compounds which become positive poisons in the economy. The kidneys and skin are largely concerned in the elimination of these compounds, and the frequency with which these organs become diseased is largely due, no doubt, to the excessive use of unassimilated nitrogenous food. Then, again, if food be introduced in excess of the digestive capacity, the undigested portion acts directly upon the stomach as a foreign body, and in undergoing decomposition and putrefying changes frets and irritates the mucous membrane. It can scarcely be a matter of doubt that large groups of diseases have for their principal causes excess of alimentation beyond the actual requirements of the system. All such patients suffer from symptoms of catarrhal indigestion, such as gastric uneasiness, headache, vertigo, a general feeling of lassitude, constipation, and high-colored urine with abundant urates, together with varied skin eruptions. Such cases are greatly relieved by reducing the amount of food taken, especially nitrogenous food, and by a systematic and somewhat prolonged course of purgative mineral waters. Europe is especially rich in these springs. The waters of Carlsbad, Ems, Seltzer, Friedrichshall, and Marienbad, and many of the alkaline purgative waters of our own country, not unfrequently prove valuable to those who can afford to try them, and their value shows how often deranged primary assimilation is at the foundation of many human ailments. The absurd height to which so-called restorative medicine has attained within the last twenty years or more has contributed largely to the production of inflammatory forms of indigestion, with all the evil consequences growing out of general deranged nutrition.
The use of indigestible and unwholesome food entails somewhat the same consequences. This may consist in the use of food essentially unhealthy or indigestible, or made so by imperfect preparation (cooking, etc.). Certain substances taken as food cannot be dissolved by the gastric or intestinal secretions: the seeds, the skins, and rinds of fruit, the husks of corn and bran, and gristle and elastic tissue, as well as hairs in animal food, are thrown off as they are swallowed, and if taken in excess they mechanically irritate the gastro-intestinal mucous membrane and excite symptoms of acute dyspepsia, and not unfrequently give rise to pain of a griping character accompanied by diarrhoea. Symptoms of acute dyspepsia also frequently follow the ingestion of special kinds of food, such as mushrooms, shellfish, or indeed fish of any kind; and food not adapted to the individual organism is apt to excite dyspeptic symptoms. Appetite and digestion are also very much influenced by the life and [p. 444]habits of the individual. The diet, for instance, of bodily labor should consist largely of digestible nitrogenous food, and meat, par excellence, should be increased in proportion as muscular exercise is increased. For all sorts of muscular laborers a mixed diet is best in which animal food enters as a prominent ingredient. Thus, it has been found, according to the researches of Chambers, that in forced military marches meat extract has greater sustaining properties than any other kind of food. But with those who do not take much outdoor exercise the error is apt to be, as already pointed out, in the direction of over-feeding. It cannot be doubted at the present time that over-eating (gluttony) is one of our popular vices. Hufeland says: "In general we find that men who live sparingly attain to the greatest age." While preventive medicine in the way of improved hygiene—better drainage, better ventilation, etc.—is contributing largely to the longevity of the race, we unfortunately encounter in more recent times an antagonizing influence in the elegant art of cookery. Every conceivable ingenuity is resorted to to tempt men to eat more than their stomachs can properly or easily digest or tissue-changes require. The injurious consequences of such over-feeding may finally correct itself by destroying the capacity of the stomach to digest the food.
Food may also be introduced into the stomach in an undigestible form [p. 445]from defects of cookery. The process of cooking food produces certain well-known chemical changes in alimentary substances which render them more digestible than in the uncooked state. By the use of fire in cooking his food new sources of strength have been opened up to man which have doubtless contributed immeasurably to his physical development, and has led to his classification as the cooking animal. With regard to most articles the practice of cooking his food beforehand is wellnigh universal; and especially is this the case with all farinaceous articles of food. The gluten of wheat is almost indigestible in the uncooked state. By the process of cooking the starchy matter of the grain is not only liberated from its protecting envelopes, but it is converted into a gelatinous condition which readily yields to the diastasic ferments. Roberts, in his lectures on the Digestive Ferments, points out the fact that when men under the stress of circumstances have been compelled to subsist on uncooked grains of the cereals, they soon fell into a state of inanition and disease.
Animal diet is also more easily digested in the cooked than in the raw state. The advantage consists chiefly in the effects of heat on the connective tissue and in the separation of the muscular fibre. In this respect cooking aids the digestive process. The gastric juice cannot get at the albumen-containing fibrillæ until the connective tissue is broken up, removed, or dissolved. Hot water softens and removes this connective tissue. Hence raw meat is less easily digestible. Carnivorous animals, that get their food at long intervals, digest it slowly. By cutting, bruising, and scraping meat we to a certain extent imitate the process of cooking. In many cases, indeed, ill-nourished children and dyspeptics digest raw beef thus comminuted better than cooked, and it is a matter of observation that steamed and underdone roast meats are more digestible than when submitted to greater heat.
Some interesting observations have been made by Roberts on the effects of the digestive ferments on cooked and uncooked albuminoids. He employed in his experiments a solution of egg albumen made by mixing white of egg with nine times its volume of water. "This solution," says Roberts, "when boiled in the water-bath does not coagulate nor sensibly change its appearance, but its behavior with the digestive ferments is completely altered. In the raw state this solution is attacked very slowly by pepsin and acid, and pancreatic extract has no effect on it; but after being cooked in the water-bath the albumen is rapidly and entirely digested by artificial gastric juice, and a moiety of it is rapidly digested by pancreatic extract."
It is a mistake, however, to suppose that cooking is equally necessary for all kinds of albuminoids. The oyster, at least, is quite exceptional, for it contains a digestive ferment—the hepatic diastase—which is wholly destroyed by cooking. Milk may be indifferently used either in the cooked or uncooked state, and fruits, which owe their value chiefly to sugar, are not altered by cooking.
The object in introducing here these remarks on cooking food is to show that it forms an important integral part of the work of digestion, and has a direct bearing on the management of all forms of dyspepsia.