DIET, etc.

Source: A Guide to the Practice of Homeopathy - By Edward Hamilton, 1844

Much stress has been laid, by those adverse to the doctrine of Homoeopathy, upon the diet* necessary to be observed by the patient. It has been asserted, that cures effected by the system, are the result of the change of diet, &c.: it is hardly necessary to refute so absurd an idea. I can only say, that if any physician, of whatever school he may be, neglect to regulate the diet of a person labouring under disease, either acute or chronic, he will seldom be rewarded by seeing his patient restored to health.

The diet rules are simple, and easily followed. In acute diseases, most medical men are aware of the necessary restrictions. Patients suffering under fevers, inflammations, &c. seldom desire that which is hurtful. It has been a rule with some physicians to allow patients suffering under certain diseases, to have anything they longed for, supposing that these longings are only whims which it is not hurtful to gratify; but such a practice is, I think, very questionable. In the increase or acme of fever or inflammation, if it be necessary that the patient should have food, he may partake of a light gruel of barley, groats, rice, sago, arrow-root, farina of potatoes, &c.; when the acute attack diminishes, beef tea, or delicate meats, as venison, fowls, (not too young,) may be given, if the patient desires it. Many fruits may be allowed in every stage of fever; such as stewed apples, pears or prunes, (without spices,) sweet cherries, grapes, apricots, &c, subject to the discrimination of the medical attendant: yet these ought not to be given in any quantity, as they will often cause flatulence, uneasiness and pain, and as a general rule aggravate the fever.

As regards drinks, in acute diseases; they may consist of cold water, toast and water, barley-water, almond emulsion, (from sweet almonds,) milk and water, &c. Cold water is only injurious in inflammations of internal organs, namely,—of the throat, lungs, stomach, intestines, &c.; but it may be allowed, even in these inflammations, if the patient will hold it in his mouth until the chill has been taken off. In summer it may be given fresh drawn, but in winter it should be allowed to remain in the room for some hours, until no longer quite cold. In some diseases, as cholera, where the patient manifests a desire for ice-cold drinks, they may be given. In fevers, where the patient is unconscious, the dryness of the tongue and lips, and the frequent licking of the lips, are some indications of internal heat, and require that drink be offered. It cannot be determined when and how much the patient should drink, his requisitions and desires will form the best guide; it is a good law, however, not to give too much at one time, but rather to drink frequently, and in small quantities. The water may be made more agreeable to the patient, by adding loaf sugar, or raspberry,(not acidulated raspberry,)cherry, althea or apple juice, until it has obtained a pleasant sweetness: the yolk of an egg may also be added. In acute fevers, when the tongue and lips are parched and cracked, when the teeth have become black, the patient will be much refreshed by a few tea-spoonsful of a mixture of the oil of sweet almonds with the juice of cherries, mulberries, or sweet oranges. Water, acidified with vinegar, lemon or citron juice, may be allowed at times, as in some bilious and putrid fevers; but the physician must judge whether they may be permitted, from the conditions of each individual case: but they must never be given when Aconite, and other medicines to which acids are antidotes, have been taken just previously. In diseases of long duration, it is advisable to change the drinks frequently, as the patient easily becomes satiated or disgusted. Apples sliced thin and immersed in boiling water, the juice of sweet oranges and water, almond milk, butter milk, milk and water, &c, alternately, may be given. Cows milk will not be always agreeable to patients in synochial fevers; the same may be said of butter milk, which must be given with caution in gastric and pituitous fevers. Cocoa and chocolate may be given, but the latter is ept to occasion flatulence, and feeling of fulness and constipation.

Cleanliness and proper clothing are to be attended to in acute diseases. Great as is the prejudice of some persons, against washing fever patients, the physician should look upon it as an imperative duty, to see that the skin is kept clean. But great caution is requisite; small portions of the body should be washed at one time, and immediately dried and covered. Frequent change of body and bed linen is very important, also a free circulation of air.

As regards the rules of diet in chronic diseases :—

Hahnemann's first dietetic regulations are considered too severe, as requiring too much self-denial to be observed by persons in health, and in consequence they have been but little attended to by the public at large; but our venerable founder, who never practised other than he taught, rigorously observed the rules he had laid down for the guidance of others; the result was, that he attained the age of nearly ninety years. His regulations are, by some, considered too severe to be observed by many patients labouring under chronic diseases. He acted upon the principle, that an individual under progress of treatment for the cure of any disease, must be put into the most simple state of nature with regard to his mode of living. This was considered as necessary, in order to awaken a proper receptivity for the action of medicines; hence, only the most simple food was allowed, and the use of all substances expressly forbidden, that possessed any other properties than those of mere nutrition, i.e. all those that produced any medicinal effect: thus, celery, parsley, &c, which promote the urinary secretions; onions, which excite perspiration; lettuce, which has narcotic properties; also coffee, teas of all kinds, wine, all spirituous liquors, spices and acid substances, pork, water fowl, even the flesh of very young animals, were among the forbidden articles. It is very true that such a simple regimen increases the receptivity for the action of remedies in a very great degree, but on the other hand it has injurious effects which are not to be disregarded: in the first place, the irritability and sensibility of the patient are at times too much increased; the sense of smell often becomes very acute, rendering the patient really unfortunate and unhappy; in as much as the weakest odours of flowers, the vapour of food prepared with spices or aromatic herbs, even the smell of dust upon an old book, are at times utterly insupportable to the patient, who is thus exposed to daily and hourly inconvenience. Secondly, articles to which the patient has become habituated by long use, often cannot be withdrawn without great injury to the health.

The above are some of the objections made to Hahnemann's restrictions in diet. We must also acknowledge, that nature often cures by means which we should unhesitatingly pronounce unsafe, and even injurious. Thus we find instances where food, which seems, to the physician, less suitable and digestible, is nevertheless preferred by the patient, and is digested and assimilated, better than such food as the physician regards as preferable. Heace, one routine of diet should not always be rigor ously insisted upon. In canine appetite, it would be barbarous to restrict the patient in the quantity of his food; the gnawing, craving hunger of this complaint, is dependent upon a diseased state of the stomach, and beyond the controul of the will of the patient : Mur. acid, Sepia, Silicea, or Veratrum, will restore the stomach to its natural state, when a natural appetite will follow. Again, in some forms of chronic disease, the patient has a disinclination for meat; instead of advising, much less forcing the patient to eat this kind of food, the physician should regard it as his duty to correct this morbid state of the system: Calc. carb., Carb. veget., Silicea, &c. will generally effect this object. We also find patients who have an excessive craving for sweet things; moderation in quantity should be advised, but we should by no means strenuously insist upon the immediate relinquishment of such a mode of living; a few doses of Lycopod., Pot. carb., &c, will often speedily cure this condition.

But we must be strict in forbidding such articles of food as have any influence upon the origin and continuance of the disease. Thus, whoever has deranged his stomach by indulgence in rich food, must avoid it; those suffering under chronic eruptions should not eat food which is very salt, or pork, or oily fish, duck, or goose; women who have become hysterical from excess in drinking tea, novel reading, late hours at night, and late rising in the morning, cannot be cured but by avoiding these irregularities. "We should refuse the patient such articles as in any manner interfere with the action of the remedy administered ; e. g. acids are antidotes to Aconite, Kali-natrum, and Ammonium; vinegar aggravates the action of Belladonna; milk is an antidote to Sepia, according to Dufrbsne; potatoes are rendered indigestible, and cause griping in the bowels by Alumina. These restrictions are generally not annoying to the patient, and the less so as the instincts of the appetite often harmonize most aptly with the requisitions of the medical treatment; thus, an inclination to sweet things is indicative of Ammonia, and in many of those diseases in which Belladonna is most indicated, there is an aversion to acids. In diseases of any particular organ, all articles of food which affect that organ should be strictly forbidden : thus, in affections of the kidneys, celery, parsley, asparagus, must be avoided, &c.

Idiosyncrasies of the patient should be known; thus, veal broth occasions diarrhoea in some persons; pea soup, violent colic and vomitings in others; mutton, constipation in others, &c.

The horse-hair brush, used with moderation, is often of service in dyspepsia and hypochondriasis.

With regard to drinks, in chronic diseases; although the stomach may be injured by overloading it with water, far greater injury is caused by drinking too little ; several glasses of water per day should be advised to every one, particularly such as suffer from constipation. It is very difficult, for some persons, to give up coffee, especially those habituated to its use; in many cases we may allow it to the patient for a time, only insisting upon its being as weak as possible, and abstaining wholly from it as soon as it can be done without serious detriment to the health : it often relieves constipation, and may be allowed sometimes in this case, if there be no other particular contra-indication; but nervous headache, hemicrania in particular, cannot be cured unless coffee be rigidly abstained from. In cases where tea and coffee must be forbidden, beef tea broth will often prove very agreeable; or cocoa, or dietetic chocolate, ** where it does not cause distention or flatulence, may be recommended.

Almost every one can give up spices, hence they should be entirely forbidden, as they are generally detrimental to those suffering from dyspepsia, &c, as well as injurious to the action of the medicine. The same may apply to the use of perfumeries and medicated tooth powders. The use of tobacco, although the patient may become habituated to it, so as apparently not to experience any ill effects from it, is far more injurious than the combined action of coffee, tea, wine, spices, &c.; it should therefore be forbidden as far as possible.

A cure with specific remedies should in no case be aided by the starving process of the old schools. The main dietetic rule of the Homceopathist is the avoiding of food and drinks which possess any medicinal properties— articles which create symptoms or sufferings, in addition to those of the disease, or which, acting as antidotes, may destroy the action of the remedies.

The Homceopathist depends solely on the medicines for the removal of chronic maladies; asking no aid from diet, other than the negative assistance of not interfering with the specific operation of his remedies.

It is true, that the starving process of the old system will occasionally palliate, and even silence, for a time, the symptoms of a chronic malady; but it does not cure, since with returning strength, which liberal diet will produce, the disease shews itself again, and all the old symptoms recur, often with increased violence.

* These remarks as to Diet are chiefly taken from Hartmann, Hau, and Kritschmar, translated in the New York H. Exam.

** Mr. W. Headland, Homoeopathic Chemist, 15, Princes Street, Hanover Square, has prepared a dietetic chocolate, which has been found a very agreeable beverage by many of my patients.

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