The Influence Of Insufficient Nourishment And Reduction Cures On The Female Organism
( Originally Published 1923 )
IT is a matter of common observation that women of the poorer classes age rapidly, as a rule. It seems natural to attribute this to hard work and a scanty intake of food. That insufficient nourishment is the main factor, however, follows from the fact that the same condition is witnessed among women who are engaged quietly in household du-ties or sew the whole day long.
The rôle played by inadequate nourishment is most strikingly shown in that an aged appearance may be produced even among women of the more well-to-do classes as a result of ill-advised reduction cures.
The outward appearance and attractiveness of the human body, as well as of animals, bears a close relationship to the quantity and choice of the food taken.
When animals such as the dog, cat, or horse, are well fed, their coat becomes glossy and their general appearance more handsome and more full of life. In the well-filled, firm cheeks of healthy-looking, well-nourished young girls the muscles of the face are covered with a layer of fatty tissue which, as it were, pads out the skin and renders it smooth.
If, on the other hand, the food intake is scanty, no fatty material, nor any sufficient amount of the starchy foods capable in part of replacing it, viz., rice and potatoes, are ingested, and as a result the facial muscles lack the necessary amount of fat.
In reduction cures, again, unless carried out under expert supervision, the fat over the facial muscles disappears, the cheeks become hollow, and there develop lines, wrinkles, and creases in a word, the facial appearance of advancing age. In cures of this kind one must take care that the fat is absorbed only from those portions of the body in which it is deposited in large amounts, as, for example, on the abdomen, over the hips, on the back, on the chin, etc.
It is dangerous for women who are actually by no means stout and have merely muscular hips with but slight fatty deposit to go through fasting cures. In doing so they are cutting into their own flesh, and frequently they pay for it with an aged appearance.
According to my experience with numerous patients in Carlsbad, reduction cures yield the best results where the nourishment taken is adequate and foods of the most different kinds are represented, i.e., the diet is a highly varied one. Fat forming articles of food, such as sweets, rice, and potatoes, must, of course, be restricted, but the diet must not be reduced to the point of inadequate nourishment ; indeed, such a reduction is unnecessary if baths, exercises, long walks and the Bergonié treatment occupy an important place in the therapeutic régime.
In suitable cases, i.e., where the heart is in good condition, an intelligently conducted course of thyroid treatment is capable, according to my experience extending over many years, of yielding very good results. Instead of an aged appearance following such reduction treatment, one of rejuvenation may rather be obtained a result already familiar from experience with thyroid treatment under other circumstances.
Only fresh preparations of the gland must, how-ever, be used; the patients must remain under continuous medical supervision, and the diet used must be sufficient in amount.
Particular care should be taken that it includes the different kinds of foods. It should be emphasized that even if enough food is supplied, undernutrition may occur if the food is not sufficiently varied. The organs of our body require for the prosecution of their functions not only albumins, starches, and fats, but also certain salts, the nutrient salts, together with a number of other substances, such as the so called "vitamines," the higher fats or lipoids, etc.
Similarly, the thyroid gland requires iodine, the ovaries iron, the joints and teeth lime, the hair sulphur, and the skin silicates, all of which sub-stances play an important part in the chemical constitution and physiologic activity of these structures.
Now, if food is taken in insufficient amount, or is improperly balanced, or contains too little of the substances just referred to, disturbance of the functions of these structures and morbid changes in their constituent tissues may result.
Insufficiency of nutriment thus exerts a highly prejudicial effect on the female sexual glands and thereby likewise on fecundity. Undernutrition is an important cause of sterility in the human subject just as it is among the lower animals.
Hunters know that in periods when food is scanty game is likewise lean, and breeders, that when plenty of food is supplied the fecundity of their animals is much greater. That the same is true in the human race was distinctly shown by the war. As a result of the extreme distress existing in many wholly barren mountainous districts, e.g., in the Erzgebirge, the women ceased to menstruate. Cessation of so important a function as the menstruation already points to the presence of considerable disturbance of the function of the female reproductive organs through inadequate nutrition, and since such disturbances are capable, as I showed in my earlier work on old age, of bringing on a premature ageing of the body, inadequacy of nutriment is to be avoided by all possible means.
Thus, the daily diet must be one which is sufficient in amount as well as properly constituted.