Care Of The Heart - Diet And The Heart
( Originally Published 1921 )
So much has been written and is constantly being written about diet that one may apologize for adding a new chapter on this subject as related to heart disease. There is a way of approach to the subject that is helpful, and that is by explaining the general principles upon which the diet in those whose hearts and circulatory systems are out of order can be so regulated as to give help toward health.
Food serves two purposes. One is the nourishment of the body and the other is the sup-plying of fuel to make the steam enabling the human engine to do its work. If you supply new wheels and new parts to your engine, you are in a way performing the first function for the machine. When you pour in gasoline and oil you are satisfying the other function.
The distinction between these two functions with regard to supplying food to the human body is important. If you supply new wheels to your engine when they are not necessary, and lay the machine up every few days to put in new parts, you are doing a foolish thing spending money and losing the use of the machine. If you do not supply a machine with gasoline, it stops with you on the road or runs feebly. If you supply it with too much gasoline, it gives off black smoke and your cylinders become clogged and there is little pleasure in your weekend outing. The economical and sensible driver buys wheels and new parts only when they are necessary. He regulates carefully the supply of gasoline, and is always sure there is enough.
Food is divided into two great classes the nitrogenous foods, represented by eggs, fish, meat, and stock soups, and the carbohydrates, which are represented by bread, cereals, fruits, and vegetables. To be accurate we ought to include with these the hydrocarbons, which is a more accurate name for fats. The nitrogenous foods have the function of supplying new parts or cells to the body, and keeping the machinery in repair. The carbohydrates and fats have the function of supplying energy to the body and keeping it running.
The heart gets its energy principally from such things as bread, butter, and sugar. When it needs to be repaired, it gets its repair material from eggs, meat, fish, and stock soups. As a matter of fact, the repair material that the heart can use is small, and a minute quantity of this repair material is contained in most things from the vegetable kingdom. Hence the nitrogenous foods are not necessary for the actual running of the average human heart, and experience shows that the human heart does better the less it is tinkered with in the attempt to build and repair its structures with new structure material, and the more it is supplied with a proper amount of pure energy producing diet. Some have gone so far as to say that cane sugar constitutes the ideal food to be used when the heart shows signs of failure from lack of energy. For many reasons l have not found it practical to adopt this view, but I have seen some striking examples of the benefit of cane sugar to feeble hearts. Only recently a gentleman who is a keen observer (being the editor of a celebrated financial periodical) and carries a striking defect in his heart told me that he found that a lump of sugar dissolved in water in the middle of the afternoon acted as a prompt heart stimulant and carried him through the day. On one occasion, I believe, the life of a woman was saved by the use of sugar. This woman was about to perish through the debilitating results of an injudicious reduction cure.
It has seemed to me that many have suffered through the reduction of their supply of starchy food, because of the current belief that wind on the stomach which is almost universal in heart disease is caused by carbohydrates. I have often seen prompt benefit when the amount of carbohydrates sufficient to supply energy to the body was restored to the diet. As a matter of fact, the wind on the stomach that is so troublesome becomes less so when the heart is properly taken care of, and is not dependent upon the particular articles of diet that are used.
One of. the things to be avoided in the diet of heart sufferers is the attempt to regulate the diet at any one time to cover a long period that is to follow. A month at a time is about long enough to predict what the needs of the individuals are likely to be. No results can be obtained without absolute diet to begin with. The wisest dietitian is the man who has a date on his diet sheet, saying the diet should be taken from perhaps February 15 to March 30, or something like that.
An important idea that I have found it almost impossible to teach is that diet is qualitative as well as quantitative; that a small quantity of a harmful food can do almost as much harm as a great deal of the same food. Diet is purely a personal matter, and for that reason. no rules can be laid down that are suitable to any large number of individuals. The proper diet for the individual can be appraised by an experienced physician, but this appraisal must be checked and confirmed by observing how each person reacts to the diet. Also much depends upon what has been done for the person in the past. When people with serious heart trouble who have never been dieted come under observation, my plan is to put them on a strict diet according to the following formula. The diet is begun at the same time that the intestinal tract is thoroughly cleared by three doses of castor oil, taken on alternate nights. I reproduce here the diet sheet that I have used for many years with much satisfaction in arteriosclerosis or a tendency to hardening of the arteries and in older people with heart trouble, particularly where accompanied by pain.