Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/11
By FELIX L. OSWALD, M.D.
THE organism of the human body is a self-regulating apparatus. Every interruption of its normal functions excites a reaction against the disturbing cause. If a grain of caustic potash irritates the nerves of the palate, the salivary glands try to remove it by an increased secretion. The eye would wash it off by an immediate flow of tears. A larger quantity of the same substance could be swallowed only under the protest of the fauces, and the digestive organs would soon find means to eject it. The bronchial tubes promptly react against the obtrusion of foreign substances. The sting of an insect causes an involuntary twitching of the epidermis. If a thorn or splinter fastens itself under the skin, suppuration prepares the way for its removal. If the stomach be overloaded with food, it revolts against further ingestion.
These automatic agencies of the organism generally suffice to counteract the disturbing cause, and the sensory symptoms attending the process of reconstruction constitute merely a plea for non-interference. The suppurating tissues push the thorn outward, and resent only a pressure in the opposite direction. The eye volunteers to rid itself of the sand-dust, but remonstrates against friction. The rum-soaked system of the toper undertakes to eliminate the poison, and only asks that the consequences of the outrage be not aggravated by its repetition. But, if that plea remains unheeded, it finally takes the form of the emphatic protest we call disease. For, even in its urgent manifestations, the reaction against a violation of Nature's health-laws is a cry for peace, rather than a petition for active assistance in the form of medication. "Accustom yourself in all your little pains and aches,"