Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 27.djvu/535
DIET IN RELATION TO AGE AND ACTIVITY. 517
in regard of this function of digestion. There is a compensation for him which he has not considered, or perhaps even heard of, although he is so moderately endowed with peptic force. A delicate stomach which can just do needful work for the system and no more, by neces- sity performs the function of a careful door porter at the entrance of the system, and like a jealous guardian inspects with discernment all who aspire to enter the interior, rejecting the unfit and the un- bidden, and all the common herd.
On the other hand, a stomach with superfluous power, of whom its master boastfully declaims that it can " digest tenpenny nails," and that he is unaccustomed to consult its likes and its dislikes if it have any, is like a careless hall porter who admits all comers, every pre- tender, and among the motley visitors many whose presence is damag- ing to the interior. These powerful feeders after a time suffer from the unexpended surplus, and pay for their hardy temerity in becoming amenable to penalty, often suddenly declared by the onset of some serious attack, demanding complete change in regimen, a condition more or less grave. On the other hand, the owner of the delicate stomach, a man perhaps with a habit of frequently complaining of slight troubles, and always careful, will probably in the race of life, as regards the preceding pilgrim, take the place of the tortoise as against the hare. It is an old proverb that " the creaking wheel lasts longest," and one that is certainly true as regards a not powerful but nevertheless healthy stomach which is carefully treated by its owner ; to whom this fact may be acceptable as a small consolation for the possession of a delicate organ.
For it is a kind of stomach which not seldom accompanies a fine organization. The difference is central, not local a difference in the nervous system chiefly ; the impressionable mental structure, the in- strument of strong emotions, must necessarily be allied with a stomach to which the supply of nerve-power for digestion is sometimes tempo- rarily deficient and always perhaps capricious. There are more sources than one of compensation to the owner of an active, impressionable brain, with a susceptible stomach possessing only moderate digestive capabilities sources altogether beyond the imagination of many a coarse feeder and capable digester.
But it is not correct, and it is on all grounds undesirable, to regard the less powerful man as a sufferer from indigestion, that is, as liable to any complaint to be so termed. True indigestion, as a manifestation of a diseased stomach, is comparatively quite rare, and I have not one word to say of it here, which would not be the fitting place if I had. Not one person in a hundred who complains of indigestion has any morbid affection of the organs engaged in assimilating his food. As commonly employed, the word " indigestion " denotes, not a disease, but an admonition. It means that the individual so complaining has not yet found his appropriate diet ; that he takes food unsuited for