Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 25.djvu/796

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A CORRESPONDENT from Hereford refers to the concluding paragraph of my last paper "as too valuable to let slip, without making practical use of it," and, accordingly, asks for further information concerning the salts that should be contained in our food, and "in what other form can a poor mortal obtain them."

As the question may have presented itself to many other readers, I will answer it here, especially as I can speak from practical experience of the miseries that may be escaped by understanding and applying it. I inherit what is called a "lithic-acid diathesis." My father and his brother were martyrs to rheumatic gout, and died early in consequence. I had a premonitory attack of gout at the age of twenty-five, and other warning symptoms at other times, but have kept the enemy at bay during nearly forty years by simply understanding that this lithic acid (stony acid) combines with potash, forming thus a soluble salt, which is safely excreted. Otherwise it is deposited here or there, producing gout, rheumatism, stone, gravel, and other dreadfully painful diseases, which are practically incurable when the deposit is fairly established. By effecting the above-named combination in the blood, the deposition is prevented.

The potash required for the purpose exists in several conditions: First, in its uncombined state as caustic potash. This is poison, for the simple reason that it combines so vigorously with organic matter that it would decompose the digestive organs themselves if presented to them. The lower carbonate is less caustic, the bicarbonate nearly, but not quite, neutral. Even this, however, should not be taken as food, because it is capable of combining with the acid constituents of the gastric juice.

The proper compounds to be used are those which correspond to the salts existing in the juices of vegetables and flesh—viz., compounds of potash with organic acids, such as tartaric acid, which forms the potash salt of the grape, such as citric acid, with which potash is combined in lemons and oranges; malic acid, with which it is combined in apples and many other fruits; the natural acids of vegetables generally; lactic acid in milk, etc.

All these acids, and many others of similar origin, are composed of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen, held together with such feeble affinity that they are easily dissociated or decomposed by heat. This may be shown by heating some cream of tartar or tartaric acid on a strip of metal or glass. It will become carbonized to a cinder, like other organic matter. If the heat is raised sufficiently, this cinder will all burn