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PART 9

One may derive information from the regimen of persons in good health what things are proper; for if it appear that there is a great difference whether the diet be so and so, in other respects, but more especially in the changes, how can it be otherwise in diseases, and more especially in the most acute? But it is well ascertained that even a faulty diet of food and drink steadily persevered in, is safer in the main as regards health than if one suddenly change it to another. Wherefore, in the case of persons who take two meals in the day, or of those who take a single meal, sudden changes induce suffering and weakness; and thus persons who have not been accustomed to dine, if they shall take dinner, immediately become weak, have heaviness over their whole body, and become feeble and languid, and if, in addition, they take supper, they will have acid eructations, and some will have diarrhoea whose bowels were previously dry, and not having been accustomed to be twice swelled out with food and to digest it twice a day, have been loaded beyond their wont. It is beneficial, in such cases, to counterbalance this change, for one should sleep after dinner, as if passing the night, and guard against cold in winter and heat in summer; or, if the person cannot sleep, he may stroll about slowly, but without making stops, for a good while, take no supper, or, at all events, eat little, and only things that are not unwholesome, and still more avoid drink, and especially water. Such a person will suffer still more if he take three full meals in the day, and more still if he take more meals; and yet there are many persons who readily bear to take three full meals in the day, provided they are so accustomed. And, moreover, those who have been in the habit of eating twice a day, if they omit dinner, become feeble and powerless, averse to all work, and have heartburn; their bowels seem, as it were, to hang loose, their urine is hot and green, and the excrement is parched; in some the mouth is bitter, the eyes are hollow, the temples throb, and the extremities are cold, and the most of those who have thus missed their dinner cannot eat supper; or, if they do [p. 69]sup, they load their stomach, and pass a much worse night than if they had previously taken dinner. Since, then, an unwonted change of diet for half a day produces such effects upon persons in health, it appears not to be a good thing either to add or take from. If, then, he who was restricted to a single meal, contrary to usage, having his veins thus left empty during a whole day, when he supped according to custom felt heavy, it is probable that if, because he was uneasy and weak from the want of dinner, he took a larger supper than wont, he would be still more oppressed; or if, wanting food for a still greater interval, he suddenly took a meal after supper, he will feel still greater oppression. He, then, who, contrary to usage, has had his veins kept empty by want of food, will find it beneficial to counteract the bad effects during that day as follows: let him avoid cold, heat, and exertion, for he could bear all these ill; let him make his supper considerably less than usual, and not of dry food, but rather liquid; and let him take some drink, not of a watery character, nor in smaller quantity than is proportionate to the food, and on the next day he should take a small dinner, so that, by degrees, he may return to his former practice. Persons who are bilious in the stomach bear these changes worst, while those who are pituitous, upon the whole, bear the want of food best, so that they suffer the least from being restricted to one meal in the day, contrary to usage. This, then, is a sufficient proof that the greatest changes as to those things which regard our constitutions and habits are most especially concerned in the production of diseases, for it is impossible to produce unseasonably a great emptying of the vessels by abstinence, or to administer food while diseases are at their acme, or when inflammation prevails; nor, on the whole, to make a great change either one way or another with impunity.

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