OF TASTE AND SMELL:
DIET at any time is largely a matter of special need, but it would seem that, after a course of fasting, the successful issue of which in functional derangement embraces restoration to physiological normal, certain fixed rules might be laid down to apply to all cases. But not so. Peculiar limitations are encountered in each individual, for which individual dietetic errors coupled with physiological idiosyncrasies transmitted from generations of ancestors are responsible. Hence empirical methods must be employed in the selection of foods requisite for the case in hand.
The sense of smell, reaching out beyond the body ere food material passes the lips, assists in its selection, and this sense and taste, when normal in function and not vitiated by cultivation and habit, form a perfect picket line of protection against the introduction of unwholesome substances into the system. Normally constituted bodies prefer those odors that are classed as pleasant, yet continued contact with emanations that are distinctly disagreeable, first brings tolerance and finally pleasure in their presence. Perhaps this departure from natural law and normal instinct can be illustrated in convincing form by contemplating the sensual delight of the epicure in cheeses of doubtful age but of indubitable rottenness.
Taste also plays an important part in the choice of food material in health, and it is popularly believed that, when an article of sustenance is not repugnant to this sense, it is healthful and wholesome, and that harm cannot result from its ingestion. One of the objects that nature has in placing the nerves of taste in the mouth is that of a protective measure to prevent noxious substances from entering the stomach; but because of persistent cultivation this sense has been perverted and most men and women are more or less abnormal in taste perception. To perversion in this respect is due much of carelessness in mastication. Improperly accomplished mastication prepares a fertile soil in which the seeds of disease are promptly sown and as promptly flourish. With normal taste development the medical profession would be at a loss to administer the average drug were the patient to masticate or insalivate its substance. Recognizing this, the physician in introducing his alleged remedy into the system obviates the difficulty by the use of capsules or by injecting the drug directly into the veins.
The fallacy of attempting practical application of a theory of food selection based upon the senses of taste and smell alone is easily demonstrable. The question resolves itself into one concerning the needs of the body, but, however, after a fast, taste and smell are restored to normal acuity and, so long as they are not abused and remain in this state, they may be used as partial indicators. At this time all wholesome food gives delight and is desired with a hunger created in a clean and healthy system that craves for nourishment and that fully enjoys its ingestion. Simple foods, properly prepared and correctly proportioned as to the relative amounts of fats, carbohydrates, and protein, with the necessary mineral salts, are what the dietitian and the subject should endeavor to supply. The fast is ended, the system is cleansed, and the digestive organs are in full vigor, waiting to form pure blood and pure tissue from pure food.
No detail further than that already disclosed is needed to show that mankind habitually overeats, and that, as a result, nutritive material is absorbed into the general circulation in quantity beyond the requirements of the body, loading the system with an unnecessary and harmful burden and hampering with poisonous waste the operation of its machinery. But, just as the liver stands guard, in so far as it may, over matter absorbed, and just as it separates good from bad, so at the very inception of the digestive process, the mouth, with its armor of teeth and its salivary apparatus, determines in large degree the amount of food needed in nutrition.
The mouth holds the nerves of taste, taste is enjoyed in the mouth, and taste has its great purpose in deciding just when food has been ground between the teeth sufficiently to prepare it for subsequent processes. Taste virtually disappears when food has been properly insalivated, and too thorough mastication cannot occur, for the benefits derived are immeasurable, even apart from the comminution of solids. The mouth easily accomplishes this work when the habit of mastication has been acquired, but, if it perform it carelessly, the other organs of digestion cannot act in normal function, and perfect digestion cannot occur, since one of its processes has been omitted. And again, the only portion of the operation of digestion that can be voluntarily controlled is that which is done in the mouth, hence the subject of the mastication of food is an all important one. Its value in the economy of the human body is excellently treated by the late Horace Fletcher in his A-B-C of Our Own Nutrition.
"When food is filtered into the body after having become liquefied and made alkaline or at least neutral by saliva, the appetite is given a chance to measure the needs of the body and to discriminate against excess. As soon as the point of complete saturation of any one deficiency is reached, appetite is cut off as short as possible, with no indication of stomach fullness. It will welcome a little of protein, and then turn to sugar or fat in some of their numerous forms. Thirst for water will assert itself for a moment, sometimes asking but a drop and again for a full glass; and afterwards, when near the point of complete saturation, appetite will hesitate for a moment, as if searching around for some rare substance and may find its final satisfaction in a single spoonful of sweet, or of a sip of something in sight.
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