There was never a time when popular interest in health and hygiene was so prevalent as now. Physiology is imbibed with the French irregular verbs, the society woman is almost strenuously devoted to mental healing, and the man in the street takes quite an interest in the science of bacteriology. The general public is eagerly interested in all the new theories about diet, from sour milk to potato cures, whilst the New Thought people attract a growing clientele every day.
Everybody knows everything that it is possible to know about health and hygiene. In spite of this, a remarkable amount of ill-health pervades the community. Although we have successfully dealt with many of the infectious ailments from our increased knowledge of microbes, most of the ordinary everyday ailments are as prevalent as ever. There are martyrs to gout, sufferers from dyspepsia, victims of nerves by the thousand. Numbers of them appear at this season of the year. Every second person is run down, and tells you he wants a "tonic."
Cause of Spring Ailments "It is always the way in spring," remarks the man whose metier it is to impart useless details of information to the world at large. From prehistoric days the spring was probably the chief on when health martyrs were loudest in their complaints. The spring tonic has certainly been an institution of generations. It is an evidence that most people are run down at this season or imagine themselves to be.
By all the laws of common-sense, spring is the very time of year when we should be at our healthiest. The long dark days are over. We have more opportunities for healthful exercise in the fresh air. It is the season when all Nature revives - except human nature. There must be some physical explanation of the fact, and once we discover what it is we can take steps to deal with it.
What are the most prevalent symptoms of ill-health in the spring? First, a languor, headache, and depression, which contribute largely to the "run-down" feeling. Ninety per cent, of the cases are due to poisoned blood. The popular idea that the blood requires purifying at this season has a physiological explanation behind it. When the liver is congested, the blood is overcharged with poisonous products, which are the direct cause of the sallow complexions, the heavy eyes, and the irritability of temper so prevalent just now. The spring tonic will never touch the cause of these signs of ill-health. It will not rejuvenate the torpid and sluggish liver. It will never undo the effects of hygienic absurdities. The majority of men and women are seedy in spring, when they might be at their health and happiest if they liked. Let us take the chief causes of spring ailments.
During the months of winter, meals are heavier, exercise is limited, and the human machine gets clogged from overstrain of the digestive functions. The popular delusion that we require feeding up in spring makes matters worse. The woman who is fagged and tired, nervously and physically, whose digestive system is unfit for the slightest overstrain, tries what she calls a " nourishing " and " ton. diet in spring. Perhaps she takes stout or one of the malt extracts, which are so excellent the proper time and under the right circumstances.
What is the result? Ill-health, which i the penalty of ignorance.
The various signs of ill-health and impaired looks are the outward expression of in of the internal mechanism. The fact is that most people require, not a more nourishing, but a strictly Spartan diet in spring to give the digestive organs a chance of recovery. The substantial, so-called heating foods of winter over-strain the digestive system. The sedentary habits of the last few months have weakened our muscles and diminished the normal tone of the whole system. So try nursery diet for a week or two when you are feeling seedy and run down in spring.
The average woman takes far too many meals. Early morning and afternoon tea, and a snack at supper-time, should be rigidly abolished by the woman who wants to keep young and good-looking when her compeers are going downhill.
Temporary vegetarianism is a splendid thing in spring-time, when the fresh vegetables and fruits are beginning to appear. The best spring tonic in the world is sometimes to give up butcher's meat for a fortnight, and the good effect upon the system is signified by the improved complexion which very soon results.
Colds, catarrhs, sore throats, and influenzas often appear in epidemics in spring. For one thing, anyone who is run down is far more liable to "catch" any infectious ailment which may be about. By dieting ourselves on the lines suggested we are more likely to resist infection.
At the same time, most people wear too many clothes at this season of year. During December, January, and February the cold weather provides a distinct temptation to over-clothe, but whenever the brighter days appear the wise woman lightens the burden of clothing that civilisation and fashion compel her to carry. As spring advances we take more exercise, and if we still wear the heavy garments of winter we run every danger of over-heating and subsequent chill.
A Question of Clothes
One of the commonest causes of spring colds is the fatigue and over-exertion necessitated by wearing heavy garments, and these should be gradually discarded whenever spring appears. The old Scotch adage "Ne'er cast a clout till May is out" has no hygienic reason in it, and belongs to the days when fresh air was supposed to induce colds, and people imagined that the more they ate the healthier they would become. Women are far more apt to over-clothe themselves than men, and one explanation of the fact that women are easily tired with exercise is that their garments are generally too heavy.
Over-fatigue, listlessness, and lethargy are so prevalent at this season that spring tonics are taken by the majority of women. All medicines at this season should be used with the greatest discretion. Many spring tonics owe their invigorating effects to alcohol, so that their tonic effect is necessarily followed by reaction and depression. The best spring medicines consist of a blue pill at night and a seidlitz powder in the morning. These increase the secretion of bile, which gets rid of the poisons or toxins of impaired digestion. Careful diet and exercise will answer the same purpose. Nine out of ten people are suffering at the present time from too little exercise during the last six months. Wet weather and damp streets tempt business men and women into omnibus or cab when a brisk walk is their greatest need. Dark evenings provide no opportunity for cycling, walking, or fixed exercise for people who are busy working all day. The universal need at this season of the year is exercise. If you wish to conquer the run-down feeling, walk and cycle and take up one of the outdoor pursuits which do so much to keep people young and healthy and happy. But guard against over-exercise before your muscles, and particularly your heart, are in comparative training. A hundred cases of ill-health in spring are due to violent rushing into exercise after living a sedentary life all the winter. In spring most of us are flabby of muscle and unfit for anything but very gradual exercise at first. But after a very short time improved health and vitality come to us, and we can then participate in more strenuous exertion.
Perhaps the best spring medicine of all is fresh air. We should never have been run down if we had kept our windows open all the winter. The majority of people have rigorously excluded fresh air from their homes since October. They have an unwholesome fear of March winds and the uncertain weather of April and May. So that they abstain from purifying their homes, sit in stuffy rooms, poison their tissues, and whenever they penetrate out of doors are liable in consequence to succumb to chill and infection. If every woman made a rule to let fresh air flow freely through her house for one hour each day, and kept the windows an inch or two open all day and all night, she would never know the meaning of colds, and improve fifty per cent. in health and looks.
So, if you are run down at this season, do not blame the spring. If it is not defective digestion, the cause is probably deficient ventilation and lack of exercise. You may, of course, be overworked and needing rest. A brief holiday in spring is a luxury we cannot all obtain, but if we need rest we should take steps to obtain it. Very few people know how to rest properly in their homes without doing their usual everyday work, and a great deal of nervous ill-health at the present time is caused by this fact. Life is certainly more strenuous to-day, and competition keener. Most people have gone through a good deal of strain during the last six months. If they are to go on, they must rest.
They must learn that rest can be obtained without a so-called holiday at all. The first thing is to learn to do whatever tasks you may be called on to fulfil without excitement, irritability, and any sense of worry. Rest is not so. much a condition as an " attitude " of mind. We can work restfully, or we can work with all the time a sense of worry and unrest. Work is only harmful if we do not know how to do it, and women are the greatest sinners in this respect. Many of them never rest at all. Even when they are apparently resting in a chair their minds are working and worrying all the time about their domestic difficulties.
If you wish to be healthy in spring, or at any other season, the very first resolution you should make is to break the worry habit. Nervous prostration is mainly due to the fact that many people never stop working. They take their work worries home with them, brood over them at meals, and in all probability their subconscious selves are wrestling with their petty cares during the hours of sleep. In such cases, spring tonics will do no more good than a glass of port or sherry. The one essential thing is the establishment of a good habit of method and quiet work in place of impatience, unrest, and anxiety. This, in conjunction with the practice of the other health rules discussed in this article, will ensure health in spring to the majority of people.