No physician who has not tried knows how difficult it is to bridge the gap between those of technical education and those who have not been so trained.
The man with technical knowledge teaches and the untrained person seems to understand, but any test will often show that no knowledge of particular value has been imparted.
There are only a dozen writers in the English language who excel in expounding real medical knowledge in a popular way. All the rest impart only a half-knowledge that retards, rather than advances, true medicine.
So it is better that the practical application of dietetics should be taught by one who is not trammeled by intricacies of medicine and who can work backward, as it were, from domestic science, to meet the medical demands.
The demand in this case is to meet, by a very rigid diet, the needs of those who are threatened with serious disorders of the heart and blood vessels.
Many years of study have brought me back to founding the diet of heart sufferers upon the basis of the old adage, "What is one man's meat is another man's poison."
The scientific basis of this truth is a long story of profound interest involving nearly every branch of modern research, the action of germs, the chemistry of the proteins, and, curiously enough, the principles of vaccination.
It has been found that, under certain circumstances, the cells of the body become sensitive to the protein element of certain kinds of foods, and, from that time on, as long as this sensitiveness lasts, that kind of food acts as a poison to the cells of the body. The only way to limit the damage is to exclude the offending article of food from the diet.
Another important point in the matter is, that when a person is sensitive to a particular kind of food, the cells are almost as much irritated by a little of this food as by a great deal, so that a diet, to be of much use, has to be a strict diet.
Many failures can be laid at the door of slight indulgence in the type of food to which the person is sensitive. This may happen unconsciously or because of the belief that a little will not do any harm. It is hard for an untrained person to believe that food damage can be entirely independent of any discomfort, but such is the case.
Food poisoning has generally existed for five or ten years before the heart is sufficiently damaged to cause distress on exertion.
If the person goes under the care of a competent specialist before any discomfort begins, as in those rejected by life insurance or accidentally examined, the task of the physician is very hard. It is his duty to persuade such a person that a strict diet is necessary, but the sick person does not feel any discomfort from his high blood pressure or leaking heart, and so he is in no position to appreciate any of the improvement that may result from the adherence to a diet.
On the whole, it is a fortunate thing if pain and oppression in the chest develop early in heart disease, as it gives an opportunity for treatment before the disease has advanced.
My own experience is, that heart disease and hardening of the arteries have usually existed about five years at the time the sufferer comes under observation.
This will not always be so because there is a strong movement by the life insurance companies to bring about the examination at regular intervals of all persons who are insured, so as to detect the symptomless disease in time, and effect an early cure.
This has to be accomplished by the study of each individual person, by means of the absolute withdrawal of all those things until there is an improvement in the action of the heart and blood vessels. Now one article of food, and then another is added to the diet, and it is discovered by experiment which one the person can use without a return of the disorder.
In the beginning, it may be only eggs, or fish, or meat, that is a source of irritation to the cells of the body. In persons very seriously ill with hardening of the arteries, all of these things are a source of irritation.
It is comparatively easy for a physician to say, "Don't eat any eggs," but it is very hard to conduct cooking on this basis, and the cutting out of meat makes a tremendous deficiency in the fare of most households. Stock soups and fish are also missed.
Mrs. Gillmore, in this book, has undertaken to compile the experience of persons who have honestly attempted to restore the health and prolong the lives of members of their family by providing attractive meals, which, at the same time, complied with the requirements of persons who had to consider their hearts and blood vessels.
Mrs. Gillmore has contributed to a work that will help other women in this problem, and will measurably assist in the checking of the advance of a class of diseases that is now claiming twice as many victims as it did thirty years ago and from those who can least be spared by their families and the State.
Louis Faugeres Bishop.
A. M. (Rutgers), M.D. (Columbia.) Professor of Heart and Circulatory Diseases, Fordham University, School of Medicine, New York.