The following is a doctor's note on the Mr. Harris referred to in the conversation : ' I may say that I have been watching Mr. Harris carefully for some years, that he always takes a physiological allowance of albumens, and produces a physiological amount of urea (which I have repeatedly estimated). There is no doubt where his strength and power come from ; and he gets his albumens chiefly from bread, nuts, and fruit, with very little milk or cheese, and at times none of these last. On K.'s diet such work as Mr. Harris does is impossible.'
Time after time I have heard of various people, and even doctors, trying the diet and giving it up after a few weeks or months, finding they could not do their work on the non-stimulating food. My family are then much surprised that this does not bring home to my mind a sense of failure. All it does do, is to convince me that very little is yet known of the right mixtures of food; that there is, in most cases, a more or less severe reaction to be reckoned with from the accumulated uric acid rushing into the blood on the withdrawal of the meat-tea-and-wine diet, and that good results can rarely be expected, except with the young and healthy, under eighteen months to two years time. The change is too radical and permanent to be effected hurriedly.
The hoarding of uric acid in the system seems to me to be Dr. Haig's great scientific discovery, and the one most disputed by other medical men. His work proves conclusively to me that all benefit from German waters, alkaline treatment, &c, is only a temporary palliative, necessitating constant return, with danger of severe relapse in the end. I have known cases of extreme illness, and even death, from missing a course of Carlsbad waters for one season. The advertisements that explain health questions so clearly to the public every morning and evening in the newspapers are all based upon the old theory, that it is possible to clear the whole system of uric acid by alkaline drugs and mineral waters. If the advertisements are right, Dr. Haig's theories are all wrong. The first thing that put him on the scent of error in the old accepted idea, was that none of the usual remedies bring away any uric acid, though, of course, they clear it from the blood, and, therefore, give the well-described sense of relief to the patient. This made him ask, 'Where does it go ?' He now declares, after years of examination, that it is deposited on the soft tissues, the internal organs, the brain, the muscles, nerves, bone-joints, &c, waiting either to set up disease in them under the action of any favourable external circumstance, or again to enter the blood stream and cause distress as soon as rising alkalinity will dissolve it. He maintains, in his books, that the sole real cure is to stop the introduction of foods containing uric acid, or its equivalent, xanthin, and replace them by a diet which he considers suitable and natural for man.
It is undeniable that, with most people, a few months of the diet causes great depression and weakness, which, for those who cannot take rest from work, is sometimes so serious a matter, that it means giving up the diet or the work. Great relief would be found in these 'cases if they took, in summer, 20 grains of bicarbonate of soda dissolved in a teaspoonful of cold water and hot water added till the mixture is of the warmth of a cup of tea, or, in winter, a 5-grain dose of salicylate of soda. Neither of these remedies being a tonic, but rather a depressant, it is obvious that the relief experienced must be due to the effect they have in clearing the blood of the uric acid which has been brought into it from the tissues on its way out of the body. They must be kept in reserve for times when rest is impossible, and so enable the patient to continue the diet which is to bring about ultimate cure. The same effect can be produced, by a temporary lapse back to the old uric-acid diet, which is an immense triumph to the enemies of the system, though perfectly intelligible to any student of Dr. Haig's theory. He himself has taken the trouble to publish leaflets expressly recommending a very gradual change of diet in order to avoid any severe degree of this depression and apparent exhaustion.
Dr. Haig, Dr. Allinson, and Mr. Miles all seem to think that uric-acid diseases, such as gout and rheumatism, headache, neuralgia, anaemia, epilepsy, would cease to exist if their diet were adopted. For as much as itisworth,my own personal experienceandmy observation of others under various doctors and treatments absolutely corroborate their views. Doctors are still very much divided in their opinion as to meat being bad for gout and rheumatism, and very many of them tell gouty and rheumatic patients to eat plenty of meat and not much sugar, farinaceous, or carbohydrate substances; so it is not their opinion that uric acid is increased in the system by flesh foods. These very doctors, however, always prescribe the medicines which, as Dr. Haig shows, clear the blood of uric acid but throw it back upon the tissues. Of late years, in severe cases of eczema and shingles, their great salvation seems to be the much-discarded remedy of mercury (calomel). Only the future can prove how far the few are right and the many wrong in this matter. In all probability diet will take centuries to have a fair trial, for the changes it would involve in every department of our modern life are almost unthinkable. I am most anxious that anyone who is at all interested in anything I have to say, not only as regards the improvement of his own health but the benefit to the whole human race, should remember that the subject is one which demands at least a year of close and careful study, that it is in no sense like the German waters, or Salisbury cure, or any other diet prescribed for illness, a temporary affair with the hope of returning cheerfully to luxurious living; it is a road on which may be written what Dante wrote over the entrance to Hell: 'Lasciate ogni speranza voi che entrate.' There is absolutely no return without greater injury from the increased sensitiveness of the body and the quicker realisation of what is injurious food, but I do deny that the road leads to Hell; I should like to add that, even when adopted late in life, it leads to the Paradise of Health. I am also the last to deny that, however strong this belief may be, it does include self-denial even to the old; for, when people are no longer young, habit has become second nature, and with people all round you eating what you have always been accustomed to, it does require a certain amount of strength of mind to refuse all the dishes that a few years ago you would have gladly eaten as the most wholesome food. It has taken me nine years of experience to find out how injurious the most simple food of the flesh-eater, such as the invalid diet of boiled fish and chicken, really is.