Imaginary conversation between two doctors - Advertisements versus Dr. Haig - Remedies for depression on beginning diet - The old need not fear change of diet - Tea-drinking and the Chinese - The Bible and meat-eating - Pythagoreans and the bean - 'Better Food for Boys ' and the schoolmaster - Difficulties of the diet - Fat and thin women - Mediaeval and Greek idea - Individual cases - Maeterlinck's testimony.
Having done my best in the last chapter to tell about myself, I think it may be of some interest to those who are trying to help themselves, and who have, probably, those they love best and all the world against them, that I should now give some account of my personal observation of others, and the details of a few cases that have come more particularly under my notice, these having been kind enough to send me their individual experience. Some are patients of Dr. Haig, others have been induced to try the diet from reading Mr. Miles' book, or from seeing the conspicuous benefit I have derived from the diet.
For a long time I thought Dr. Haig was the only medical practitioner of the kind, but the last six months have convinced me of my error, and now it seems to me that the idea of wrong food being a great cause of disease, is quite in the air and widespread. But it cannot be too often repeated, that the work of Dr. Haig and his colleagues is not primarily a specific cure of disease, but a scientific research into food, their aim being to establish a high standard of health on a simple and sound foundation of right diet. Being a doctor, however, Dr. Haig's experience must necessarily lie among the diseased, or, at least, the non-healthy, and this gives his system of diet a most severe trial. I must honestly say that, in all the cases that have come to me, there has never been one healthy person; all have been suffering more or less from headaches, dyspepsia, anaemia, gout, rheumatism, weakness, &c, in spite of belonging to a class that has every chance of high feeding in the ordinary way, though many of them, from non-assimilation, have been as underfed as the unscientific vegetarians. I confess I am still puzzled by the apparently good results of the cramming system, which has been so generally adopted for nervous diseases by the medical profession, and of which Drs. Playfair and Weir-Mitchell are the renowned exponents. The benefit is, I believe, only temporary, and the over-stimulation of cramming on meat and wine is so dangerous for nervous temperaments that many cases of death and madness might be written down as 'victims of the medical profession.' The high-feeding cure for tuberculosis has given this system such an immense fashion, that in Germany it is recommended as a 'preventive measure as well as a cure, it being well known that the weakly form the best soil for the germs of the disease. I know a German mother who sent her only and very delicate son of sixteen, reduced by overwork and examinations, to Nordrach, the consumptive cure place, to face the possible infection, that he might be fed on a system which she could not induce him to follow at home. The result was so satisfactory that he was willing to go back there for his summer holiday in the following year. The lesson to me from this, is not that the Nordrach meat diet is best for the purpose, this being attained with greater ultimate advantage upon the Haig diet (see 'Diet and Food,' p. 108), but that a person can be made to eat food enough by the help of a mental effort, or by the moral influence of some other human being, such as a doctor, friend, or nurse. The immediate results of the stuffing system tend immensely to support Dr. Haig's theories, as represented in the following imaginary conversation, written for me by a doctor:
If you take only small quantities of food, you may continue some meat, and even tea and coffee, with but little harm.
I grant this to a certain extent, and I know that a little uric acid is better than a great deal; but I can show that it always does harm to take any uric acid, and, personally, I never swallow a grain of it, if I have power to leave it out.
Well, it does not seem to harm me ; I am much better than I used to be, and I am old and yet feel well.
Let us get to facts; will you tell me, for instance, what your old diet used to be and what your present diet is ?
My ordinary diet might have been 1,200 grains of albumen per day. I then formed 12 grains of uric acid per day, and I introduced some 8 grains more in flesh and tea. I thus had to deal with 20 grains of uric acid a day, and with this I suffered badly from headaches. My present diet is about 800 grains of albumen, and I form 8 grains of uric acid, and introduce in the small quantities of flesh and tea I take some 8 or 4 grains more. I thus have to deal with some 11 to 12 grains of uric acid a day, and have no headaches.
No doubt this is a gain ; but what about your nutrition, and circulation ?
I lead a quiet life, and get up late; but I am able to walk for several miles every day, and do a good deal of reading and writing.
But your blood colour is nowhere near the proper standard, and your circulation in skin and all organs is slow, so that their nutrition is feeble. Now I know a man who is at present in his eightieth year, and who would do in one hour all the exercise you take in a day (Mr. C. J. Harris, often mentioned in the "Vegetarian"); his ordinary day's work is thirty to forty miles on his tricycle, and he not infrequently rides fifty to sixty miles, and on several occasions has done a hundred in the twenty-four hours. His blood colour is good, his circulation is good, he is in every way strong and well nourished ; and the reason is simple, for he takes, each day, his physiological allowance of albumens, quite free from uric acid, while you only take two-thirds of your physiological allowance (800 in place of 1,200), and you further hinder your circulation, and injure your blood colour, by swallowing uric acid, which he does not.
I do not wish to do as much as Mr. Harris, I am content with my life as it is.
But you only live one-half the life that Mr. Harris does, and produce only one-half of the effect in the world; if you are content with half a life, when a whole one is open to you, well and good; that is your affair ; but you will not persuade me that the half is equal to the whole.'