This section is from the book "The Home Hand-Book of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine. Volume 2.", by J. H. Kellogg, M.D.. Also available from Amazon: The Home Hand-Book of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine, Volume 2.
Seminal emissions occurring during sleep, usually accompanied by erotic dreams, are known as nocturnal or night pollutions, losses, or emissions. In addition to its characteristic feature, the disease is often accompanied by a long train of symptoms which are intimately connected with the local affection, or grow out of the debility arising from the continual drain upon the system, for a full account of which the reader is referred to the author's work entitled, "Plain Facts for Old and Young."
This disease is usually the result of self-abuse, but may result from sexual excesses of any kind. It is common in married men who have abused the marriage relation, when they are forced to temporary continence from any cause. It also occurs in those addicted to mental unchastity, though they may be physically continent. It is not probable that it would ever occur in a person who had been strictly continent and had not allowed his mind to dwell upon libidinous imaginations. In many cases such a condition of weakness and local debility is reached that an emission is produced by the slightest excitement. Mere proximity to a female, or the thought of one, may be sufficient to produce a pollution, attended by voluptuous sensations. But after a time the organs become so diseased and irritable that the slightest mechanical irritation, as friction of the clothing, the sitting posture, or riding horseback, will produce a discharge which may or may not be attended by sensation of any kind. Frequently a burning or more or less painful sensation occurs; erection does not take place. Even straining at stool will produce the discharge, or violent efforts to retain the feces when there is unnatural looseness.
In cases in which the disease is of short duration, a cure can generally be affected quite readily; in those of longer standing, the task is more difficult, but still the prospect of recovery is very favorable, provided the co-operation of the patient can be secured; without this, little can be done. But in these cases the patient may as well be told at the outset that the task of undoing the evil work of years of sin is no easy matter. It .can only be accomplished by determined effort, by steady perseverance in right doing, and in the application of necessary remedies. Those who have long practiced secret vice or other sexual excesses, or long suffered severely from the effects of sexual transgression, have received an injury which will inevitably be life-long to a greater or lesser extent in spite of all that can be done for them. In such cases, a cure consists in reducing the frequency of the emissions so that the general health will not suffer, which point is generally reached when an emission occurs but once in four to six weeks.
In the attempt to cure this disease, the thing of first importance is that the patient should obtain command of his thoughts; by this means, he can do more for himself than all the doctors can do for him. "But I cannot control my thoughts," says the patient. A young man said to me, "O doctor, you don't know how I feel. I despise myself; I hate myself; I often feel inclined to kill myself. My mind is always full of abominable images; my thoughts run away with me and I cannot help myself." The tears ran down his face in streams as he told me of his slavery. All possible means must be employed to attract the patients attention from himself, from brooding over his ills. Occupy him, interest him, or teach him to occupy and interest himself. The enthusiastic study of some one of the natural sciences is a most excellent auxiliary in effecting this.
Daily exercise should be taken to the extent of fatigue. It is better that those who are still strong enough should have some regular employment which will require exercise. Those who prefer may secure exercise and recreation in the pursuit of some study that involves necessary physical exertion; as, botany, geology, or entomology. The collecting of natural-history specimens is one of the most pleasant diversions, and may be made very useful as well. No single form of exercise is so excellent as walking. Four or five miles a day are none too many to secure a proper amount of muscular exercise. Gymnastics, the "health-lift," "Indian clubs," "dumb-bells," rowing, and other forms of exercise are all good; but none of them should be carried to excess. Ball-playing is likely to be made a source of injury by exciting, in vigorous competition, too violent and spasmodic action.
Careful regulation of the diet is a matter of paramount importance. The science of physiology teaches that our very thoughts are bom of what we eat. A patient that lives on pork, fine-flour bread, rich pies and cakes, and condiments, drinks tea and coffee and uses tobacco, can make no permanent improvement without reformation. The food must be simple and unstimulating. Much flesh-meat, condiments, tea, coffee, beer, tobacco, and all stimulants must be strictly avoided. It is better for the patient to eat but twice a day, and never later than three or four hours before bed-time.
Sufficient sleep should be taken, but dozing must be avoided. Never go to bed with the bowels or bladder loaded. The bladder should be emptied just before retiring. It is also a good plan to form the habit of rising once or twice during the night to urinate. The position in sleeping is of some importance. Sleeping upon the back or upon the abdomen favors the occurrence of emissions; hence, it is preferable to sleep on one side.
Various devices are employed, sometimes with advantage, to prevent the patient from turning upon his back while asleep. The most simple is that recommended by Acton, and consists in tying a knot in the middle of a towel, and then fastening the towel about the body in such a way that the knot will come upon the small of the back. The unpleasant sensations arising from pressure of the knot, if the sleeper turn upon his back, will often serve as a complete preventive. Others fasten a piece of wood upon the back for a similar purpose. Still others practice tying one hand to the bed-post. None of these remedies should be depended upon, but they may be tried in connection with other means of treatment. Soft beds and pillows must be carefully avoided. Featherbeds should not be employed when possible to find a harder bed; the floor, with a single folded blanket beneath the sleeper would be preferable. Soft pillows heat the head, as soft beds produce heat in other parts. A hair mattress, or a bed of corn husks, oat straw, or excelsior -covered with two or three blankets or a quilted cotton mattress- makes a very healthy and comfortable bed. Too many covers should be avoided with equal care. The thinnest possible covering in summer, and the lightest consistent with comfort in winter, should be the rule.
As a curative means, the cool or cold sitz bath is one of the most efficacious of all remedies. It should be taken daily, and may often be repeated, with benefit, several times a day. Its effect is to relieve the local congestion, and thus allay the irritability of the affected parts. When but one bath is taken daily, it should be just before retiring at night. Other methods of treatment are described in our work devoted to this subject.
Drugs are usually of little value, as the most they can do, at least in the great majority of cases, is to temporarily check the disease. Permanent recovery demands the strictest attention to improved hygiene. The employment of rings, pessaries, and numerous other mechanical devices for preventing emissions, is usually futile. No dependence can be placed upon them. Some of these contrivances are very ingenious, but they are all worthless, and time and money spent upon them are thrown away.
In conclusion, we would say to those who may have the misfortune to be suffering in this manner, Never consult a quack. The newspapers abound with lying advertisements of remedies for diseases of this character. Do not waste time and money in corresponding with the ignorant, unprincipled charlatans who make such false pretensions. Do not consult traveling doctors. Physicians of real merit have plenty of business at home. They are not obliged to go abroad in order to secure practice. Persons who resort to this course are, without exception, pretentious quacks. Consult only some well-known and reliable physician in whom you have confidence. It is far better to consult your family physician than to trust yourself in the hands of some one whom you do not know, and especially one who makes great pretensions to knowledge.