In Vol. I it was learned that an emotion is a complex of reflexly aroused nerve-muscle-gland reactions and that the nervous, muscular and glandular reactions in certain emotional states are such as to inhibit or suspend certain functions--digestion and excretion, for example--while other of these reactions favor the performance of these functions.
Bad news cuts off a hearty appetite. Grief may suspend the appetite for days. Ordinary mental processes do not so greatly influence hunger, but fear, joy and other emotions temporarily abolish the sensation. The so-called destructive emotions abolish not only hunger but also the so-called "hunger contractions" of the stomach and the secretion of digestive juices.
The digestive secretions are, to a great extent, influenced by the emotions. While I do not intend to treat of such matters in detail at this place, we need to know that moods and emotions profoundly influence the secretions of all the glands of the body and, thereby, exert a tremendous influence upon the whole of the nutritive processes.
Psychic secretion is that part of the digestive juices which flows in response to one's mental states and emotions and sense pleasures. The flow of the salivary and gastric juices is influenced by so-called psychic factors. The sight, smell or anticipation of a meal will cause these secretions to be poured out. The stomach "waters" as does the mouth. The taste of food, even where the food never reaches the stomach, will cause the gastric juice to be poured out. People in a state of mental exhilaration, who are joyous and happy, or who experience a feeling of well-being, have better digestion than others. The so-called psychic secretion lasts about thirty minutes and constitutes approximately twenty per cent of the total amount of gastric juice.
Strong emotions like rage, fear, jealousy, worry, etc., and all intense mental impulses immediately stop the rhythmic motions of the stomach walls and suspend the secretion of the digestive juices. Fear and rage not only make the mouth dry, they dry the stomach as well. Pain impairs the secretion of the gastric juice, stopping entirely the psychic secretion. Not only do all strong "destructive" emotions inhibit the delicately regulated psychic secretion, but even too great joy will do likewise.
Nervously depressed people have poor psychic secretion and are usually chronic dyspeptics. Observations made on mental patients, particularly those suffering from the so-called maniac depressant psychoses, have shown that their psychic secretions are poor or negligible. Even a normal man who was about to take an examination, about which he had doubts about his ability to pass, required to digest and send a meal out of his stomach, two hours longer than under normal circumstances.
Worry, fear, anxiety, apprehension, excitement, hurry, fretfulness, irritableness, temper, despondency, unfriendliness, a critical attitude, heated arguments at meals, etc., prevent the secretion of the digestive juices and other secretions of the body and cripple not only digestion, but the whole process of nutrition.
Mental excitement results in the same weakening reactions upon the body as do intoxicants. It occasions the same degeneracy and loss of vital reserve as do alcoholics. Corrosive worries, burning thrills, the searing fires of uncontrolled emotions, freezing fears and similar mental and emotional states lower vitality, weaken digestive power and leave the food in the digestive tract a prey to microbes.
None of us go through life without repeated shocks, emotional upheavals, worries, periods of anxiety and of irritation. But the average man and woman is usually able to throw these off in a brief period. The fact that one is not able to throw them off quite readily, shows that there is something wrong.
A few years ago I put forth the theory, based on my experience, that worry, fear, shock, etc., seldom or never produce disease in the really healthy, because these are able to throw off such states before serious damage is done. This theory was reproduced in my Food and Feeding, in 1926.
In 1928 Dr. P. E. Morhardt, of Paris, reported the results of his long continued studies of nutrition and mental factors. He found that such emotional shocks as the loss of a loved one, loss of fortune, etc., become disease-producing because the body is in a state of "vegetative and nutritional unbalance" at the time. Such shocks are survived by the really healthy with a minimum amount of injury and leave no bad effects. They frequently result in permanent troubles in those whose health, particularly their digestive health, has been neglected.
Diabetes is given as an example of "nutritional unbalance" which leaves the nervous system in no condition to bear up under strain or shock. Other weaknesses resulting from haphazard eating and neglect of the body produce the same effects upon the brain and nerves, so that the first "emotional upheaval" greatly aggravates the condition and produces more serious troubles. Often the mind itself, already affected by the previous nutritional unbalance and toxemia, becomes deranged.
In dealing with sugar in the urine, in diabetes, Dr. Cabot says: "As soon as marked worry comes to the patient's life, up goes the sugar when it has been scanty or absent before." The noted surgeon, Crile, gives us the dictum: "When stocks go down, diabetes goes up."
Shock, as from a wound or an operation, will cause sugar to appear in the urine. Apprehensiveness and "nervousness," or excitement do likewise. Worry, as from financial loss, is a common cause of functional glycosuria (sugar in the urine). An argument is frequently responsible for an increase in blood-pressure, gastrointestinal (digestive) disorders, gall-bladder troubles (these being outgrowths of the digestive derangements), and acute exacerbations of diabetes.
Every mood or emotion reacts upon every cell and every function in the body. Destructive emotions create discord in the physical functions of the body. "The angry man sends a torrent of rage into his own constructive cell-world," as Dr. Gibson expresses it, and disrupts the orderly working of his cells, and "previous tissue structures, once pillars of vital strength, are reduced to ruin and ashes."
Dr. Geo. A. Molien, of Denver, reports that many surgical operations may be avoided if the mental and nervous factors in the cases are corrected. He cites several cases in which operations had been advised but refused, the patients completely recovering from ailments diagnosed as gastric ulcer, appendicitis, pancreatic and intestinal disturbances and from persistent vomiting, after mental and emotional relief were secured.
Dr. Weger recalls a case cited by Cannon, which came under the care of Dr. Alvarez, of a man who suffered with persistent vomiting, having begun when an income tax collector threatened the man with punishment if he could not explain a discrepancy in his tax statement. The vomiting ceased as soon as the matter was straightened out, Dr. Alvarez, himself, going to the tax collector, as a therapeutic measure, to iron out the difficulties.