Foods are frequently used, both by laymen and by doctors of all schools, as palliatives, that is, for the relief of symptoms. Honey is used to relieve coughing and dryness and irritation of the throat. Warm milk is often employed to relieve insomnia. Patients suffering with gastric ulcer are fed frequently during the day and sometimes at night to relieve stomach distress. Nervous patients are fed frequently to relieve their nervous symptoms. A large class of incorrigibles eat to relieve headache. These people are food drunkards and are uncomfortable when deprived of the accustomed food. Some food drunkards suffer from nausea when their stomachs are empty. These eat to relieve the nausea. Patients who suffer with gastric catarrh are advised to drink fruit juices or lemonade to cleanse their stomachs of mucus. Food addiction is as real as morphine addiction and produces almost as intense suffering. When deprived of food these addicts suffer the same symptoms as the morphine addict experiences when deprived of his dope. Feeding wheat bran or a lot of bulk and roughage in some other form in cases of constipation, instead of removing the causes of constipation, is a form of symptomatic feeding that has no justification. Symptomatic feeding is like giving drugs to ease or "relieve" symptoms.
The ulcer diets commonly employed are deficient in vitamins and minerals. These diets are devised to avoid mechanical irritation of the ulcer or to use up the excess acid in the stomach, not to provide adequate nourishment for the sufferer. Someday it will be realized that these diets help to perpetuate the ulcer and to make the condition of the patient worse. Such feeding will then be looked upon as malpractice.
It is easily possible to feed a diet that will relieve a symptom and, at the same time, make the patient worse. No better example of this can be given than diets commonly fed in diabetics, which have no regenerative effects upon the pancreatic tissue, but do increase the toxemic condition of the patient. Many of the diets fed to diabetic patients help to keep the urine sugar-free. They reduce the amount of blood sugar. But they are so deficient they lay the foundation for metabolic troubles that are almost as serious as the diabetes.
There is a limit to the possibilities of any trophologic regimen. Even a biologically correct dietary and a complete bionomic program, resorted to at the eleventh hour, may be insufficient to stay the progress of degeneration and prevent its culmination in death.