(From to nourish). Dieta, also
Diaterica. Diet. When strict and regular, the Greeks named it cathestecos. Though diet is often confined to what we eat and drink, yet Galen and most other medical writers include in it the whole of what are called the non-naturals.
We shall consider under this head what relates to our food and drink only.
We have already spoken at some length on this subject under the article of Aliment; and it will only be necessary, at this time, to distinguish the food adapted to the different ages, different climates, and to different periods of the day.
The food of infants is milk, mixed occasionally with -the farinacea; and, in general, a healthy child requires no farther approach to an animal diet till after the ninth or tenth month. Yet, in some constitutions, the milk, from the mother's constitution, disagrees; sometimes the farinacea become acescent and flatulent. A more animalised diet is then necessary; and the juices of the younger animals, as of veal and chicken, must be mixed with the farinaceous pap. Sometimes the latter must be wholly laid aside, and the gravy of meat or beef tea substituted. With the teeth, new sensations arise, and the child is delighted to exert its little powers on what will easily yield; a bit of meat, some soft bread, etc.; nor, if he is healthy, is this to be forbidden. He advances another step, and makes a regular meal of solid food.
A growing child is always craving for food: his stomach digests rapidly no inconsiderable quantity, when his age and size are considered; and, if he is active and strong, there is no reason why he should not be indulged. We are told, however, that he should be fed regularly, at distant intervals, and in moderation. There seems no rule so little consonant to the dictates of nature. If the child grows full; if he breathes with difficulty; if he is torpid or drowsy; he is certainly over fed. But if from his meals he rises to play; if his sleep be light and uninterrupted, and his activity incessant; it is difficult to say what are the limits which a judicious observer would lay down for the regulation of his diet. The symptoms of fulness, which we have mentioned, are not seen when the food is plain; the drink, water; when pastry and confectionary are denied, or very sparingly allowed: nor have we ever observed a bloated infant, whose diet was properly regulated in its quality, whatever may have been the quantity. Nature never errs in her demands, when not pampered by high sauces, various dishes, or sweetmeats. It is certainly a proper rule, that the drink of children should be of the mildest kind, and almost exclusively water. Wine or diluted spirits, in any form except as a medicine, should be forbidden; but as, according to modern customs, it is sometimes impossible to comply with this rule, they should, at least, never be rendered habitual. Sauces and condiments should be equally strangers to their palates, till, at least, after the age of fourteen.
From eighteen to fifty-six, if moderation be observed, and the health good, no rules of diet are necessary: sa-nis omnia sana. Yet we would suggest the propriety of making the meal, in general, on one dish only, either of fish or animal food. The little excesses in this respect, if not often repeated, will not be injurious; and we have already stated, that the powers of nature in preserving health and correcting any deviations are lost, if not occasionally exercised: we should add, that they are ex-hausted if the exertion is too frequent.
D I AE 550 D I AE
In this interval, the errors respecting drink are often more fatal than those which regard the food. Water with the meals is always most salutary: cyder follows; and beer, or porter, according to different constitutions, come in succession. Cyder is said to be injurious to those subject to rheumatism; beer is certainly so to the corpulent and asthmatic; porter is a salutary liquor, though containing a proportion of poisonous vegetables. If any thing be afterwards taken, wine will be preferable to spirits in any form. The quantity will vary in different habits; and, as the prior customs may have induced an artificial necessity, a pint of wine should be the utmost limit: in general, it should be less, and it may occasionally, though this should seldom happen, be more. Dr. Cadogan recommended, at times, intemperance. This is not, indeed, wholly inconsistent with the principle already stated; and if we sometimes break regularity, without, however, verging to intemperance, the danger will not be considerable. Midnight orgies are always fatal, for the fever at night is exasperated by wine, as well as by late hours.
When the second childhood commences, the habits of the earlier period of our lives return. Animal food is less easily borne. The lighter diet is preferred, and wine begins to lose its relish. Of the whole change, the diminution of the proportion of wine is most injurious; and the old man should drink it as a cordial, if not as a luxury. We ought, however, to add, that the growing distate for wine is so common in advanced life, that we almost distrust our opinions in this respect. Yet we think experience supports them. The love of confectionary, of tarts, and whatever is sweet, returns also in old age; and this propensity we have never found injurious, though sometimes indulged with little moderation.
We have spoken of spirits as less wholesome than wine. It may be said, that by dilution they are not superior in strength, and may be even made of an inferior quality. In wine, however, there is an extractive matter, and a mucilage which sheaths the pungency of the spirit; but, independent of this difference, by distillation an oily matter is separated, which, from the action of heat, seems to acquire, if not an actual empyreuma, a deleterious quality. In a moderate proportion they arc not, however, eminently hurtful; and we must repeat another axiom, that poisons differ from medicines not in their qualities, but their doses. It is often asked, which kind of spirit is the most wholesome. In the moderate quantities, we would allow they are perhaps equally so. Rum has been preferred as most oily. It is certainly not more wholesome on this account. Brandy is more suitable, in general, to weak, gin to disordered, stomachs; but the latter is always injurious, when any irritability or weakness in the urinary or neighbouring organs exists.