Debility, is that feeble state of life in which the vital functions are languidly performed; when the mind loses its cheerfulness and vivacity ; when the limbs are tottering with weakness, and the digestive faculty is impaired.
This complaint, which at present is so prevalent, even in the bloom of life, and among those who ought to form the most vigorous and robust part of a nation, may arise from a great variety of causes, of which the following are the principal: 1. Descent from enfeebled parents; 2. Changes in. the admixture, and component parts of the surrounding atmosphere ; 3. A sedentary and indolent mode of life: 4. Immoderate sleep; or, in a still more hurtful degree, want of the necessary portion of sleep and repose; 5. Too great exertions either of mind or body ; 6. The unnecessary and imprudent use of medicines ; lastly, the almost total disuse, and exclusion of gymnastic exercise, and the general introduction of sedentary games, the effect, of which creates an almost universal apathy to every pursuit that requires exertion.
The means employed for the preserving and maintaining feeble life (says Dr. Struve, in his Asthenology ;or, the Art of preserving feeble life, 8vo. 8s. 1801), are as various as the causes on which it depends, and the disorders with which it is generally accompanied. The first object that claims the attention of persons In this state, is warmth; the external application of which ought to be proportioned to the temperature of the body, and gradually augment-ed, accordingly as the natural warmth of the individual increases. If duly applied, gentle heat possesses both stimulating and strengthening properties, by which the activity of the vital principle is excited and supported. The communication of warmth may be considerably facilitated by the use of the tepid or warm bath, of which we have already spoken, vol. i. p. 190.
The next, and one of the most important objects to debilitated persons, is diet; in which respect much depends on their previous habits and modes of life. If they carefully attend to the peculiarities of their constitution, and observe whatever is to them salutary or hurtful, they may prolong their lives for a considerable time; provided their conduct be guided by the necessary knowledge and experience. In short, to guard against excess, and pursue a middle course, will be the best means of accomplishing the most salutary end.
Debilitated persons ought to be imperceptibly hardened; - the tran-sition to a severer and more invigorating course of life must be so progressive, that the convalescent be not subjected to any disagreeable restraint; and this method should likewise be continued for a .sufficient length of time, during which he ought never to return to his former debilitating habits.
Such invalids should eat only a very small proportion of animal food, namely, white meat, which is least stimulating, together with a due quantity of the most nutritious vegetables. They may also partake of small portions of flesh-broth, thickened with sufficient bread, rice, etc. to render it more nourishing and less flatulent; but they ought to abstain from fat, and milk, unless the latter be given immediately after it is drawn from the cow.
If solid food cannot be allowed, or if it irritate the stomach, recourse must be 1 ad to gelatinous aliment, such as eggs, nourishing soups, Salop, barley broth, shell-fish, etc.; which, if taken in small quantities, are exceedingly strengthening.— Persons of this description ought to accommodate their whole dress to the climate, and changes of the weather ; they should at all times endeavour to procure a middle temperature between cold and heat; for instance, from 60 to 65 of Fahrenheit's scale. Woollen clothing is, in this respect, far preferable to fur; as the latter heats the body, and increases perspiration. Flannel, if worn next the skin, will preserve the human frame in a more equal temperature than is attainable by any other substance ; and at the same time protect it from the hurtful influence of the two extremes.
Individuals, in this state, require" longer and less disturbed rest than those in perfect health and vigour Labour and exercise, adapted to their habits.and strength, will greatly promote that desirable objects; likewise the tepid bath; a clean, and not too soft couch; an airy, healthy, and capacious apartment ; but particularly a calm and composed mind ; which last possesses a most power!ul influence in pre-serving health and life; for, without tranquillity, all other means will be ineffectual. - For a more particular account of the cause symptoms, and cure of debility, we must refer to Dr. StRUVE's elaborate work, before mentioned, in Which this subject is minutely discussed.