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Drinking at Meals.

We were once told by a shrewd old college professor that the most foolish thing a man of intelligence can do—from die worldly point of view—is to “ butt his brains out against a popular prejudice.” Still we are sometimes dreadfully tempted to pound our cranium against a hurtful notion, and have never been more so than while i easting the advice so often ■ nsisted on in the papers against drinking water at meal-times. The chief and most plausible argument against this practice is that it dilutes the gastric juices, and so delays digestion. It is not often in a scientific discussion that we can so easily as in this case appeal to the individual consciousness of the uninstructed reader in proof of the fallacious character of the assumption in question. Who that reads this has not had a thousand proofs forced upon his attention that water taken into the stomach remains there but a few seconds, is quickly taken up by the blood vessels, and, if in excess, almost as quickly thrown out of the blood again through the kidney's ! Yet there is a small grain of truth in this gross error. Large draughts of very cold water taken into the stomach with the food, by chilling the stomach during its rapid progress through the walls of its vessels, do arrest the secretion of tlie digestive thuds until tlie proper warmth is re-established. Large draughts, also, of tea and coffee, by- the .istringency- of the former and by the nervine action of the theine they both contain —as well, also, as by the peculiar narcotic action of coffee, derange and hinder digestion. A Icholics, however diluted, have a like effect.

With these limitations, we but declare the consensus of all phy-siologiats when we say- that a full response to the calls of thirst, at meal-times as at other times, is wise and proper. And for these reasons : The sense of thirst is given to us not inly that we may keep the fluids of the body duly supplied with solvent and dilutent material, but also that, through the excretory organs, all soluble offensive substances may be quickly washed away. In the digestive process the demand for water in aid of both these necessary purposes is urgent. In nearly everything we eat there are soluble substances that are in excess, and this ex;eess should be promptly carried out of the system. Perhaps the most abundant among these, usually, is the common salt so freely taken. It is, however, by no means the only one ; and they all, unless promptly removed, act as irritants. Their action upon the stomach will in a very' short time decrease and soon arrest the flow of the gastric fluids and dis 7 turh the muscular action by which the stomach “ churns,” so to speak, its contents, that every portion may receive its due admixture of digestive material. This disturbance of muscular action is seen at its highest in vomiting, by which the offending substance is ejected summarily, together with all the contents of the organs.

Now, it is best not to over-eat, and it is best to eat simple food, with as little excess of seasoning or of objectionable elements, as possible. But, under all circumstances, it is both wrong and dangerous to give refusal to nature’s call for nature’s remedy in such cases. Plenty of drink is what is demanded, and a free supply of fluids must be given, if serious consequences are to be avoided. The consequences of refusal are not all immediate. The irritation from lack of drink, as well as that from improper drinks, becomes in time chronic, passing to inflammation, the result of which is dyspepsia and the symptom of which is pain. Then for want of dilutent fluid by which offending soluble substances are quickly removed, these often assume insoluble forms, and are deposited in various parts of the body, to remain there, constant sources of pain and danger. Gravel and stone in the ur navy organs, biliary concretions in the liver, calcareous deposits in the joints and elsewhere, and possibly tubercular deposits in various organs, are, we may say with much certainty, due in some degree, to a foolish fear of waterdrinking.

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Drinking at Meals. Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 10, 18 October 1879

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