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JAMA 100 Years Ago
March 3, 2004


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2004;291(9):1144. doi:10.1001/jama.291.9.1144-c

The influence of the mind over the body is perhaps nowhere better illustrated than in the relation between psychic conditions and digestion. We recently emphasized the value of the deliberate and thorough mastication of food, and took occasion to say that how one eats is often of more importance than what one eats. In the treatment of dyspepsia, it is important to secure freedom from anxiety, pleasant surroundings and such other accompaniments as conduce to enjoyment in eating. Pawlow's classical experiments on gastric secretion in dogs led him to some important conclusions on this subject. One of them is that food eaten without relish and without appetite, although in itself most nutritious and supposedly easy of digestion, may remain for hours in the stomach undigested. The same result often follows when food is eaten while the mind is diverted to other things, especially in the case of anger, anxiety, preoccupation, etc. Pawlow says that the old and imperative requirement that food should be eaten with interest and enjoyment is the most emphasized and strengthened of all of his conclusions. Thus food which is nutritious and of the best quality may remain undigested because it lacks presentation in an attractive form or is served amid unpleasant surroundings. Pawlow even says a good word for the preliminary cocktail or the use of some alcoholic in small amounts, as these, by producing slight exhilaration, divert the mind from unpleasant surroundings, and may enable one to forget cares and worries. It is hardly necessary to suggest, however, that this remedy may be more harmful than otherwise. But the enjoyment of eating is the important factor, and of many harmless means to secure this end, it matters little which means is used provided the end be secured. It is well to call attention again to this well-known fact; here is the solution of many an indigestion problem, especially among business men in cities. The psychologic factor in this important function is not to be forgotten.

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