PLETHORA

By R.C. Fisher, M.D., F.T.S..

[helpful to many who are suffering]

as published in “Theosophical Siftings” Volume -7- [1894-1895]

[Page 3] As Theosophy teaches us that regeneration should take place upon three planes, physical, psychical, and spiritual, I am devoting myself chiefly to the lower phase, for as we have to live upon earth in a physical body it is plainly our duty to make our instrument not only a clean one but also an efficient one, because as no good music can come through a cracked instrument, so has spirit difficulty in expressing itself through an unclean diseased body. It is a popular idea among Americans that we are a nervous race of high thinkers, wearing ourselves out by intense activities faster than the waste can be repaired. Labouring under this idea, we are all more or less prone to attempt to repair this waste of nerve force, as it is called, by consuming as much as we can of the abundance of the excellent food bestowed by a kind Providence on a prosperous country. The watchwords are "Nourish" and "Build up the strength". They are preached and practised by physicians and laity alike, until the principle has become so deeply grounded, that nearly everyone believes that the more nutrition a person can take the better. As a result we eat too frequently, and often largely in excess of the needs of the system, and as a result we develop a condition of plethora, which predisposes to headache, colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, rheumatism, asthma, diabetes, heart trouble, apoplexy, and obesity. This last is a disease like the others, and should be treated as such. In fact, all our national type, the lean, lank brother Jonathan, is fast disappearing from our midst, and giving place to the uncomfortable, rotund, and unwieldy corpulence which prepares the victims for gout and apoplexy.

I will define at the outset that plethora means a superabundance of blood in the system, and is manifested by a distention of the blood vessels and a feeling of general torpor or heaviness of the system. In this condition there is less water and more red corpuscles than in healthy blood. It is always caused by excessive feeding; and though present in all cases of obesity, it is also frequently met with in the non-corpulent.

The habit of our people is to eat three or four meals a day, and at each a little, if not very much, in excess of the needs of the organism. The food is usually well seasoned with salt, pepper, and other condiments which are calculated to make the secretions flow freely; and frequent eating keeps the food constantly passing over the absorbent surfaces. The last process of digestion is the passage of food into the circulation from the smaller intestines, which are supplied with millions of hair-like projections called villi, through which the food, or the product of the food as originally [Page 4] taken into the mouth, must pass; and here is just where the harm is done.

Plethora enough to show itself in a cold, according to my theory of colds, which I have written on elsewhere, does not occur from overeating from one meal, but a long course of eating too often, every time slightly if not a good deal in excess of what the system requires for repair and nourishment.

Obesity is not induced by one or two hundred meals, but by a series, which keeps the food constantly passing over the absorbent surfaces, until, little by little, layer after layer, the surplusage is deposited in fatty tissue or other diseased conditions. It has long been supposed that fat persons are the most healthy because the person is freer from colds and other conditions of plethora while the fat is in the process of forming. When the absorbent surfaces of the intestines can select just the amount of nourishment needed to replace the wear the remainder is thrown off as waste, and no superfluous fat or disease is formed. On the other hand, when just a little in excess of the needs of the organism is selected by the absorbent surfaces, the excess is converted into fat; and when at last no more fat can be taken on, it is retained to distend the blood vessels, and to be thrown off in colds, catarrh, pneumonia, and other disorders due to the condition of plethora.

When the whole system has become plethoric, the work of the heart is increased and its action becomes difficult; hence the lungs accumulate disease and are called on for more effort and become congested and inflamed; the liver also enlarges from overwork, and the kidneys suffer from the impurities constantly passing through them; while gradually the surplusage is deposited about the muscles, until the entire body becomes stiff and heavy as even very old persons need never be if they conform to the laws of health. When this point is reached life becomes unendurable, and the physician is sought.

Here we come back to the principle I have just mentioned. The patient must be "built up"; for of course he is weak and exhausted from the overworked organs of digestion that have gradually involved all the other organs, and he is treated as though in danger of starvation.

In the case of lean people everyone is ready to see that the organs of digestion are at fault, as of course they are; but this is not so evident a fact in the case of the corpulent; though when we consider that the lightest eaters eat vastly in excess of the actual requirements of the system, we can understand that the organs of digestion are also at fault in the obese. Both emaciation and obesity are due to mal-assimilation of food; and plethora, acute or chronic, belongs to each condition, and is the source of acute and sudden illness in the one as in the other.

It is ruinous to the digestion to treat obesity by dieting or by the use of [Page 5] cathartics; and besides where apparent loss of flesh has resulted, the dieting must be kept up or the obesity will return.

The avoidance of plethora is simple — too simple, perhaps, it may seem at first sight: it involves a real desire for a person to be sound in body and mind, some little exercise of will, and the patience to form a good habit. When impure food and impure air are taken into the system, disease is Nature's method of eliminating them. In this sense we should welcome disease as a blessing, and consider its warnings and benefit by its lessons. When we learn to really listen to nature, mankind will have made a great stride forward. Much is said of "assisting nature",and “leaving it to nature", but this is not done enough. The physician who is summoned by the presence of disease recognises only dimly, if he recognises at all, that in disease nature is exercising her healing powers, that the system is ridding itself of impurities; but what the patient expects of the physician, and what the physician too often thinks it his part to do, is to prevent and interfere with nature's remedial action, until he with his drugs compels nature to capitulate.

It will be the aim of the doctor of the future to stand by and prevent all obstacles to the working of the healing forces of nature, to move the cause of disease, and point out the road to perpetual health. Nature gives us the lesson how to avoid plethora and its attendant train of ills, and it is to eat pure food and in sufficient quantities to repair the waste and repair the system. It might be asked, "What are pure foods ? " and "What is a sufficient quantity?" To the latter question, I will answer that many persons will be surprised and incredulous to learn how small a quantity is needed daily to repair the used tissue.

The appetite was made pleasurable that the needs of the system should not be neglected; therefore, man should not destroy this pleasure and blunt the exquisite sense, and finally die in disease and suffering, by eating three or four times a day of highly seasoned food, thus exciting a false and unnatural appetite. Lasting pleasures come alone from motion, from use; it may be from using the muscles or the mind. If the appetite for food is used merely for the pleasure it gives, the pleasure flies and leaves pain instead. How often we hear a person say, "I don't care for eating — I'm never hungry; but I feel miserable if I go without my meals". The person who eats three or four meals daily neither enjoys food or life as much as the man who accustoms himself to eating twice a day. If he eats often of stimulating food (and if the food was not stimulating he would not desire to eat often) he has to keep on eating, although not hungry, else he surfers from that " All goneness and gnawing" so often complained of. The person who feels weak and exhausted without food imagines it is strength he is seeking in food; but in reality it is the stimulus he seeks. [Page 6] Whenever we move a muscle, we wear out tissues that are replaced by others; and this is a vital function. Food eaten must first be converted into material for muscular tissues, and must replace worn tissues before it can give strength; and physiologists say that this process requires hours, consequently the food that gives immediate feeling of strength is stimulating in its action, and not necessarily strength-giving.

This bring us to the question of what are pure foods. Animal flesh is not pure food. It affords as much if not more stimulus than it does strength. Inasmuch as our tissues are built up from the food we eat, they may be made pure or filthy according to the selection we make in choosing our nutrition. Surely we may not hope to build up pure tissue matter from the diseased and rapidly decomposing corpses of animals — the very character of such food is abhorrent to the spiritual nature. The flesh of animals must be highly seasoned to take off the smell of the blood and raw taste of the dead flesh, and such seasoning and the rapidly digesting food itself creates appetites for stimulants and nicotine, and unnatural lust and passion which kills all that is spiritual within us. Flesh eaters are never safe from dangerous illness or sudden attacks from disease. Persons who eat only unstimulating food have a reserve force of strength, and can skip a meal or two without any discomfort. I know it is not popular to arraign animal food — even less popular than to preach a moderate if not abstemious diet; but it is a truth that must become known and believed some day, that all flesh food, all animal food, is impure, and is not intended for man's proper sustenance, but on the contrary is poisonous to his system. Its impurities are patent. The process of putrefaction begins in animal tissues the moment life is extinct. The putrefaction is not apparent to the unaided senses until further advanced; but it exists, and when taken into the human system breeds disease. If I were to tell half I know, that has come under my own observation, of beef and hogs sent hurriedly to market before the cholera should break out, one of the lot being loathsomely ill, so that it was known all the rest were infected, very few persons would like to take such risks as possibly to eat a lot of such beef or pork. Animals fattened for the market are liable to many diseases and are infested by parasitic worms. No doubt healthy sound meat may always be found in a market: but the best of meats are not suited for human consumption, however much man, under the popular delusion, may assert that flesh eating is necessary for the preservation of his strength. Pure Graham flour alone contains all the elements necessary for prolonged nutrition, and with fruit, even apples alone, health and strength are assured. How much suffering would be spared if the poorer classes as well as the rich understood this fact. The man who lives upon bread and fruit will get more happiness out of life [Page 7] than he who can and does indulge himself in every luxury. The use of meats, highly seasoned as they must be with salt at least, if not pepper and other condiments, breeds low spirits and pessimism. The persons who follow my rule tell me that they have to guard against a too great exuberance of spirits and cheerfulness, for fear the rest of the world think it unnatural.

I am sure that did we not harden ourselves by the belief that the flesh of animals is essential to the preservation of man's life and strength, we could not endure the thought of the pangs suffered by the most humanely treated creatures in their preparation for market. The price of suffering is enormous. Life is sweet to every living thing; and yet persons say to me, " What were all these animals made for, if not for man's food?" I can only answer, "Such an argument is as good for the lion as it is for you". There might be some reason in requiring animals to sacrifice the life that is precious to them if it were essential to the life of man; but that it is not necessary any man can prove for himself if he will try the experiment for a reasonable time, say six months or a year. He will find that his mind and body have been crippled and poisoned by flesh eating. He will find no decrease in his strength. Recent tests of endurance and speed in long distance foot racing, between men who lived upon a strictly vegetable diet and men who lived upon the mixed diet of civilisation, in which the vegetarians won in every instance, demonstrates the fact that this food furnishes superior muscular power. I will venture to say that any one who will try the experiment of abstaining from animal food for a year, will never again use it. The experiment has to be continued long enough for the taste to return to its normal and unperverted condition, and then comes such serenity, such a sense of security from disease, freedom from torture and incessant thirst for stimulation, that the effort of will used at first is amply repaid, and life becomes worth living.

When I first began living upon vegetable food I was an inveterate user of tobacco and had been for nine years. I had tried to break away from the habit, but always in vain; so that I had considered it was no use to try. Consequently, when I began to use pure food, I continued the use of tobacco as usual. After six months I became conscious that my tobacco did not satisfy me, and I changed the brand, thinking something must be wrong with the weed. The new brand was just as unsatisfactory, and I tried several before it dawned upon me that the difficulty was within myself, and that as my sense of taste became more normal, the liking for this abnormal stimulant departed of itself. The freedom from such a habit would, I am sure, be like taking a heavy chain from a man's neck.

In treating the opium habit, I have always found the battle won where the patient accepts a pure, unstimulating diet. I myself believe that fruits [Page 8] and nuts are the best food for man, and I am convinced that a man can live upon them, enjoy perfect gustatory pleasure, and keep all his mental and bodily faculties in the best working order, thereby producing perfect health.

In experimenting with foods, I have lived upon fruits and nuts for seven years, and my son, now a man of twenty-four years, made the experiment with me. In both instances the results were most satisfactory. No one knows of the exquisite and delicious variety of fruits until they eat them with nuts alone. On adopting this diet some care as to the amount taken at first is needed, until the digestive organs can act perfectly upon it. For a short time there is a rapid loss of flesh, with dislike for the food; but this phase soon passes, for the appetite and the flesh are restored. My son, who has been brought up hygienically on pure food, did not lose flesh on this diet, and it satisfied him completely. While living on this diet, he was pursuing his studies, taking vigorous exercise in the gymnasium, and was the equal of the strongest lads. An interesting fact of his dietetic habits is that, although inheriting imperfect teeth, his own have remained sound, and are as white and perfect as could be desired.

Without question I think this the best diet for man; but there is a compromise diet of fruit, vegetables and cereals that will purify the system and render it comparatively free from plethora and its diseases. Anyone who tries it, will soon find that no gustatory pleasure is missed by giving up animal food; but I will give a note of warning to the person who might, happily for himself, feel inspired on reading this to begin a diet without flesh, that mushy foods not requiring mastication should be avoided. Nothing so weakens the digestion and the teeth than the not giving them enough to do. The system fails to get proper nourishment from fine white flour and the soft cooked foods that are so popular. Prevention is so much better than cure that I have left what I have to say about the cure of the disease of plethora to the last. I believe there is a cure, and a specific cure. It is simple, and yet one that sounds somewhat severe to unwonted ears: so that I feel I must break it gently to the reader through the medium of a few personal reminiscences of how I reached my theory of plethora and its cure.

From early childhood I had suffered from an inherited and intense facial neuralgia. I lived in a malarial district, and I came of an English family of "heavy eaters", and up to the age of twenty-one I followed the family customs. A list of the ailments I suffered from would be too long and tiresome. Suffice it to say I suffered and was miserable from colds, catarrh, bronchitis, and dyspepsia. Once while in this unhappy state I had gone to a farmhouse, hoping for relief, or cure from the change; and while looking about for some diversion for my mind, I found a book [Page 9] entitled Esoteric Anthropology. I turned over the pages idly, wondering what it was all about, when I saw the words, "Pure food makes pure blood; and from pure blood no disease can come". These words were to me like one of those sudden lights that oftentimes come to men from the most trivial things and in the most unlocked for circumstances. I returned home and from that time forth devoted myself to experimenting in foods, and to studying medicine from Nature's standpoint as well from the standpoint of the schools. I was met with jeers and cries that I should lose all my strength and become a charge to my family, and that the food I was eating was only intended as a relish for meats; but I persevered, and after a year or so of experience in foods, and the quantity taken, making careful notes, I had the satisfaction of proving in my own person that a man can change from a state of suffering to that of health and strength, with all his faculties of mind and body active and ready for use and enjoyment, if he nourishes himself with pure food in sufficient quantity, and without eating too often and to excess.

After regaining health I went to Colorado to seek my fortune, and having lost it in mining speculations instead of finding it, fate took me again to the pursuit of my predilection, and I found myself studying medicine in Oakland, California. During the second year of my medical course, I accidentally discovered that a certain plant, of which I make no secret to those who are competent to use my discovery — had the peculiar property to control the nerves of the stomach, thereby preventing hunger, I did not know enough then to attach much value to my discovery, although it interested me, and I made several experiments with it upon myself and. members of my family. Not long after this the failure of specific remedies to do the work expected of them was brought to our notice by our Professor of Practice and I began to meditate and speculate on this. He warned us not to rely upon certain medicines in every case for the reason that for some unexplained cause medicines failed at certain times and in certain cases to produce the usual effect or any effect at all, and that the patient either dies or his disease becomes chronic despite the physician's efforts. While listening one day to this professor, who was lamenting this fact, it came to my mind that this failure of medicines to act always the same, and as they had been known to act before, might be due to the interference of the digestive organs in the performance of their functions, and that if the patient, could abstain from all food, a medicine might become a specific. I mentioned this idea to the professor, who was disposed to think that food in the process of digestion might interfere with the action of medicine; but he declared that to abstain from food would be impossible, and that in disease the waste was so great that unless a patient could be well nourished, he would die while waiting for the action of the remedy. Here was a [Page 10] chance to utilise the peculiar theory I had discovered, and I told my professor about this too, but he was not inclined to attach any importance to what I thought might be a useful discovery.

The idea took possession, however, and before very long I found a person in such desperate straits of illness that she was ready to try any experiment that offered hope of relief. Should any one desire I will give the name and the address of this my first patient, the first of a goodly list of proof I have had of the correctness of my theory. The sufferer was a German lady who had had asthma for fifty years, rheumatism and neuralgia for many years and she was at that time prostrated from an attack of valvular insufficiency — a disease of the heart. There was a general collapse; and the examining physician pronounced the case was hopeless, and said that unless the stomach could be stimulated to accept food the patient would die very soon — in any event would not last six weeks. In defiance of this opinion, the lady having become my patient was put by me upon a fast. All food was taken from her but she felt no pangs of hunger, the medicine I gave perfectly controlling the nerves of the stomach. I assisted the system in the work of depletion by the use of sweat baths; and to the surprise of everyone but myself, this hopeless case was slowly restored to health. She fasted for many days, during which time I watched her carefully, and at the end of six weeks, the extreme limit of time given her for life, she was free from all symptoms of heart failure, asthma, oedema and rheumatism. By means of this nutrient, and specific remedies, I have been able to cure diabetes in all its forms and stages, and although I have treated many cases of that fatal disease, heretofore so-called, I have never had a failure — the disease both in young and old has promptly yielded to my remedies. I have failed in about 20% of my cases of Bright's disease, but am confident now, that by selecting my cases of Bright's disease I can very greatly lessen that percentage. In diseases of the heart, where there is difficult breathing and dropsy, my treatment has never failed me.

There is no science in treating a full blooded patient as though he were dying of starvation. Since my first case above cited, I have had plethoric patients abstain from all food, taking only my nutrient, for forty, fifty, sixty and, in one case, for eighty days, taking vigorous exercise in the meanwhile, and have had the pleasure of seeing them restored to health and normal weight at the end of the cure, which had to be followed for some time by a strict diet. I have also had patients, rapidly wasting from marasmus, which is simply the result of mal-assimilation of food, fast for twenty days with excellent results.

But I must speak no more of patients or cures of my own, and I apologize for this much, only having introduced them to prepare the way [Page 11] for saying that in my experience plethora, with its train of disease from the simple cold, the forerunner of so many serious illnesses, all the way to the more complicated cases of plethora, can be cured by abstaining from food for certain periods of time, more or less prolonged as the case may require, with the intelligent administration of specific remedies, and leaving nature free to do her work of purification. Were this condition of plethora better understood, we should not so often be called on to mourn the early loss of many great men of our nation.

We must all have in mind a recent celebrated case. The patient was plethoric, a high liver, above his normal weight, and taking little exercise. His blood vessels became more and more distended until the overworked heart, having its heavy load of blood to pump through the veins, collapsed, A physician understanding plethora would have known that his duty was simply to wait until the surplus was consumed before giving the patient more food. The stomach acting in sympathy with the heart refused food; but following the prevailing idea that above all things a person must be nourished, even if he is dying of too much nourishment, a desperate effort was made to stimulate this patient's stomach to receive food, and triumphant bulletins announced that there was some hope for the dying hero, since he was taking forty ounces of nourishment in twenty-four hours. From this moment I knew the case was hopeless. It is a known fact that four ounces or less of assimilated food will repair the waste of a person's system while working actively. How, then, can it be expected that a weakened digestion and heart would be able to dispose of such a surplus ? It is like choking a fire that burns low by piling on coal, the fires were choked and the flame went out for ever.

When men understand the theory of plethora and realise its importance sudden death from disease will be a thing of the past. There will be little need of doctors, or at most they will be employed to keep the patient in health, which should be indeed the true work of a physician. A person can recognise his own symptoms, but if he persists in living contrary to Nature's laws the physician may be called in to watch his health and help him to pull up at the first sign of plethora and allow Nature, the great restorer, to work relief.

When the old methods fail, look for the new.

The Belvedere,
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.A. August 25th, 1894.

The above article is published at the special request of the Countess Wachtmeister, who feels that there are many among the suffering to whom it may prove helpful.


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