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Psychic Treatment Of Digestive Conditions

If discouragement and solicitude make a healthy stomach digest
imperfectly, the same mental factors will play an even more serious
role with a diseased stomach. Certainly without the mind's aid, there
can be little hope of such a reactive vital resistance as will enable
the organ to recover from the organic ailment.

So many cases of indigestion are due to mental persuasion alone, that
after a time there is danger that the physician may be over-confident
in his diagnosis, and may occasionally overlook serious organic
lesions. Before attempting psychotherapy in these cases, the physician
must assure himself that no organic lesion is present. This is
particularly true for cancer in the middle-aged and ulcer in young
women. At times these lesions are latent except for certain vague
digestive symptoms. After careful consideration it is generally
possible to make a definite decision, and then the indications are
clear. Even when an organic lesion is present, a modification of the
mental attitude will often be of great service to the patient.
Suggestion will even make a cancer patient gain in weight, though one
must be careful of that very fact because the apparent improvement may
occasion delay until the case becomes inoperable.

Once the presence of these serious organic lesions of the stomach can
be excluded, the bringing of influence to bear on the patient's
mind for the improvement of his digestion is indicated. It is true
that there are certain reflex disturbances of the digestive tract
consequent upon affections of other abdominal organs. Chronic lesions
of the appendix may produce stomach symptoms as will also pathological
conditions of the biliary tract. A floating kidney, various affections
of the pelvic organs, especially in women, and of the urinary organs
in men are sometimes said to produce seriously depressing effects upon
the stomach. Where this occurs, the first indications undoubtedly are
to put the patient into as good condition as possible before making
any decision. Where a lesion of the stomach itself exists suggestions
with regard to the increase of diet may do harm. They will not do harm
in the reflex conditions, and so patients can be brought into better
physical condition. As a consequence of this, their symptoms in other
organs will often disappear. In case the symptoms do not disappear the
patients are in better condition to stand and react from operative

Before concluding as to the character of the stomach symptoms we must
make sure that other important organs are not affected. Most cases of
tuberculosis begin with stomach symptoms, which often make their
appearance before there is cough or any definite localizing symptom of
the disease. Often there is only a disturbance of pulse, and perhaps a
slightly increased range of temperature. If the patient has been
exposed to tuberculosis, a careful investigation of the lungs should
be made. Any disturbance of the liver or pancreas (especially cancer)
will almost surely give rise to stomach symptoms. Latent cancer in any
part of the body, however, will, by its depressing toxemia, produce
loss of appetite, consequent loss of weight, and a number of symptoms
that are sure to be referred to the stomach. I have seen cancer of the
prostate, without disturbing urination, produce such symptoms for
months before it was recognized. I have seen cancer of the rectum in a
comparatively young woman treated as piles, without an examination,
the development of the piles being attributed to the gastro-intestinal
symptoms which were consequent upon the presence of the cancer.

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