About Emotions And Health

Herbert M. Shelton, the father of modern Natural Hygiene, wrote an article entitled “Emotions and Health” for his magazine, Dr. Shelton’s Hygienic Review, in October of 1978. He describes the relationship between our mental and emotional states and our physiological processes, especially the process of digestion: “Under emotional stress, any or all of the digestive secretions—saliva, gastric juice, pancreatic juice, intestinal juice, bile—may be checked, and the digestion in process when this inhibition occurs is temporarily, at least, suspended.”

Dr. Shelton says the reason digestion is checked during stress is because the manufacture and flow of the secretions needed in the digestive process depends upon nerve energy. Nerve energy “is transmitted to all the organs of the body through an intricate network of nerves. Emotional stress or shock interferes with both the generation and transmission of nerve energy.” (Italics are ours.)

He goes on to say: “If the shock or strong emotion comes when eating is in progress, there may be a sudden loss of desire for food and eating will be discontinued. In many cases, great grief, fear, or shock will result in the food in the stomach being vomited. It is not likely that emotions check the actions of enzymes that have already been poured out upon the food in the stomach and intestine, but they inhibit the secretion of added juices that may be needed. Certainly the muscular activities of these organs are inhibited or suspended.

“This impairment of digestion will last during the entire period of shock or strong emotion and until nervous balance is restored. If enervation is profound, reaction may be slow in developing so that the undigested food undergoes fermentation and putrefaction. Next to overeating and wrong eating, mental influences cause most of the digestive impairments with which people suffer.” (Italics are ours.)

“These functional impairments eventually result in organic change. Organic changes are endings resulting from repeated toxemic crises.”

After explaining the relationship between the emotional-mental condition and bodily processes such as digestion, Shelton tells us how we can use this knowledge. “Our Golden Rule is this: If not comfortable in both mind and body from one meal to the next, miss the next meal. If you are worried, apprehensive, grieved, angry, jealous, depressed, irritable, grouchy, petulant, fearful, or otherwise mentally distressed, wait upon the recovery of poise before eating. This is as important as not eating when in pain or when there is fever. It is as important as not eating when fatigued. Good digestion depends upon emotional poise.”

Shelton also advises us that we are better off eating light, easy-to-digest foods such as fresh fruits than heavier foods, such as proteins (flesh or even nuts or seeds) or starches, when we anticipate the possibility of upcoming emotional or mental stress. He says that, to avoid discomfort and poisoning from undigested or partially digested food in our system, “there are times and occasions when we should not eat at all. If we anticipate a shock to our nervous system or if one is unavoidable, we will find it much wiser to meet the emergency with an empty rather than with a full stomach.”

However, it’s not just to avoid temporary discomfort that we should refrain from eating or eat very lightly during or in anticipation of a stressful situation. We should follow this rule for the sake of our long-term health also. Not only is digestion inhibited during stress1, but so is excretion (elimination). Continuous or frequent mental or emotional stress, “by inhibiting the functions of life—secretion and excretion—build chronic disease.”

Shelton recommends that we “free ourselves of our imaginary troubles and ingrowing grouches or learn to control our eating.” He stresses the following point: “To cease eating, to miss a few meals at exactly the right time—the psychological moment—thus avoiding indigestion and the resulting poisoning, will do more to prevent illness than almost anything else that may be named. It is important, therefore, that we learn to adjust our living habits and particularly our eating habits to our mental stales.”

Dr. Shelton says that a “big reason why so many epidemics of colds, tonsilitis, diptheria, measles, scarlet fever, etc., follow so closely upon the heels of the holiday season” is because a large quantity of the least wholesome foods are eaten during a time of great excitement. He says, “Overexcitement and overeating build a septic state of the Prima Via, poisoning the entire body.” In the words of Dr. Weger, a medical doctor turned Hygienist, you are “either poised or poisoned.” He was, of course, referring to the retention of wastes during stress.

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Dr. Shelton says, “But, if there were no other evil effects of overworked emotions than that of checked or inhibited digestion, this alone is quite enough to result in disease. The ductless (endocrine) glands have their functions disturbed by the emotions, so that the whole process of nutrition is impaired.”

While a balanced mental state and a calm emotional disposition often reflect a healthy physical condition and wholesome attitudes toward self, others, and life, poise is also necessary in order to maintain a high level of physical health. When great excitement or stresses do exist in our lives, however, let’s follow Shelton’s “Golden Rule” and miss the next meal. Let’s remember that “good digestion depends upon emotional poise.”

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