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Grace Carlson

How to Get Needed Rest
Puzzles Ulcer Patients

(14 April 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 15, 14 April 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“Do you suffer from heartburn after eating? Do you have a sour stomach? Are you embarrassed by gas on the stomach? Do you suffer distress after meals – distress before meals? Then the answer for you is – ”

No, the answer is not what you might think from reading the fake patent-medicine ads in the newspapers or listening to the “cure-all” pill programs on the radio “to slip an Alkaid Tablet on your tongue.” The best scientific solution to problems involving stomach and intestinal disorders, as given by a Mayo Clinic specialist, is to inherit wealth.

Speaking before a meeting of the International Medical Assembly in Minneapolis some time ago, Dr. Walter Alvarez said that if the average man with stomach ulcers were left an income of $250 per month for the rest of his life, he would soon be cured and would never have ulcers again.

Worry and fear are the leading causes of “stomach trouble” Dr. Alvarez declared. Between 60 and 75 per cent of a group of cases examined showed no physical causes of the disorders. Practically all of these cases were brought on by fear, frustration, worry, anger, nervous and mental exhaustion. These, in turn, were due to the tremendous speed-up of modern industry and to the terrifying problems with which the war confronts the American people, he added.

Big businessmen may have ulcers, too. The strain of making profits and of keeping these profits away from their underpaid workers may cause some industrialists to break down. But if they do break down, how soothing and comforting and healing their wealth can be! The poet, who wrote that “wealth and poverty are merely mental pictures,” never stopped to think what a beautiful picture wealth can paint for the sick man ... plenty of rich, nourishing food, freedom from the nerve-wracking cares of the job, good medical and hospital care, extensive opportunities for rest and relaxation.

This is what Dr. Alvarez meant when he said that the possession of wealth was the best way for the ulcer sufferer to guarantee himself good health and a long life.

But what happens to the poor man who has an ulcer – as so many thousands of them have? Usually, he does not see a doctor until his case is fairly serious. When he first feels soreness and discomfort in his stomach, he tries to “doctor” himself, either by taking some patent-medicine, or by eliminating certain foods from his diet. If the pain in his stomach persists and begins to sap his energy, he may, at last, decide that it is necessary to spend some of the family funds for medical care.

How to Rest?

His doctor will give him a diet list, in which milk, cream, eggs and lean meats predominate. The doctor will urge the ulcer victim to avoid overwork. He will advise him not to eat when he is worried, tired, nervous, hurried or angry. Above all, the doctor will try to impress his patient with the importance of getting enough rest, particularly after meals. On this point, Dr. Logan Clendening says decisively, “they (ulcer patients) should rest on a bed or lounge – that is, in the recumbent position – for half an hour to an hour after each meal.”

Then the worker takes this sound medical advice home with him and tries to figure out how to use it. Where can he get enough “milk, cream, eggs and lean meat?” In the tragically-small food budget of so many millions of American workers, there is very little allowance for expensive foods. Usually whatever there is of this rich, nourishing food goes to the small children in the family. What worker will see his child suffer from hunger if he can prevent it – even at the risk of his own health ?

And with the lengthened hours of work and the wartime speed-up in the factory, how can the worker avoid overwork? With the short lunch hour, how can he keep from eating when he feels “hurried?” Where will he find a plant in which he can lie down for “half an hour to an hour after each meal?”

Doctors are in agreement that the typical stomach ulcer patient is an intense, conscientious, hardworking individual, whose attacks have been brought on by excesses of worry and work. Such a “worrier” will find plenty more to worry about in trying to find a way to follow his doctor’s orders!

What the many thousands of ulcer patients in the working-class need is – freedom from want and freedom from fear. But they will not find them in capitalist prescriptions!

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Last updated: 31 October 2018