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Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > A > Physical Effects of Abstinence

Physical Effects of Abstinence

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The effects on the human system of abstinence from flesh meats divide themselves naturally and logically into two parts:

Physiologically, man is an omnivorous animal, as evidenced by the structure and consequent nomenclature of the teeth; and a mixed diet into which meat or flesh food largely enters, would seem to be the natural requirement for such a complex physio-anatomical entity. Additional corroboration of this view is afforded by researches of physiological chemistry, and the discovery of elements produced at various points along the digestive tract, whose function it is to peptonize milk foods, emulsify fats and oils, destroy the insulation of muscular fiber, and prepare the nucleines for absorption and nutrition. Granting, therefore, that flesh food in some form is necessary for the human race as a whole, what are the physical effects of partial Abstinence therefrom?

These effects are as numerous and divergent as the causes. We have first, the family history of the individual (diseases or tendencies inherited or acquired); second, age; third, personal history of the individual (diseases or tendencies inherited or acquired), natural or artificial infantile feeding; fourth, education and environment; fifth, climatic conditions, sixth, occupation and its effects on the physical and mental state of the individual, seventh, status præsens, and last — but really the most important of all — that indefinable but very tangible element which we may call the personal equation in each individual, the observer as well as the observed.

Additional facts to be remembered are:

The Church has so wisely, and with a foreknowledge of scientific investigation and present proof so accurate as to be almost supernatural, taken all the above mentioned conditions into consideration, in framing her laws regarding abstinence, that there is not the slightest danger of any physical ills accruing to those to whom these laws apply. On the contrary, it is abundantly demonstrated by the highest scientific authority that temporary abstinence from solid food — particularly flesh food, in which there is a great proportion of waste material, and consequently, increased wear and tear on the organs of excretion, such as the lungs, liver, and kidneys — is greatly to be desired in all persons, but particularly in those suffering from acute infectious and inflammatory diseases. Those who lead a physically active life, like the manual laborer, seem to need animal food more continuously and feel its temporary withdrawal more acutely than the sedentary or brain worker. Here, also, the important element is the personal equation. The history of mankind seems to show that while the meat eating nations of the earth have been the most powerful, aggressive, and sanguinary (growing, in other words, like the things they feed on), yet they have been and continue to be conservative forces in civilization, prolific and enduring contributors to the arts and sciences, and, in the final analysis, strenuous upholders of civil and religious liberty and morality. The dietetic question raised by some as the result of the late Russo-Japanese War means nothing as a basis of comparison. It is a well-known fact that battles have been fought, and lost, and won, alike by men suffering from too much, too little, or no food at all. Wars and their eventualities depend, not so much on foods as on civil, religious, and politico-economical conditions. The medical and scientific world of today seems to be well satisfied:

Comments

Sources

YARRELL in HARVEY, The Sea Side Book (1857), Chapter on Fish and Fish Diet; LICHTENFELT, Ueber die chemische Zusammensetzung einiger Fischarten, etc. (Archw. Physiol. de Menschen, Bonn. 1904); LATHAM, Milbank Penitentiary (]823); SLOANE, Med. Gaz., XVII, 389, MCNAUGHTON, Am. Jour. of Med. Sci. VI, 543, FRENCH ACADEMY, Archives génér. de médecine, XXVII, 130, s.v. Pestilence and Famine in Ireland, 1847 Human Foods (U.S. Agricultural Dep't Year Book, 1894), 547-558; (1895), 573580; (1897), 676682; DENS-MORE, How Nature Cures; The Natural Food of Man (London, 1892), X, 61-413; KALLE, Nutrition Tables (1892); THOMPSON, Diet (London, 1902), Annales d'hygiène publique (1902); Nutrition Investigations, U.S. Gov. (1894-1904); CASPARI, Physiologische Studien über Vegetarismus Archiv. f.d. gesammte Physiol. (Bonn, 1905), CIX, 475-595.

About this page

APA citation. Butler, J. (1907). Physical Effects of Abstinence. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01073a.htm

MLA citation. Butler, James. "Physical Effects of Abstinence." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01073a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by the Cloistered Dominican Nuns of the Monastery of the Infant Jesus, Lufkin, Texas. Dedicated to an increase in vocations to the religious life.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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