The Works of Aristotle - Of the Stomach.

Of the Stomach.

For what reason is the stomach large and wide?
Because in it the food is first concocted or digested as it were in a pot, to the end what is pure should be separated from them which is not, as Aristotle saith; and therefore, according to the quantity of food the stomach is enlarged.

How comes it that the stomach is round?
Because if it had angles and corners, as Constant says, food would remain in them and breed ill humours, so a man would sever want agues; which humours nevertheless are evacuated, lifted up, and consumed, and not hid in any such corners, by reason of the roundness of the stomach.

How comes the stomach to be full of sinews?
As Aristotle saith, because the sinews can be extended and enlarged, and so is the stomach when it is full; but when empty, it is drawn together, and therefore nature provides those sinews.

How comes the stomach to digest?
Because of the heat which is in it, and comes from the parts adjoining, i.e., the liver and the heart. For we see in metals, the heat of the fire takes away the rust and dross from iron and silver from tin, and gold from copper; so that by digestion the pure is separated from the impure. Digestion is of four sorts, according to physicians.

For what reason doth the stomach join the liver?
Because the liver is very hot, and with its heat helps digestion, and provokes appetite.

Why are we commonly cold after dinner?
Because then the heart labours to help the imagination in study. It comes from digesting the food, and that remains undigested; so that people should walk some time after meals.

How comes women with child to have an inordinate desire of eating coals, ashes, and such like?
Because such are the humours of the stomach, such a nutriment they desire; and because women with child have corrupt humour. therefore they desire the like thing.

How cometh the stomach slowly to digest meat?
Because it swims in the stomach. Now the best digestion is in the bottom of the stomach, the fat descends not there; such as eat fat meat are very sleepy, by reason digestion is hindered.

Why is all the body worse when the stomach is uneasy?
Because the stomach is knit with the brain, heart, and liver, which are the principal parts in man; and therefore when it is not well, the others are evil disposed. Another answer is, that if the first digestion be hindered, the others are also hindered; for in the first digestion is the beginning of the infirmity that is in the stomach.

Why are young men sooner hungry than old men?
Young men do digest for three causes, first for growing, then for the restoring of life, and lastly for conservation of life, as Hippocrates and Galen do say; else we answer, that young men are hot and dry, and therefore the heat doth digest more, and by consequence they desire more.

Why do physicians prescribe that men should eat when they have an appetite?
Because much hunger and emptiness will fill the stomach with naughty rotten humour, which he draws into himself instead of meat; which do easily appear, because that if we fast overnight we have an appetite to meat, but in the morning none. That is therefore a token that the stomach is filled with naughty humours, and especially its mouth, which is no trim filling, but a deceitful one. And therefore, after we have eaten little our stomach comes to us again; and then the proverb is, one morsel draweth down another: for the first morsel having made clean the mouth of the stomach, doth provoke the appetite.

Why do physicians prescribe that we should not eat too much at a time, but by little and little?
Because when the stomach is full, the meat doth swim in it, which is a dangerous thing. Another reason is, that as very green wood doth put out a fire, so much meat chokes the natural heat and puts it out: and therefore the best physic is to use temperance in eating and drinking.

Why do we desire change of meats according to the change of times; as in winter, beef, pork, mutton; in summer, light meats, as veal, lamb, etc.?
Because the complexion of the body is altered, and changes according to the time of the year. Another answer is, that this proceeds from the quality of the season, because the cold winter doth cause a better digestion, because the stomach and belly is hotter in winter by reason of the compassing cold, as Hippocrates and Aristotle doth teach.

Why the meat we eat should not be as hot as pepper and ginger?
Because hot meat doth burn the blood and dispose it to leprosy. So contrariwise, meat too cold doth mortify and congeal the blood. And our meat should not be over sharp, because it procureth old age, and too much sauce doth burn the entrails, and procureth often drinking, as raw meat doth; and over-sweet meats do constipate and cling the veins together.

Why is it good custom to eat cheese after dinner, and pears after all meat?
Because cheese, by reason of its earthliness and thickness, tendeth down towards the bottom of the stomach, and so putteth down the meat, and the like of pears. Note, that new cheese is better than old, and the old dry, soft cheese is very naughty and procureth the headache and stopping of the liver; and the older the worser. Whereupon it is said, that the cheese is naught, and digesteth all things but itself.

Why be nuts good after fish? and the verse is:

After fish nuts; after flesh cheese.?
Because fish is of a hard digestion, and doth easily putrefy and corrupt; and nuts help digestion because they be somewhat hot; fish. is poisoned sometimes, and nuts are a remedy against a poison. And note, they should be of a clear stony water, and not of a cold standing, muddy water, and should be so in wine and parsley, and so it hurteth least.

Why is it unwholesome to stay long for one dish after another and to eat of divers kinds of meat?
Because the first begins to digest when the first is eaten and so the digestion is not equally made, and therefore the meat digested beginneth to corrupt. But yet this rule is to be noted touching the order of meat, that if there be any dishes, whereof some are light of digestion, as chickens, kid, veal, soft eggs, and such like, these meats should be first eaten; but gross meats, as venison, bacon, beef, roast pork, hard eggs, and fried eggs, should be eaten last. And the reason is, because that if they should be first served and eaten, and were digested, they should hinder the digestion of others; and the light meats not digested should be corrupted in the stomach, and kept in the stomach violently, whereof would follow belching, loathing, headache, bellyache and great thirst. And by consequence it is very hurtful too at the same meal to drink milk and wine, because they dispose a man to leprosy.

Which is best for the stomach, meat or drink?
Drink is sooner digested than meat, because meat is of greater substance, and more material than drink, and therefore meat is harder to digest.

Why is it good to drink after dinner?
Because the drink should make the meat readier to digest. For if a pot be filled with fish or flesh without liquor, then both the pot and the meat is marred. The stomach is like unto a pot which doth boil meat, and therefore physicians do counsel to drink at meals.

Why is it good to forbear a late supper?
Because there is no moving or stirring after supper, and so the meat is not sent down to the bottom of the stomach, but remaineth undigested and so breeds hurt; and therefore a light and short supper is best, as the old verse doth show.

How comes some men to evacuate clear meat?
By reason of the weakness of nature and expulsion; which disease is called leinteria.


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