The outer surface of the body is its largest eliminative organ, namely, the skin. By many people the skin seems to be considered simply a covering drawn over the more important organs and structures beneath.
The skin extremely, intricately, and intimately connected with the functions of the physical organism. Its millions of pores are minute windows for the ventilation of the body. If the pores of the skin were entirely sealed death would take place in a short time – in six hours at most. One can touch the body with a fine needle point at hardly any place without coming in contact with a nerve-ending and a minute blood-vessel. This shows the intimate connection between the skin and the general nervous system and between the skin and the general circulation.
A structure so closely connected with the body must have important functions. The skin has several. It affords protection for the more delicate underlying tissues. As already stated, the skin provides for ventilation. It works in close connection with the kidneys. If the body-surface is heated through exercise or by external environment, the skin pores open and let out moisture, while the kidneys will be passing off less moisture.
When the skin tightens up and closes the pores as during exposure to cold, the kidney excretion of moisture increases. When, on the other hand, the pores open and perspiration appears upon the surface of the skin it undergoes evaporation. This cools the body; hence the skin is one of the important features of the heat-regulating mechanism of the body. Through contact of the skin with air, sunshine and different temperatures of water, the circulation, the heart and the nervous system are all stimulated. One of the best exercises for the heart is the water bath or the air bath at sufficiently low temperatures to insure vigorous reaction and so to re-establish warmth; and one of the best means of securing sedation to the nervous system is by a bath slightly below or slightly above body temperature.
So we see that the skin has such an influence upon the body that it requires special care. In primitive life an abundance of fresh air and sunshine naturally could have contact with the body. But civilized man for so many centuries has covered his skin with clothes and housed himself under roofs until the skin has become delicate, bleached, and by no means as efficient an organ as it was designed to be. But in practically every case it can be restored to much of its original serviceability.
With many people infrequent bathing is the only effort made on behalf of healthy skin. With others the bath is taken more frequently, but without any thought as to other possible effects of bathing other than mere cleansing. In almost all cases baths are overhot and overlong. No one needs a hot bath except for therapeutic purposes – that is, to allay some symptom or aid in over-coming some abnormal condition. The warm soap bath is as cleansing as hot baths and is not so exhausting to the nervous system, and has less tendency to lower the hemoglobin and cell count of the blood. But even the warm bath should not be taken for a longer time than is sufficient to cleanse the body. A ten minute bath is long enough for the grimiest individual.
Many persons are not acquainted with the tonic bath. A tonic bath is a bath at any temperature below that of the body, and is called such because it arouses the reaction powers of the nervous system and circulation and has a pleasing and permanent tonic effect. Some persons are so anemic, with skin so inactive and with nervous systems and circulation so weak that a bath of seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit would seem cold and would arouse reactive powers quite readily. For these people such a temperature, or even a somewhat higher temperature, still below that of the body, may be used for a number of days to get the body accustomed to the reaction, after which it would be better to lower the temperature of the water slowly from day to day in order to more vigorously arouse reactive powers and to reawaken dormant vitality and functional capacities.
The cold bath has been advocated in recent years to such an extent that often it is overdone. Where one can take the full cold bath and react promptly and completely and suffer no immediate or later weakening effect, this bath will prove beneficial. But a great many people have weakened themselves by the cold bath. They have taken it too frequently or too cold for their reactive powers and subnormal vitality, in consequence of which they have further exhausted their vitality and become more enervated. There are many people, particularly of the highly nervous type, who never should use a definitely cold bath. For these and for many others the bath should be tempered.
A very excellent means in which to accustom oneself to the tonic bath and to become able to react favourably to lower and lower temperatures is to precede the tonic bath by a fairly hot bath or to stand with the feet in three or four inches of fairly hot water. When the circulation has been stimulated by the preparatory heat the nerves also are more prepared for the shock of the tonic bath and the reaction will be more prompt and complete.
Another satisfactory means to prepare for the tonic bath is by the dry-friction bath. There are different ways in which this may be given. One may use the hands or a coarse towel, afresh brush or bath mittens. My grandpa used corncobs for years, and at the age of seventy-two had skin as soft as a baby’s. The friction bath may be considered as to the cold bath what appetite is to eating; it prepares the body for the bath, as appetite prepares the body for food. One should enjoy one’s meal; and one should enjoy a cold bath also. If it is taken with a shudder and a chill there likely will be a lasting undesired effect. The friction bath puts the skin in such a condition that the cold water will “feel good”. The friction bath alone, without a water bath to follow, will have a very beneficial effect also, through its influence upon the skin surface, the nerve-endings and the capillaries in the skin, and, through these, every internal organ and structure.
Perhaps the best means of preparing for the tonic bath is by exercise. The benefits of exercise have been stressed, and the reader should be acquainted with the effect of exercise upon the skin, warming it and filling it with blood as the circulation is heightened. The effect of exercise toward preparing the skin for the cold bath is more lasting than the preceding methods of preparing the skin. In most cases the reaction to the cold or tonic bath is more prompt when the body is warmed by exercise, for within a shorter time the circulation becomes re-established throughout the body. Indeed, after exercising circulation should attain a notably higher level than before the exercise and bath, and remain at a higher level for a longer period of time than will result from the other preparatory procedures.
Not frequently one feels so invigorated and generally warmed as a result of reaction from a cold bath that a second bath is taken shortly afterward. Many times this will not result unfavorably, but sometimes it seems to produce a numbering of the reactive powers and one will remain chilled for an hour or more and may require artificial heat. One should avoid following out the idea that if a little is beneficial a great deal is more so. A cold bath should not be taken too frequently, nor should it be continued too long. It is not the cold that does one good; it is the reaction. If one does not secure the reaction any amount of cold bathing will do no good.
Another point in regard to the cold bath; the warmer the body, the colder the bath that can be taken with prompt reaction. But one should avoid a cold plunge or cold bath while the heart is still racing or beating rapidly as a result of exercise. This produces a tremendous shock and, unless the heart is normal, may result seriously. But remember, regardless of the heat of the body, if the heart is quiet or only slightly above normal in action the cold bath will not be detrimental.
Each individual should know or learn his own reactive powers, and in taking tonic baths keep well within these powers. These powers may be increased steadily, in fact have been increased tremendously in a great many cases; but they cannot be increased without tonic baths, nor can they be increased by tonic baths beyond one’s power to recuperate.
Of very great value for many people is the sitz-bath. It is a tonic of great value through its effect upon important sympathetic nerve centres. This bath consists in immersing only the hips or the central part of the body and the feet in water. One may use an ordinary wash tub or the ordinary bath tub. In either case, have the water deep enough to cover the hips while sitting in the tub with the knees drawn up or flexed. In warm weather the feet may be outside if the wash tub is used, but in cold weather the feet should be in warm water during both the hot and the cold sitz. After the cold sitz bath the feet should be momentarily dipped in the cold water.
If a person’s reactive powers are good, the sitz-bath may be taken cold, for from one-half minute to two minutes – or even longer. When the temperature of the water is fifty degrees or above, the bath may continue for five minutes or more with nothing but benefit. A very excellent way to take the sitz-bath is to take the hot sitz-bath for three minutes or so and follow it with the cold sitz of one-half to one minute’s duration – the hot and cold to be repeated if desired. In the ordinary home it is impossible to secure the hot and cold sitz-bath, unless a wash tub is used alongside the bath tub or unless two wash tubs are used. This is satisfactory way to take the bath. A very good procedure instead of this is to take the hot sitz-bath, and (when the bath tub is used) attach the portable hand spray to the faucet and spray the parts that were immersed with cold water, continuing this spray over all the parts for a minute or more.
The neutral tub bath is a bath of special value in many cases. The water is neither hot or cold, but at a temperature of ninety-five to ninety-eight degrees Fahrenheit. It is neither stimulating nor depressing, yet has a sedative or quieting effect upon the nervous system through its effect upon the nerve-endings in the skin. It is very helpful in overcoming nervousness or general excitement or insomnia. It may be used also in cases of extensive severe burns.
In the use of cleansing bath, it is important to consider the soap used. Many soaps on the market are so alkaline that they are injurious to the skin. A pure vegetable soap such as castile or olive oil soap, is excellent. An expensive soap is not necessary, but it should be better than the cheapest. It is particularly valuable to have a super-fatted soap when the skin is inclined to be dry. These soaps are hard to rinse off the skin. When the skin is inclined to be too dry they should not be rinsed off completely; what remains is the oil which will tend to soften the skin.
To complete this report, internal cleanliness must be considered. One should secure adequate amounts of drinking water. The cells require a fluid medium as their environment and they require an alkaline medium for their normal function. The more water one drinks within reason, the more certain are the cells to be surrounded with sufficiently fluid substances that they can pass off their waste products and absorb additional nourishment. Drinking water is taking one kind of an internal bath. One should drink at least six or eight glasses a day unless on very large amounts of fruit or the watery vegetables or milk.
By the internal bath, however, the enema usually is meant. The low enema, the high enema, or the colonic irrigation may be referred to. The best position for taking the enema is the knee-chest position – first kneeling, then bending the body forward until the chest or folded arms reach the floor. In this position, with the hips elevated, the water which enters the rectum is allowed to enter without pressure and to reach some of the higher parts of the colon. The fountain syringe reservoir or bag should be not more than two feet above the hips and the water injected slowly. Water at about one hundred degrees temperature should be used, and from one to two quarts. The least amount should be used that can be used for complete results.
Often it is necessary to take a two-section enema – injecting and expelling one enema and following it immediately with another. The enema should be used no oftener than necessary, but as often as is needed. Suitable diet, proper exercise, abundant water drinking and other factors usually will make the frequent enema unnecessary.
It may be mentioned that other positions may be taken for the enema, if for any reason the knee-chest position cannot be assumed. One may lie on the back with the hips elevated on a pillow, or one may lie on the left side preferably, with the hips elevated.
If it is found necessary to use the enema fairly frequently the amount of water should be reduced from one to four ounces and the temperature reduced two or three degrees every day or thereabouts, until no more than four ounces and natural tap temperature water is used. By this time the rectum and colon usually will be satisfactory toned-up for normal elimination.