The Household Physician

 Dr. D.C. Jarvis

" I believe the doctor of the future will be a teacher as well as a physician.
His real job will be to teach people how to be healthy." Dr. D.C. Jarvis

The Influence of Weather Changes on Health
Our Changing External Environment
Dr. D.C. Jarvis

What do the twenty-three storm tracks that cross Vermont on their way to the Atlantic Ocean do to those of us who live in Vermont?  The weather changes every few days because of the storm tracks that pass over Vermont.  During the past two hundred years Vermonters have learned how to adjust their body to these frequent weather changes.  William F. Petersen, M.D. of Chicago, Illinois taught me how to use the story of an Indian in a canoe in teaching the succeeding generations of Vermonters the influences of these frequent weather changes on the human body.

Let us put an Indian in a canoe and let him float about on a calm sea.  The Indian was not designed to live on the water, but he invented the canoe and he built it with simple tools devised by his brain and he made use of simple materials provided in his environment.  As long as the sea is calm he will get along very well.  There is little work and little strain ... even a sick Indian or  and old Indian can survive. Now we will add wind and weather to the picture.  Our Indian must now do real work.  If the canoe is poor or the paddle breaks, he will be in trouble. Automatically he must balance and coordinate. Some of this he does by conscious effort and some of the movements are an action produced by the transmission of an impulse which creates action independently without a conscious effort on the part of the individual.  We observe this happening with involuntary winking when the eye is threatened.   In such a seemingly simple process an immense number of different tasks in the body of the Indian must be completed.  When some muscles contract, others must relax.  The blood vessels in the working muscles must at the same time dilate and the heart must pump more blood.

But while the heart is doing this the liver must give up sugar so that the muscles can have more energy.   In the meantime the lungs must increase their breathing rate in order to remove accumulating carbon dioxide from the body. At the same time there is water loss from the lungs and skin and more water must flow from the tissues into the blood.   It is a smooth and endless, uninterrupted chain of events as adjustments follow adjustments.

Of course, our Indian in the canoe cannot keep up the pace indefinitely.  Sooner or later he will be fatigued, either because his stores of energy will be exhausted or waste products will accumulate.  An indefinite strain means an ultimate collapse.

Instead of the moderate strain of a stiff breeze and a choppy sea let us put our Indian and his canoe through a gale and some waves that are really big.  Now life will depend wholly on his strength and on the quality of his equipment. But if in addition there is some sudden increase in the environmental influence, he may be swamped.  Even if he isn't the canoe may take in water.  Then it will not handle so readily; a lesser strain that may now be added may provide the final blow that wrecks him.

You and I are not navigating canoes nor trying to successfully survive crests and troughs in a turbulent sea. But actually those of us who live in Vermont and who live in regions of the storm tracks are constantly doing the same thing day in and day out as we have to survive the air waves of the storm tracks that are constantly passing over us.

Our private birch-bark canoes, that is, our bodies during the cold months of January, February, March, and April have to adjust to swings of temperature of more than fifty degrees in the summer.  Such high air waves come so fast and furious during January, February, March and April in Vermont that it requires good airmanship and a strong body to bring us through on an even keel.


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We all do this but in some ways the slender type of body has a harder job.  It does not have much fat padding in the skin.  There are not as many reserves in the liver, in the bone marrow, in the muscles and in the tissues just beneath the skin.  Every adjustment that has to be made to meet the demands if the environment in which the individual is at the time, must be made by a change in the distribution in the body of the blood.  One day the skin must be a radiator in order that the body may lose heat because the weather is warm and the next day the skin must be an insulator to retain heat within the body became passing storm tracks have made the weather cold.

The slender type of body needs more fuel in the food to keep the body warm.  More often the individual having the slender type 0£ body puts a greater strain on the mechanism of adjustment within the body.  A more severe strain is placed on the thyroid gland, the adrenal glands and on the nervous system.  The wider the swing in the process of adjustment the wider the reflection in the blood chemistry of the body, in the function of the different organs in the body in the feeling of well being or fatigue and in the moods 0£ the individual.

Consciously and subconsciously the slender body tries to protect itself by saving energy whenever possible.   It makes use of more shelter, withdraws within itself and burns food in the cells of the body at a lower metabolic rate.  The skin of the slender body may become tough and dry and wrinkled. Individuals with a slender body may eat much food but drinK little water. They keep the mechanism of adjustment in the body at the peak of condition.  The blood vessel system may remain young because of fre~uent use.  Generally speaking, frequent use, unless overdone, leads to the maintenance of proper function.

When they are relatively young the individuals with a broad type of body have a better time, medically speaking. They have enough fat padding in the skin and the tissues just under the skin to blunt the effect of cold and weather changes.  They do not have to push the blood mass around so much in their body, they do not need as much energy; they make more efficient use of the oxygen in the air they breathe into their lungs.  As a consequence they accumulate reserves of fat and water, sugar and protein, vitamins and minerals.

Individuals with a broad type of body have more body reserves and less need of shelter.  They can spend energy; they can feel buoyant and exuberant; they have plenty of good health and good will.  They have more interest in the world about them.  They are less introspective.  The outside world becomes their field of intent because they don't have to devote so much energy toward keeping the outside world outside of themselves.  Nature does it with its fat padding. They are seldom blue or depressed but they may be irritable. They do very well in the winter; but not so well in the summer because their skin does not radiate heat efficiently.

In modern medicine little attention is given to the part weather changes play in the production of sickness arid health.   But, if one decides to study seriously, folk medicine which is centuries old, he soon recognizes that the theory of infection as a cause of disease has to be shared with weather changes which produce biochemical and physiological changes in the body.   If he wishes to increases his success in the treatment of disease it is helpful to combine bacteriological medicine taught in medical books and magazines with biochemical and physiological medicine which is learned from folk medicine and the study of farm animals and fowl.

If you care to go to school go to the honey bees, fowl, cats, dogs, goats, mink, calves, dairy cows, bulls and horses and allow them to teach you their ways, you will gain an insight into physiological and biochemical medicine not to be learned from medical books.  Verified by observing results in animals, this medicine, which is passed from generation to generation by word of mouth enables great numbers of Vermonters to continue carrying heavy daily work loads and to go on well past the Scriptural three-score-and-ten years into good physical and mental vigor, good digestion, good eyesight and good hearing, avoiding senility to the very end.

Farm animals in their own way are just as natural as the wild animals which roam the untouched forests; if we will but take the trouble to study them, they can teach us many valuable lessons.


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İMatt Mitchell