The scourge of ulcers

This BMJ piece (subscription required) offers another reason to be thankful for living in the modern era:

In the middle of the last century there was a genre of books (I will not dignify it with the name of literature) with titles such as How to Live with Your Ulcer and How I Cured My Duodenal Ulcer. The lettering on the spine of the latter work, by John Parr, was in silver, except for the word “cured,” which was in diabolic red for emphasis. A cure for ulcer then was regarded as of almost supernatural occurrence.

Parr, who wrote the book in 1951, had an ulcer from 1919 until 1946, which gives him a kind of authority. We find it now as difficult to remember the miserable chronicity of peptic ulceration as to remember life before the internet. With a little effort, however, I can remember the household smell of ulceration—namely, that of boiled fish, peppermint water added to aluminium hydroxide, and various extracts of liquorice; a combination that was, aesthetically if not therapeutically, unpleasing.

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