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M. Armand Gautier has some interesting theories concerning the menstrual function and the rut of animals in relation to the role of arsenic in nutrition. These were communicated to the Academie des Sciences on August 6th, and may be read in La Presse Médicale for September 8th, 1900. He traces a relationship between the functions of the genital organs, those of the thyroid gland, and the growth of the appendages of the skin, namely, hair and nails. His attention was attracted to the subject by the observation that patients, when taking arsenic, menstruate more frequently than at other times, that their skin improves in condition, and that their hair increases in length and thickness. Since arsenic and iodine are assimilated by the thyroid, and excreted by the epidermis and its appendages, it occurred to Dr. Gautier that it is upon the utilisation and elimination of these substances that the above-mentioned relationship is based, and his experiments have confirmed him in this opinion.
He has shown that normal blood of man and of animals contain no arsenic and a very little iodine, while menstrual blood contains .3 milligrammes of arsenic per kilogramme, and 4 1/2 times more iodine than normal blood. A human thyroid contains about 15 milligrammes of arsenic, so that, allowing for a blood loss of 400 to 500 grammes per day during menstruation, the total blood lost would contain 12 to 14 milligrammes of arsenic, or nearly as much arsenic as the thyroid of the patient contained before menstruation. Thus arsenic and iodine are excreted every month by woman, and menstruation finds its raison d’étre in a removal of these substances from the thyroid, and perhaps also, in less degree, from the skin.
Normally the nucleo-proteids and iodised bodies of the thyroid go to nourish the skin, and especially the hair bulbs and the nail beds. The arsenic and iodine thus used are eliminated by the shedding of hair and nails, and by the desquamation of the general surface of the epidermis. In woman there is an excess production of these bodies, which is eliminated periodically in the menstrual blood, unless conception occurs, in which case the excess is used up in the construction of the foetus, in whose rapid growth much phosphorus, arsenic, and iodine are consumed.
We are aware that the thyroid gland excites and regulates growth, that it influences the nutrition of the skin, and that it is in relation with the development and function of the reproductive organs. Its atrophy in the cretin coincides with arrest of development, myxo:dema, and infantilism of the sexual organs. On the other hand, the thyroid develops rapidly in the pregnant woman, and in certain females it hypertrophies some days before menstruation. Hofmeister has observed atrophy of the sexual organs after removal of the thyroid, and conversely it is stated that the administration of thyroid substance has been followed by renewal of growth in an infantile uterus. In a word, all the organs rich in nucleins, especially those in which arsenic and iodine occur together, are favourably influenced by the administration of thyroid substance.
It is mainly by the appendages of the skin and by the menstrual blood that arsenic and iodine are eliminated by the female human subject. It may be asked, however, how these substances are dealt with by the male subject, and by female animals which do not menstruate. Our author answers this question by pointing out that warm-blooded animals of both sexes are covered with hairs or feathers, which grow as a rule before the breeding season, and are shed to a considerable extent when the period of sexual activity is passed. Thus the supply of arsenic and iodine is used during the winter in growing fur, feathers, horns, etc. When these have reached their full growth the supply of nucleo-proteids is diverted to the sexual organs, and breeding commences. The skin is thus deprived of the essentials of luxuriant growth, the hair falls out, the horns fall off, and the feathers drop out.
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These views may appear to be vague, unproved, and even romantic ; they are, however, interesting and not without suggestiveness. It may be found, after experiment and extended observation, that they are based upon a substratum of solid fact. _
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article source: The Practitioner, Volume 65, 1900