Constipation Destroys Vitality
( Originally Published 1904 )
"Constipation occurs at any age, but is most common after middle life, when less exercise is taken, and increases with advancing years, when the vital processes in general are less active. It is ten times more common in women than in men."—William Gilman Thompson, M.D.
There is hardly a family of average size but has at least one member who is afflicted so seriously with constipation that the trouble takes on a tragic aspect. Those who are apparently healthy are often victims to the excruciating torments of constipation. They "suffer agonies," yet can see "no reason why they should."
Constipation is caused by violations of the most ordinary rules of hygienic and dietetic right living. There is no need for constipation to exist; it is cured, principally, by removing its cause, and with the further aid of a common sense following of physical culture laws.
In nearly all cases the symptoms are very much alike, the main difference being one of relative in-frequency of evacuation. Some people are subject only to occasional attacks of constipation, which may last from one or two days to as many weeks. Others are victims of chronic constipation which, in nearly every ease, is the direct outgrowth of what are at first only occasional attacks of the ailment.
The general symptoms are: Infrequent or entire absence of movement of the bowels without artificial aid; inactive condition of the kidneys; dry, rough and sallow skin; tongue coated; breath foul; mind depressed. Added to these are, not infrequently, palpitation of the heart, headache, neuralgia or some kind of fever, nervousness and hysteria.
Extreme nervous derangements, indeed, are so frequently associated with constipation that for this reason, if for no other, the most decisive measures should be taken to promptly insure the regularity of the action of the bowels. There are to-day thousands and thousands of women nervous wrecks whose troubles can all he traced to constipation, neglected, or else treated with the purgatives that relieve for a while, but which invariably make the malady more deep-seated in the end.
Food may be ever so wholesome when eaten, but if the bowels do not treat it with proper activity it becomes " as poisonous and, in some. cases, more poisonous, and will produce more injury than food which is in a bad condition when eaten, but that is properly excreted from the body. Normal activity of the bowels 'must be maintained if one expects to remain in a healthy physical condition. One of the first signs of oncoming disease is inactivity of the bowels.
Constipation carries in its train a sometimes long-delayed but nevertheless inevitable and absolute break down of the health. Once that the health is lost by constipation there is no regaining it until the primal ailment has been cured. For, in. addition to the long list of other evils that constipation breeds, there is a failure of the nutritive processes of the system. If the waste matters are not removed from the body, the nourishing of the tissues must all but come to a full stop.
Under prevailing circumstances, numerous influences tend to bring about this complaint, but one of the most common of such is an inactive habit of life. If you take absolutely no exercise, if you sit all day in close, hot rooms, ride about in carriages or public conveyances whenever compelled to leave your home, it is a difficult matter to avoid acquiring this complaint. Under such circumstances the circulation is usually very sluggish. It cannot capably and properly perform its functional duties and the in-activity of the alimentary canal naturally follows.
A diet highly concentrated, or one in which the food is extremely rich or super-cooked, also has a great tendency to produce this trouble. Tea, coffee, tobacco and beer are always contributory causes. When white bread is made a large part of the dietary, constipation is certain. When the outer shell of the wheat and the bran has been removed, it becomes a doughy mass and it is a very difficult matter for the digestive juices to penetrate it. The writer knows of a great many instances where the use of white bread has been the sole cause of this trouble, which almost immediately disappeared when a change was made to whole meal bread.
Another very serious cause is also the use of cathartics.. These of course relieve the trouble for the time being, but gradually the nervous power of the digestive organs is` lessened, and if the use of these poisons is continued the doses have to be constantly increased and ultimately they lose their influence. When the organs are dull and deadened, in fact almost paralyzed by drugs, one is indeed in a serious condition, and it often takes a long course of dieting and exercise to bring about recovery. Neglect to evacuate the bowels when the desire to do so is experienced is a common cause of constipation. This neglect in many instances causes the contents of the bowels to be forced back from the rectum, and the desire to disappear. When the evacutory prompting is felt it should be followed by immediate obedience. Such obedience should be recognized as a grave duty. It is also important to cultivate regularity of habits of this kind. In some cases, by long neglect, the bowels get into such an abnormally sluggish condition that the need of relieving them is never indicated in the usual way.
The corset, too, has a very baneful influence, as it prevents proper development of the muscles of the waist and abdomen, which Nature intended as prominent factors in a normal evacuation of the bowels. The corset also interferes with the circulation of the blood.
A certain amount of fluids is necessary to the normal action of any part of the body, but more especially of the bowels, and so the free drinking of water is an essential if you wish to escape constipation.
William Gilman Thompson, M. D., professor of medicine in the Cornell University Medical College, declares as follows concerning the malady:
"Dietetic errors cause constipation through a insufficient or too highly concentrated food; (b) certain foods and astringent beverages — milk, tea and claret are proverbially constipating; (c) indigestible food; (d) obstructions from over-eating of coarse food; (e) irregularities in time of meals, hasty mastication, etc.; (f) the drinking of too little water. The latter is a very common cause of constipation, because the digestive fluids are thereby lessened in volume and are less thoroughly mixed with the food in the alimentary canal, and the lower bowel becomes so dry that friction prevents the onward movement of the feces."
Putting aside insufficient food as a cause—since underfeeding is but rarely encountered — and observing that milk may be drunk freely by many people without causing constipation, it will be noted that the highest medical opinion ascribes constipation to bad dieting and the use of too little water. Add to this the lack of suitable exercise and we are in full possession of the causes that are to be remedied or removed.