Care Of The Colon
( Originally Published 1927 )
Because constipation is one of the disorders that causes premature aging, and often aids in producing death, it is necessary to know the truth about it, that it may be prevented; or if it is already present, that it can be overcome.
Normally the intestinal tract keeps itself sweet and clean, but because of our numerous unnatural habits the intestinal walls frequently deteriorate so that the bowel functions are impaired. In the intestinal walls there are numerous muscles. Though delicate, they are strong, and when the body is fairly treated these muscles are capable of performing their work, which is to send onward the contents of the intestines. This is accomplished through alternate contractions and relaxations of the muscles, or peristalsis.
The internal surface of the intestines is studded with a multitude of glands. Their function (outside of the digestive areas) is to secrete a small amount of lubricant, just enough to keep the bowel contents soft and well lubricated, but not enough so that large pieces of mucus, either in lumps or in strings, are ejected from the bowels.
The lower intestine is the great waste pipe of the body. Through thousands of openings waste materials are thrown into this pipe. Waste is always poisonous to the organism that produces it. When the bowels are functioning normally, this waste is thrown out so that it causes no trouble. But when constipation sets in, the waste may remain in the body a long time, and as a large part of it is dissolved in the moist part of the excretory matter, it is again absorbed into the blood. That is the reason why constipation is so injurious. It poisons the blood stream, and a poisoned blood stream destroys beauty, dulls the eye, clouds the skin, decreases the strength, detracts from mental clarity, shortens youth, hastens old age, causes disease, and aids in producing premature death. Constipation is often a part of other ills, and it is frequently the chief cause of other troubles. Pimples often advertise constipation, and many cases of severe headache recover when constipation is eliminated. It is most important that the bowels work well.
The bowels are under the control of the nervous system, but the workings are automatic. We should always cooperate, for then the normal condition will be maintained. The lower bowel is very sensitive to impressions. When waste arrives it notifies the nerve center, and the nerve center telegraphs to the conscious mind that waste has arrived and that it should be ejected. When a call like this comes it should always be heeded. Many men and women have so much false modesty that they disregard this call, and sometimes go for hours carrying about the waste, and reabsorb a part of it into the blood stream. The punishment for this is sure and never long delayed. Every time a call of nature is disregarded the lower bowel grows a little less sensitive, and the power to function decreases. If this disregard continues the time comes when no notifications are sent, and then another case of chronic constipation is established. The first rule for avoiding the filthy, disgusting condition called constipation is: Invariably obey the calls of nature.
Another cause of constipation is shallow breathing. Correct breathing is partly abdominal. Every deep breath massages the intestines, gently toning up their action. Also, deep breathing supplies plenty of oxygen to keep the blood stream pure, and pure blood helps to build normal muscles and glands and nerves in every part of the body, the intestines included.
Another cause of constipation is physical inactivity. Most individuals are as lazy as they dare to be, according to an old writer. One of the laws of health is that a person must work and exercise the body enough to maintain a lively circulation and tonic muscles. Many fail to do this, and as a result both the muscles and the circulation deteriorate, and one of the common results is constipation. The remedy is to exercise enough to keep in good physical condition. Exercises are discussed in another chapter, so we shall only add here that one good exercise to overcome constipation is to keep the knees straight and bend the body forward at the waist about eight times. Another good exercise is to stand straight, and draw in the anterior abdominal wall. Draw it back and upward, pretending that you are going to pull the anterior abdominal wall up so that it will hide under the ribs. Repeat about ten times. Another rule for preventing and overcoming constipation is : Take regular exercises every day.
Improper eating is the chief cause of constipation. The refined foods, such as white flour products and white sugar, tend to produce constipation. So does overconsumption of meat. So does an excessive intake of milk and cheese. The same is true of starch overeating, but here the action is different. Those who overeat of starch eventually become perambulating gas factories. The gas overdistends the intestines, stretching the muscles unduly. In the end the delicate little muscles grow weary and say to themselves, "What's the use?" and then they institute a sabotage or a strike. To correct the eating factor, follow the rules given for eating in other chapters of this book, but we shall here summarize a few of the eating hints that will help to overcome constipation: Eat slowly and masticate well; eat moderately; avoid white flour products most of the time and use instead the entire grain products; be very sparing in the consumption of refined sugar, and satisfy your craving for sweets by eating the naturally sweet fruits ; eat plenty of the succulent vegetables, for the roughage will help to stimulate bowel action and the salts and juices help to make good blood; eat some raw fruit every day, for the same reason; take your milk without boiling or pasteurizing it; be moderate in your meat intake.
These dietetic principles will prevent constipation; they will also help to overcome an established case.
Some individuals find various foods laxative, but these foods are not the same in all cases. Some of the commonest laxative foods are: Prunes, raisins, dates, figs, stewed onions, spinach, and other cooked leafy greens, stewed rhubarb stalks, and pears.
Boiled milk is usually constipating, so much so that it is the best remedy I have found for persistent diarrhea. A prescription that has stopped many cases of diarrhea where previous remedies had failed is this : Stop all eating, except milk. Three or four times a day, take from eight to twelve ounces of milk that has boiled several minutes, sipping it slowly, and absolutely no other food until the diarrhea subsides. This usually takes place inside of forty-eight hours. Then begin to eat correctly and the bowel function will become normal.
Suppose constipation is already established, what is one to do? It is better to use a mild laxative, or a small injection of water, or a suppository than to allow the waste material to remain in the body and poison the blood. But please bear in mind that the constant giving of cathartics makes the constipation worse. So use as little laxative as you can to get the effect, and if injections are used, make them small. Certainly the lower bowel was not intended for cistern purposes. Water there is looked upon by the body as a foreign substance and is expelled—that is the reason for the effectiveness of the enema. If the bowel has not been abused, a pint of water will do as well as a larger amount. Where a person has the enema habit, it may be necessary to use more to get results, but see how soon the number of enemas can be decreased and the amount of water diminished.
So prevalent is constipation that most individuals have their favorite laxatives. Some of the least injurious are : Senna leaves mixed with sweet fruits, agar-agar taken with meals, milk of magnesia, citrate of magnesia in moderate doses, paraffin oil, cascara sagrada and rhubarb. These remedies relieve, but they never cure. The cure is brought about through correct care of the body. Take as little of the laxatives as possible, for many cathartics help to establish constipation. For instance, castor oil quickly evacuates the bowel, but it generally leaves the individual constipated afterwards.
Those who eat right do not develop constipation, if they are sensible otherwise. Those who live too largely on animal foods such as meats, fish, eggs, milk and cheese not only are subject to constipation, but their excretions are excessively poisonous, so much so that constipation is far more injurious to them than it is to those who eat enough of the fresh fruits and fresh vegetables.
The bowels should move at least once a day, better twice daily, and the fecal matter should never be hard and lumpy, nor should there be any offensive odors. Autointoxication has been so much discussed that some have been unduly alarmed, and they are apt to say that the bowels should move three or four times a day. Two satisfactory movements would be fine, and if the bowels can be induced to work both morning and evening, that is splendid.
A time should be set aside for the bowels to function, and this time should be observed every day. You can teach a muscle or other organ of the body to perform; likewise, you can teach the bowels to be regular. When the constipation is well established it may take months to restore the bowel functions, but those who persist will be rewarded with normally functioning organs.
Deep breathing, exercise, observing the calls of nature, regularity, and correct eating and drinking are the chief curative means.
Bran is a cathartic and should not be used in large amounts. It is far better to eat whole wheat bread than to eat white bread and bran.
Deep massage of the sides and upper part of the abdomen is helpful in overcoming constipation.
Once more, heed the calls of nature.