( Originally Published 1938 )
Constipation or intestinal stasis may be acute or chronic. "Acute" refers to that type of constipation which occurs quite suddenly and which is usually of short duration. Ordinarily this type of constipation is quite easily and simply remedied. This is because the trouble usually lies in the colon and the rest of the digestive tract keeps on functioning normally. Such constipation may be brought about by emotional stress, change in diet or water, a prolonged or enforced inactivity, or unaccustomed travel by motor or train.
Generally speaking, this constipation, being of short duration, causes no discomfort or serious symptom, providing, of course, that it is remedied. On the other hand, in susceptible individuals individuals of delicate constitution or unhygienic living habits it may produce many of the symptoms of chronic constipation which we will discuss later.
While acute constipation usually takes the form we have just described, there are some forms of a far more serious nature. These result from some pathologic condition which interferes with the normal functioning of the intestinal canal. The pathological condition may disturb the nerves, the muscles, the action of the abdominal muscles or of the diaphragm,or it may interfere with the secretion of bile or its passage into the intestine. Such constipation, commonly called "stoppage," produces very serious symptoms and a general condition of grave import. There-fore it demands the immediate and expert care of a skilled physician.
Ordinarily, however, acute constipation may be treated at home. But while it may be treated at home, it never should be treated lightly or neglected, for if it is, a chronic condition may result. Moreover, harsh drugs should be avoided as much as possible, for they, too, bring on chronic conditions.
Chronic constipation, as the name implies, refers to that form of constipation which lasts over a considerable period of time or which regularly occurs. This is the type in which we are particularly interested, for not only is it frequently difficult to remedy and often requires considerable persistency and will power on the part of the sufferer to do so, but it may be unrecognized for a considerable length of time. It creeps up on its victim, gradually and without his being aware of it, since he may have partial evacuations. Indeed, he may boast of the fact that he is one of the chosen few who does not suffer from it and when he discovers it, very serious damage has already been done. We shall soon see how this partial constipation or costiveness, as it is sometimes called, can deprive an individual of his health and pretty near take the fun out of life.
Constipation, we said, refers to the clogging of the intestines with waste, either wholly or partially, and either for a short period of time or for an extended one. In addition, constipation may be atonic or spastic, depending upon the nature of the cause and of the cure.