Effects Of Constipation
( Originally Published 1938 )
First of all let us consider the effect that constipation has on our happiness, the ability to enjoy ourselves and to give pleasure to others, on our work and financial condition. Most of us, if we were asked what was the greatest blessing we can have, would promptly respond, health. But not because health in itself is a thing of great value, but because it is only through health that we can attain to those things which make life worth living. Constipation, gradually undermining our minds and our bodies, deprives them both of the vigorous health that should be theirs.
Suppose for a moment that you yourself are suffering from constipation. You get up in the morning after a troubled sleep, feeling groggy and headachy. You struggle into your clothes, telling yourself that you'll feel better after a cup of coffee. But the coffee tastes like mud and makes your stomach burn. Somehow you struggle through your work, but you make a lot of blunders and are short with those under you to the point of harshness. And when work is finally over, you are in no mood for play. Your friends bore or annoy you, you're tired and want to be left alone to brood over your troubles. Even your family irritates you. As the days go by you find that others in your organization, in your community are forging ahead. For example, you've had twice the experience that Jones has had and you were formerly more successful. What's the matter with the outfit, anyway? Well, Jones probably has a lot of drag. What's the use of trying? There's no justice. And, if you are a woman and a homemaker, it's just as bad. Not a word of thanks for the hours of drudgery you've spent, not a single word of thanks for the hours you've spent over a hot kitchen stove. Not a word of thanks for being a good mother. Only complaints.
As for your hours of relaxation, even when you feel like doing something, there is no one to do it with.
Your friends and family are too busy to bother about you. After all you're nothing but a spoil-sport, a stick-in-the-mud, an old grouch. Anyhow, why should you be stared at because you have a few pimples and look a little sallow? Who wouldn't look sallow when he has slaved and worried the way you have? Why, you're really glad that no one asked you to go out . Guess you need a vacation. But you don't need a vacation.
If you weren't so touchy, your friends would tell you that you exhibited every symptom of bowel sluggishness, and that you could free yourself of the constipation that was ruining your life.
The evils of constipation do not stop at mere outward sluggishness. They may reach to every part of your system and impair your general constitution if they are not checked in time.
One of the commonest pathological conditions associated with constipation is the so called common cold. It is now generally believed that the common cold is directly caused by a filterable virus, that is, a micro-organism smaller than bacteria. However, it is much easier for the virus to successfully invade the 'system when it is run down and not functioning properly as is the case when one is constipated and when one's socalled alkaline reserve is lowered. Many authorities are at least justified in assuming that constipation is a probable contributing cause of colds, and one of the very best ways to catch cold is to let the bowels become impacted and clogged with waste. But not only may constipation lead to colds, but in the opinion of many doctors, a cold usually leads to constipation since the entire system is run down, the acid-alkali balance becomes disturbed, and with weakened resistance, the "bug" establishes itself.
In any case, we may be sure that constipation is present either as cause or effect of many bodily disturbances.
It is obvious, therefore, that if the bowels are kept open, colds are less likely to develop and that if a cold does develop, the first thing again is to be sure that the bowels are functioning properly, thus doing their part to check the infection. Statistics, as we pointed out before, show that everyone is practically allotted at least two good colds a year! When we patse to consider what this means in terms of time, energy, money and happiness and even life, for colds are frequently the forerunner of more serious ailments the importance of regularly ridding our bodies of body waste that may induce a cold is immediately clear.
Rheumatism or rheumatic fever, as it is now generally called, is frequently associated with gastrointestinal disturbances and constipation. This disease is of great seriousness not only because it is common and not easily recognized, but because most of the heart diseases in children and the young are caused by it. Therefore it is the cause of invalidism all their lives and is a constantly underlying menace of secondary infection by destructive bacteria that produce fatal forms of a certain heart disease called ulcerative endocarditis. According to statistics, rheumatism accounts for nearly nine percent of all cases of illnesses and it has been estimated that rheumatic disability in this country causes a loss of 7,500,000 weeks of work, of a loss of approximately $200,000,000.
The cause of rheumatic fever is still debatable.
Many authorities believe that it may be caused by some form of bacteria; still others that it is due to one of those elusive filtrable infective agents. There is still, however, a school of considerable importance that believes it is due to some dietary cause possibly acidity. But whatever be the immediate cause, gastro-intestinal disturbances and constipation are usually present. Therefore, constipation may possibly be considered an associative factor in the production of the disease if not a probable cause. In either case, the importance of keeping the bowels open in order to help prevent recurrent attacks and to hasten recovery is obvious. And if rheumatic fever be due to constipation, the importance of maintaining a, clean intestinal tract is equally obvious.
According to a wellknown authority, chronic arthritis causes more prolonged disability, suffering and economic loss than any other chronic disease, including tuberculosis. The consensus of opinion inclines towards considering this disease a streptococcus infection, yet the precise organism causing it has not yet been found. There must be other factors responsible. At any rate, arthritis thrives in a body with lowered resistance and lowered resistance potentially represents a state of "arthritic diathesis", an increased susceptibility toward chronic infections.
Many authorities believe that the gastro-intestinal tract has an immediate causal relationship to the disease. For one thing, the secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach may be decreased or absent in persons suffering with arthritis. Moreover, there is frequent occurrence of intestinal stasis or constipation in this disease. Hence, even if the condition be due to some form of bacteria, the intestinal tract may well act as a focus for the infection, that is, it may act as the source of the bacterial invasion. The fact that the colon actually increases in length in arthritis and dysentery, colitis or where a state of chronic constipation exists, confirms this opinion. Moreover, the presence of an excessive amount of starch has been frequently observed. In any case, the bowels must be kept open and in this connection colonic irrigations are very frequently given.
Muscular rheumatism or myalgia is also associated with intestinal disturbances. It is due to mild infections caused by bacteria from foci such as are related to arthritis. The only difference is that of locationmyalgia is confined to the muscles. Sufferers with this affliction, in the great majority of cases, suffer with dyspepsia and often find that attacks are brought on by dietetic indiscretions. The weakened power of the intestines naturally facilitates the direct absorption of toxins in the waste that has not been eliminated. For this reason one of the most important phases of the treatment of this condition is a thorough cleansing of the intestinal tract.
Lumbago likewise calls for general eliminative action since constipation is apparently in many instances an associative cause. An effective purge at the earliest possible moment is indicated by many authorities both in acute cases of lumbago as well as sciatica.
The immediate cause of gout is unknown and it is often confused with arthritis. It is common in those who overeat, yet it also occurs among those who feed on comparatively simple and meager fare. Some investigators believe that alcohol is an important factor.
Apparently it is frequently hereditary, not uncommon in persons of great mental and bodily vigor. Worry and shock will often precipitate an attack. We know that, in some eases, it is connected with disturbances of protein, metabolism and the retention of uric acid. Irritability and dyspepsia are evident in the beginning of an attack. During the attack severe gastro-intestinal symptoms with pain, vomiting and diarrhoea are usually present. Hence in the treatment the diet must be moderate and the bowels must be kept open as intestinal disturbances are at least a secondary cause. Likewise, in the prevention of the disease, it is equally important to eat moderately and to keep the bowels open.
There are many other illnesses which are frequently either directly or indirectly caused by constipation or which are greatly aggravated by it. Among these we find high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis; and sometimes instead of high blood pressure, low blood pressure is associated with the condition. Goiter and thyroid disturbances, diabetes, premature old age and defects in hearing and sight are mentioned by some authorities.
Since constipation may produce so often such far reaching and serious effects, is it not pretty nearly absolute folly to neglect such a simply remedied condition as intestinal sluggishness?
The ailments which we have just discussed are of a more or less general nature. Constipation, in addition, is at times the apparent cause of many very grave conditions located in the intestines themselves or within the abdominal cavity.
The first effect of constipation is, of course, a distention of the intestine. At first the distention is temporary and when the bowel is rid of the waste that is clogging, the normal contours are resumed. But if elimination is delayed or if constipation becomes chronic, the muscles naturally become weaker and weaker and eventually remain dilated. Partly due to the pressure exerted by the retention of waste and partly due to the absorption of toxins reducing the tone of the mucous membrane and other structures making up the intestinal walls, hemorrhoids or piles may result.
Ulceration or catarrhal inflammation of the intestines may also be caused by constipation. Appendicitis may result one of the commonest conditions traceable to constipation. Sometimes the inflammation may be so far reaching that in the process of healing the scar tissue draws the wall of the intestines together to such an extent that the elimination passageway is greatly narrowed, thereby causing a partial closing of the passageway or stricture. Even total closing of the intestines may result from very severe constipation. As we learned, when the intestines do not expel the fecal matter, its moisture is gradually absorbed and the mass becomes harder and harder until it is almost absolutely stony. When this results, it can be removed only by manipulation or special enemas.
A prolapsed anus or rectum may be brought about by constipation. This condition is characterized by the protrusion of the mucous membrane and sometimes even the muscular coat of the rectum through the anus. It usually occurs in children, but it may occur at any age. General debility may be the ultimate cause, but constipation is frequently the immediate cause.
Constipation is also a source of grave danger for the pelvic organs other than the intestines themselves. Look at the illustration of the organs in the abdominal cavity in front of book. See how compactly and neatly they are arranged, with every bit of space in the cavity occupied. Now imagine a large bulge in the rectum a mass of waste that should have been expelled. It is immediately clear that the bulge is occupying space that should be occupied by other organs. As a result the organs are pushed out of shape and jambed together in such a way that they cannot perform their functions properly. And when they do not function as they should, the whole state of health is affected. A host of symptoms, various pathological conditions may well result.
This is particularly true of those organs which are concerned with digestion the liver, for example. The bile, secreted by the liver, you will recall, among other things, aids in intestinal digestion, lubricates the fecal mass and stimulates peristalsis. The bile is either poured directly into the duodenum through a duct or is stored in the adjacent gall bladder to be used as needed. The hardened, stagnant fecal mass may directly block the flow of the bile into the intestines. Since the liver continues to secrete bile, both it and the gall bladder becomes congested and some of the bile is taken up by the blood. If the condition is prolonged, the liver may become inflamed. Moreover, if the duodenum is suffering from a catarrhal inflammation, the inflammation may extend to the bile ducts, with the result that both the mucous excretion and bile may pass into the bowel and a certain type of jaundice develop. And since the intestine is not getting the amount of bile necessary for good digestion and lubrication, the constipation is further aggravated and the wellknown vicious circle is set up.
So-called bladder trouble may arise in either sex as a result of the crowding and pressure. As the capacity is naturally decreased, emptying more frequently than normal is necessitated. Far more serious than this, however, is the fact that the irritation may be sufficient to produce a definite inflammation which may well extend up to the kidneys themselves if the bowels are not cleansed of the large mass of fecal matter, the original source of the irritation. Furthermore, large masses of waste swelling the rectum may cause serious functional and organic disorders of the prostate and seminal vesicles in the male by exerting undue pressure. Similarly, by crowding the genital organs of the female, waste matter accumulated in the rectum may, in some cases, possibly produce prolapsus of the uterus. Sometimes it pushes the uterus to one side, or forward. When it assumes such positions, it naturally becomes swollen and inflamed more easily. The inflammation causes the cells of the organ to increase, thereby increasing the weight of the organ. Sometimes the enlarged and heavier uterus may in turn crowd the rectum to such an extent that again the elimination of waste is hindered. Thus the so-called familiar vicious circle is set up again.
This pressure of a clogged colon upon the uterus is frequently the cause of painful menstruation or dysmenorrhea. Every woman knows only too well what painful menstruation means hours and hours of physical agony, nervousness and irritability which often result in depression and "touchiness" even melancholia, not to mention the loss of precious time that should have been devoted to work or puy.
Constipation may also be the indirect cause of leucorrhea, a lowgrade inflammation of the mucous membrane of the vagina and uterus. Whatever be the direct cause of this affliction, it is known that pelvic congestion is often associated with it, and as constipation produces pelvic congestion, it may be considered at times a contributing factor of leucorrhea. Moreover, even if constipation is not a contributing cause, it most surely aggravates it, sometimes delays its cure.
Constipation not only is the cause of the specific ailments and conditions which we have described, but when it becomes habitual or chronic, it may induce a general wasting of the entire body. As the whole digestive tract is affected, a state of virtual starvation gradually develops. The result is, of course, a loss in the body tissues and consequently a loss of energy. Because of this starvation and the absorption of toxins into the body, the skin frequently assumes a typical look of lifelessness, a peculiar grayish or yellowish hue.
Thus we see that constipation not only is many times the cause of headache, sluggishness, poor appetite, nervousness and irritability, insomnia, but both directly and indirectly when the condition is allowed to become chronic, it may be the cause of very grave ailments more difficult to cure, if they even can be remedied at all.
Fortunately, constipation itself may be prevented in many instances, and in others corrected, by a simple treatment which is within the reach of all.