• U.S.

Medicine: Constipation

3 minute read

Four out of every five persons in the U. S. are constipated. Jolly, talkative Dr. Harold Herbert Aaron, medical consultant of Consumers Union, believes that the constipated have streamlined plumbing and persuasive advertising to thank for their troubles. For more than a year he has been writing witty, scientific polemics in Consumers Union Reports against ill-shaped toilets, powerful, habit-forming laxatives. Last week he let the general public in on the “confidential information” of Consumers Union, incorporated his articles in a popular, well-documented book.* Practical hints:

>”In one person good bowel function may mean one movement every day. In another … it may mean one movement every three or four days. . . . The dictum that a bowel movement every day is necessary for good health is absolutely false. Every person’s bowel has its own individual law of frequency of movement. . . . Constipation exists [only] if defecation is difficult or painful, or if there is a sense of incompleteness of evacuation.”

>Thin persons may relieve constipation by eating more cream (three to four oz.) and butter (at least one-eighth of a pound). Bran is “a material unsuited for human consumption and should be relegated to the barn. . . .” Often it proves harmful, sometimes obstructs the large and small intestines. A couple of cups of coffee a day are helpful, for coffee contains a drug, caffeol, which has laxative properties. Some persons react to a few glasses of water in the morning when their bowels are on “trigger edge.”

> Continued use of laxatives, says Dr. Aaron, is actually a primary cause of constipation. “A few days are required for the colon to refill with waste matter after a complete evacuation by a laxative or cathartic. Many persons become panicky when they miss a day and are persuaded to take more laxatives so that they can have another movement, and then continue to take them daily. . . . The continued use of drugs so diminishes the sensitiveness of the bowel that stronger and stronger stimulation is required to produce activity of the bowel.”

>For persons with temporary constipation, who are too impatient to wait for the bowel rhythm to re-establish itself, Dr. Aaron suggests certain mild laxatives. Unobjectionable are mineral oil, milk of magnesia, cascara sagrada. “Least objectionable” for habitual constipation is agar, a dried mucilaginous extract of East Asian seaweed, which produces a large bland bulk in the bowel. “Mineral waters, whether natural or artificial, should not be used. . . .” Dr. Aaron went on to advise readers to avoid any cathartic pills that contain aloe, aloin (both somewhat irritant drugs), or strychnine; also any laxative chocolates, candies, chewing gums that contain phenolphthalein, a tasteless drug which stimulates peristalsis. Castor oil and calomel are drastic cathartics, should be taken only on advice of a physician. Children should not be given laxatives or enemas unless they are prescribed by a physician.

Proof that Dr. Aaron knows what he is talking about has been the warm welcome of his book by such eminent scientists as Dr. Walter Bradford Cannon of Harvard, Physiologist Anton Julius Carlson of the University of Chicago, and Dr. Haven Emerson of Columbia.

*OUR COMMON AILMENT, Dodge Publishing Co. ($1.50).

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