To summarize the ideas about the treatment of constipation which have been discussed with so much detail this time, as possibly to be confusing, I would say, first, that probably in less than one-third of the patients who feel they need treatment for constipation is active treatment really needed. If left alone and encouraged to eat an average diet sufficient for their bodily needs, and with sufficient fruits and vegetables, they will find regularity will return.
If chronic constipation exists, I believe the best single drug to use is mineral oil, sometimes called liquid petrolatum. It is often said that this acts merely on account of its non-absorbability and bulk. Such, however, is not the case, as has been shown by carefully controlled experiments within recent years. The dose must be fitted to the individual, the average being about a tablespoon at night. It is seldom, if ever, irritating to the bowel, which is not true of any other cathartic drug.
Next to this in importance is diet, and of all the single forms of food, I believe the best is acidophilus milk. This is a soured milk formed by the action of the bacillus acidophilus on milk, and it can be purchased at most dairies over the country. The dosage of acidophilus milk must also be determined by individual experience. Some people are able to get good results with a pint a day, while others need much more.
Thirdly in importance, I believe, is the use of mild mechanical methods for cleansing the lower bowelsmall soap-suds enemas or oil enemas or suppositories.
The greatest danger for the person with habitual constipation is over-treatment. Drastic purges should not be used. Treatment which results in abdominal discomfortI refer particularly to prolonged colonic flushingsis liable to result in more harm than good.