IF we were able to lead the ideal life which Nature planned for us, a life free from anxiety and so ordered that we regularly got plenty of sleep, exercise, fresh air, relaxation and a well-balanced diet, beyond a doubt constipation would be a rare affliction.
But, as we have repeatedly said, we are human beings, not dumb animals. We are emotional and therefore we love, hate, fear, laugh and cry. We are thinking, reasoning creatures and we have ambitions and aspirations and an enormous amount of pride and selfrespect; we are gregarious and like to share our thoughts, our joys and sorrows with our fellow-beings.
And there is an animal side to us, too the side which makes us eat excessively of rich food, to drink and smoke too much, to forgo our exercise for a comfy loll in a soft cushioned chair in an overheated room and to do all sorts of things in defiance to our natural delicate, sensitive, susceptible mechanisms. As long as we are so complex, and this complexity will ever drive us to do, to experience and feel things which are in defiance to the laws of Nature, constipation will exist, and exist to a very great degree.
In other words, as long as human nature is what it is, we shall have constipation, and it is safe to say that every one of us, at some time or other, no matter what care we take to prevent it, will find ourselves in a condition which may easily bring on constipation.
Whether we are taking measures to prevent recurrent attacks of constipation, or whether we are treating acute or chronic constipation, the procedure and the remedies are the same. First, all the rules of hygiene which we have described in previous chapters must be adhered to as far as it is possible in accordance with the life we must live. That is, we must endeavor to get a sufficient amount of fresh air, sleep, exercise, a balanced diet, bathe daily and avoid worry as much as possible. As these rules have been fully discussed there is no need to repeat here. The adherence to the rules should theoretically make any further measures unnecessary. In reality, however, this is not the case. Whenever there is a tendency to constipation or costiveness, or when chronic constipation is present, it is necessary to take measures which are aimed directly at the condition.
As we have said, the thousands of remedies on the market not to mention an even greater number of home remedies testify to the prevalence of intestinal disorders and constipation in particular. Yet, in spite of the vast number of remedies, they may all be drawn together under two main groups which in turn may be roughly subdivided into a few broad groups. So what seems at first glance to present an embarrassing richness to choose from, thereby creating confusion and skepticism, dwindles down to an amazingly small number, each with distinctive characteristics of its own.
Generally speaking, laxatives and cathartics may be divided into two classes, according to their manner of functioning mechanical and chemical. A few may belong to both classes. As the name implies, the first group includes all those laxatives and cathartics whose action is purely physical or mechanical. That is, they act as intestinal lubricants, or by increasing the bulk of the feces tend to excite the nerve endings which control the peristaltic movements of the intestines. In this group, then, we may put lubricants such as the various petrolatum preparations on the market; the salines and mineral waters; bran, agar-agar and similar “bulk” producing foods. We may also include in this group the ordinary enemas and high colonic irrigations, because their action is mechanical. Their method of application, however, warrants placing them in a separate class.
To the second group belong those laxatives and cathartics which effect elimination through their drug action, such as castor oil, cascara, aloes and calomel.
The “J.B.L. Cascade”, as we shall see, belongs to the first group by reason of its almost purely mechanical action. However, the use of the Cleansing Powder as a part of the full treatment justifies its inclusion in the second group as well but with this reservation and distinction it is always healing and soothing. This cannot be claimed for the majority of laxatives in the chemical group.
It might seem to the average person that the choice of the thousands of remedies purported to insure intestinal cleanliness was immaterial if elimination was achieved. Nothing could be farther from the truth the selection of such a remedy requires the very utmost consideration, and intelligent consideration. Pain and discomfort, dehydration, exhaustion, disturbance of sleep, loss of nutrition, permanent damage to the intestines, in fact the whole system, can and frequently does result from the use of the wrong remedy.
The right remedy the only one which should be used is that which secures the desired result with the least possible discomfort, the mildest remedy, unaccompanied by any possible danger to the intestinal tract and to the body as a whole. Moreover, it should not only temporarily relieve constipation, but should aim to gradually restore the normal healthy tone of the intestines and their normal, healthy functioning. Keeping these qualifications in mind, let us examine some of the more popular remedies with a view to selecting the right one.