Bowel Habits Of Uncivilized Man

Civilized human beings have departed so far from natural primitive modes of life, and have adopted so many unphysiologic practices, that it is quite impossible from the conventional usages of civilized people, to form any just conclusion of what are natural or biologic modes of life for human beings. This is particularly true of customs and habits in relation to human alimentation. From a study of the modern hotel bill of fare one could not possibly obtain even a suggestion of man's primitive and biologic diet. The natural conclusion would be that man is a universal feeder, since the average hotel menu presents practically everything that any animal eats; but biology teaches us that man is naturally frugivorous, and science offers no reason why he should have departed from his original bill of fare, to which his nearest relatives, the anthropoid apes, the chimpanzee, the orangoutang and the gorilla, living in their native forest, still scrupulously adhere.

Man has not only developed wrong habits in relation to the kind of food he eats, but has become unbiologic in almost every phase of his daily life. Constipation is simply one of the natural consequences of these perversions. It is scarcely too much to say that the average civilized man is the victim of chronic constipation. If his bowels move once a day, or even once in two days, he feels that his condition is very satisfactory; whereas Cannon, in his work entitled "The Mechanical Factors of Digestion," has shown that practically all the digestible food taken at an ordinary meal is digested and absorbed within eight or nine hours from the time it is eaten, and the unuseable residue is at the end of this period found deposited in the colon, ready for ejection. Since the chief business of the colon is to eject wastes from the body, why should the performance of its function be so long delayed? The colon contents are largely made up of bacteria and excretory products, the undigestible elements of the food constituting only about one-half its bulk, while starch, fats, and protein are found in only very small and negligible quantities. It should be remembered that bowel movement is not simply for the purpose of discharging the unuseable residues of food - an equally essential reason for bowel movement is the discharge of the bile and other highly poisonous excretions which are discharged into the colon from the blood. No possible good, but only much harm, can come then from the prolonged retention of these body wastes and unuseable residues. There is in fact no physiologic reason why food residues should be retained in the body more than twelve hours. It is evident then that bowel movements should occur at frequent intervals, for the purpose of removing these waste and poisonous materials.

The natural intestinal rhythm, as has been previously explained, provides for an unloading of wastes by a bowel movement after each meal and sometimes an additional one on rising. This requires three or four bowel movements daily. Although convinced by careful and extended observations in dealing with many thousands of invalids, that the bowels should be made to move several times a day, the writer several years ago set about collecting from original sources facts concerning the habits of uncivilized tribes of human beings.

The keeper of the London Zoological Gardens, informed the writer that the chimpanzee, orang, and the other large apes move their bowels four times daily with perfect regularity. Professor Hornaday, superintendent of the Bronx Park informs us that the large apes in the great collection under his supervision move their bowels three times a day.

Extensive inquiries made by means of a questionaire sent out to physicians practising among primitive people in various parts of the world, show that the custom among many of those who live in a really primitive state, and have been little influenced by contact with civilization, is the same as that of the higher apes. Replies were received from one hundred and forty physicians who have had abundant opportunity to become acquainted with the habits and usages of the wild or half civilized people with whom they have been closely associated, and among whom they have practiced for years. A summary of these replies will be found highly interest-ing, especially in the light of the physiological facts which have been presented in the previous pages. It is most instructive to find wild and primitive people in widely separated portions of the globe following identical usages to which they have been trained by Nature, the universal teacher. A common instinct has led to a practical uniformity of habits among wild tribes who have not yet been sophisticated and perverted by contact with civilization. It is interesting also to note the same identity between wild tribes and those most remarkable creatures of the tropical wilds, the anthropoids, in practices connected with eating and bowel action. For much valuable and interesting information, a small portion of which is summarized in this chapter, I am indebted to scores of missionary physicians who have devoted their labors to the noble work of civilizing and Christianizing the people of heathen lands.

From the original and authentic information the fact appears that among tribes which have been uninfluenced by the customs of civilization, who still adhere to primitive habits in diet, and who live a free and active life in the wild, the bowels move two or three times daily. A single daily movement is regarded by such people as constipation, and gives rise to alarm. The one-movement-a-day habit appears only among those classes or castes who live a sedentary life and have adopted unnatural habits in diet, such as the use of hot condiments, concentrated food, etc The aristocratic classes of India and China afford striking examples of this, suffering much from constipation in consequence of their idle and luxurious habits, and from the use of curries and other unwholesome condiments, while the working classes whose diet and habits are more nearly normal are generally exempt.