That most despised and neglected portion of the body, the colon, has in recent years been made the subject of much scientific study and research, with the result that a lively controversy has been stirred up over the question as to whether this organ should be permitted to remain a part of the "human form divine," or whether it should be cast out as worse than useless and unworthy of a place in the anatomy of the modern genus homo.
Anatomists have declared the colon to be a useless appendage, a vestigial remnant left over from a prehistoric state. Bacteriologists have charged it with being an incubating chamber of poison-forming germs, a hold of unclean and hateful parasites, a veritable Pandora's box of disease and degeneracy. Surgeons have removed the offending organ, and thus proved that it may be dispensed with, and have claimed wonderful advantages from this abbreviation of the prima via.
Barclay Smith, the great English anatomist, first suggested the uselessness of the colon. Metchnikoff proved that animals that possess the longest colons have the shortest lives, and announced that the colon bacillus is the germ of old age. Sir William Arbuthnot Lane, the eminent London surgeon, cites a long list of grave maladies, ranging from tuberculosis to rheufriatism, cured by removal of this offending organ.
The war still wages. There are pro-colon partisans as well as anti-colon enthusiasts. One thing is certain, however, the colon can no longer be ignored. That this organ, or rather the morbid conditions that develop in it, plays a dominant role in the causation of a long list of the gravest and most common disorders, can no longer be denied.
In the treatment of every chronic disease, and most acute maladies, the colon must be reckoned with. That the average colon, in civilized communities, is in a desperately depraved and dangerous condition, can no longer be doubted. The colon must either be removed or reformed. From the beginning of the colon controversy and for many years before, the writer has been a very earnest student of the questions involved, and has formed very definite opinions, the validity of which he, together with his colleagues of the faculty of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, has had opportunity to test in the treatment of many thousands of sufferers from colon and colon-caused maladies. The writer believes that methods have been worked out by means of which the colon may be reformed and made to do its work efficiently, not only in ordinary cases, but in by far the great majority of those cases which are thought by enthusiastic colon surgeons to be suitable subjects for surgical treatment.
Until very recent years almost nothing has been known of the physiology of the colon. This part of the body has been almost a terra incognita. The physiology of digestion stopped at the ileocecal valve. How the colon dealt with its contents, how the very necessary act of defecation was performed, nobody knew. The discovery of the X-ray enabled Cannon and, later, Hertz to study the colon while in action in animals and man. Elliot, Keith, and other anatomists studied the intestine in dogs, and finally Case, by perfecting the X-ray technic of colon examinations, completed the physiologic study of this previously neglected organ. The combined result of the extensive labors of these investigators has been a great flood of light upon some of the most obscure questions in physiology. These new facts, not yet known to the general public, have rendered the greatest service in the development of rational methods of dealing with that most common and most destructive disease of civilized peoples - constipation. The chief purpose of this work is to present in a popular way these new facts and the practical results to which they have led.
Forty years' experience and observation in dealing with chronic invalids, and careful study of the results of the modern X-ray investigations of the colon, together with observations made at the operating table in many hundreds of cases, has convinced the writer -
2. That patients are not constipated on general principles, but that there exists in every case of constipation some particular condition which is the immediate cause of the delayed intestinal movement, and which must be removed before definite relief can be obtained, and that in the great majority of cases this cause is mechanical in character, a fold, a kink, a redundancy, a contraction - in short, some real and tangible obstruction.
3. That practically every case of constipation is curable, and in all but exceptional cases without the aid of surgery. It must be added, however, that by cure is not meant the working of such a miracle that the colon will perform its function normally without attention to diet or other means which encourage colon activity, but rather that by observing certain rules and the faithful and continuous use of safe and simple means, the colon may be made to perform its functions in a regular and efficient manner, without the use of irritating laxative drugs.
If some of our recommendations at first impress the reader unfavorably, we ask only that judgment be suspended until the suggestion has been given a fair test in actual experiment. Every measure presented has been tested in the crucible of actual experience in hundreds of cases, and is the result of a long series of practical tests made for the purpose of determining the actual value of individual remedies and perfecting practical methods of relief.
If the reader misses the usual list of laxative drugs, old and new, the reason is simply that the writer regards all medicinal agents that force bowel action by irritation (wrongly termed "stimulation") as pernicious and, without exception, harmful, and to be used only as temporary or emergency measures. In the words of the eminent Professor Von Noorden, "Nothing is so bad as the chronic use of laxative drugs."
The reader is asked especially to note that no panacea is offered for colon miseries; there is no "cure all" for constipation. The way out of the slough of intestinal toxemia with its "biliousness," headaches, neurasthenias, and multitudinous maladies, is to be found only through living biologically, and making use of the "safe and sane" helps which recent scientific progress has provided.
In attempting to put into semi-popular form the scientific facts pertaining to the hygiene of the colon, the writer does not desire to convey the impression that the sufferer from severe constipation can safely undertake to act as his own physician. The purpose is rather to enable the patient who may read this work to cooperate intelligently with the wise up-to-date physician.
It is hoped also that the work may prove of such service in the prevention of the calamitous disorders which follow in the wake of chronic constipation, that the burden of the physician in caring for the sufferers from hopeless maladies may be lightened.
The reader's attention is especially called to the chapter on "The Bowel Habits of Uncivilized Man," which contains a fund of original information obtained at the cost of much effort, which is both highly interesting and instructive. The author desires here to acknowledge his obligations to some hundreds of medical colleagues who have devoted their lives to the noble work of carrying to heathen lands the blessings of modern scientific medicine and Christian civilization, and who have found time in the midst of their arduous labors to answer the questionaire and thus furnished the unique information presented in this chapter.
In conclusion, the author desires to state the confident belief that the general adoption of the suggestions made in this volume would rid the world of the worst of the enemies of human life and health, and to express the hope that each one who may peruse the following pages may be made healthier, happier, and more efficient by following the suggestions offered.