This section is from the book "Health Without Medicine. A Treatise On The Laws Of The Human System", by Larkin B. Coles. Also available from Amazon: Philosophy Of Health.
Evacuation, or the discharge of the refuse part of food through the bowels, is another, and the last step in the process of digestion. This part of the subject has a very important bearing upon the condition of health. It is impossible for any one to enjoy good health while this office of the bowels is imperfectly performed.
If the bowels are relaxed and irritable, the food is borne along too soon and too rapidly: this causes the process of chylifaction to be imperfect: the chyle is imperfectly formed, and the lacteals have not sufficient time to absorb it from the mass. This prevents the food from nourishing the system. Hence, those who suffer from chronic diarrhea may eat largely, and yet grow weaker and weaker; their food does not nourish them; the nutritious part of it passes off through the bowels instead of being taken into the blood.
If the bowels, on the other hand, are constipated, the consequences are no less unhappy. No one can possibly be well with costive bowels. The free and easy action of the bowels is as truly essential to health, as the free circulation of the blood. When the bowels are sluggish, the process of absorption of the chyle is retarded, and what chyle is absorbed is less pure and healthy; so the quality of the blood is impaired.
Besides the evils already mentioned, a costive state of bowels often causes a pressure of blood on the brain; also derangement of the nervous system -- excitability of the nerves; nervous headache; depression of spirits; and a long catalogue of sufferings, too numerous for detail. Habitual costiveness impairs the tone of the stomach, and prevents its healthy action. Piles, also, with various degrees of severity, are often caused, directly or indirectly, by constipated bowels.
The causes of costiveness are various; and to point them out in detail would be perhaps a fruitless toil. But there is one cause, and a very common one, which claims attention here: it is the habit of inattention to, and neglect of the natural promptings of the bowels to evacuate themselves. Thousands on thousands, especially females, by a habit of checking the natural inclinations of the bowels to throw off their contents, have brought upon themselves a habitual costiveness, which, in time, has cost them immense suffering and wretchedness.
No one should ever hold his bowels in check if it be possible to avoid it. It can be readily perceived that doing this would tend to diminish the natural effort of the bowels, and to collect their contents into a solid mass. Then the exertion required to empty the bowels, or the physic taken to aid and make effectual that exertion, tends also to increase the difficulty.
A habit of costiveness should always be removed if possible; and the best way of doing this is by a course of discipline. Those articles of food should be selected which have an influence to keep the bowels open. Bread made of flour has a tendency to constipate them. But brown bread, and bread made of wheat meal, have a tendency to open them; also molasses taken with food has an additional tendency. Fruits and greens, if the stomach can bear them, are adapted to relieve costiveness.
The influence of the mind should also be brought to bear upon this difficulty. The operation of the mind on the physical system is always great, especially in chronic complaints. A person with costive bowels should have a mental determination to have a natural evacuation of the bowels at some regular hour in the morning; just after breakfast should be preferred. By a mental calculation -- by bearing the subject in mind -- by thinking and desiring -- by intending to have the bowels move about that hour, very much may be done by way of facilitating such a result.
But if, instead of attending to a favorable diet, and of thinking on the subject at the proper time, we treat the difficulty with medicines alone, we do harm rather than good; for the more alteratives we take, the more we increase the trouble. The physic only overcomes the constipation for the time, and afterwards leaves the bowels in a more torpid state. Still, rather than endure the consequences of costiveness, it is better to take alteratives, in conjunction with other means, until the difficulty can be overcome. When alteratives are used in conjunction with discipline, they should be of the mildest kind. No proper pains should be spared in overcoming this derangement of nature, till a habitual movement of the bowels, once in twenty-four hours, is secured.