Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Constipation


By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 29, 2009

Yes, you read that right. Constipation.

Several of the responses to queries in the “She Had a Question” series refer to constipation as the source of more human ills than most of us have heard of. Every time we laugh about that, I threaten to post a certain article from the 1911 Young Woman’s Journal.

Well, here it is.

By Katie Grover.

Constipation is a serious condition, and if neglected often leads to dangerous and even fatal results. It is the cause of more sickness and disease than any other known source. Nowadays it is rather remarkable to run across a person who does not have to resort to laxatives or enemas.

The object of bowel movements is to discharge from the body poisons and ashes cast out from food, to remove bile, bacteria, remnants of digestive juices, and the residue or cellulose of food.

When the bowels fail to act, the bile is reabsorbed into the blood, there is putrefaction of the bowel contents, resulting in inflammation of the mucous lining of the intestines, which leads to appendicitis, and often ends in ulceration and perforation of the intestines.

Biliousness is usually caused through constipation, also auto-intoxication (self-poisoning) which is a poisoning of the whole body from the absorption of the mass of decomposing, foul-smelling feces. A healthy bowel movement should have no odor whatever, but when retained in the body for days after it should have passed off, what can we expect?

There are numerous reasons why people become constipated. One very common cause is error in diet. We become accustomed to the use of fine white flour, discarding the cellulose of the what which is necessary to form bulk for bowel movements.

Failure to respond to nature’s promptings is another prevalent cause. Again it may be due to irregular meals, fasting, meager diet in which there is not enough bulk, lack of fat in food, lack of water between meals, not enough raw food, sedentary habits (sitting too long), and tight corsets.

As a natural result of retaining this food refuse in the intestines day after day until it putrefies and ferments, is it any wonder that persons suffer with headache, nervousness, hemorrhoids, rheumatism, gall stones, and other diseases too numerous to mention?

The most important element in curing constipation is acquiring the habit of perfect regularity in the daily movement of the bowels. Choose the same hour each day, and make it a duty to keep that time, for that purpose, invariably.

Drink more water. As a rule, most people use too little water. Drink two glasses of water an hour before breakfast, which will wash out the stomach and carry its slimy accumulations down into the intestines.

Avoid fine flour products and milk, but use plenty of cream, buttermilk, nuts, and eat an abundance of raw food, such as fruits, bran, lettuce, celery, cabbage. Saccharin foods of all kinds, such as sugar, honey, syrup, malt honey, malted nuts, and fruit juices are laxatives. Fats encourage intestinal activity as do also acids.

There are some foods which have an especially laxative effect, such as figs, oranges, prunes, malted nuts, olive oil, acid fruit juices.

When constipation is the result of a dilated and prolapsed colon – a very common cause – use cold enemas, abdominal massage, abdominal and respiratory exercises, oil enemas, hot and cold sitz baths, and at night, on retiring, apply a cotton bandage rung out of cold water to the abdomen, (extending it clear around the body), and cover it with a heavy flannel bandage, binding tightly.

Unless the alimentary tract is completely demoralized it cannot help but respond to these treatments by a regular normal passage of the bowels each day. With some persons it is natural to have a movement after each meal, while others may have alternating periods of healthy normal stools. A constipated person often goes three and four days without a movement, or may have alternating periods of constipation and diarrhea. Strange as it may seem, diarrhea is often a symptom of the most obstinate form of constipation, feces which have been retained for days coming away in little hard lumps, being pushed and forced down by the engorged and over-packed colon.

I can heartily recommend the eating of raw bran as an excellent intestinal broom. Begin with a teacupful, eaten first thing in the morning, either dry or moistened with water or fruit juice, gradually taking less and less each day as the bowels become regulated, until finally one need not take more than two tablespoonfuls each morning. this forms bulk, and aids peristalsis.

Constipation cured, one feels younger, lighter, happier, sleeps and eats better, is capable of greater endurance, and is less liable to colds and infectious diseases. In short, health becomes more vigorous, decay less rapid, and death more remote.



  1. This article is full of crap!

    Comment by Matt W. — April 29, 2009 @ 6:45 am

  2. I wonder if an estimate of when Utah was no longer the wild west could be estimated by the appearance and absence of articles like this.

    Comment by Matt W. — April 29, 2009 @ 6:49 am

  3. I dunno, Matt, but thank you for being brave enough to be the first commenter!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 29, 2009 @ 7:30 am

  4. Who knew that appendicitis was caused by constipation! And cholecystitis!

    Eat more sugar! (The answer to all of the twentieth century’s perplexing questions.)

    “A healthy bowel movement should have no odor whatever”???

    As a mother of a number of several small children, I dare say that someone had been sniffing something when writing this article, and it might not have been bowel movements.

    (I’d better stop now…)

    Comment by Researcher — April 29, 2009 @ 7:52 am

  5. I wonder what my doctor would say if I told her my alimentary tract is completely demoralized.

    Ardis, I keep thinking your blog can’t get any better, and then you find stuff like this. Pure awesome.

    Comment by Kristine — April 29, 2009 @ 7:56 am

  6. There may come a point where we have to put the brakes on the bathroom humor, but we haven’t reached it yet. Potty — er, Par-tay on!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 29, 2009 @ 8:12 am

  7. Ardis:

    It’s fun to mock the author above, but constipation continues to be an on-going concern in American culture, particularly among (or, at least, marketed to) women. How else to explain the recent yogurt “space race” among competing firms on live active cultures to “naturally regulate your slow intestinal transit” (quoting from the Dannon Activia website). Also, think about all the laxative commercials you see on TV — they almost always show women, don’t they, usually with a bit of gray in their hair?

    That said, I’m sitting here laughing at the mental picture of a typical laxative, fiber supplement, or active culture yogurt commercial starring nothing but 20-something males. I wonder if Saturday Night Live has already done one. ..bruce..

    Comment by bfwebster — April 29, 2009 @ 8:12 am

  8. Bruce, yes, there are laxative ads aimed at 20-something males. They’re called Taco Bell commercials.

    Ardis, this reminds me of my grandparents. What was it about that generation which caused everybody to be so fascinated by the detailed workings of their innards?

    Comment by Mark Brown — April 29, 2009 @ 8:26 am

  9. I think what I’m laughing about most is the openness of this article, and the easy references to constipation in other features from that time. Today even Madison Avenue, which typically is not squeamish, resorts to “slow intestinal transit” instead of anything more clinical. That, and the idea of this article appearing in today’s New Era or Ensign.

    People commonly think of the past as that genteel country where men doffed their stovepipe hats and ladies crooked their little fingers while sipping tea. Once again, the reality turns the assumption on its head.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 29, 2009 @ 8:29 am

  10. I was so hoping that this would mention the pioneer consecrated oil therapies, alas. Just the generic oil.

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 29, 2009 @ 8:41 am

  11. There we were, concerned about swine flu, then along comes constipation….

    Glorious stuff, Ardis, thanks!

    Comment by Anne (UK) — April 29, 2009 @ 8:46 am

  12. Compared to some of the other [bleep] that I’ve seen in the Bloggernacle over the past few days, I think I prefer this article about the real thing.

    I’m afraid I’d better avoid any further comments, though–I’m afraid I might step in something.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 29, 2009 @ 9:05 am

  13. he, he, he!

    (Only J. could read the title “Constipation” and immediately think “religious ordinance.”)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 29, 2009 @ 9:30 am

  14. Speaking of religious allusions, I loved this euphemistic line: “Failure to respond to nature’s promptings is another prevalent cause.” Ah, yes, “nature’s promptings” . . . it sounds so spiritual.

    Anyhow, I’m just glad I was able to get this comment out. I’m so full of ideas, it’s just that I sort of feel blocked. Thanks for all the excellent comments that served as a sort of mental broom to getting my comment out in the end.

    Comment by Hunter — April 29, 2009 @ 11:05 am

  15. Ardis, this was great. Others have hit the obvious targets, such as the odorless waste and the demoralized colon!

    I remember the Saturday Night Live fake ad for “Colon Blow” cereal, from many years ago. I suspect it’s on Youtube.
    I’m still laughing at J’s comment, and your response in # 13. Hmmm, I need to make some entries in my scheduling software, about visiting the library at regular times daily.

    Comment by kevinf — April 29, 2009 @ 12:50 pm

  16. Others have hit the obvious targets

    Yeah…I know I picked the low-lying fruit. (Figs, oranges, and prunes, to be exact.)

    Comment by Researcher — April 29, 2009 @ 1:51 pm

  17. Moving!

    Comment by Steve C. — April 29, 2009 @ 1:52 pm

  18. I like the bluntness of the subject matter. I can’t wait so show this to my 13 year-old daughter when she gets home from school. The Constipation posts always gets a good “Ewwwww!” out of her followed by a good laugh.

    Comment by Steve C. — April 29, 2009 @ 1:54 pm

  19. The editorial staff of Keepapitchinin appreciate the two-way communication established here, and wish to state that we shall continue to publish high-toned articles of great refinement, suitable for use in all church settings, as long as you agree to keep things running smoothly from your end.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 29, 2009 @ 2:15 pm

  20. #19: nice one!

    Can’t have a nice discussion like this without a reference to this fine production (Can’t believe I beat Steve Evans to it.)

    Scrubs – Everything Comes Down to Poo

    As a frequent sufferer of the demoralized alimentary tract, it’s interesting to see some of the remedies I’ve tried – like the cold, wet cloth applied to abdomen. Thanks, Ardis, for this irregular article. =)

    Comment by FHL — April 29, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

  21. Note that the baths and especially the wet cloth wrapped in flannel are therapies derived from “hydropathy,” or “water cure” a fairly popular nineteenth century alternative medical field that tied in to many of the general health reform movements. And frequently addressed gastrointestinal complaints. See, e.g., here. Several of the therapies grew into more general practice.

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 29, 2009 @ 4:02 pm

  22. Alla-ya-all with “demoralized alimentary tracts” need to work on your moral fiber.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 29, 2009 @ 4:19 pm

  23. Somewhere, I still have a copy of the church pamphlet I received when I left on my mission, Preventing Diarrhea and What to Do When it Occurs.

    Comment by Left Field — April 29, 2009 @ 7:48 pm

  24. I can see Frank Barone reading this and exclaiming, “Holy Crap!”

    I waded through the entire article, highlighting the funniest lines, then I got to the grand finale and found this gem:

    Constipation cured, one feels … lighter

    How anyone could have written that without a sense of humor is impossible to comprehend – so I’m left to believe this author had an absolute blast writing this.

    Comment by Ray — April 29, 2009 @ 8:42 pm

  25. I always wonder what people 80 years from now will find hilarious from our magazines.

    Comment by Amy — April 29, 2009 @ 10:33 pm

  26. Bruce:

    Were you referring to SNL sketches like this:

    Comment by queuno — April 30, 2009 @ 1:13 am

  27. I think the author of this article really got to the bottom of things here with her flowing style.

    One thing that stood out to me was the following:

    Again [constipation] be due to…fasting…in which there is not enough bulk, lack of fat in food, lack of water between meals, not enough raw food, sedentary habits (sitting too long)”.

    Please, as this is fast Sunday and we’ll be sitting too long through another testimony be careful!!!!

    Comment by Steve C. — April 30, 2009 @ 7:37 am

  28. Nowadays we have all those fine radio ads that tell me my colon (according to “some experts”) is full of a spackle-like material that makes me weigh an extra 20 or 30 pounds that just isn’t going to go away unless I buy their fine product.

    Dr. Dean Edell, on the other hand, says that’s all nonsense. I’m leaning towards Dr. Dean’s point of view, but who am I to believe?

    Comment by Mark N. — April 30, 2009 @ 5:26 pm

  29. Why, Katie, of course! Of all the ills she mentions, “spackle” is not among them. She and Dr. Dean would have gotten along gloriously, don’t you think?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 30, 2009 @ 5:38 pm

  30. My ten year old just suffered a bout of this due to a strep infection – strange I know. Anyways it made me wish for one of these:

    It seems that it would fit in with this blog.

    Comment by TStevens — May 1, 2009 @ 7:57 am

  31. I remember the Saturday Night Live fake ad for “Colon Blow” cereal, from many years ago.

    Wasn’t that the one that starred Fran Tarkington? IIRC, the “Colon Blow” cereal itself was brighly-colored rocks. ..bruce..

    Comment by bfwebster — May 1, 2009 @ 8:42 am

  32. Some of us are showing our age reminiscing about the SNL “Colon Blow”. That was back when SNL actually had some funny sketches. Or maybe we were just more easily amused when we were younger.

    But when you hit your mid 40’s, for many of us, getting enough fiber does seem to increase in priority. Not just in terms of being “kind to your colon”, but in maintaining a sense of fullness with low calories so you don’t overeat higher calorie foods to satisfy hunger. Things with high fiber can often have “low calorie density”, so you get fuller with less calories. A couple daily doses of sugar-free Citrucell has helped in my weight loss.

    Comment by Bookslinger — May 1, 2009 @ 10:45 am

  33. TStevens #30–That device shown in your link looks painful. I think I’d rather be constipated that deal with that.

    Comment by Steve C. — May 1, 2009 @ 2:29 pm

  34. Ah, constipation. My father’s generation (1900 on) was greatly concerned with it. Maybe it had something to do with no indoor plumbing which might have inclined people not “to go” when it was 10 degrees below zero and all you had was a small ‘chamber pot’ to stand up with?
    Oh my. It’s still a problem for many – especially in need of effective painkillers…

    Comment by Ann Hewitt — May 31, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

  35. I’m pleased to see that after a month the conversation about this topic has not been, er, stopped up. Maybe there is yet more in the pipeline.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — May 31, 2009 @ 4:07 pm

  36. Sneak a peek at today’s DesNews opinion section. Barbara Lyman of American Fork complains of the vulgarity of someone using the phrase: “Beat the crap out of …” She got really dumped on in 13 comments.

    Comment by Curt A. — May 31, 2009 @ 7:26 pm

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