Anemia and Colitis
The blitheness with which some doctors and almost every layman dismiss the condition known as anemia is amazing. “The doctor says I’m just a little anemic” is passed off as practically a clean bill of health. Yet right here is a serious weakening in the first line of defense against disorder and disease. The life blood that circulates throughout your entire body is as vital to you as the air you breathe and the water you drink, for without it you could use neither the one nor the other. Literally a passport to the continued enjoyment of life, very frequently it is dismissed as being as inconsequential as a hangnail!
“That tired feeling” is, in many instances, due to a lamentable thinning of the blood—otherwise, anemia. It is very common, particularly among city dwellers, and leads to a deficient supply of oxygen in the tissues. Because of this, each tiny cell is impaired in its working efficiency, and the victim has that famous “tired feeling.”
Bear in mind that anemia need not be very marked in order to produce these symptoms. And you might as well know now as later that no amount of indiscriminate purging will rid you of a tired feeling arising from this cause. Finally, no amount of pep pills, either of strychnine or benzedrine, can have permanent value and may, indeed, make matters much worse.
In women one reason for overlooking this very real symptom is the prevailing popularity of make-up. Certainly, the art of cosmetics can give every appearance of blooming health. The customers are fooled, there is no doubt about that. But the lady with the lipstick and rouge is the biggest fool of all, for she is deceiving herself.
Please understand that I am not trying to invade the field of esthetics; I am not trying to tell women they should not use cosmetics. What I am trying to do is to tell them that they should not allow themselves to be deceived by their own make-up.
If they are always tired, and suffer from headaches, dizziness, flatulence, constipation, or any of the other so-called trifling ailments, they would do much better to see their family doctor and have their blood examined. A tiny pinprick will give all the blood necessary for this examination, and that pinprick may save your life. Anemia—an impoverishment of the quality of the blood—is connected with indigestion, nervousness, ulcers, and colitis. Lest this should seem far-fetched, let us repeat our journey through the food digestion canal.
We know that food is of no good to us while it is still on the table or the shelves of the grocery store. It stands to reason that it must be prepared and served and that we must eat it.
Similarly with the food when it is put into the food digestion canal. While it is in there it is still outside the body and must be prepared by the digestive processes before it is incorporated into the body.
In order to become part of your body, it must be absorbed through the walls of the food digestion canal and distributed by the blood stream to the various tissues of the body. Obviously food cannot be absorbed while it remains in the condition in which it is eaten. You can’t get ham and eggs or a steak, as is, into your arteries, veins and capillaries. It must first be dissolved and made capable of absorption.
For this purpose, Nature has endowed us with digestive juices. These juices are very effective when normal, and all three kinds of food—starchlike, meatlike, and fatty—have each a particular type of juice for putting it in solution.
One can understand this from a moment’s contemplation of the technique of removing stains from a bit of clothing. Suppose, for instance, there is a bit of butter on a dress. Would you try to remove it with water? I think not. You would know that it is a fatty substance and therefore reacts to some fat-dissolving substance such as benzine. Likewise, if the staining substance is soluble in water, you use water to remove it. And it is the digestive juice, together with water—and please note the important place water occupies in this picture—which removes the dietetic stains our meals place upon the lining of the food digestion canal—a lining, please note, that faces, to all intents and purposes, the outside world just as truly as does your skin. When we eat we get around our meals pretty much as the ameba, our protoplasmic brother, engulfs a food particle and makes it part of his own body.
Without water, the digestive juices could not percolate into the interior of food that has been swallowed. It could not diffuse its digestive ferments. It is, therefore, very evident that we simply must have enough water supply in our body in order to keep in solution these all-essential digestive ferments and to hasten the chemical processes that will make food on the outside become tissue on the inside. This does not mean that you drink water inordinately with meals; it simply means that water should be taken in reasonably large quantities throughout the day. It may be permitted at meals providing it is not ice water, and providing it is not used to wash down food which has been imperfectly chewed.
But to get along to this matter of digestion. It certainly will be apparent after a moment’s reflection that unless the digestive juices are fitted for their job, digestion itself will fall short of completion. These digestive juices can only be fitted for their job if they have the proper chemical make-up and since they are manufactured by the glands of the body from substances found in the blood stream, it is most important to have the condition of the blood always as near normal as possible. For if the workman has no clay he can make no bricks; so, too, if the digestive glands cannot get the proper material they will not make the proper digestive juices. If digestive juices are poor in quality (and they certainly will be if the blood is poor in quality), then digestion tends to become indigestion. It will most assuredly become poor digestion, and herein lies the great possibility of trouble further on in the digestive tube, because after food leaves the stomach it still has a long road to travel—as a matter of fact, approximately twenty-nine feet in the average person. Along that road all the properly digested food will in time be absorbed, but that portion which has not been digested not only will not be absorbed, but it will become food and drink for the billions of bacteria that normally exist in the colon. By their action on this undigested residue all sorts of weird chemical substances are produced, many of them potentially poisonous to our bodies.
Actually, this does occur in cases of faulty digestion, and these are the people who complain of always being tired, of having mental fogginess and continued headache; these are the people who prematurely need glasses, and who develop vague stiffness of the joints and equally vague “rheumatic” pains. The colon, of course, attempts to protect itself by pouring mucus out on its surface. Mucous membranes everywhere do this when they are irritated. For instance, when you have a cold in the head, the running of your nose is an attempt on the part of Nature to protect the delicate membranes from the bacterial products and to dilute these and wash them out of the canal. So, too, in a prolonged case of faulty digestion. The excess of mucus attempts to protect the delicate lining of the colon. It time it becomes watery in an attempt to dilute and wash out both the noxious germs of fermentation and their poisonous products.
In simple words, I have told you the story of how colitis is sometimes born. The moral of the whole lesson should be that when you check up with your friend the family doctor, you should insist on a blood examination because in that way you will forestall the occurrence of one of the frequent causes of nervous stomach problems.
The products of this fermentation and putrefaction are poisonous. True, they do not kill at once, but, more cruelly, the lethal effects linger. The poison absorbed from the colon, circulating in the blood, affects all the tissues, but naturally it affects the most sensitive first and to the greatest extent. The most sensitive tissues in your body are the nerve tissues, and hence you find yourself becoming irritable, short of temper, impetuous, unable to have a restful night’s sleep, always on edge, always at high tension, high pressure; a perfect target for nervous crack-up because, in these days when raucous noises assail our ears and glaring sights blind our eyes, a nervous system that is abnormally sensitive suffers most.
Thus it is that being a little anemic can give you a lot of trouble, the possibility of colitis being part of it.
There is one other phase of this close relation between anemia and colitis that I feel worthy of mention. When the condition of colitis is long continued, it definitely interferes with nutrition and this, in turn, has its eventual effect in impoverishing the quality of the blood. Particularly is this true if bleeding occurs in conjunction with the colitis. The loss of blood though not apt to be spectacular is nevertheless persistent. By its very persistence, it is dangerous since it is a drain upon that vital life’s blood without which efficient digestive juices cannot be made and without which the vital resistance cannot long continue unimpaired. Written By: J. F. Montague, M.D., Continue Reading: Rectal Ailments and Colitis