Colitis Causes

Colitis Causes

How Did I Ever Get This Way?

“What I’d like to know is how did I ever get this way?” This is the favorite lament of colitis patients. Many think that the ailment cause is invariably infectious in nature. The fact of the matter is quite the contrary. The majority of cases are not due to infection, as there are many reasons other than infection for the very great and constantly increasing prevalence of colitis.

What, then, brings it on? Well, the answer is in the old adage that nothing good ever came out of something bad. In this instance the trouble which we speak of, in a general sense, as colitis, definitely arises in bad things.

For one thing bad food and, what is probably rarely recognized, bad manners are often causative in the production of colitis. Bad judgment and bad luck are equally potent factors in certain instances we will describe. Finally, bad general health can often be the basis of colitis. Let’s get a general view of the scene of our trouble.

The food digestion canal is a tube—one continuous tube from mouth to rectum. Nature built it and intended it as one complete organ. I state this for the reason that many people, even we doctors, are apt to overlook this fact simply because we have given different names to different parts of this same tube. However, no matter how much we subdivide it in our nomenclature, it still is one continuous tube.

The nerves that supply the lining of this tube from beginning to end are closely interrelated. With these facts in mind, you can readily understand how a disorder of any part of the food digestion canal has a marked influence on the rest of the canal. The continuity of form, similarity of function and closeness of nerve connections makes it inevitable that anything that goes wrong along this tract is bound to affect the rest of it.

Take, for instance, badly decayed teeth or an infection of the gums. Either of these conditions can lay the groundwork for trouble lower down the tract. While it is true that the gastric juices are capable of disinfecting material which enters the stomach, this germicidal capacity has a limit. When that limit is exceeded, the flood of bacterial invaders spills over into the lower intestinal tract. This is true of a normal stomach with normally potent gastric juice—it is even a greater factor when, because of anemia or faulty nutrition, the quality of the gastric juice itself is impaired.

What happens in a situation like this is that the body defenses are overwhelmed and the bacterial invaders push their way onward through the small intestine into the colon. Here in the colon, it is normal for bacterial growth to be greater than elsewhere in the whole food digestion canal. The warmth, moisture and abundance of food and absence of deterrent factors such as has been mentioned above, promote their growth. It is in this manner that bacterial infection of the lining of the colon may take place. The symptoms which arise from this inflammation tend to localize our attention in the colon; but it must be borne in mind that the origin may be much higher as previously pointed out.

Not only the teeth may be the cause of such a course of events but any other place where infection may exist, flourish and be poured into the food digestion canal. I have mentioned the teeth and gums, but infected tonsils or sinuses may be just as much at fault.

The so-called intestinal flu is another instance of an infection which originally lodged in the respiratory tract and was carried down to the intestines by the normal passage of mucus from the upper to the lower parts of the food digestion canal.

So too, an infected gall bladder or an infected appendix may be the source of a colon infection.

It is well to bear in mind that the irritation of the lining of the colon, which we know as colitis, begins with an excessive motion of the upper intestinal tract. This may involve the speeded up process of swallowing, known as gulping, or it may involve the hypermotility of the stomach. Still further, it may involve the release of the stomach contents into the intestinal canal before it is physiologically acceptable to the intestinal canal. This can be accomplished artificially when a person experiencing gastric difficulty takes a “bicarb.” Immediately the protective gateway to the intestines is opened and the stomach content is thrown or excreted into the intestines.

Or to go still further along the food digestion canal, if there is an over-secretion of pancreatic digestive ferments and they are hurried along the intestinal tract before they can act upon food, they exercise their digestive abilities on whatever else they come in contact with. If this be the wall of the colon, the groundwork for colitis is being laid.

Naturally the tissues of the colon try to protect themselves by secreting mucus, but eventually even this defense is not sufficient and ulcers result. We can readily see how the incorrect distribution of perfectly correct secretion can give rise to discomfort, disorder and finally disease.

We need go no further than the food digestion canal itself or rather the extremities of the food digestion canal to be convinced of this fact. When a person has a severe cold and the nose runs a great deal, the nostrils become sore and inflamed simply because the mucus, a perfectly natural and normal substance in the nasal canal, becomes an irritant substance when spread over the skin. Similarly, when the excessive mucus of colitis leaks through on to the perianal region, this macerates the skin about the anus and gives rise to irritation recognized by the patient as itching.

The foregoing explanation is an exceedingly simple one and may lack the power to impress those who prefer abstruse terms. Certainly it is not necessary to deal in neurogenic terms or allergic terms. Instead we are coming to the primal response of all living protoplasm to injury, namely a reaction whose chief object is to fight or flee. In other words, get away from or destroy the thing which is irritating it.
And now let us take a general view of the cause of our trouble. As I have said, there are a lot of things involved and nothing good ever came out of something bad.

The French have an adage: “Death enters through the mouth.” Those of us who specialize in the treatment of intestinal ailments see abundant proof of this observation.


What I prefer to as bad food is not only the ordinary variety of spoiled food due to contamination, insufficient refrigeration or lack of care in sealing, but food which is insufficiently or improperly cooked.

If mankind would like to claim credit for intelligence, I think his most convincing exhibit to substantiate this claim would be the art of cooking. In the process of cooking, various bacteria, molds, yeasts and amebic organisms, in fact all manner of microorganisms are destroyed by the heat and thus rendered incapable of harming the person who eats them along with their food. Then too, the fibres of the food in the case of vegetables and meat alike are softened and made more permeable to the digestive juices. All of this makes digestion easier and contributes to the healthy functioning of the digestive tract and its possessor.

It is, of course, possible for a person to eat and digest a certain quantity of uncooked fruits and vegetables. It is even possible for certain people endowed with the mentality of a boa constrictor to eat raw meat. While nobody drops dead right away from indulging in these practices, there is nevertheless a demonstrable hazard involved. The danger lies in the presence of living microbes mentioned and also in the form of the ova of tape worms often found in meat fibres or other food. It is not very difficult to understand why and how people get in the habit of eating raw food when every washroom attendant poses as a food expert and finds a ready audience.

Many people will immediately say: “But all the vitamins are killed in the process of cooking.” I assure you they are not. It is true that they are definitely diminished in quantity but that which remains, when figured on the basis of the total ingested, is usually quite adequate. I can assure you that in the course of many years’ practice in the City of New York I have yet to see a case of marked vitamin deficiency. I can also assure you that I have seen countless numbers of cases of colitis and tape worm infestation due to the practice of eating raw foods.

So you see when I speak of bad food, I do not mean food that in itself is harmful nor food that has become harmful through chemical changes in the process of spoiling but rather to good food which has been ruined in the process of preparation or lack of preparation.

There are, of course, such things as bad foods in the sense that they are bad for an individual. Of late, the term allergy has been applied to this condition.

As persons we all have our likes and dislikes. As a smart man said long ago, there is no accounting for taste. So too, it seems, in the matter of the food digestion canal. We all know from experience that certain foods just simply do not agree with us—such foods, perhaps, as shellfish, strawberries, etc.

All will claim a certain number of victims. Not long ago, this was spoken of as an idiosyncracy (which term explains nothing), but more lately it has been fashionable to designate the situation as an allergy (which also explains nothing). Apparently there are fashions in ignorance as well as other things. All we have done apparently is to change the name since nobody in the medical profession understood idiosyncracy to food and I am not too sure anybody now understands allergy to food.

When the idea first was brought to the attention of the medical profession, extensive skin tests were made. It was thought that through these tests we could definitely blueprint a person’s diet. However, skin reactions over a period of time have proven unreliable and misleading. If people had to live on the few items that were left after the tests had been made, they would indeed have few food troubles. In fact, they would not have any troubles because they would be beyond the need of food. The sum total, therefore, of what we found out with regard to this is that some foods agree with some people and some do not. I think the old saying, “What is one man’s food is another man’s poison,” conveys more truth than many medical articles written on the subject.

At most it just seems to be a difference in the chemistry of our bodies and that perhaps is the best explanation of both terms used above. It therefore behooves you to make some observations on your own reaction to various foods. If you cannot eat shrimp without breaking out in hives or if you cannot eat strawberries without breaking out in a rash, you will, as a logical and sensible person, decide to cross them off your list of food.

Take heed of the old French philosopher who said that by forty a person was either a physician or a fool. By the time you reach the age of forty, you should know what is good for you and what is not and should have learned to abide by that knowledge. If you do not learn this lesson, you may be sure that you are irritating your food digestion canal and to a far greater extent than is revealed by the hives or rash on your skin. Definite changes are occurring on the internal lining of your food digestion canal and if long continued, the areas of irritation can result in definite damage.

Before leaving the matter of bad food, I would like to call your attention to the fact that even good food, well prepared, can have a harmful effect if it is eaten in such a manner as to be poorly adapted to the proper functioning of the digestive glands. For instance—

“A Nice Cold Glass of Milk”

Many have the idea an ice cold glass of milk is a nice cold glass of milk, yet there is nothing so effective in temporarily but nevertheless completely suspending digestive processes than to thrust a “nice cold” anything into the stomach. The digestive glands immediately cease functioning and in that way digestion is impeded until the food content in the canal is heated up to body temperature by the blood circulating in the wall of the stomach.

This takes considerable time and if, in the meantime, other cold things are eaten, the work of digestion is greatly delayed and rendered inefficient. Hence, as the food passes along in response to the rhythmic contraction of the intestine, it passes beyond the area where digestion can take place and arrives at the place where putrefaction does take place.

What has been said with regard to a nice cold drink of milk applies equally to iced tea, iced coffee, ice water, ice cream directly from the freezer, and any other very cold foods which a person is prone to take during warm weather.

“Piping Hot Soup”

Equally disturbing to the digestive function is the habit of taking “piping hot soup,” or anything else at a temperature too hot for comfort in the process of eating. One of the first clues that medical men had as to the cause of cancer came from the observation that cancer of the throat among the Chinese was limited to the men of the family who were served with the rice while it was piping hot, while the women of the family who had to eat the left-over rice, when it was cold, never developed cancer of the throat. Surely this should give you at least food for thought if you are one addicted to the habit of eating excessively hot foods.

While discussing this subject of the temperature of foods, I think it would be well to reason the matter out in a plain commonsense manner. Your body has a certain temperature normally. It does not matter at the moment what number of degrees it is. The fact is that anything more than 10° higher in temperature or lower in temperature than your own body will have a definite effect upon whatever part of your body it comes in contact with. This effect is not normal and can be harmful.

I am sure you will agree with the counsel that food should taste comfortably warm but not hot, cool but not cold. By so doing, you will subject your digestive glands neither to the shock of cold nor to the shock of heat, and you will avoid at least one of the factors which in the end add up to the condition known as colitis.


At the outset I said that bad manners had something to do with causing colitis and this may seem rather far-fetched. However, if you will observe some people in the process of conveying nutrition to their inner man, I feel you will be inclined to agree with me.

The “wolf” has become a recognized component of our social life but few have suspected how many are quite wolfish in their eating. Either they are excessively hungry, totally unrestrained, or else they are victims of the exaggerated tempo of our times.

Certainly food was not meant to be bolted, improperly chewed or washed down with a beverage in lieu of chewing. As physiologists interpret it, when the good Lord made the human organism he intended that man should contemplate his food momentarily and thus allow his digestive glands to get ready for the process for their share of the work in digesting.

We all know how the sight of a good meal makes your mouth water. This is no mere trick of Nature but it is a purposeful reaction which sets the wheels of digestion in gear. Why bypass this useful preliminary and grind your gears by too suddenly shining them into action?

At this point is becomes necessary to mention the permanent bad manners of our day and their pernicious effect. Nature intended not only that the sight of food should make the mouth water and so alert the digestive glands, but also that the smell and taste of food would still further heighten their function.

Observe what otherwise smart people of today do to avoid being normal, to avoid getting any preliminary stimulation from their food or any help through the sensation of taste and smell—they reach for a cigarette! They fumigate their nasal passages and stupefy their taste buds. When they actually start eating, they might just as well be eating sawdust and shavings as good food. The chef might just as well be a plumber as an expert cook because they will never know the difference. Food is just something they mechanically push behind their gums at certain intervals. The whole system of preliminary alerting of the digestive function by the sense of taste and smell and contemplation is completely abolished.

However, Nature is a stern bookeeper. When the ledger is balanced, these poor deluded people pay a heavy price for the sad habit to which they have fallen victim.

Of course there are other ways in which bad manners can ruin a good digestion. I have never heard of anybody putting sugar on oysters but if you think that’s an atrocious mixture what do you think of some of the others that have gained popularity, such as the habit of liberally sprinkling food with salt before even tasting it to find out if it really needs seasoning—or the habit of drowning a steak or chop in Worcestershire or other meat sauce—or the liberal sprinkling of catsup or chili sauce on food that comes to the table. Most of these bad habits are acquired away from home by those whose business makes it necessary for them to eat in restaurants a large part of the time. Perhaps, the food does lack taste—or still more likely perhaps their own appetite lacks zest. However, the continued use of mustard, catsup and seasoning sauces does the colon no favor. Indeed, in my opinion, many people who suffer from colitis first started the trouble by irritating the colon with highly seasoned food.


I mentioned earlier that bad luck had some part to play in the production of colitis. I was referring to the bad luck of eating food that was infected or of infecting oneself through what seems to be good food. An overlooked factor, however, is that water is used to clean dishes. If that water is infected it may carry with it the germs of typhoid or para-typhoid. Food may also carry some of the filterable viruses from dishes. The unclean hands of diseased food-handlers can carry the parasites of ameba or tape worms.

Certainly all these can be classified under the heading of bad luck and conditions over which the average person has no control. If, of course, one is going to journey into an area such as some parts of the world where typhoid is known to exist or where dysentery is prevalent, it is the height of prudence to be vaccinated against typhoid, cholera, etc. Complete protection against amebic dysentery may be obtained by the steady use of anti-amebic substances like Milibis which can be taken in a prophylactic manner in much the same way as one takes anti-malarial medicines if they feel they may be exposed to malarial microbes.


Bad judgment certainly comes in for its share of blame. Anyone who eats leftover dishes in a public eating house is showing bad judgment and will undoubtedly pay for it. When eating out, it is a wise rule never to eat anything but a primary dish, roast beef but not roast beef hash, roast chicken but not chicken croquettes, steak but not “hamburgers.” In the trade, these are known as “sweep up the kitchen.” Certainly a dry crust of bread and a glass of water would be better food than this refuse!

Another way in which bad judgment exhibits itself is the readiness with which many people follow food fads. Prevalent is the liquefying of raw carrots, raw celery and many other foods. These are then drunk as a part of a meal. The lack of cooking exposes the person to the dangers of micro-organisms mentioned above. The lack of bulk deprives the food digestion canal of the exercise which it normally takes in contracting on food masses in the pushing of them along the intestinal tract.

What has been said about these liquefied vegetables may also be said with equal justice about the fruit juices with this additional point added. Tomato juice is definitely poison to some people. To them it is highly irritating to the colon. The same may be said of orange juice.

Of course, if one were to believe the advertisers your sole hope of salvation and Vitamin C lies in that daily guzzle of orange juice or tomato juice. Don’t believe it, because it is not true. You can get plenty of Vitamin C in other foods even in cooked foods. Remember these advertisements cost money. In order to pay for the advertisements, products must be sold. The chief concern of the advertiser is in his sales not in your health. He is selfish—that is his privilege. You have the same privilege and remember the law, the often overlooked law, which is the first rule of Nature— the law of self preservation.


Finally bad health, poor general health, often seen in advanced age may be a factor. General debility or anemia can seriously impair the action of the intestinal muscles and the digestive glands. Needless to say, in this case colitis is not the main concern but it is certainly one to be reckoned with. If you happen to be so unfortunate as to be in this class, you will undoubtedly be under the care of your family physician. Do not neglect to keep him informed as to the state of your colon because that, too, can have an effect on your general health.

Again, in passing, bad health can also involve the teeth. When these are diseased they can serve as the source of infection for the rest of the intestinal tract, primarily because of their position at the entrance to the canal. See your dentist regularly.

Colitis Causes

The foregoing remarks have perhaps been lacking in academic conciseness. To please those who prefer to have their facts in stacks, like buckwheat cakes, and at the risk of being repetitious, the following will paint a technical picture of what the causative factors are in the production of colitis:

  1. Drink as a cause of colitis:
    Cold Drinks
    Carbonated Drinks
    Mineral Waters
    Hard Waters
    Poisoned Waters
    Impure Waters
  2. Food as a cause of colitis:
    Raw Foods
    Half-cooked Foods—Worms as a cause of colitis
    Ice Cold Foods
    Food Fads
    The Mixer Craze
    Unwashed vegetables and fruits (spray chemicals)
  3. Medicines irritating the colon:
    Reducing as the First Step to Colitis
    Sulfa Medicines
    Mineral Oil
    Salines—mineral salts, mineral waters
  4. Colon irrigations as a cause of colitis:
    Irrigations Enemas


When one speaks of drink, it is all too often taken for granted that what is referred to is an alcoholic beverage. There are, of course, many other beverages which people drink which give abundant evidence to prove that the old-fashioned drink, known as water, is still obtainable and to some extent is used as a beverage.

From the foregoing you may gather that I believe that people do not drink enough water. Such indeed is the sad fact. Every process of life utilizes and depends upon the presence of water. Few people realize that they could live for forty days without food but scarcely less than a tenth of this time without water.

Let me add this additional fact: While every tissue in the body requires some water, it is the food digestion canal, in particular, that requires an abundance of water. This is for the reason that the food digestion canal is a living test tube within which the chemical processes of digestion take place. Without sufficient water these processes are hindered. With the proper amount of water, they are at least given the opportunity to occur in normal fashion.

Is it bad to drink water at certain times, for instance with a meal? Can one take too much water? It is practically impossible for a person to drink too much water if his kidneys are functioning correctly, since any amount which the food digestion canal or body cannot utilize is promptly excreted. There are, of course, cases where there is a disturbed water balance but such people usually have symptoms which bring them to the doctor. By far the greater number of people are handicapping their digestive systems and themselves by drinking too little water. Is it bad for one to drink water with his meals? The answer depends upon how it is done. If water is taken during the course of a meal by itself it will do no harm. If, however, it is used to wash down partially chewed food, it definitely is not being used to the advantage of the digestive tract.

Carbonated Drinks

In foregoing paragraphs reference has been made to the mistake of drinking ice cold drinks, so we will not dwell upon it longer; however, there is one form of drink which has found favor with some people, namely carbonated drinks, and the manufacturers will slyly suggest, like the cigarette manufacturers, that they “aid digestion.” They base this claim solely on the fact that it “brings up the gas,” which indeed it does to a certain extent.

What they do not tell you, however, is that it also forms gas, and while it is downright decent of them to point out that some of it is gotten rid of by burping, the fact is that there is much more of it carried on down into the intestinal tract where it serves no good and if
excessive may bloat the intestinal coils and interfere with their proper contractions. In short, indulge in these carbonated drinks rarely or not at all, particularly if you have any suspicion that you are a victim of colitis.

The same holds true of mineral waters which are effervescent.

It also holds true of that favorable aid to conviviality, the scotch and soda. In my opinion the soda is more to be condemned than the scotch strictly from the standpoint of colitis.

While speaking of whiskey, it may be well to know the facts of life with regard to the effect of alcoholic beverages on an irritated colon. The very worst thing a person can drink is beer or wine or any of the so-called soft drinks. The reason is that all of these substances contain extractives, aromatic substances or spices and all of these substances are irritant. While it is true that to a normal mucous membrane, they are only mildly so, one must not lose sight of the fact that we are not dealing with a normal membrane. A person with colitis has a distinctly congested and sensitive membrane; hence what would be a mild stimulant to somebody else will prove to be an irritant to a person with colitis. The same holds true of gin drinks. When one does have to partake of a social glass, he is much better off, so far as colitis is concerned, to take a glass of scotch and plain cool water or, if he prefers, bourbon whiskey and cool water.

What most people do not realize is that it is not the alcohol that irritates the colon. As a matter of fact, the alcohol, is entirely absorbed in the stomach and never reaches the colon, hence in moderate quantities a drink of whiskey and water will do no harm.

In fact, as pointed out elsewhere, it may even be of some help if taken before dinner or before retiring, as it tends to relax the nervous system. In my opinion, it does so in a far more natural way than phenobarbital, seconal and other such drugs.

Hard Water

To return to the matter of water, however, as a cause of colitis, I would like to remind you of the observation that most people have made when traveling from place to place, namely that it affects the action of their bowels. The minute amount of mineral salts present in hard water will disturb a colon not accustomed to it. Conversely the absence of the solids in soft water will disturb a person accustomed to hard water.

To avoid this, people who travel a good deal find it prudent to drink some bottled spring water which is nationally distributed; thus they can be sure of getting the same kind of water in each place they travel. There are many such waters; Poland Spring Water is one of them.

Poisoned Waters; Impure Waters

In certain localities there is also a trace of sulphur or iron in the water which is definitely irritating to a person not accustomed to it. Here too, trouble may be avoided by the use of bottled water. Finally, water as a source of colitis can definitely be traced to the use of surface water, that is running brooks or lakes which have been contaminated in one way or another. It is, of course, well known that the various typhoid infections may occur this way. More recently it has been determined that certain filterable viruses, such as those causing infantile paralysis, may be transmitted in this manner.

In large cities this problem, of course, is non-existent, thanks to the Board of Health. Its Department of Water and Sanitation sees to it that water used in each city is chlorinated and tested before reaching the public. However, in outlying districts people sometimes neglect to drive a deep well and are content to use surface water. Such people are definitely running a risk not only of colitis but of other diseases.


Raw Foods

On pages 83 to 90, you have had an opportunity to learn in what poor regard I hold raw foods. My remarks are particularly addressed to those who have, or have a tendency towards, colitis. They are also worthy of consideration by people who consider themselves in the best of health. One way to stay that way is to avoid taking chances with raw foods. Anybody who eats raw beefsteak, or half cooked pork, or salad from which the metallic insecticides have not yet been washed off is asking for trouble.

Half-cooked Foods

Almost as bad as the eating of raw food is to indulge in the illusion of cooking. In these days of haste, all too often the steak is given only a token bath of fire. The surface may be singed a little, given the appearance of having been cooked, but the interior is as innocent of fire as a piece of ice. In other words, a person who eats this kind of food eats raw food while suffering from the delusion that he is eating cooked food. Many people dislike being fussy while in a restaurant. But I assure you it is much easier on your health to call the cook to account than to pay expensive doctors’ bills to get rid of a trichina or a tapeworm.

Moreover, foods that are half-cooked are far more difficult to digest. Take for instance potatoes. When properly cooked, the starch granules are readily available for digestion. When half-cooked, the digestive time is increased many-fold. The result is that more undigested food is passed on down to the colon than can be tolerated, and trouble results from putrefaction.


In this way, worms find their way into the intestinal tract. Their presence and their activities, produce colitis.

Food Fads

Perhaps one of the greatest causes of disordered digestion and crippled colons is the ready acceptance by the public in general of every successive food fad. While many people would thoroughly investigate a doctor before they would allow him to operate on them, or inquire into the qualifications of a lawyer who is to represent them in court, they unhesitantly accept the advice (and accept as gospel truth) the opinions and instructions of anybody who can, by devious means, have an article printed or a book published.

Once a certain number of people have adopted a fad, the great public, in ape-like manner, hysterically imitates this fashion in food. They do not inquire as to whether there is any virtue in the fad, much less whether it is suited to their needs. No, they blindly swallow yogurt or raw cabbage or blackstrap molasses simply because some other people are taking it and claim an increase in their overall virility.

Sooner or later, these poor misguided people wake up to find that they have had a bellyfull of the fad both literally and figuratively. Then some prosaic doctor of medicine is supposed to prescribe the magic medicine to fix it, all in one dose. Can you wonder why doctors are noted for their sense of humor. Look at the material they have to work on.

Mixer Craze

Much of the same applies to the mixer craze. Instead of chewing food in the manner in which Nature intended, all one has to do is buy one of these mixers and park his dentures on the window-sill. The mixer beats it all so fine that concrete and excelsior go down equally well.

Needless to say, this interference with the normal process of mastication or chewing, and contraction of the intestines (peristalsis) all result in a disorder of the digestive regime. Flatulence, indigestion and other troubles soon follow. Colitis might well be the end result.

Unwashed Vegetables and Fruits

Unwashed vegetables and fruits, both raw and cooked, often contain poisons and irritant chemicals which have been spread upon the vegetables and fruits to prevent their being eaten by insects. Anyone who is so unwise, careless or lazy as not to wash vegetables and fruits before using them makes himself a candidate for a chemical irritation of the colon, in short a colitis.


In the course of treating many ailments, doctors have fallen into the habit of using drugs. As a matter of fact, the public in general has fallen into the habit of taking drugs. In all instances the drug is assumed to have a beneficial effect in the control, if not the the correction, of the ailment treated. However, it often happens that this medicine, whether it be a frank drug or one of the herbal substances, may have a severe, harmful effect on the colon.

Tonics Containing Iron

As one example of the bad effects of a good medicine may be mentioned the preparations containing iron that are so frequently used for anemia, such as Blaud’s Pills or ferrous sulphate or one of the many drug compounds sold under a proprietary name. It has been my experience that these medicines in general are decidedly harmful to one troubled by an irritated colon.

A lack of this knowledge has caused much distress to people suffering from unsuspected colitis. I have known of many instances where the anemia was a result of colitis. Either upon the advice of a doctor or on their own responsibility, the patients decided to “take iron,” with an almost immediately irritating effect. Abdominal pain and distress frequently occur and mucus appears in the stool in even greater quantities than before. Diarrhea associated with a colicky pain in the left lower portion of the abdomen becomes marked.

In such a situation, the patient is of course on the horns of a dilemma. He knows that he needs iron in order to build up the quality of his blood, yet one such experience shows that he cannot tolerate it. What is he to do?

Of course the most sensible thing to do is to present the problem to his friend, the family physician. No doubt the iron or other appropriate medicine will be given by hypodermic injections; or a form of organic iron will be prescribed, then the patient may have the advantage of iron without the disturbance that follows taking iron in the inorganic state.

Suit a Medicines—Penicillin, Aureomycin, Terramycin

When the present-day miracle medicines, the sulfa drugs, first came into use, they were hailed as “cure-alls.” Experience, however, has shown that they are not entirely unmixed blessings. For instance, the sulfa drugs are very effective in controlling infections. However, they are irritating to many people, and this irritation is particularly exhibited in the colon. Even normal people find that some of these sulfa drugs have an irritating effect on the colon.

It is small wonder, then, that people with sensitive colons, or definitely diseased colons should evidence the irritation to an even greater degree. Here, too, a dilemma confronts the patient, or more correctly, the doctor taking care of the patient. I would like to insist at this point that no layman should ever, on his own responsibility, start taking sulfa drugs. When the medical profession itself is uncertain as to their ultimate effects, certainly one unschooled in medicine is not qualified to make such a hazardous experiment.

Your doctor, however, will know that certain of these drugs are less soluble and less irritating than others, and will choose the one which research and experience have shown to be the least irritating. If he is the wise and conservative counsellor that you have a right to expect in a family doctor, he will weigh very seriously the advisability of using the sulfa drugs at all, unless they are definitely indicated by a specific diagnosis of bacterial infection known to be amenable to the sulfa drug prescribed.

Mineral Oil

Mineral oil at one time was looked upon as the great cure-all of one of the symptoms of colitis, namely constipation. Over a period of thirty years, it has been found to be far from the inactive and harmless substance it was supposed to be. Its continued use over a period of time interferes with the digestive process throughout the food digestion canal.

Because it is an oil, it tends to dissolve the fat-soluble vitamins of the food and pass them out of the canal, thus depriving those using it from the benefit of the very best part of their food.

Still further, it mechanically collects in saccules along the walls of the food digestion canal, gives rise to spasm and thus interferes with colonic function and lays the groundwork for colonic diseases.


Bran is another substance which at one time was hailed as a health food. Experience over the years has shown, however, that it is decidedly irritating to many people and always carries with it the threat of impaction—that is, the gathering into lumps that may require surgery to dislodge. Its long continued use can be the cause of irritation and eventually colitis.

Mineral Waters and Saline Cathartics

In the Middle Ages certain parts of the world became famous as health resorts because it was found that the waters of springs in these localities had a beneficial effect. There were springs that were supposed to be “good for liver trouble” or “good for intestinal trouble” and for that matter “good for what have you.” Most of these waters had only one claim to fame and only one method of effecting the “cure”—they were laxative, purgative or cathartic, depending upon the dose taken or the particular strength of salts in the water.

Needless to say, the laxative clan of medicaments are occasionally needed in the treatment of ailments but as the intelligence of mankind has increased, and medical knowledge and experience has increased, the reliance upon laxatives and purgatives has lessened. Certainly the wholesale imbibing of laxative waters is no longer the custom.

While there are still some health resorts who make these the backbone of their therapeutic ritual, there are few people, now, who are convinced that by mineral waters alone all ailments can be cured.

However, the habit does survive to some extent and is aided and abetted by the commercial campaigns of those who have salines to sell. The occasional use of a saline may be suggested by a doctor or even taken by a person without prescription and do no great harm. But the habitual user of saline laxatives should realize that he is making himself a candidate for an irritated colon and eventually colitis.

This applies not only to mineral waters such as those traditional Epsom and Rochelle Salts but also the modernized trade name “Salts.” The mineral waters are, of course, merely watery solutions of these same salts.

Other Cathartics—Laxatives and Purgatives

It is a fact that accidentally, in the course of eating what we regard as food, we may take into our bodies things like bacteria and parasites, and these may occasionally prove fatal. However, it is a sad commentary on our alleged intelligence that sometimes these poisons, these harmful substances are not taken accidentally but deliberately.

Now what persons would be such fools as to take into their bodies harmful substances deliberately, unless they were so demented as to be intent upon suicide? Well you won’t have to look very far afield to find them. Among them are those who constantly take cathartics night after night, particularly cathartics containing harmful poisonous substances such as phenolphthalein. These people are poisoning themselves just as effectively as if they had taken bichloride of mercury, even though a little more slowly. The only difference is that with bichloride, they know the answer sooner.

Understand that by taking a poison which does not kill right away, they give their colon an opportunity to struggle to protect itself. It does this through the mechanism of inflammation which is the normal response of living tissue to some damage short of complete death.

Reducing Medicines

When that sad day comes when a person realizes his life is going to waist, there are some who get desperate and, without the benefit of expert medical advice, start “taking something.” The “something” is very often some advertised patented medicine which for a specified price will aid you in melting away the extra poundage. This is a nice trick if you can do it, but often it is a matter of prudence to find out how the trick is being done.

Many of these reducing medicines rely in part upon the action of a drug such as phenolphthalein. When the American Public Health Service, and public health officers in general, get around to doing their true duty to the public, I am sure one of the first things they will do is to prohibit the sale of phenolphthalein except under a doctor’s prescription. I am impelled to this view by the sad contemplation of many, many colons that I have seen ruined by this drastic cathartic.

It acts upon the colon by irritating the lining membrane. In response to this irritation the membrane pours out tremendous quantities of serous exudate and this, of course, is in turn derived from the tissues of the body. Thus, after the passage of several watery movements, a patient may get upon the scales and note to his satisfaction that he has “lost weight.”

Actually, he has lost far more than weight. He has lost the functional integrity of his colon; he has lost the health of one organ of his body. Of course, as he slides down the hill of ill health, he will lose more weight and, unless he receives competent medical attention, the full cost of the weight reduction will be beyond all reason.

There is scarcely a person alive who would hesitate to condemn as hideous and monstrous an individual who induced another to swallow ground glass. But comparable to this is the advertising which leads to destroying the functional health of the colon by patented medicines containing phenolphthalein and other violent cathartics.

For years I have written on this very subject and in this very vein, but my protest has thus far been vain. It has truly been “the voice in the wilderness.” In 1936, the Reader’s Digest reprinted a chapter from my book I Know Just The Thing For That. In the chapter they reprinted I exposed the evils of phenolphthalein. Yet the laws of the land still permit this drug to be sold, uncontrolled.

I personally conceive of it as a problem of public health and feel that the Public Health Service should thoroughly investigate the matter. Until such time, the only fortunate ones will be those who read and heed warnings such as I have given above.


There are two sides to every story. Still further there are two ends to every tube and the food digestion canal is no exception. Irritating material can be and usually is introduced from the upper end but anyone engaged in the practice of medicine can confirm my statement that it is quite frequently introduced at the other end.

Naturally the introduction of the irritant is not done intentionally. In fact, it is very often done in an attempt to clean “the lower bowel” or to apply some medicine to it. Thus the traditional enema has been extended into quite elaborate colon irrigations. Under the assumption that sodium bicarbonate was a good cleansing agent, it is frequently used in the irrigating fluid. I assure you that this is a very harmful practice and leads to definite irritation of the colon if repeated time and again.

Another practice is to use saline solutions. While these are not as irritating locally, they bear the possibility that the patient will absorb more salt into his system than is good for him. This is particularly the case where there is a kidney irritation or circulatory disturbance.

Among the other solutions used is potassium permanganate which is supposed to be mildly antiseptic and to oxidize harmful substances present in the colon. It is my opinion, based on my experience, that the use of these substances in irrigation is not only unnecessary but frequently harmful.

If a physician decides that it would be wise to irrigate the colon, as indeed he may at times, plain water at the proper temperature, about 99° F., is the proper washing solution to be used. However, the frequent use of irrigations of this kind, even of plain water, can produce harmful effects in the colon as the organ was never constructed as a reservoir for fluids and the long continued presence of fluids there have a macerating effect which permits bacteria present to invade the walls of the colon.

What has been said with regard to irrigations is equally true with respect to enemas. The old-fashioned “soapsuds enema” is referred to. It is a hideous procedure operating as a remedy. While it is effective in relieving constipation, in most instances the price paid for it in damage to the tissues is certainly not worth its value as a means of treatment. The same may be said of glycerine suppositories. In the latter case, of course, the suppositories do not irritate the colon but they do irritate the lower rectum in many instances and this reflexly brings about spasm in that organ. The presence of spasm interferes with the normal function of the colon and leads in time to actual colitis. Written By: J. F. Montague, M.D., Continue Reading: What Happens Next?

No Comments

Post a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.