Colitis in Elderly People
After the meridian of life has been passed there is quite naturally a lessening in the activity both of the glands and the tissues of the body. What is more important is the fact that these glands become markedly less efficient. Their function is to digest what has been placed in the food digestion canal in order to make it fit for absorption. Hence you can readily understand what disorder is bound to happen if they do not do their job well.
For one thing the body is deprived of part of the nutrient value of the food that has been eaten. What is far more important is that this food material if not properly digested is incapable of absorption from the intestines. Since it can’t be absorbed it remains in the intestinal canal—a great source of joy and nutrition to the many bacteria normally present. Hence putrefaction and fermentation occur. In other words the food rots in the intestines.
When organic matter rots it becomes very offensive. Anyone with a good sense of smell knows how offensive organic matter can be. Not only are these products of putrefaction offensive to the sense of smell but they are also poisonous when absorbed through the lining of the intestines. Moreover, they are irritating to the tissues lining the intestines.
This in a general way is what happens to many elderly people. It is particularly likely to happen when they have allowed themselves to become overweight and indolent. Lack of reasonable activity slows down intestinal action. When this is combined with overeating, injury is added to insult!
“Fair, fat and forty” has more truth in it than poetry. After forty one tends to add weight at what seems to be an unwarranted rate. Many of my patients will indignantly claim, “I’m not eating any more than I ever did!” This may be true and still not in accordance with what is best for them.
Our eating should be adjusted to our need for food. Since we normally are less active after forty we need and should eat less food. The majority of those who reach the century mark or near it are usually spare, lean people who live on remarkably little food.
However, if we continue to eat the same amount of food we always did and exercise less, we use less of the food stuff and the body stores it in the form of fat. This fat interferes with the functional efficiency of our organs and even of the cells themselves. In this way, therefore, we interfere with the function of the colon.
The answer to the problem which colitis presents in elderly people consists in cutting down their food. “He who steals an old man’s meal,” runs the old adage, “is his friend.” When one considers the meagre requirements of an inactive body, he can well understand how food in excess of these requirements can become a source of harm.
The dietary suggestions for the use of those having colitis (page 125) are applicable in this instance. Not only should the diet be restricted and regulated but also the digestive glands should be given a helping hand. Fortunately most of the active principles of the digestive juices can now be readily had at the drug store. Parke Davis specifies an excellent one in the form of Taka Diastase, Pepsin and Pancreatin.
After the meridian of life has been passed, the muscular tissue of the body has less tone or contractile ability than formerly and this loss extends to the circular muscles of the intestine. Indeed when we realize that the entire food digestion canal is only one huge muscular tube, you will realize that any loss in muscular tone will tend to have a powerful effect upon function. The muscles of the abdominal wall, also lacking in tone, will tend to sag and with them the organs of digestion and indigestion.
The sum total of these factors is that the colon becomes a less efficient organ. This state of affairs permits stagnation of the intestinal contents in the colon. In the presence of myriads of bacteria with an abundance of food and a nice warm dark place in which to live, the logical result can only be putrefaction and fermentation. This absorption of these putrefactive products causes profound auto-intoxication.
There are some who claim that auto-intoxication really never exists, and that this concept is now a discarded theory. However, I prefer this discarded theory to the totally unproven one of allergy when trying to account for a headache due to constipation. It seems to me that the ready relief which can come in this case from an effective enema should convince even the most recalcitrant critics of the reality of auto-intoxication.
Bearing the foregoing facts in mind you can readily understand that the first step is to cut down on eating in excess of one’s bodily requirements. Secondly, to adhere to the diet suggested on page 125. Thirdly, to maintain reasonable activity. Finally, to make sure that the colon is emptied daily.
In the average case of colitis in elderly people little more than this is necessary: I advise against special remedies suggested by “good friends” or chance acquaintances-All too often casual suggestions gathered at the bridge table or in the washroom lead to harm. In my own practice I am often amazed at the nonchalant manner in which a retired hard-headed business man will take a powerful drug on the say-so of the washroom attendant at the club. In his own line of business he would probably be a hard man to “sell” anything but a tested and proven article. Yet when his own health (possibly his own life) is involved he avails himself of the wisdom of the man who has achieved the exalted position of a dispenser of soap and towels. Oh, don’t laugh too loudly, ladies! The gossip from the bridge table furnishes just as many amusing instances. Written By: J. F. Montague, M.D., Continue Reading: Female Complaints and Colitis