Excerpts from the book.- ‘ The Gentle Tyrant’, authored by Dr. M.S. Venkatraman
The Digestion process:
Life revolves on three basic functions. A man has to eat, he has to digest what he has consumed to survive, and finally he has to excrete what is not needed – the waste products, which if retained may be harmful for the body. Even in the earliest stage when it is in the shape of a disc, the embryo develops an opening at each end by rolling up its edges, stressing the need for an entry and an exit point.
This primitive digestive tract later gets elaborated into a highly complex mechanism. One aspect of this complex mechanism is well brought out in the study of elimination of excretion of the waste matter, the faeces. Most of the large bowels which forms the last six feet of the gastrointestinal tract participates in this. It absorbs the fluid matter from the liquid contents along with some electrolytes to solidify the faeces. This faeces gets stored in the last one to two feet of the large bowel, to get expelled periodically.
Animals have no inhibitions to empty the bowels. As a fallout, there seem to be fewer illnesses in their alimentary system. Social inhibitions in the human being, in contrast, play havoc in his system, without his being aware of it. These self-imposed disciplines include such trivia as when to defecate, how to defecate, where to defecate or where not to-all these add up to his stressful life, and in addition, do contribute to illnesses of the large bowel, the prime organ for excretion. Therein lies part of complex tale of common disorder, constipation and its fallout.
Also read: Gall Bladder stones
A constipated bowel produces its own problems. Apart from the discomfort of the bloat, feel, and the consequent fallout of the irritability of the affected person, toxic substances which normally get thrown out, start getting absorbed into the system, which tell upon the health of the person. This is worst manifest in a paediatric disorder called Hirschsprung’s Disease, wherein due to the bowel, that segment does not perform its function of propelling the bowel contents onwards. This leads to a severe obstipation (obstinate constipation) leading to a gross distension of the large bowel loop. The child becomes severely emaciated, and dies if untreated.
It is difficult to define and quantify as to what is and what is not constipation. There are persons who evacuate the bowels three to four times daily. At the other end, are those persons who visit the toilet once in three or four days and are none the worse for it. Subjectively, hard stools, difficult stools, bulky stools or small stools and sometimes painful stools have all been regarded as constipation by the patient. Possibly the occurrence of a backlog in the bowel with tendency for more and more stools to be retained every day may be the best definition for constipation. But this cannot be quantified until symptoms manifest.
Studies have been made to find out the time taken for the ingested food to make its journey from the mouth to the anus, using radioactive tracers tagged to food. The transit time has been found to vary from about 20 hours to 96 hours or more. The Asiatics have a more rapid transit, which is attributed to the vegetarian high fibre diet. Possibly their relative lack of inhibitions to defecate often performed on as-is-where-is basis, may also be a contributing factor to the rapid transit.
The western counterpart has a much lower transit period. It may be relevant to state that the higher incidence of colon disorders like cancer, colitis and diverticolitis, may be the price paid for by the westerners by this delay of transit
(Continued in Part 2)
Pic courtesy: homeveda.com