An Apple a Day
As a medical student one of the first things I learned with certainty is that a very large sub-segment of the American public is obsessed with bowels and bowel movements. However, it probably should have come as no surprise to me, because my father happened to be one of those people possessed by the mental demon that demands a daily colonic evacuation.
It appears no matter how sick a person on the medical floor happened to be, if he or she could have a regular bowel movement at sunrise, somehow even the worst of days would always become a little bit brighter.
The best etiology I can ascribe to this pervasive obsession is a mythical generic sense that fecal matter is a toxic substance that must be regularly purged from the body. If not it will slowly but surely release some deadly poison or toxin, thus resulting in some ill defined non-scientific irreversible harm. The reality is that feces is simply the residue left after food is digested by both enzymes and bacteria, leaving behind an organic substance containing about 50% of its original potential energy. This means that human digestion is horribly inefficient.
The only possible toxicity of the substance resides in some of the dangerous bacteria or viruses it can sometimes carry, for example, into a water supply, restaurant food, farmed vegetables or onto the family toilet.
If you think about the digestive inefficiency, feces in nothing but a waste of waste; meaning that if a 100% efficient digestive tract successfully utilized all of its fuel it would probably expel nothing but Methane gas perhaps maybe once a month or so.
More likely because as a nation we are so over-consumptively obese, these gas eruptions would occur on an hourly basis like Old Faithful.
At one time or another, I am sure that all of us have probably encountered a few people whose bowels do seem to operate on this principle.
Bowel efficiency also implies that if operating at 100 % capacity, most living organisms could survive by eating about half as much as they currently do, resulting in a tremendous saving of natural resources.
All is not lost however, as feces remains both an organic source for use as a fertilizer as well as a potential source for fuel. Western Indians and pioneer settlers frequently used buffalo chips for heat or cooking, while all societies reprocess manure for use on crops and gardens This means that most human societies indirectly eat what they shit.
No matter how scientifically sophisticated the argument, however, this will still not deter the bowel obsessed personality from changing his mind about feeling as though he must take a good dump every day or his world will just somehow will not be right and all celestial orbits will be out of synch.
In part, this is a carryover from certain Old-World ideas or old wives’ tales that regular bowel movements are essentially vital to maintaining good health, being fables only rooted in the one simple truth that obstipation can actually cause bowel obstruction.
The overriding paradoxical gap in the logic of feces being labeled as internally toxic is that no matter what a person does to get rid of it, there will always.at all times, be some residual of it in his bowels.
The modern-day advertisement about feces acting like “paste and spackle” on the bowel walls that should be purged as a necessity to lose weight is a shill game that only makes some clever shyster wealthy form the suckers who send him money for the “cure,” otherwise known as the enema. One of the recurring problems with bowel obsession lies in the fact that the term “constipation” has been grossly misinterpreted to mean that one is abnormal if one does not poop every single day. However, it is a scientific fact that only a few bowel movements per week indicate good bowel health, if the stool itself is healthy in its configuration.
What constipation really means is that the stool is scybalous, meaning that it consists of small, hard, nut-like lumps that are difficult to pass because it has an abnormally low water content which then sets up the potential for abnormal, harmful straining to eliminate it or even a risk for fecal impaction.
I have seen plenty of old ladies or men in my practice who have been so diligent about their habits and have strained so hard at stool that they have caused such severe vasovagal pulse or blood pressure drops that they have passed out on their toilets and cracked open their skulls or broken their hips.
There are also plenty of people alive today who can remember a parent forcing them to spoon down cod liver oil or to eat an apple every day or plenty of others whose parents also made them sit on the pot every morning while not being allowed to leave the bathroom until they could prove they had passed some stool; this being a sure if not divine sign of continued excellent health.
My father-in-law can even recall his mother in the late nineteen-thirties chasing him around with an enema bag at the first sign of a sneeze or sniffle in order to purge the brown monster lurking behind the scenes and abetting the impending cold or flu.
My poor father must also have had one of those bowel obsessed mothers, because for his entire adult life he was one of those people who could never leave the house until he took a dump; an event that must occur at or about the same time every morning or his life would come to a dysfunctional grinding halt. For example, on one occasion when my brother was visiting from Denver and we were supposed to play golf, the tee time had to be set back until we could go to the pharmacy to get a laxative suppository for dad. We then still had to wait around even longer for the blessed evacuation; like sitting Shiva in the Labor and Delivery room.
I first discovered he had this problem on a fishing trip to Texas with my Uncle Pete. We were all waiting for my father to exit from the bathroom so we could make the drive from Houston to Matagorda, when the bathroom door burst open and my father started shouting for my mother to come help him. Thinking the worst because of the alarm in his voice I rushed to the scene myself only to see my father standing there in soaking wet clothes and water soaked walls with an enema bag lying on the floor. Apparently, he had lost control of the slippery little devil, whose hose had escaped from his rectum and then blasted him and the entire bathroom with its purgative contents. That was when my mother finally confided this had always been a ritualistic problem and how much of a negative impact it had always had on their lives.
When I took care of him in his final year of life, I also discovered that he inspected each bowel movement with a flashlight; then felt compelled to describe them to me. One day he said:
- You know. That’s the first normal bowel movement I’ve had in a year.
I refused to ask what his definition of normal was.
However, no amount of argument or explanation that it is not essential to take a daily dump but also that regular purging with enemas or laxatives could paradoxically make things worse by disrupting natural colonic muscle tone or messing up electrolyte balances, could ever undo the psychological imprinting of a domineering Italian mother sitting with a broomstick outside little Sallie’s bathroom door every day and not letting him escape until he proved to her that he had pooped.
Even worse than that, as he got progressively older, my father became increasingly obsessed with being sure that he ate specifically for his dump. He accomplished this by loading up his diet with everything from dates and prunes to tasteless cardboard or paste-like fiber cereals, to flax seeds, combined with stool softeners and polyethylene glycol cocktails in a never-ending quest to find the correct combination of things that would keep his bowels sufficiently greased and ready to go. It wouldn’t even matter if he liked what he ate if the result was perfectly successful.
Bowel Flakes: The new high fiber but tasteless cereal that truly lets you eat for your colon.
Even in this modern era there is a segment of society that fully believes in the toxicity of internal feces and the necessity to regularly empty the internal cesspool or a belief in the fact that when confronted with a negative biorhythm that a good old-fashioned purging high colonic enema will be just the thing to save the day.
My sister, a person devoted to holistic health, is one of those individuals, but then again, she also believes that most of her health-related issues derive from the fact that she is also perpetually infested with parasitic worms and that a regular enema will be just the thing to periodically rout the little critters.
On a vacation trip to Mexico I met a young couple in their twenties who bored me to tears one day on the beach with a two-hour personal treatise on the Yin and Yang of food. They were obsessed by the effects of mixing incompatible food products on bowel health and the absolute necessity to have one or two high colonic enemas every week, which they gave to each other, just in case some of the wrong things inadvertently had gotten mixed together.
- When we go to a cocktail party, we never eat cheese, crackers and fruit at the same time. And we never drink wine when we eat cheese either. Most people are completely unaware that mixing wine or fruit with cheese and starch is a lethally toxic combination that would require an immediate purge. You see, wine may only be a fermented grape, but they always serve it with real grapes and cheese is fermented milk, which does not at all mix with the starch in crackers, yet every time you go to a cocktail party that is all you ever see. Wine, grapes, cheese, and crackers.
- No kidding. Maybe they should have four-course cocktail parties instead then.
- Not a bad idea. But only if they come in thirty-minute intervals so that each course is properly digested first.
After that they asked me if I wanted to come up to their room, see their enema equipment and smoke some pot.
I thought to myself: Only if I get to see you purge each other after we smoke. That would be another thing to paste on my “Interesting Firsts List.”
But I politely declined without even bothering to go into the countervailing argument of asking how they justified polluting their lungs and brains with unfiltered cannabinoid smoke, while still keeping their bowels clean and free from harm. It would have only been a waste of time, so I went to the bar instead; ordered a pitcher of Sangria and just to be safe, asked the waiter to put the fruit on a side plate.
One of the first things a third-year medical student learns is how to write routine orders, and one of those orders he soon learns never to forget is the one for an evening laxative because of the multi purpose benefits to everyone involved.
First, it helps prevent fecal impaction so that the student or a nurse does not then have to go and dig the scybalous out of his patient’s rectums with his fingers.Secondly, it makes the patients much more pleasant during morning rounds because they usually feel as though their day has gotten off to a very fine start. Third, it prevents being awakened at 2 a.m. by the night nurse who is harangued by the patient to get a laxative order.Then finally because the laxative usually takes effect at about 6 a.m. the ward has then had a chance to be successfully defumigated before the regular business of medical rounds takes place about two hours later.
That way the only people who really suffer are the poor dedicated day nurses whom after years of exposure become inured to the smell of offal in the morning and then learn to completely ignore it.
An apple a day…… keeps the doctor away