A Guide to Health/Part 2/Chapter 5

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A Guide to Health  (1921) 
Mohandas K. Gandhi, translated by A. Rama Iyer
Constipation, Dysentery, etc.
S. Ganesan pages 101-104

Chapter V

CONSTIPATION, DYSENTERY, GRIPES AND PILES

It may at first sight appear strange to have four different ailments put together in this chapter, but, as a matter of fact, they are all so closely connected, and may be cured more or less in the same way. When the stomach gets clogged by undigested matter, it leads to one or other of these diseases, according to the varying constitutions of individuals. In some it produces constipation. The bowels do not move, or move only partly, and there is great straining at stools, until it results in bleeding, or at times in the discharge of mucus, or piles. In others, it leads to diarrhea, which often ends in dysentery. In others again, it may give rise to gripes, accompanied by pain in the stomach and the discharge of mucus.

In all these cases, the patient loses his appetite, his body gets pale and weak, his tongue gets coated, and his breath foul. Many also suffer from headache and other complaints. Constipation, indeed, is so common that hundreds of pills and powders have been invented to cure it. The chief function of such patent medicines as Mother Sriget's Syrup and Eno's Fruit-salt is to relieve constipation, and hence thousands of people go in for them in the vain hope of being cured for good. Any Vaid or Hakim will tell you that constipation and the like are the result of indigestion, and that the best way to cure them is to remove the causes of indigestion; but the more candid among them will confess that they are forced to manufacture pills and powders, since the patients are not really prepared to renounce their bad habits, but at the same time want to get cured. Indeed the present-day advertisements of such medicines go to the extent of promising to those that would buy them that they need observe no directions as to diet and the like, but may eat and drink whatever they like. But my readers need not be told that this is a mere string of lies. All purgatives are invariably injurious to health. Even the mildest of them, even if they relieve the constipation, give rise to other forms of disease. If they should do any good at all, the patient should thoroughly change his ways of life, so as not to have to turn to purgatives again; otherwise, there can be no doubt that they must give rise to new diseases, even supposing that they serve to get rid of the old.

The very first thing to do in cases of constipation and the like is to reduce the quantity of food, especially such heavy things as ghee, sugar and cream of milk. Of course, he should eschew altogether wine, tobacco, bhang, tea, coffee, cocoa, and loaves made of "mill flour." The diet should consist for the most part of fresh fruits with olive oil.

The patient should be made to starve for 36 hours before treatment begins. During this time and after, mud-poultices should be applied to the abdomen during sleep; and, as has been already said, one or two "Kuhne baths" should also be taken. The patient should be made to walk for at least two hours every day. I have myself seen severe cases of constipation, dysentery, piles and gripes effectively cured by this simple treatment. Piles may not, of course, completely disappear, but they will certainly cease to give trouble. The sufferer from gripes should take special care not to take any food except lime-juice in hot water, so long as there is discharge of blood or mucus. If there is excessive griping pain in the stomach, it can be cured by warming with a bottle of hot water or a piece of well-heated wick. Needless to say, the patient should live constantly in the open air.

Fruits like the French plum, the raisin, the orange and the grape, are particularly useful in constipation. This does not, of course, mean that these fruits may be eaten even where there is no hunger. They ought not to be eaten at all in cases of gripes accompanied by a bad taste in the mouth.