=An Oft-told Tale.= Sooner or later, then, the neurotic, whether he calls himself a neurotic or not, is very likely to begin worrying over his diet or his sedentary occupation. He imagines himself the victim of autointoxication, afflicted with paralysis of the colon or dearth of intestinal secretions. He leaves off eating white bread, berries, cheese, chocolate, and many another innocent food, and insists on a diet of bran-biscuit, flaxseed breakfast-foods, prunes, spinach, cream, and olive-oil with doses of mineral oil between meals. In all probability, he begins a course of massage or he starts to take extra long walks and to exercise night and morning, pulling his knees up to his chin and touching his fingers to his toes. When all these measures fail, he gives in to the morning enema or the nightly pill, in imminent danger of succumbing to a life-long habit.
=What the Colon Is For.= It is well, then to have a fair understanding of the structure and purpose of our intestinal machinery. Contrary to general opinion, the intestines are not a dumping-ground but a digestive organ. After the food is partly digested in the stomach, it passes through a twenty-two foot tube (the small intestine) into a five-foot tube (the large intestine or colon) where digestion is completed, the nutriment is absorbed, and the waste matter is passed on and out through the rectum. As the food passes along the colon, pushed slowly ahead by the peristaltic wave, or rhythmic muscular contractions of the intestinal wall, it is seized upon by the four hundred varieties of friendly bacteria which inhabit the intestines of every healthy person, and is changed into a form which the body can assimilate. Digestion in the stomach and small intestine is carried on by means of certain digestive juices, but in the large intestine it is the bacteria which do the work. Without them we could not live.
Around the colon is a thick network of little blood vessels, all of which lead straight to the liver, the storehouse of the body. After the food is fully digested, it is passed through the thin intestinal wall into these tiny vessels and carried away to liver and muscles for storage or for immediate use.
This process of absorption is carried on throughout the whole length of the colon. Not until the very end of the intestine is reached is all the nutrition abstracted. The bowel-content can properly be called waste matter only after it has reached the rectum or pouch at the lower end of the colon. Even then, this waste matter is not poison, but merely indigestible material which the body cannot handle.