Normal Colon Habits



     The capacious colon of man and other mammals is provided by nature to serve as a reservoir for the accumulation of alimentary residues and body wastes and their evacuation at regular intervals.  This arrangement permits the disposal of refuse with the least possible interference with movement and other bodily activities.

     The possible injury resulting from the over accumulation of residues, and especially the fact that food residues readily undergo putrefaction and other changes resulting in the production of highly toxic substances, render the question of the proper spacing of the evacuations of the colon reservoir one of high importance.  The researches of Bouchard, Metchnikoff, Christian Herter, Comb and other physiologists and clinicians have clearly shown that the stasis or prolonged retention of food residues, bile and other body wastes results in the development in the colon of a great number of parasitic bacteria and other organisms, some of which produce violent toxins, while others under special conditions become highly virulent, giving rise to colitis and other infections of the colon, small intestine, and gall bladder, and even penetrate the blood vessels producing infections of the kidneys and urinary bladder and other conditions for the development of amoebae and scavenger parasites of other sorts.

     Delayed evacuation necessarily results in accumulation of residues and undue distension of the colon with CO2 and various noxious and malodorous gases, which are chiefly the result of the decomposition of carbohydrates and sugars.  Fats give rise to butyric acid and other toxic products.  Undigested protein encourage the rapid development of vast numbers of proteolytic or putrefactive bacteria, B. coli, Cl. Welchii, the gas bacillus, Cl. sporogenes, Cl. putrificus, and scores of other organisms which, according to Strassburger, may attain such prodigious numbers as 300 trillion in 24 hours.  It is evident, then, that the evacuation of the colon residues at reasonably frequent intervals is desirable, while retention in the colon for a sufficient length of time to permit putrefactive changes to take place is in every way undesirable and may become a menace to life and health.

     The colon or large intestine, is about five feet in length.  It is automatically divided into three sections: (1) the right, caecum and ascending colon; (2) the transverse colon; and (3) the left, the descending or distal colon, at the lower part of which the pelvic colon initiates bowel action by means of the “call,” a desire for evacuation caused when residues are pushed forward from the pelvic colon into the rectum.


     As shown by the x-ray observations of Hurst of London, “the time required for [passing through] each part of the colon—ascending transverse, and descending –is about two hours.  That is, about the same period is occupied in passing through the two feet of colon between the caecum and the splenic flexure as through the 22 ½ feet of small intestine.  The movement of the human colon, however, appear to be less active at night than during the day.”

     The careful studies of Hurst showed that the activity of the colon greatly accelerated during the taking of food.  He found that, apart from meals, progress through the colon was slow, but that during each meal there was perceptible advancement of the contents.  More progress occurred, for example, during the dinner hour than during the previous four hours.  Says Hurst, in relation to the rate of movement of food in the colon:

     “If approximately nine hours are required for material to reach the descending colon in man, the waste from food taken at 8 o’clock in the morning might be discharged at 5 o’clock in the afternoon.  If defecation should occur regularly at 4 o’clock, however, the waste from breakfast must be retained for another twenty-four hours.”  In other words, if the bowels are moved but once daily, a large amount of residue which has reached the lower bowel and is ready for evacuation will be delayed for 24 hours or more, during which putrefaction, gas formation and various highly undesirable changes will occur.

     The above facts indicate that, under normal conditions, an intake of food is usually followed by an output of residue of a previous meal—the natural result of the forward movement of the colon contents due to the act of eating, which pushes the residue forward into the pelvic colon, an automatic and highly efficient discharging device.  The common practice of moving the bowels only once a day leads to the retention of residues for at least 36 hours, often several days, during which time a high degree of putrefaction may be attained, especially when free use is made of meats and other animal proteins.

     From the above it is very clear that the number of evacuations will be strongly influenced by the number of meals, since, as pointed out by Hurst, the taking of food is the chief cause of colon activity.  If a person takes but two meals a day, the contents of the bowel may not be advanced toward the exit with sufficient rapidity to secure more than two movements during the waking hours. If, however, the diet is of such a character that a good intestinal flora is maintained, and if the entire colon contents are evacuated every 24 hours, no harm will result, because putrefaction is inhibited, and toxins, virulent bacteria and other harmful factors are absent.

     The number of evacuation per diem is influenced to a marked degree by the amount of exercise taken.  The movements in the diaphragm in breathing aid the colon by compressing and advancing its contents toward the exit.  The amount of help which the colon receives from the diaphragm depends, largely, however, in sedentary persons, on the maintenance of erect posture.


     Tissier, an assistant of Pasteur, began in the latter part of the last century and continued for many years an exhaustive study of the intestinal bacteria.  He discovered in 1900 that the stools of infants, though sterile at birth, within a few hours become contaminated and show the presence of great numbers of colon bacillus and other germs found in adult stools.  These harmful bacteria are speedily driven out by a new germ which appears in the stools within two days after the infant begins to nurse, and within two week the newcomer occupies the entire field.  This germ, the lactobacillus acidophilus, produces lactic acid in such quantities that the growth of the putrefactive and other harmful bacteria is inhibited and they quickly disappear.

     The rapid development of the lactobacillus acidophilus in the infant’s intestine is the result of the presence of the mother’s milk of a large percentage of lactose, or milk sugar.  So long as the diet of the infant contains this sugar in sufficient amounts, the lactobacillus acidophilus continues to flourish.  Dextrin, a derivative of starch, likewise encourages the development of the aciduric flora.

     It is clearly evident that beneficent nature has provided in the lactobacillus acidophilus a highly efficient means of protecting the infant mammal against the invasion of its intestinal tract by putrefactive and other disease-producing germs.  So long as the intestinal flora remains strongly aciduric, that is, 85-100 percent lactobacillus acidophilus, it remains free from the intestinal infections which produce diarrhea, gas and other disturbances to which bottle-fed infants are much more subject that are those who are breast-fed.


     The experience of the famous quintuplets affords a convincing demonstration of the protective value of lactobacillus acidophilus.  Owing to their mother’s illness, they were never breast-fed, and hence missed the opportunity to develop a good protective flora.  Although reared on breast milk, at four months they developed grave bowel troubles with highly offensive stools and great gas distention and were very ill.  When, at the suggestion of the writer, Dr. Dafoe gave them soy milk cultures of lacto bacillus acidophilus, they quickly recovered and have since, now more than three years, been kept free from bowel troubles by the daily use of the culture.  The quintuplets required the artificial culture for the reason that although they had been fed with breast milk from their fourth day, they had missed the protection of the lactobacillus acidophilus which infants normally receive in the act of nursing.

     When the colon is emptied with normal frequency, that is, within less than 24 hours after the food is taken, the time between intake and output is insufficient for the development of advanced putrefaction: and if the diet is of proper character, an aciduric flora, once established, may be maintained.  One-a-day stools always show a putrefactive flora.

     In the examination of many thousands of stools made at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, occasionally one has been found which showed 75 per cent acidophilus and freedom from evidence of putrefaction.  Such stool were invariably from persons whose diet approximated the normal primate dietary.


      Bacteriological examinations recently made of the stools of a nine-year-old chimpanzee showed a well developed protective flora, 85 per cent lactobacillus acidophilus.  The animal was thoroughly healthy and had never suffered from bowel trouble.  The animal’s keeper informed me that the stools were never offensive.  Evacuations occurred four or five times daily.

     Carl Akeley informed the writer that in his studies of the gorilla in its native African wilds, he observed that the animal evacuated several times daily, and that the stools were free from putrefactive odor; also that the complete alimentary tract of a gorilla which he dissected, showed nothing in the slightest degree offensive.  He added with emphasis, “It was the cleanest thing, internally and externally, that I ever encountered in my life.”


     On inquiry at the London zoo in reference to the bowel habits of the chimpanzee and other large apes, I was told by the keeper that they moved their bowels regularly four times a day.  Dr. Hornaday informed me that the anthropoids of the Bronx Zoological Garden evacuated three times a day.  At the Washington Zoo the keeper stated that the chimpanzee Koko normally evacuates four to six times a day.

     At the present time, the writer has no aciduric flora showing an acidophilus percentage of 80-90, which has been maintained at the present level for several months.

     A questionnaire sent to a large number of missionary physicians located among wild and primitive people brought 140 replies.  The evidence obtained from these original sources clearly indicates that among native tribes which have been uninfluenced by the customs of civilization and who still adhere to primitive habits of diet, living a free and active life, two or three evacuations occur daily, the number of evacuations depending on the number of meals eaten.  These primitive people are keen observers.  They give great attention to the bowels, carefully training their children to correct bowel habits.  A single daily movement is regarded by them as constipation, and gives rise to alarm.  The one-evacuation-a-day habit appears only among those classes or castes whose habits are sedentary.

     Said Dr. F. D. Shepard, an American surgeon who had practiced thirty years in Turkey, “The universal habit is to move the bowels three times a day.”


     A physician writing from South Africa said: “A native called on me yesterday morning and asked for medicine to relieve a dreadful constipation.  I said to him, “When did your bowels move last?” he replied, ‘This morning, doctor.’ ‘But I understood you to say you were constipated.’ ‘Yes, replied the native, ‘I am horribly constipated.  My bowels move only once a day.”

     This state of one-a-day constipation is very prevalent in many highly civilized countries, but by no means universal.  Among working men the habit of two or three evacuations daily is quite common.

     The advantage of suppressing putrefaction in the intestinal canal by frequent evacuation is shown by the fact that among people who moved the bowels frequently, bowel troubles and other disorders associated with intestinal infections and intoxication are relatively infrequent.  For example, of 112 American physicians practicing among the natives in the following countries, 43 reported that they had never seen cancer of the bowels: Mexico, Palestine, Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, Nigeria, Japan, Syria, Korea, Persia, Siam, India, Asia Minor, New Hebrides.  Appendicitis was likewise infrequent.

     Dr. Davidson of Travancore, India, wrote me in reply to a questionnaire: “Appendicitis is very rare here.  Only 6 cases out of 1000 operations.”  An annual report of the Mayo Clinic showed 19 percent of all cases examined to be suffering from appendicitis and 21 per cent of all cases operated upon.


     When the bowels move but once a day, the residues of a test meal are, according to Hurst, J. T. Case, M.D., and other x-ray experts, retained in the body 53 to 54 hours, or 2 ¼ days.  In the meantime seven other meals have been taken and the residues of these meals are still retained, so that the colon, which at the most should never contain the residues of more than three meals, contains the residues of six or more than twice as many meals, and naturally become distended with putrefying residues and over distended by gases, the result of putrefaction and fermentation.  This stretching of the intestinal walls causes redundancy, atrophy and inability to evacuate completely.  Pouches and diverticula are formed, and colitis develops with its long train of ills and a predisposition to appendicitis and diverticulitis.

     The highly beneficial results which follow the adoption of the practice of evacuation after each meal bear very eloquent evidence of the physiologic value and correctness of this practice.  Among the 200,000 persons who have visited the Battle Creek Sanitarium for medical relief during the last 30 years, many have become convinced of the great importance of regular after –meal evacuations.  The writer has been informed by a very large number of persons that they had experienced notable relief from headache, dullness, inability to concentrate, deficient appetite, foul breath, coated tongue, chronic fatigue, and other symptoms usually attributed to intestinal toxemia, and had noted a remarkable increase in endurance and working power.  One well-known college professor, who for years found it necessary to rest a couple of hours in the middle of the day, within three weeks after the adoption of the practice of evacuating after each meal reported himself, as he said, “able to keep up a full head of steam the entire day, thereby adding two hours to my working day.”


     Strong evidence that after-meal evacuation is physiological is afforded by the ease with which the habit is acquired.  Many years ago, I received a letter from the superintendent of an institution for the care of idiotic and feeble-minded children in which the writer stated that having heard of my advocacy of the three-a-day evacuation practice, she thought I might be interested in an observation she had made.  She stated that she had often been complimented on the fact that her institution was free from the bad odors usually present in such establishments because of the lack of intelligent control of evacuations by the inmates.  She said she was often asked the question, “How do you manage it?”  The answer was, “After each meal I place each child upon the toilet.  Nature does the rest.”

     If in addition to a regular visit to the toilet within an hour after each meal a person whose bowels move but once a day will add to a laxative diet some colon-stimulating food accessory, and if prompt attention is habitually given to the “call,” which indicates readiness for action by the colon, the colon usually may be easily trained to prompt elimination of its contents after every intake of food.  Sometimes the colon becomes so sensitive to the stimulus of eating that a visit to the toilet is found necessary immediately after the meal is finished and in many cases even when an apple or fruit of other sorts is taken between meals

     When an x-ray examination shows that the colon is permanently crippled, the colon should be emptied daily at bedtime by an enema of 3 or 4 pints of water at 105-110 degrees.  This harmless mechanical means may be used indefinitely without injury, and often when intelligently used will effect a cure of a badly crippled colon by training it to normal activity.  In every case of serious colon function impairment a competent physician should be consulted.

     Colon Poisons—Numerous highly poisonous substances have been found in the fecal matters of both animals and human beings by various investigators.  Brieger and Selmi found muscarin, cholin, cadaverin, putrescin, neurin, neuridin and saprin, all highly potent toxins.

     Dr. R. L. Benson in an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (February, 1937, p, 129), stated that “the colon contains enough histamin to kill a regiment.”


     Several years ago the Royal Society of Medicine of Great Britain held a symposium on the subject of alimentary toxemia in which numerous eminent medical men participated.  Professor Dixon of King’s College, London, called special attention to sepsin, a very virulent toxin produced by streptococci which is always found in lean meat that has been long hung and in the stools of meat eaters.  Many cases have been reported in which meat dealers have died from septicemia after receiving a small wound when cutting meats.

     Barger and Walpole called attention to two poisons produced by the putrefaction of sepsin which raise the blood pressure, an observation of much importance for the reason that, as stated by Dr. Dixon,  In recent years it has been shown by different workers in our Cambridge Laboratory that any drug that has the power of considerably raising blood pressure, will, when injected into the circulation of healthy animals, bring about degeneration of the middle coat of the arteries.”  These effects were observed in young animals as well as older ones.  Bain found these colon poisons present in the blood of persons who have high blood pressure.  It has been shown, according to Dr. Dixon, that the same effects are produced by these colon poisons that are known to be caused by digitalis, nicotin “and the inhalation of tobacco smoke.”

     Said the eminent Sir Lauder Brunton, “The Bacillus coli seems to have a special power of producing fatigue toxins, and many people in whose intestines it exists in great abundance suffer from constant weariness and a feeling of fatigue.’

     Said Dr. Mantle, “Rheumatoid arthritis and other joint symptoms may arise from poisons absorbed from the intestinal mucous membrane.  The joints are especially susceptible to certain poisons.”

     Said Sir Lennox Wainwright,  “I am quite sure of this, that the mental effect on many patients of prolonged intestinal toxemia is such as to make them almost demented.

     “The state of the tongue may be a good index to intestinal health, and a foul condition of the breath speaks volumes of what may be suspected lower down, although the patient may not be constipated.”

     Lord Dawson of Penn, physician to King George V, drew the following picture of persons suffering from intestinal toxemia, the result of intestinal stasis:  The sallow dirty complexion, the inelastic skin, the dusky lips and nails, the dirty tongue, evil smelling breath, constant abdominal discomfort of one kind and other, doughy, inelastic abdomen, cold extremities, the physical and mental depression are among the prominent feature.”

     There are perhaps no medical question which during the last 40 years have received more attention and been more widely discussed than those relating to the facts and effects of intestinal toxemia.  At the present time I think it may be safely said that by far the great majority of leading clinicians will agree with Metchnikoff that, “The microorganisms inhabiting our bodies have set going there a poison factory which shortens our existence and by secreting poisons which penetrate all our tissues, injures our most precious organs, our arteries, brain, liver, and kidneys.”

     According to Tissier of the Pasteur Institute, student assistant of Pasteur, 90 per cent of all the bacteria in the intestine of a child brought up under biologic conditions (lacto-vegetarian diet) belong to the group of acid formers, and the protective lactobacillus acidophilus is present to the extent of more than 70 per cent.  Dr. Dafoe reports that the flora of the Dionne quintuplets is maintained at 85 per cent aciduric by the daily use of soy acidophilus milk.

     The writer found the intestinal flora of a nine-year-old chimpanzee to be 80 per cent lactobacillus acidophilus and has under observation a child of two years whose intestinal flora has been carefully watched since birth and has rarely been found less than 90 per cent aciduric.  At the time of this writing the percentage of lactobacillus acidophilus in this case is 95.

     The contaminated condition of the human colon is due, as Herter has shown, to the character of the diet of the average man.  All uncooked meats contain great numbers of streptococci and other poison-forming and disease-producing bacteria with which meats become infected in the process of slaughtering.  Herter found that a watery extract of the feces of the carnivorous animals produces speedy death when injected into the body of a guinea pig or rabbit, while a similar extract of the feces of an herbivorous animal does not.


     The colon more than any other organ, needs “return-to-nature” training.  It must be remembered, however, that the colon is sick, not sluggish; that it is crippled, not lazy, that it needs help, not punishment; feeding and coaching, not drugs or mineral waters.  Constipation is largely a deficiency disease.  Every organ of the body has special needs which the daily food must supply.  The denatured food-stuffs in current use by so-called civilized people, are greatly lacking in colon nutrients.  The colon needs bulkage, emollient, lubricating mass, to awaken the activity of its muscular walls; vitamins to activate its nerves and glands, and special nutrients to feed its protective microorganism, the lactobacillus acidophilus.  All of these essential colon nutrients are found in a properly balanced lacto-vegetarian diet.

     Colons differ greatly as regards (to) the nature of the impediments which hinder their normal functioning and which prevent the establishment of a normal aciduric flora.  By careful study and persevering effort in the application of available helps, with very rare exceptions, every colon not organically diseased may be made to function normally.

     Drugs of every sort must be sedulously avoided.  All are harmful when habitually used.  The colon should never be forced, except in emergency, by the use of stimulating measures.  Drugs make matters worse by causing irritation, congestion, colitis, spastic contraction, diverticuli and appendicitis.

     Colons which do not readily respond to a carefully regulated diet, efficient colon-helping food accessories, exercise, and other simple corrective measures should be studied with the aid of the x-ray, and competent medical advice should be sought.


     In the limited space allotted me, I have endeavored to make clear in the forgoing paragraphs the following points:

     An evacuation by the colon of residues and wastes soon after each meal is the normal, or physiologic order of colon functioning.  Within 12 or 14 hours after food is eaten, it has traveled almost the entire 30 feet of the small intestine, residues being found in the lower colon within two or three feet of the exit.

     The taking of a meal awakens the colon to activitiy. And by pushing the food into the rectum, creates a desire for evacuation.  When the after-meal call has been lost, it may be re-acquired by habitually visiting the toilet and making an attempt to evacuate.

     Through the protective action of the  lactobacillus acidophilus discovered by Doctor Tissier, of the Pasteur Institute, nature has provided for the prevention of the development of putrefactive and disease-producing bacteria in the digestive tract.  The only conditions required are, maintenance of the physiologic rhythm of evacuation and adherence to the primitive, or biologic, bill of fare.  This supplies the nutrients necessary to maintain an aciduric flora, which not only prevent putrefaction but is a physiologic stimulus to colon activity.

    Neglect to empty the colon soon after eating leads to accumulation and prolonged retention of residues in the colon and resulting putrefaction, with the formation of highly poisonous products which are by many eminent authorities believed to be a prolific cause of disease, degeneracy, and premature senility.

      4.       The normal diet of man (lacto-vegetarian) is non-   putrefactive.  Fresh fruits and vegetables and other plant foods are presented to us by nature in an absolutely sterile   condition…..  

    Fresh meats swarm with noxious colon germs with which they become infected in the act of slaughtering.   Ordinary cooking does not destroy meat germs.  Canned meat is cooked for three hours at a temperature of 240 degrees F. to prevent spoiling.

    Through mistreatment, and especially by the use of cathartics and laxative drugs, the civilized colon has become badly crippled; but by proper treatment and training, it may be reformed and in most cases made to function normally after each meal and with such results in improved vigor, increased efficiency, sense of fitness and well-being, as to well repay the effort required.

J. H. Kellogg











Colon Foods

Whole Grains

Fresh Leafy Greens

Raw Fruits

Raw Vegetables