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Books, Journals, New Media
February 21, 2001

HistoryInner Hygiene: Constipation and the Pursuit of Health in Modern Society

Author Affiliations
 

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorDavid H.MorseMS, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media

 

Not Available

 

by James C. Whorton, 315 pp, with illus, $39.95, ISBN 0-19-513581-4, New York, NY, Oxford University Press, 2000

JAMA. 2001;285(7):943-944. doi:10.1001/jama.285.7.943-JBK0221-4-1

The public and health professions' fixation on constipation has never been, well . . . fleeting. Jokes and titters aside, Whorton's scrutiny of constipation illuminates the rich legacy responsible for our continued fascination with intestinal regularity.

Whorton focuses on the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when, as a "civilized" disease, constipation became part of the clarion cry of all who worried about the compromised state of our "inner hygiene." City dwellers, as Whorton shows, were often plagued by difficult, infrequent, or nonexistent bowel movements owing to poor bathroom habits brought on by many characteristics of their urban industrial life. Crowded living conditions, dreadful diets, nervous tensions, and lack of exercise were a few of the features germane to this "unnatural" environment.

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