While it is generally recognized that the use of cathartics tends to aggravate chronic constipation, it is none the less true that all too often mercurials and the vegetable purgatives are made the first resort in this condition. In part at least, this is because of carelessness in ascertaining the cause and a more or less confused idea of the rational basis for treatment. Chronic constipation may accompany or be a symptom of some general organic or functional morbid process, or it may exist as an independent affection. Inability of the bowel to empty itself depends of course on a disturbance of some part of the mechanism involved in defecation. The essential physiology of the impulse to defecation and the factors on which it depends are but imperfectly understood. A certain rhythmical periodicity as well as a fairly definite acceleration by taking food into the stomach are somewhat characteristic.
REED AC. CHRONIC CONSTIPATION. JAMA. 1912;LVIII(14):997–998. doi:10.1001/jama.1912.04260040013005