Medicine: By Bulk

Every year the colon-conscious U.S. public spends $100 million on laxatives—the biggest seller, after vitamins, in the drug field. Most of the laxatives people buy and take are intestine-irritating chemicals which many doctors denounce: cascara, aloes, resins, castor oil, phenolphthalein and salts. Such concoctions often aggravate digestive trouble, or start trouble if none exists.

Doctors themselves were mostly to blame for making the U.S. a nation of laxative-takers. A generation ago, they spread the word, with the help of patent-medicine advertisers, that waste matter retained in the colon causes self-poisoning. Current medical belief...

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