In the early part of the 20th century an entrepreneur name Charles A. Tyrrell developed and promoted an enema device called the J.B. L. Cascade (the J.B.L. stood for Joy, Beauty and Life). Mr. Tyrrell (later Dr. Tyrrell; he got a medical degree at age 57) found a ready market for his device – at that time a canvas-covered, rubberized-bag – because of the misbegotten doctrine of autointoxication that was prevalent during the latter part of the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries.
During those years many health practitioners believed that the contents of the colon were highly toxic and could seep through the wall of the colon and cause self-poisoning or autointoxication. It’s kind of easy to see how this notion would arise since the contents of the colon are malodorous and not particularly attractive. No one with a properly functioning brain would want his/her colon contents running wild throughout the body. And the idea that many reasonable people held at that time was that constipation or even mild constipation allowed the ‘putrifying’ feces within the colon (and even the contents of the small intestine) to make its way from the colon into the blood and thence throughout the body.
Highly regarded physicians of the time created medical sounding terms for the condition and the diseases that resulted. Enteroptosis and visceroptosis were the terms used to describe stasis (or ptosis) of the small or large bowel, i.e., constipation. Or at least their idea of constipation. The results of this stasis was the toxic colon contents escaping and the resultant autointoxication, symptoms of which included depression, neurasthenia, fatigue, sinusitis, coated tongue, lassitude, hysteria, anxiety and a host of other common ailments.
The cures for this made up disease ranged from the benign – wrapping the abdomen to increase pressure to enhance evacuation – to the dangerous – complex major surgical procedures to remove ‘kinks’ in the colon thus allowing freer flow of the colonic contents.
This entire idea of autointoxication was, of course, nonsense. And it was nonsense that hasn’t gone away. I still read in the alternative healthcare literature about people who have a multitude of symptoms that have defied diagnosis who end up in the hands of those performing colonic irrigations. The stories often include descriptions of agglomerated masses of old capsules and other medications that are washed out along with the feces during the procedure. And in these tales the patients often recall that they took those medications years before, which, of course, means that they had been there caught up somehow in the colon poisoning the patient. During my surgery days I was involved in a lot of colonic surgeries for cancers, gun shot wounds, stabbings, abscesses, etc. and all the colons I saw were pink and smooth. Just the law of averages would require that here and there I would have found one with a pocket of putrified masses of old pills or whatever, but I never did. Now in the days of routine colonoscopy it would seem that if these pockets existed they would be found and reported on often. But they never are.
In days of old, however, these ideas were prevalent, even in the minds of people who should have known better.
One of the most common treatments for visceroptosis and its resultant autoinoxication was the enema. And here enters our tale of the good Mr. then Dr. Tyrrell.
Charles A. Tyrrell was a Brit who came to the United States in 1880, and after six years in New York suffered an attack of ‘paralysis’ which resulted in his admission to Bellevue Hospital where his condition worsened. He was moved to St. Vinvent’s Hospital where he was, in his words, “given up for dead.” While ‘dying’ there he read a treatise by a Dr. Wilford Hall extolling the virtues of the enema for treating virtually anything that might ail one. Tyrrell apparently had the tube up his rear in a heartbeat and soon recovered his health.
A few years and many enemas later, Tyrrell founded Tyrrell’s Hygenic Institute, a company in New York that manufactured and sold emema products for home use. In 1894 he published a book titled The Royal Road to Health (click here for a full-text version) that excerpted Dr. Wilford Halls book and quoted heavily from a surgeon named Henry Turner, who claimed that after his examination of countless bowels he was of the opinion that all disease arose from constipation and decaying and putrid fecal matter.
Tyrrell’s J.B.L Cascade device held five quarts of water and differed from the standard enema bag in that the Cascade had its nozzle protruding from the center of the bag, which was designed to be sat upon using the body’s weight instead of gravity to propel the fluid into the colon. Below is a picture of a modern version that is still sold today. And below that is a picture of one in use in the event any readers have little imagination.
Tyrrell promoted his device tirelessly using ads in all kinds of publications and numerous customer testimonials. Here are a few that are typical.
Wrote Professor Arnoux
I bought one of your ‘Cascades against the advice from my physician. I am delighted with it.
Byron Cool said:
When our daughter was married, among the wedding presents, we included a J.B.L. Cascade outfit.
I would love to have seen the thank you note for that gift.
An Elizabeth Towne from Massechusetts wrote:
Why doesn’t everybody throw physic to the dogs and syringes to the junk man and use the ‘J.B.L. Cascade’?
And my favorite. A Mr. George Nutting writes
…a little over a year ago my house took fire in the middle of the night, and my wife, without as much as putting on her clothes, took the ‘Cascade’ under her arm the first thing, and started to leave the house without stopping to gather her clothes or valuables. I had the laugh on her later for it, but she said she valued the ‘Cascade’ more than anything else she had.
Through the years Tyrrell sold countless Cascades and became wealthy in the process. His relentlessly promoted ideas that constipation and autointoxication were the birth right of man and that a good enema (preferably with his contraption) could cure most anything were commonly held by many educated people until relatively recently. When I was a little kid staying with my grandparents and got sick or even acted like I might be sick, my grandmother hogged me down in a trice and filled me full of soapy water. And I always got well, or at least quit complaining.
Tyrrell’s immense success caught the eye of the medical authorities of the time, who, though still believers in autointoxication, felt that the enema wasn’t the proper treatment and verged on quackery. The American Medical Association (AMA) formed the Propaganda Department in 1906. (I guess at that time they called things what they really were. Alas the name was later changed to the Bureau of Investigation.) The Department took out after Dr. Tyrrell (he had received an M.D. from the Eclectic Institute in 1900) and wrote an article published in JAMA in 1912 that basically accused him of charlatanism and quackery. The AMA sent a copy to anyone who wrote asking about Tyrrell or his device.
The JAMA article was correct of course, but what I find interesting is that at the same time Tyrrell was making his outrageous claims as to the efficacy of his device and the enema in the treatment of autointoxication there were surgeons who were treating the same ‘disease’ with major surgery and no one at the AMA batted an eye.
One such surgeon, Willaim A. Lane, M.D., treated more than 1000 people by performing colectomies on them. A colectomy is the removal of the colon, major surgery indeed. Why didn’t the AMA bother with Dr. Lane? Because as reported in an article in the Journal of the History of Medicine he
was well-educated and conventionally trained, and he specialized in surgery. Like his orthodox colleagues, he was a part of a community that spoke the same clinical language, was familiar with a general pool of knowledge, subscribed to similar values, and strove for common goals. Lane’s versatility was such that he devised useful techniques for the treatment of fractures, harelip, and cleft palate, and infections of the mastoid.
Along with these accomplishments Lane believed that fecal retention caused disease. He felt that kinks in the large bowel, named Lane’s Links after him, caused the backup of bowel contents and the resultant autointoxication. He performed most of his 1000 colectomies on women because
he ascribed women’s perceived mental shortcomings and overall poor health not to the more popular nineteenth-century reproductive organs and gynecological etiologies, but to the causitive culprit of [intestinal] stasis.
So we have Lane and Tyrrell, both of whom profited from their treatment of a non-existant disease. One of whom (Tyrrell) promoted a fairly benign treatment, the other (Lane) who promoted a treatment attendant with much danger and many long-term consequences, yet the latter is embraced by the orthodox medical community while the former is scorned.
Things haven’t changed much today. I can think of two situations right now that are similar to the Tyrrell-Lane situation.
Unlike autointoxication, obesity is a real disease causing considerable morbidity and mortality. We have a perfectly good and benign way of treating it. It’s called the low-carbohydrate diet. And we have a way of treating it that is fraught with immediate peril and serious long-term consequences. That method is called gastric bypass surgery. Which one do you think the orthodox medical establishment believes in as the proper treatment for the morbidly obese and which one do you think is scorned as a fad?
One other is a treatment called insulin potentiation therapy (IPT) for cancer. Cancer cells by their makeup are glucose dependent. In other words, they need glucose to survive and grow, and they gobble it in huge amounts. Standard orthodox chemotherapy treats cancers by bombarding them with toxic drugs designed to kill the fast-growing malignant cells. Problem with this standard therapy is that these toxic drugs kill all of the fast growing cells, which include hair follicles and gastric mucosa to name just a couple. People who undergo chemotherapy lose their hair and are violently nauseated, not to mention seriously fatigued to the point of total debilitation. But that’s the price one pays to kill the cancer with orthodox chemotherapy.
Practitioners of IPT use the fact that cancer cells require large amounts of glucose against them. Physicians treat patients with cancers with IPT using the same chemotherapy drugs that orthodox practitioners use, but in much lower doses. Doses that are only 10-15 percent as much as the standard dose. These lower doses typically don’t cause the loss of hair, severe nausea and total exhaustion that the orthodox doses do. How do practitioners get away with these lower doses? By using insulin to reduce blood sugar and make the cancers more susceptible to the drugs. Here’s how it works.
Practitioners start IVs on their patients undergoing IPT and infuse the appropriate dose of insulin. They then administer the chemotherapeutic drugs when blood sugar levels are lowered enough to weaken the cancer. After a time the doctor infuses glucose bringing the blood sugar back to normal. During the time that the blood sugar is low and the cancer has no food to gobble, the effectiveness of the drugs is greatly enhanced allowing them to be used in much lower doses while achieving the same therapeutic effect. IPT doesn’t always work, but neither does orthodox chemotherapy.
But orthodox chemotherapy is regarded by most of the medical profession and certainly by the academicians as the only reputable way to go despite the huge morbidity it causes along with the lack of efficacy in many, many cases. These same people regard IPT despite it’s being grounded in science as pure quackery.
Besides these two there are many other examples out there showing us that the Tyrrel-Lane syndrome exists today. The take-home message is that just because the mainstream medical practitioners and the ivory tower folks are pushing something doesn’t mean that it’s the way to go. Many women who believed in orthodox medicine in the early 1900s and happened to live in the area where William Lane practiced ended up minus their colons.