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Mon., Feb. 27, 2012, 10:49 a.m.

Phosphate enemas killing older people

From Reuters Health: Sodium phosphate enemas, used to relieve constipation, may cause older people to suffer kidney failure or even die, a new report suggests.The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, focuses on a group of 11 patients, ranging in age from 61 years old to 89 years old, whose kidneys suddenly shut down after using enemas containing sodium phosphate.

I know. It's easy to make fun of this news. But an interesting historical note makes this more interesting and more dangerous than you might imagine. Ask any oldster in your life from the Depression and World War II era and they will tell you enema stories. The enema practice (and drinking cod liver oil) were in vogue for children of those generations, thinking that proper "elimination" each day was essential to children's heath.

"At the beginning of the 20th century, scientists established that cod liver oil was antirachitic, and it became commonplace for mothers to give it to their children," according to Medscape News.

For some, the enemas became a habit begun in childhood by well-meaning but misguided parents. Combine the habit with the reality that as people age "almost all old people will become obsessed with their bowel movements at one time or another," according to Kathy Quan, nurse and aging expert in this article.

So if you have oldsters in your life, warn them. 

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Spokesman-Review features writer Rebecca Nappi, along with writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., discuss here issues facing aging boomers, seniors and those experiencing serious illness, dying, death and other forms of loss.