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In War and Peace, Count Bezukhov's doctors gave him Cream of Tartar after his stroke. What purpose did that serve? I haven't been able to find anything about medical benefits of cream of tartar that seem even vaguely related to this condition; what exactly did they think that giving him that would accomplish?

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Notably this isn't the Count's first stroke. It is, in fact his sixth. Doctors have known for centuries that victims of stroke can become constipated and suffer from fecal impaction as a result of loss of muscular function in the colon. This can become highly painful and ultimately will lead to bowel infection. A small dose of a purgative such as Cream of Tartar (potassium bitartrate) administered with plain water would result in looser stools and less chance of constipation.

Post-stroke constipation prevalence rate in stroke patients is 30-60%.

...

Constipation not only leads to a low quality of life, but also interferes with rehabilitation treatment because of problems in bowel movement control.

Bowel Function in Acute Stroke Patients

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