Colon Cleansing- Curative or Cranky?
Colon cleansing is a fundamental part of any detoxification programme. And if the amount of clutter we carry around in our colons is anything to go by, it could be a good idea. Astonishing as it may seem, it’s estimated that most of us are weighed down by four to five pounds of stagnant and static waste – and that’s in addition to what we pass each day. In some cases, especially in the chronically constipated and in the elderly, a backlog of twenty-five pounds of gunge is, apparently, not unusual.
If you wonder why the debris doesn’t flow naturally away, it’s because it has formed itself firmly into the pockets that make up the colon wall – stuck fast, a bit like black superglue, or, as one American doctor describes it, ‘the consistency of truck-tire rubber’. If allowed to remain, the bowel wall becomes inaccessible to passing nutrients and fluids. And because the population of friendly flora in the gut is reduced or destroyed, the natural defences are depleted. Unfriendly bacteria and toxins are able to penetrate the wall and be reabsorbed into the bloodstream. The result is a condition called autointoxication. The word has nothing to do with being drunk and disorderly but indicates polluted blood and toxic tissues. Lethargy, lack of energy and general malaise are often the first signs of a silted and sluggish bowel.
Naturopathic medicine practitioners believe that many serious diseases begin in the bowel, long before more severe or identifiable symptoms become apparent. Improving function and speeding elimination not only relieves – or, in some cases, clears completely – existing bowel problems but can also act as a prevention against future illness.
But there are still those who disagree. For example, one grey-faced and anally retentive medic sallies blindly and fairly frequently forth with the uninformed and unintelligent sweeping statement ‘bowel cleansing is a complete nonsense’ (Whoops! It’s nonsense again!). And yet he looks as though he himself would benefit from a lengthy course of colonic irrigation.
Anyone who doubts the need to improve colonic health should study the findings of the British surgeon Sir Arbuthnot Lane or the American researcher Dr Bernard Jensen. The intrepid Dr Jensen documented many case histories throughout his career, cataloguing the improvements in each condition as treatment progressed. What is most impressive is that he even took the trouble to photograph and weigh the wastes that exuded from patients who followed his cleansing diet programme. DrJensen records that one particular patient discharged three gallons of hard toxic material after just one treatment.
A study carried out in 1981 by medical researchers at the University of San Francisco showed that toxic substances produced by the bowel can have a profound effect on the health of other parts of the body and may increase the risk of developing cancer, not only of the bowel but also of the breast. In a study of nearly 1500 women, it was found that those who were severely constipated and emptied their bowels less than three times a week had abnormal cells in the fluid extracted from their breast tissue. These abnormalities occurred five times as often as in those women who had daily bowel movements.
One of the greatest benefits of any Detox is that it encourages healthier bowel function. If food-combining principles are also followed in between occasional detox sessions, it is not unusual to expect two or even three daily bowel movements, one for each main meal. As a result, waste matter is released regularly from the intestines and does not get the chance to toxify the blood.
There are several ways of releasing very resistant pockets of waste. One is to swallow a course of special fibre and herbs that gently ease away the build-up and excrete it safely. Fibre and herb products can be used as a separate treatment or in conjunction with colonic irrigation.
Oral colon-cleansing products are usually based on psyllium husk fibre, pectin, herbs, probiotics (friendly gut flora) and, sometimes, linseeds, which are an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fibre. Together, they help to rid the pockets of the large intestine of accumulated matter, encourage a lazy bowel back to life and reinstate beneficial flora. They also assist in cleansing the blood and enhancing liver and kidney function and lymph drainage.
If you decide to try using psyllium husks, linseeds or other sources of fibre that may be unfamiliar to you or that you haven’t tried before, it is better to begin at a very low dose (say, two capsules or a teaspoon only per day) for three or four days. Make absolutely sure that you add extra fluid to your daily intake and then increase the fibre gradually to the quantity recommended on the pack.
Good products include: Biocare Colon Cleansing Capsules, Bioforce Linoforce, Linusit Gold Organic Linseeds, Natural Flow Psyllium Husks and Regular Ten Fibre Supplement.
The other method of cleaning out the colon is to hose it out from below. Colonic irrigation is recommended to anyone suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME), yeast overgrowth, arthritis, psoriasis, eczema, acne, diverticular disease, and also in more serious cases of constipation and colonic impaction. I understand that it has worked well for those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
However, I have found that removal of common allergens from the diet and the introduction of food combining are also effective for this condition. Colonic irrigation is unlikely to be sufficient on its own. Responsible therapists will guide their clients towards healthier eating, increased fluid consumption (especially fresh vegetable juices) and regular exercise. Without these improvements, your inner tubes will soon go back to being foul and fouled up.
So what does a bowel wash-out involve? Even if they have never experienced a treatment, most people have heard of colonic irrigation. Never one to recommend anything that I haven’t tried, I’ve notched up two colonies – so I know the ropes, so to speak.
When you arrive for your appointment, you will be asked to remove undergarments, put on a gown and lie on your side on the couch. Two small disposable tubes are connected to a lubricated nozzle which is then inserted only an inch and a bit into the anus (back passage). Warm filtered water, pumped into the colon through one of the tubes, then passes the length of the large intestine. The water helps to soften and dislodge debris which then comes back, with the now soiled water, and is disposed of through the second tube. Treatment takes from 45 minutes to an hour and most people are recommended to have between two and six treatments. That’s because old faecal matter sticks in the pockets of the colon wall and will not pass out naturally without some encouragement! I know a few enthusiasts who make regular six-monthly appointments as part of a long-term general health-care package.
Let’s look at the pros and cons:
• Colonic irrigation is seen by a number of medics as an unnatural and potentially hazardous practice which, in unskilled hands, could cause perforation of the bowel. The only area where they acknowledge it might be useful is in an elderly person with severe compaction.
To practice colonic therapy requires comprehensive training and is usually only offered to medically qualified practitioners or health professionals with a minimum of two years’ practice experience in an alternative therapy. They all have full professional indemnity insurance and are bound by strict disciplinary codes of practice. It is therefore unlikely that anyone would find themselves ‘in unskilled hands’. However, it is wise to approach a recognised organization to find a suitable therapist.
• Colonic cleansing encourages eating disorders.
It is most certainly true that extended unsupervised food denial can be highly dangerous in the hands of the inexperienced. I am a well-known opponent of calorie reduction and the much-peddled obsession with how many calories a food contains. Persistent on/off low-calorie dieting is much abused but has never been a long-term answer to good health or sensible weight loss. However, there us no evidence of either colonic irrigation or the type of gentle detox described here causing eating disorders.
• Colonic treatment could exacerbate existing inflammation.
Qualified therapists take a detailed health history to enable them to decide whether or not a course of treatment is advisable. It is vital to give the practitioner as much information as possible about any surgical procedures, medical treatments, illnesses and current medication. Anyone with known or suspected bowel disease should approach pressurized colonic treatment with caution.
• Washing the bowel removes all the friendly flora so vital to good health.
The treatment removes both good and bad bacteria. Replacement of the good bacteria, either using an anal implant or probiotic drink, is provided at each treatment. I would ,suggest asking for both the implant and the drink. Author’S note: The protest about damage to beneficial bacteria seems quickly forgotten when the same objectors are issuing prescriptions for antibiotics!
• A high-fibre diet provides the same effect as colonic irrigation and is cheaper than specialist fibre products.
My experience with patients has been that those who rely on wheat bran cereals as their main source of fibre do little to improve the internal health of the colon, often aggravating, rather than relieving, conditions such as IBS and diverticulitis. The results of increasing the intake of wheat bran can be bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain and intermittent diarrhoea and constipation. Wheat is an insoluble fibre which acts as a bulking agent but has no nutritional value. It helps to move recently collected wastes but does little or nothing to loosen old faeces. The exclusive use of insoluble (as opposed to soluble) fibre is now being questioned by some medical researchers. Greater improvements seem to be achieved using other forms of more gentle fibre in conjunction with dietary changes such as those recommended above.