30.06.2009 Health & Fitness

What Are The Benefits Of Colon Cleansing?

By Daily Graphic
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Dear Mirror Doctor,

Recently, I have noticed certain treatment being advertised in the news media. One such treatment is the colon therapy or colon cleansing which is said to be the removal of toilet from our body.

Please doctor, I am really baffled why someone would go to a place to have their toilet removed. Kindly explain this to me. What are the dangers of such a treatment? What are the benefits of this treatment? How often should this treatment be done? Is it expensive?

Bukari, Accra

Dear Bukari,

Recently, a number of treatment modalities have been bandied about which a lot of people are practising. Some examples are water therapy and colon therapy among others. Colon cleansing or colon therapy encompasses a number of alternative medical therapies intended to remove faecal waste and unidentified toxins from the colon and intestinal tract.

Colon cleansing may take the form of colon hydrotherapy, also called colonics or colonic irrigation or oral cleansing regimens.

The large intestine is the last part of the digestive system. The large intestine consists of the caecum, colon, rectum and terminates into the anus. The colon is a continuous hollow tube that is approximately five feet long and two to three inches in diameter.

Food is not broken down any further in the large intestine.

The large intestine functions to absorb water from the remaining indigestible food matter, and sodium to maintain electrolyte balance in the body. It also compacts faeces, and stores faecal matter in the rectum until eliminated through the anus.

The large intestine also absorbs vitamins that are created by the bacteria inhabiting the colon. The large intestine houses over 700 species of bacteria that perform a variety of functions.

These bacteria also produce large amounts of vitamins, especially vitamin K and Biotin (a B vitamin), for absorption into the blood. Although this source of vitamins generally provides only a small part of the daily requirement, it makes a significant contribution when dietary vitamin intake is low.

An individual who depends on absorption of vitamins formed by bacteria in the large intestine may become vitamin deficient if treated with antibiotics that inhibit other species of bacteria as well as the disease-causing bacteria.

It is estimated that over 50 million Americans have problems with their digestive tract, making it a very common problem. The high stressed lives we live these days mean we do not have time to get the proper exercise, eat the proper foods and watch our health.This has led to problems with defecation.

People who travel a lot do not defecate properly and therefore have a lot of waste build up in their body. Waste build up leads to impacted faecal matter and mechanical distension of the bowel, which produce symptoms such as headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, bloating, passing lots of gas and irritability.

Toxins from putrefying food build up over time and the excess faecal matter may put pressure on internal organs. This pressure can slow the natural muscle movement of the colon, leading to constipation and the accumulation of toxic waste in the bowels.

Proper colon care is, therefore, necessary in avoiding constipation, gas and bloating, lack of energy and even colon cancer.

These problems can eventually lead to more serious health issues like irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, diarrhoea, weight problems, vision problems, haemorrhoids, joint pains, vision problems, loss of memory and sinusitis.

Colon cleansing generally sounds like a good way to clear toxins from the body. Colon cleansing removes these toxins, thus promoting healthy intestinal bacteria, boosting your energy and enhancing your immune system.

While doctors prescribe colon cleansing as preparation for medical procedures such as colonoscopy, most don't recommend it for detoxification.

The reasoning is that the digestive system and bowel naturally eliminate waste material and bacteria, and the body doesn't need enemas or special diets or pills to do this.

The bowel itself is not dirty and barring drugs or disease cleans itself naturally without any need for assistance.

Methods which one can use to cleanse the colon include colon hydrotherapy, laxatives, colonic fasting diets, oxygen based cleansers and other nutritional supplements.

Colon hydrotherapy involves the introduction of filtered water into the colon through the anus to get rid of waste with the assistance of a machine. The benefits of colon hydrotherapy all originate from removing stored wastes from the colon.

Proponents of colon irrigating attest to the following benefits. Colon irrigation removes the wastes such as insoluble fibre, irritants and allergy triggers from the large intestine. Colonic irrigation introduces large amounts of water into the colon.

The large amount of water introduced into the colon leads the mechanical cleansing of the bowel which dislodges any faecal matter that has dried up on the mucosal layer and is causing reduced lubrication in the bowel.

This is believed to repair the bowel wall. Removing wastes helps the bowel muscle to restore healthy horizontal and vertical mobility and promotes better peristaltic conditions. This leads to proper bowel function and bowel regularity.

Colon irrigation helps to rehydrate the bowel. It is presumed that the colon absorbs water which is introduced into the bowel for irrigation, particularly if we are dehydrated.

Dehydration results from changes in nutritional habits; eating of lots of processed foods, drinking sweet and fizzy drinks instead of water, and drinking vast amounts of alcohol on a regular basis.

Colonic irrigation helps replace digestants and rebalance the bowel flora. An imbalanced diet will also lead to an imbalanced bacteria make-up. Colonics help in flushing out bad bacteria (at times with the good ones) and with good diet and intake of probiotic supplements help restore the normal flora of the bowel.

Colonics rebuild the bowel-brain connection. The brain-bowel connection is something everyone is aware of. Diarrhoea on the night before an important exam is quite common.

This is all part of the 'fight or flight' mechanism that regulates our response to danger. About 95 per cent of serotonin, the neurotransmitter better known as the mood regulator, is stored in the bowel.

So in a way, our bowel functions determine our mood. Thus, good bowel movements make us feel good. It is thought that Colonics can change people lives, but only if they are ready for the change.

Many people seeing how much waste their body is able to store, are awed. Watching the wastes being washed away makes you feel good and clean.

They decide there and then to change their diet for the better, to exercise more and never again allow their body amass so much rubbish. This is to “re-educate the owner of the bowel”.

While there is little scientific evidence to support or refute the benefits of colon cleansing, critics say it's generally unnecessary and at times may even be harmful.One concern with colon cleansing is that it can increase your risk of dehydration.

A potentially more serious concern is that certain laxatives used in colon cleansing, such as those with sodium phosphate, can cause a rise in electrolytes, which can be dangerous if one has a kidney disease or heart disease.

The equipment used during colon cleansing can cause damage to the rectum if the operator is not skilled. Re-use and improperly sterilised equipment can lead to an infection notably amoebiasis.

Frequent colon cleansing may interfere with the proper functioning of the colon and can lead to dependence on laxatives or enemas to defecate. Some herbs used may also interact with or reduce the effectiveness of prescription drugs.

Bukari, personally, I have witnessed a situation where a patient with spurious diarrhoea had to have his faeces removed manually. I guess this person and others with problems moving the bowel will benefit from colon cleansing.

If done at the right place and by an expert, one should be safe. Once a year, colon cleansing should be of benefit.

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