Colonics & Detox
Medical professionals say that the body comes well-equipped with its own built-in mechanisms to eliminate harmful substances: the liver and kidneys.
This statement alone makes colon cleansing done to help remove toxins an unnecessary and potentially dangerous practice, especially colon hydrotherapy.
“Every week, someone asks me whether colon cleansing is safe and whether a person should be doing it,” said Dr. Jacqueline Wolf, a gastroenterologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and the author of “A Woman’s Guide to a Healthy Stomach” (Harlequin, 2011).
Colon cleansing with laxatives, herbal formulations or enemas might increase a person’s risk of becoming dehydrated if the individual does not drink enough fluids, Wolf said.
Some herbal cleanses have also been linked with liver toxicity and aplastic anemia, a rare blood disorder.
Case reports suggest colon hydrotherapy may cause abdominal cramping, stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. More severe complications may include bowel perforation, serious infections, electrolyte imbalances, kidney problems and heart failure.
People with gastrointestinal problems, such as Crohn’s disease (a condition involving inflammation in the GI tract), ulcerative colitis (which involves inflammation in the large intestine), and recurrent diverticulitis (where a person develops inflamed pouches in the wall of the colon) should always avoid colonics because these individuals already have trouble maintaining fluid balance in their bodies.
Trillions of bacteria live in the colon, and eliminating them or changing the population of beneficial and harmful bacteria in that organ could be a problem.
According to Wolf, “a colon cleanse would never get rid of all the bacteria, but research is increasingly finding that a lot of bacteria in the colon is very healthy.” Some of the good colon bacteria play a role in keeping bad bacteria at bay.
The real problem with colon cleaning is that toxins don’t build up in the colon, so there’s actually nothing to cleanse. However, what you DO wash away can definitely make you sick. Since it will remove beneficial bacteria in your gut flora.
In fact, the only reasons for which the FDA approves colon hydrotherapy devices that use fluids to cleanse the colon are medical needs such as to clean out the colon before a radiological exam, or colonoscopy, or for constipation.
How the Boom Started
Colon cleansing dates back to ancient Egypt and the belief that intestinal waste can poison the body. This concept was also kept during the medieval times in Europe, where the four bodily humors were blamed as the root of all disease.
Up to the end of the 19th century some doctors still took this idea seriously, and gave it the name of autointoxication; and, of course, they prescribed enemas and other forms of cleansing.
And this is how a new industry of spas where one could have various liquid concoctions squirted up the rectum came to life and grew.
Now, by the early 20th century autointoxication was proven ineffective. It was confirmed that there’s no biological mechanism to enable toxins to be absorbed through the colon into the blood, and on top of that surgeries and autopsies didn’t reveal any fecal accumulation. Finally, colon cleansing was relegated to the realm of quackery.
Then came the era of the Internet — which has been great for a lot of things, but devastating in other fields — where so-called natural and ancient cures with no scientific background came back to life.
So, as remarkable as it is to pursue having a clean body and mind, a colon cleanse is definitely not the answer to get rid of the things that might be harming you while leaving in place the ones that can help you thrive.