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Colonic Hydrotherapy

Colonic hydrotherapy involves the slow and gentle introduction of water into the colon under low pressure and controlled temperature. This water is massaged around the colon to enable encrusted faecal matter to be released from the bowel wall, and to be expelled down a waste tube. It does not involve any unpleasant odours, nor a lot of running to the toilet (as enemas inevitably do).

Colonics do not involve any unpleasant odours, nor a lot of running to the toilet (as enemas inevitably do).

A good colonic treatment should enable cleansing of the entire colon as far as the ileo-caecal valve (where the small intestine joins with the colon), and can take anywhere between 30 to 40 minutes depending on the state of the colon in question. However it must be emphasized that a single colonic will not usually suffice to clear the colon completely.

During the treatment herbs, coffee or blue-green algae may be introduced to the colonic water to enhance the cleansing process to help cleanse the liver, or encourage the bowel to eliminate better or to help heal the bowel wall.

The rationale for regular 'house-cleaning' of our bodies is not difficult to understand and is a fundamental tenet of natural therapeutics. Our bodies are not designed to function in an environment of chronic toxemia, where our blood becomes so overladen with toxic materials that its appearance even changes. None of the cells in our bodies can function efficiently when the fluid they are bathed in is full of toxic waste products, and contains low levels of nutrients they require.

...none of the cells in our bodies can function efficiently when the fluid they are bathed in is full of toxic waste products.

In today's modern western world, our bodies rarely get a break from this constant onslaught; often not even when we are ill (and the body attempts to throw off a large part of its toxic burden). Every 'wild' animal other than 'civilised' human beings instinctively fasts when ill; this almost always leads to an uneventful and rapid recovery. Instead in our wisdom we attempt to suppress the symptoms of illness rather than let nature take its rightful course. Symptom suppression can be likened to silencing the fire alarm rather than putting out the fire.

Symptom suppression can be likened to silencing the fire alarm rather than putting out the fire.

When colonics are combined with other modalities of treatment such as nutritional and lifestyle advice and herbal medicine to help the body's own natural healing processes take over, the results can be extremely powerful. Colonics are a highly effective method of kick-starting natural detoxification processes. In fact no detoxification program is truly effective (though you may feel better) if the state of the bowel is not addressed. The bowel is the primary organ of elimination in the body—though it is so often neglected.

History

Colonic hydrotherapy has been practiced in many forms for thousands of years and there are references to it in the Bible. The oldest known written reference comes from ancient Egypt and has been dated before 1500 BC. In those times reeds were used to introduce water into the rectum to encourage elimination. No doubt various herbal concoctions were also utilized. However colonic hydrotherapy in its many various forms has probably been used since the dawn of humankind.

Difference between colonic and an enema

Colonics inevitably allow for a far deeper level of bowel cleansing than enemas can. For a start, colonics introduce water into the entire length of the colon, whereas enemas are generally only filling a small part. Because the contact time with continuously flowing water is greater, there is a far higher level of 'detoxification' and disencrustation of the colon during colonic.

The colon is a lot more than a storage receptacle for faecal waste and an organ where water and electrolyte balancing goes on. The colon is the body's sewerage system and recycling plant built into one.

Billions of both friendly and potentially pathogenic organisms inhabit the colon, and provide some of the colon's more important functions. These include: the detoxification of undigested (and some digested) waste products, the manufacture of certain vitamins (namely vitamin K and some B vitamins, and no doubt others), and protection of the gut mucosa by direct competition against pathogenic microbes and yeasts.

Many substances synthesised in the liver (such as bile constituents) are recycled by reabsorption in the colon to be resecreted again and again. This is but one example; in fact most substances secreted are reabsorbed in order to be recycled to some extent, often even toxic substances. Colonics enable these toxic materials to be physically removed from the body and thus are a vital component of any detoxification program. It also pushes the liver to manufacture de novo bile substances, recycling new sources of body cholesterol and bile salts.

Why is colonic hydrotherapy necessary?

With the startling increase in colon cancer—which is currently second most prevalent cancer killer in both sexes—dealing with this unpalatable area is essential to both alternative and orthodox practitioners alike. Colon cleansing is highly unlikely to cure an existing neoplasm on its own, but like all good medicine, prevention is better than cure. In removing toxic encrusted faecal matter, direct irritation to the colon mucosa is vastly reduced, and a large toxic burden is lifted from the other organs of elimination and detoxification—in particular the liver and kidneys.

The neoplastic process takes considerable time to develop however and may well be one long-term consequence of prolonged toxic loading of the body, and poor dietary habits. There are plenty of theories about neoplastic development, but it is generally confirmed even in orthodox gastro-enterology that constipation and stagnation within the colon are risk factors for neoplasia.

There are no simple answers in this complex field, however what all practitioners are aware of is that exposure to carcinogens will increase the risk. Anything which can be used to preventatively encourage bodily detoxification and to reduce the impact of toxins and carcinogens on the body can only benefit the patient and increase their state of health long-term. Colonic therapists will usually advise on diet and methods of encouraging good gastro-intestinal health.

On a less sinister note, colonics have powerful effects on reducing chronic constipation: relieving the symptoms of IBS (especially in association with dietary change), treating Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, candida overgrowth, relieving many functional disorders of the colon, reducing allergies/sensitivities both to foods and to external triggers, reducing asthma symptoms, relieving haemorrhoids (via reduced constipation and liver congestion), treatment of 'leaky gut syndrome', reducing fluid retention and abdominal bloating, relief of menstrual irregularities and PMS symptoms, and many others.

Effects of the treatment

There are so many benefits felt by patients as a result of colonic therapy, they are too long to list here. It is also important to remember (so often and so easily forgotten) that how the colon behaves is down to: what goes in ones mouth, the state of ones nervous and vascular systems and many other internal, external and genetic factors. Colonic hydrotherapy is a tool and not an end in itself, though it is extremely effective in achieving what it aims to do, and often has many side-benefits.

Diet and colon health

The colon is a vitally important and often neglected part of the GI tract. There is a common misconception that the bowel is a self-cleansing organ. However, this is the case only when we eat a diet that evolution has destined for us: mostly fruit and vegetables, with occasional cereals (as whole grains, not flour), legumes, meat or fish. Dietary reality is far from this ideal, and has ensured that our bowels do get 'clogged up', especially considering the negligible amounts of fibre that most people consume.

The large amounts of animal protein, dairy products, processed foods and wheat, which make up the staples in a high percentage of the population, all ensure that our digestion is sluggish, difficult, and highly mucus forming. Most people further compound this problem by poor food combinations which further aggravates their digestion and the toxic load on their bodies from the food they consume.

Indeed as colonic therapists, one of the things that we aim to remove from patients' intestines has been termed 'mucoid plaque'. This is a build up of mucus which hardens—partially due to chronic dehydration—and gets encrusted with both digested and undigested food. Without a regular intake of fibre, this layer builds up and has been seen to become like a thick black tarry substance that adheres to the gut wall. This coating predictably does not favour a physiological exchange of nutrients, electrolytes and water through the wall of the bowel. It does however favour the propagation of pathogenic bacteria, yeasts and parasites in the bowel, all of which secrete toxins that are taken to the liver for detoxification.

Many people can 'handle' this toxic load, though they are not necessarily healthy, merely symptom-free. In any case, their livers are doing far more work than they should be, which inevitably has long-term consequences on both their livers (and other organs of elimination) and their general health.

One consequence of this build-up of impacted faeces and mucoid plaque is that the colon becomes stretched and distorted, leading to formation of pockets in the bowel and to abnormal positioning of the colon within the abdominal cavity. Once formed, these pockets are largely self-perpetuating and will get gradually worse in the course of time unless something is done about it. Diverticular disease is often the eventual outcome.

A combination of dietary change and colonic hydrotherapy, along with manipulative or soft tissue work to both the bowel directly as well as to the spine will allow the colon to re-normalise its positioning and capacity given time. There are no short cuts to enable this; a problem that has taken decades to develop will not be resolved overnight.

Dr Bernard Jensen showed that to cleanse the bowel effectively by nutritional means alone can easily take a year or more on strict diets. The same results can be achieved in 3-6 colonics following a much less intensive dietary regimen.

Colon flora and probiotics

It has been shown that on average between 30 and 70% of the dry weight of excreted faeces is bacterial; this gives some idea as to the numbers that live in our gut and to their propagation rate. It has been mooted that in a normal colon, there are more bacteria than there are cells in the entire body!

Everybody's natural flora is different and is dependent on many factors, the most important of which are dietary habits and genetic make-up. The important thing is to maintain a balance of friendly bacteria and yeasts, which outweigh the numbers of potential pathogens. Over 500 different strains of bacteria alone have been found to reside in the gut: some are transient organisms that we ingest with our food, some our residential flora which are essential to good health. Balance in our microflora is the key to good colon health.

Studies by Dr Bernard Jensen and various microbiologists have shown that the typical American colon contains an average of 80% unfriendly bacteria and 20% friendly bacteria—a healthy colon should have the opposite ratios of 80% friendly organisms. We are no doubt not very different in the UK, as most people's dietary practices do not differ substantially to those in America (a little less red meat and processed foods possibly).

All micro-organisms rely on food sources to propagate and multiply; much of the toxic encrusted faecal material in our colons provides an ideal growth medium for pathogenic bacteria. Remove the growth medium and these bacteria either die or stop reproducing at the rate they do, allowing friendly bacteria to dominate colon flora again, and live in a healthy symbiotic relationship with their 'host'.

Effect of colonics on liver function

Colonics have a direct impact on the liver. This is due to the direct communication between the liver and the digestive tract through the portal circulation. All of the products of digestion with the exception of some of the breakdown products of fats pass through the portal vein to the liver for initial processing. This also of course includes noxious substances from the digestive tract. If the colon and small intestine are heavily encrusted with toxic old faecal matter, frequently composed largely of decaying animal protein in Westerners, the toxic load on the liver is vastly increased.

The liver has an enormous capacity to handle toxic load if it is functioning correctly and has not been previously damaged and compromised. However when it has compromised function which will happen almost inevitably in the west with our poor nutritional status and high toxic environmental load, its ability to detoxify all of these substances is inevitably reduced. The effect is increased hepatic and gastro-intestinal toxicity, eventually potentially leading to cellular damage to the liver itself. This can be occurring at sub clinical levels for some time gradually compromising function.

Most elements of phase 2 detoxification are largely nutrient dependent, so one can imagine how easily general body toxicity can rise with low nutrient content produce and high gastro-intestinal toxic load. This load then inevitably spills over into the bloodstream as the liver is unable to clear it as it passes through the hepatic tissue.

Effects of colonics on the blood

As this overspill effect occurs, concentrations of toxins circulating and remaining in the bloodstream rise, causing damage and interfering with normal cellular function and signal transduction. These toxic substances will have all manner of effects on the blood itself, from viscosity changes, to change in microscopic appearance.

Colonics by reducing the load vastly on the liver can permit the liver to work within its physiological limits, and within the limits of its clearance rate (typically up to 95% on first pass if the liver is working optimally). In reducing this load to within these clearance rate limits there will be a knock on effect on reduction of blood borne toxicity, with those circulating toxins being gradually eliminated largely by the kidneys and on subsequent passes back through the liver.

The liver having detoxified most of these substances then secretes them along with the bile to be eliminated through the bowel. Many of the bile constituents are recycled later in the digestive tract, and inevitably some of the toxic residues will also be reabsorbed.

Colonics help to remove some of the bile from the body preventing its recycling, and therefore encourage the liver to manufacture new bile. It also ensures that those residues are actually eliminated from the colon. Colonics also remove all the old encrusted faecal plaque in the colon; vast amounts of anecdotal evidence have shown both the health improvements as well as improvements to general well-being.

--Debbie Laniado, Naturopath, DIP.Herb (C.N.M)

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