Colon Cleansing: 101
Colon cleansing or detoxification, which has been documented to exist as early as 14th century B.C., has become a key part of holistic health care for many people taking an alternative route. Trillions of bacteria exist in the colon, often overpopulated by the "bad" strains due to the excessive contaminants in our food, air and water. By eliminating these toxins, many people report an improvement or elimination of diseases and disorders (many of which are bowel related) such as constipation, allergies, arthritis, insomnia, IBS, stress, skin health, hemorrhoids, headaches, arthritis, asthma, chronic fatigue and even cancer. Some health experts have called the gut the second brain as it contains more than 100 million neurons, more than the human brain itself. Although not generally supported by conventional doctors, those who regularly detox through colon cleansing as well as juice fasts, raw food, infrared saunas and herbal methods continually report great results for their overall health, energy and clarity of mind.
The three most common types of colon cleansing methods are coffee enemas, wheatgrass/juice enemas and colonics.
Coffee enemas were part of conventional medicine up until the 1960’s. However, when pharmaceutical treatments became the preferred path in medicine, they lost their position as an effective and natural health protocol. Now almost 60 years later, people are returning to this earlier method and rediscovering its numerous health benefits. Coffee enemas in particular have been noted to play an important role in cancer treatment among the many other benefits colon cleansing provides.
The way this enema works is the caffeine stimulates the bile ducts to open, awakening the nerves in the lower bowel and subsequently causing the liver to release toxins. As the caffeine is retained in the bowel for 12-15 minutes, the body’s blood passes through the liver every 3 minutes, lowering blood serum toxins. There has been some controversy related to the potential acidic effect of caffeine absorption, however proponents say that it doesn’t absorb into the body in the same way as coffee you drink. As long as the enema is done correctly with the proper amount of coffee (organic coffee, rich in antioxidants and made with non-bleached filters) and lower bowel placement of the enema bag, the coffee remains in the sigmoid colon where it will not be absorbed.
Wheatgrass Enemas or "Implants"
For those who have access to wheatgrass juice, this type of enema provides a great alternative to the coffee enema without any potential side effects related to the caffeine. Wheatgrass is not only an equally effective stimulant, it also contains over 90 trace minerals and nutrients, which is extremely nourishing for the body and liver. The chlorophyll in wheatgrass is almost identical to the red blood cell molecule, which allows it to magnetize bacteria, toxins, heavy metals, etc. and effectively eliminate them from the body, while also oxygenating the body and supplying energy.
These types of enemas are called implants because the wheat grass juice is administered after a filtered water enema cleanse. Following the water application, 3-4 ounces of pure, raw organic wheatgrass is implanted into the rectum and held for 20 minutes (utilizing the same method as the water enema). This also provides the added benefit of replacing the colon with good bacteria and nourishment following the elimination of bad bacteria from the water cleanse, which is done first.
Colonics, also known as colon hydrotherapy or colon irrigation, is another system of colon cleansing that in conventional medicine is usually reserved for patients undergoing a colonoscopy or for those with a case of chronic constipation. However, many alternative practitioners say that it can be very beneficial for removing built up fecal matter that can prevent the absorption of water and nutrients, allow harmful bacteria growth and make it easy for toxins to get absorbed into the bloodstream via the colon wall. Advocates also say that it can improve muscle tone, prevent constipation and heal a number of ailments (as outlined above) related to the health of the bowel.
A colonic is administered by a trained professional, utilizing an irrigation system that infuses warm, filtered water into the colon to cleanse the large intestine. This is different from the enema, which only cleanses the lower bowel and can be administered at home utilizing a store-bought enema kit.
Regardless of which method you choose to go with, it’s important that you consult with your doctor beforehand to ensure that there are no risks associated with your current state of health. Also remember to supplement with a probiotic following a colon cleanse to reintroduce good bacteria into the digestive tract.
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 Mercola, J. (2008). Show toxins the door and optimize health (Web). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdkdZ3QVGPs
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 Wong, C. (2012, Setempber 18). What is a colonic? Retrieved from http://curezone.com/art/read.asp?ID=28&db=5&C0=818
Kara wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Food & Nutrition.