The benefits of colon cleansing

Posted by Carlos Mandeiro on

Most natural health practitioners (such as herbalists, naturopaths, nutritionists etc) agree that many modern day health conditions and, in particular, digestive complaints are caused (or at least contributed to) by years of poor diet. Regularly eating processed and refined foods (i.e. ”junk foods”), combined with a lack of vitamins and minerals, could cause a build-up of toxins in the body. This accumulation of toxins can in turn wreak havoc on the immune system and the body’s internal cleanse and detox capabilities.

Modern medicine has brought drug treatments to address specific symptoms of those health issues. Most natural health practitioners believe however that the key to alleviating digestive system issues for the long-term is to address the underlying causes of such symptoms. This is typically done via a sensible change in diet and, if necessary, lifestyle.

The digestive tract is the site of nutrient absorption and waste elimination. It can also be a breeding ground for bad bacteria and other harmful pathogens, particularly where constipation and fermentation are present (see below). This can lead to various issues (which may include infections, food intolerances, imbalances…). Failure to address those issues might make it more difficult (if not impossible) to improve other aspects of health, such as digestion, immunity and even weight loss. In the short-term, it can thus be of benefit to cleanse the colon.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and toxic build-up

IBS (also previously referred to as “spastic colon”) is the generic term for a group of symptoms affecting the digestive system where the precise cause is unknown. One of the symptoms is bloating; others include bouts of diarrhoea and/or constipation, as well as inflammation of the bowel.

When the digestive tract become clogged or stagnant, it can cause toxins to leak into the bloodstream. This can put the other internal organs under a lot pressure. When toxin levels become too high and the body cannot eliminate these anymore, detoxification programmes and particularly colon cleansing can be a helpful tool.

These toxins can cause a wide range of symptoms such as:

• Fatigue
• Headache
• Weight gain
• Low energy

Constipation and fermentation

A range of lifestyle factors can result in the digestive system being placed under recurring strain. This can lead to an inefficient digestive process, partially digested food, fermentation and putrefaction of that food in the gut and finally the production of gases leading to bloating and wind. Ultimately, excessive flatulence and bloating is a sign that food is not being digested properly by the body.

One of the most common effects of a digestive system under strain or functioning poorly is chronic constipation - generally defined as experiencing fewer than 1 - 3 bowel motions per day on average. If constipation is present and waste is allowed to sit in the colon for a prolonged period of time, it provides the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and can lead to the re-absorption of toxins into the bloodstream. One of the symptoms of a system overloaded with toxins is bloating.

About the colon

To better understand the operation of the colon, it's important to note that the digestive tract is the set of organs in the body through which food and liquids pass when they are swallowed, digested and eliminated. These organs include the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, rectum and anus. The large intestine is made up of the colon and the rectum and is crucial for waste excretion, water and minerals absorption. It has a microbiome of healthy bacteria that manufactures vitamins B and K and helps to prevent the overgrowth of harmful bacteria.

Cells of the colon secrete mucus, which lubricates and protects the walls. Inflammation or irritation of the intestinal wall causes the release of large amounts of mucus, as well as water and electrolytes. In this case, mucus can frequently be seen in the stools and there may also be diarrhoea.

On the other hand, if waste remains in the colon for longer than is ideal, causing constipation, large amounts of toxins are likely to be reabsorbed back into the bloodstream. This is called auto-intoxication or self-poisoning.

Colon cleansing and detox methods

Colon cleansers fall into two broad categories:

• oral/rectal supplements
• colonic irrigation

As the name implies, they are all meant to “cleanse” the colon of toxins and substances that can result in health issues and/or accumulation of fat. They are simply foods / food supplements, laxatives or procedures used to spur the bowels into action, to hopefully produce bowel movements. The intention is that, by causing the colon to expel its contents, this helps to rid your body of all the toxins and wastes that have built up in the colon.

Colon cleansing has been around for a long time. In fact, colonic irrigation was used by the Egyptians as far back as 1500 BC, was taught in Ancient Greece’s medical schools and was practised by Chinese medicine more than 3000 years ago. Even then, it was already appreciated that water can be a highly effective cleansing agent that purifies, softens and neutralises.

In more recent times (and particularly because of the increased pressure placed on our digestive systems by the Western diet), colonics and colon cleansing health supplements have seen a spurt in popularity, as potential tools that can support digestive health and general well-being.

Each case is unique, consult a doctor first before opting for colon cleansing, as some people may be at a greater risk for complications.


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