Colon cleansing, which is thought to date back to ancient Greece, is the practice of ridding the bowels (large intestines) of a build-up of undigested fecal matter. It is an ‘alternative’ therapy that is thought to help prevent toxins from building up in the intestines, which could eventually lead to diseases such as colon cancer.
There are essentially two ways that colon cleansing can be done.
1. Colonic irrigation
Colonic irrigation is a procedure that involves having a thin tube inserted into the rectum. Warm water is then gently pumped through this tube and into the bowel, and along with massage, helps to mechanically flush out any fecal matter that may be ‘stuck’ in the intestines.
There is little scientific evidence to suggest that colonic irrigation is beneficial to health –medical professionals generally agree that the colon is a self-cleansing organ and therefore artificial cleansing is not needed, and in fact, inserting tubes into the rectum can do more harm than good if not carried out properly. Although it is usually painless, colonic irrigation is not exactly a comfortable or pleasant experience, and it can trigger side effects such as cramping, vomiting, and bloating.
Proponents of colonic irrigation treatments swear by their ability to relieve symptoms of poor digestion such as bloating and flatulence, and even as a temporary weight loss aid. Medical professionals do sometimes prescribe a colon cleanse to patients before they undergo a procedure such as a colonoscopy (where a camera is inserted into the rectum to diagnose disease), but this is usually to allow the camera to obtain clearer pictures rather than being a treatment per se. Overall, if you are going to try a colonic irrigation, make sure you choose a qualified, experienced practitioner, and never ever attempt to carry out the procedure yourself!
2. Stimulating bowel movements
Alternatively, there are a number of ways that you can cleanse your colon without using an invasive treatment. These oral colon cleanses can be something as simple as changing your diet to increase your intake of dietary fiber, but can also include laxative medications or ‘natural’ remedies.
Perhaps the least harmful way of cleansing your colon at home is simply to increase your intake of dietary fiber. This can be done by eating more bran, wholegrains, fruits and vegetables to help push undigested foods through your system. It is also important to drink plenty of water – water helps to soften the feces so that it is able to exit the body more easily, without getting stuck.
Some people believe that fluids such as apple juice, lemon juice and raw vegetable juices can help break down undigested materials, and they also have a high vitamin C content, which can help protect the colon against cancers. Yoghurt is also a great food for digestive health as it contains ‘good bacteria’ that can help break down your food and protect against toxins. Don’t forget that your diet should be healthy and balanced – consult with a medical professional before making any drastic changes to your diet and lifestyle!