People have been espousing the benefits of colon cleanses since ancient times. Read below for an overview of the digestive system to understand the importance of a healthy colon. Learn the different methods of colon cleansing as well as the benefits and the possible side effects to look out for.
Understanding The Digestive System
The gastrointestinal tract is a continuous tube that starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. The last part of the intestinal tract is called the colon. As the digested particles move through the lower intestine, water and nutrients are absorbed and whatever is left behind is referred to as waste and toxins. This is in turn removed from the body through the anus, in the form of stool.
Due to these crucial tasks, our modern lifestyle, and our poor eating habits that include processed foods, high animal fat, and refined foods, it is possible for the lower part of the intestinal tract to present problems (1). These may come in the form of a buildup of toxins, constipation, weight gain, bloating, gas, stomach pain, and even headaches.
The lower part of the intestinal tract is essential for water and nutrient absorption. That what is left behind is known as waste and toxins. Due to our modern lifestyle and poor eating habits, this part of the intestinal tract can present problems such as constipation, bloating, pain, and gas.
What Is A Colon Cleanse?
The craze of colon cleansing hit the U.S. in the 1920s. Shortly afterwards it lost its fame, however, many people have started talking about it again. There are two main methods (2) of achieving a colon cleanse. They are:
- Buying products or
- Seeing a doctor for a colonic irrigation.
Using A Specific Product Or Diet
This method involves either taking an oral supplement or by taking it through the rectum. These are usually intended to remove the content from the intestinal tract. Examples include enemas, enzymes, and magnesium.
There are also detoxification diets (3), commonly known as a detox. These super-restrictive diets are seen as the temporary removal of certain foods or even food groups. There are many detoxification programs available. The most common diet is the use of special teas and juices. Other methods include fasting, eating a few selected foods, using a laxative, or by using various dietary supplements. This method has sparked many differing opinions, some positive and some negative (4). What's clear is that while it does work for many people, it is important to check with a healthcare professional to see if it is right for you.
The Colon Irrigation Procedure
During this process, large amounts of water (about 16 gallons) are flushed through the lower intestinal tract whilst you are lying on a table (5). The procedure requires that a tube be inserted into the rectum which is attached to a gravity-based reservoir or a low-pressure pump. Once the water is in the lower intestinal tract, the therapist will rub your stomach. The water is then removed from the body like a regular bowel movement. This procedure could last up to an hour.
There are two methods of cleansing the colon. One can be administered through a product or the use of a specific diet plan over several days. The other method involves flushing large amounts of water through the lower intestinal tract. Both methods claim to work effectively.
What Are The Benefits Of A Colon Cleanse?
It is believed that this procedure does not only clean out waste and toxins from the body, however, that it also helps to reduce the risk of getting colon cancer, reduces weight, boost your energy, and improves the immune system.
There is just one problem here. After all these years, scientific research of colon cleanse benefits and effectiveness is still lacking (6). Dr. F.J. Marrero, a gastroenterologist from Louisiana, states that the procedure is not as wonderful as what people think it is. This is because the procedure only targets the colon and not the small bowel. Only a healthy diet of fruits and veggies can cleanse this area of the body.
There is not a lot of evidence to back the claims concerning the colon cleanse benefits, safety, and effectiveness of such a procedure or intestinal flush.
The Problems That May Occur
The process can cause a few minor side effects (7) such as bloating, nausea, cramping, diarrhea, and vomiting. Other more serious consequences include:
- A tear in the rectum (can be due to a poorly trained practitioner)
- Infections due to unsterile equipment
- Kidney failure
- Removing of healthy bowel flora (probiotics)
- Change in electrolyte balance which can cause problems for the kidneys and heart.
It is also noteworthy that patients know what is added to the water during the process as it may cause an allergic reaction.
When flushing the intestinal tract, one may experience a few side effects and other serious consequences including, dehydration, vomiting, cramps, and kidney failure.
Start With A Healthy Diet
One must remember that the body has been designed to naturally remove waste, unhealthy bacteria, and toxins from the body. A better choice might be to change your diet and allow your body to deal with the situation the more natural and safe way. A detox provides short-term benefits and weight loss (8), whilst this way of eating is more balanced and seen as a long-term approach. Furthermore, a healthier diet may contribute to many other positive results.
You can improve your digestive health by (9):
- Limiting foods that have a high fat content and which are deep fried.
- Including soluble fibers to your diet, such as bran, oatmeal, fruit, and veggies.
- Including insoluble fibers to your diet, such as whole grains and cereals.
- Including probiotics in your diet. Eat low-fat yogurt or kefir.
- Eating lean meats and poultry with no skin.
- Drinking enough fluids, preferably clean water.
- Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day.
- Staying away from excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeine.
The body naturally removes waste and toxins. By providing the digestive system with the right type of foods, the body can function normally and prevent any colon problems.
Our Ultimate Take Home Message
A Colon Cleanse seems to be a wonderful way to remove toxins, waste, and unhealthy bacteria from the body. People even swear by the use of a detox regimen once in a while, which is a less drastic step to take than doing it regularly. Now that you are armed with the basic facts of colon cleanses, by examining your own diet and speaking with your physician, you can determine if this is right for you.