We are fascinated by our bowels. Indeed, they dictate so much. If they work as they should, the world is perfect. If they start creating havoc, it is best to stay at home. A normal functioning intestinal system should be appreciated. It has taken a great-tasting meal, liquefied it, mixed it with enzymes, then gently extracted nutrients and bio-active compounds that nourish us and complement our immune system to keep evil bugs at bay. The fibre does an excellent job of protecting the bowel lining for year on year.
I suspect that as the end result doesn’t look pleasant or smell like perfume there is an assumption that there is a problem. Food does not rot or decompose within you. The colon is not a toxic waste dump. It is a brilliantly designed waste disposal system. Even diarrhea is good for you; it is usually a rapid expulsion of pathogenic bacteria (think food poisoning). It doesn’t feel good at the time, but diarrhea will often save your life. Vomiting is good for the same reason.
Long history
The concept of colon cleansing was based on the assumption that disease resided or originated the bowel. Ancient Egyptians and Greeks had the idea that food was decomposing at the back end and clean-out would help. Early in the 20th century washing out the colon with large volumes of fluid was a popular therapy. Despite our excellent knowledge of digestion, some think that this most strange of activities still offers merit in the 21st century.
Unpleasant side effects
A review article detailed a couple of cases where colon cleansing (or colonic irrigation) caused medical problems of intestinal pain and diarrhea. Some people receive up to 60 litres of water, with or without herbs, coffee and so-called “natural” ingredients.
The authors point that those likely to request colon cleansing may have medical problems like Crohn’s disease and haemorrhoids, and are more likely to experience adverse effects with this uncomfortable practice. Even if you are reasonably healthy, you can get side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, pancreatitis, bowel perforation and infection from colon cleansing.
What does it all mean?
Of course, sometimes a bowel washout is necessary for medical examinations or surgery such as that for colon cancer. For the rest of us, know that your bowels don’t require some liquid intervention. Apart from the discomfort and there not being a shred of evidence for a health benefit, you will be washing out all those healthy bacteria that produce nutrients for your body and compounds that protect the bowel lining. Your body already has a natural detoxification system – the liver, kidneys, lungs and the intestines detoxify you in perfect harmony while you enjoy life.
Don’t engage in colon cleansing. Other forms of madness are far more healthy, like supporting the Fremantle Dockers football team, wearing ugg boots and eating alone in restuarants.
Reference: Journal of Family Practice 2011; 60 (8): 454-457

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