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TOPIC: The Dangers of Colonic Irrigation

The Dangers of Colonic Irrigation 04 Sep 2007 18:01 #2824

  • Debra
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I received this article in an e-mail today and it reflects my thoughts exactly. For anyone thinking a Colonic is a good thing, I hope you think again about what's really best for the colon.

Rubman's Digestion Connection: The Dangers of Colonic Irrigation


Colon cleansing for good health traces way back to the ancient Egyptians, with records of their use of enemas (cleansing of part of the colon) dating back to between 15th and 17th century BC. Colon hydrotherapy -- the practice of flushing water through the entire colon or large intestine -- was all the rage in Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s and was popular in the US in the 1920s and 1930s... and recently has increased in popularity once again. Then and now, the theory behind "colonics" or colonic irrigation was the cleaner the colon is kept from toxins and waste, the less opportunity there is for disease to develop.

But this is not the case. In fact, it couldn't be more incorrect, says Daily Health News contributing editor and digestion expert Andrew L. Rubman, ND. "The truth is that colonic irrigation can be harmful, and the unscrupulous hucksters who regularly tout its virtues on the Internet are, by and large, out to make a fast buck," says Dr. Rubman. While Dr. Rubman is normally open-minded about many sorts of traditional treatments, this is one he feels strongly he must warn people about. He outlined for me why colonics are harmful to digestion and dangerous to your overall health.

HOW COLONIC IRRIGATION WORKS... AND WHY IT DOESN'T

On-line and in many alternative health publications, colonic irrigation is heralded as the solution to problems ranging from constipation to weight loss, skin problems, arthritis, asthma and chronic fatigue. It is likened to a super-enema, even a "carwash" for the large intestine. In the procedure, a plastic or rubber tube is passed through the rectum into the colon, and large amounts of warm water are pumped in to flush the contents out and remove buildup from the large intestine. Proponents claim that colonic irrigation works by boosting immunity through the removal of accumulated toxins.

But, says Dr. Rubman, it's important to understand that "cleaning out" the colon is counter-productive because proper digestive function depends upon a colony of friendly bacteria (approximately three to four pounds worth in a healthy adult) that lives in a delicate state of balance in the large intestine. In fact, Dr. Rubman refers to the large intestine as the body's "disease-fighting control center" since its role in immune function is so important to our health. The beneficial bacteria in residence keep intestinal walls healthy and intact, working together to prevent dangerous bacteria in what we eat (and the toxins that they produce) from leaking out of the intestine and migrating elsewhere to cause inflammation and disease. By flushing out these helpful bacteria, colonic irrigation interferes with efficient digestion and immune function.

WHY IT'S SO DANGEROUS

In addition to not being helpful, Dr. Rubman outlined very specific hazards relating to colonic irrigation:
  • Disruption of normal balances. The colon normally absorbs water and sodium to maintain a proper balance of fluid and electrolytes. When colonic irrigation disturbs this balance, dangerous, sometimes even life-threatening salt loss and dehydration can follow.
  • Introduction of contaminants. Colonic irrigation can also introduce contaminants via equipment that's not properly sanitized.
  • Unqualified practitioners can cause serious injury. While regulations vary from one state to another, few require certification or licensure, so colonics are sometimes performed by individuals with little or no formal training or medical qualifications. According to Dr. Rubman, having a colonic irrigation at the hands of an unskilled practitioner is akin to having an intravenous (IV) drip administered by a person with no training -- it's hit or miss. One improperly executed colonic can cause serious damage, such as a perforated colon.
  • High cost. To add insult to injury, the potential risks and dangers of colonic irrigation come "hand-in-hand" with a steep price. A brief on-line search reveals price tags ranging approximately $100 to $800 (the latter figure for a series of multiple treatments).
HERE'S THE SAFE WAY TO ENSURE OPTIMAL COLON HEALTH

What is correct about the health claims of the colonics movement is that the health of the large intestine is essential to our well-being, even if colonic cleansing is the wrong way to achieve this goal. Dr. Rubman points out that the place to start is at the other end of the body, by eating healthy foods. In other words, for optimal digestion, follow an optimal diet.

If you regularly consume large quantities of difficult-to-digest saturated fat and red meat, you'll likely suffer intestinal disturbances. For optimal digestion, eat lean proteins including skinless turkey or chicken breast... healthy fats from foods such as olive oil, avocado and wild, cold-water fish like salmon and mackerel... foods that boost intestinal health, such as nutrient-packed, fiber-rich steamed veggies, fruits, bran, beans, nuts and seeds. In particular, fiber helps food move efficiently through the digestive tract, and binds and transports cholesterol-rich bile acids out of the body.

Other tried and true tips from Dr. Rubman...
  • Pay attention to salt intake. Sodium is an important mineral that helps regulate the body's fluid balance. Don't assume it's best to consume as little as possible. Instead, discuss proper salt intake levels with your physician.
  • Drink to satisfy thirst. Water needs vary among individuals and Dr. Rubman disagrees with the often-cited recommendation that we all need to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. Again, when in doubt, consult your physician about proper intake levels.
  • Chew food thoroughly. The more you break down food in your mouth, the less work the rest of the digestive system has to do.
Dr. Rubman acknowledges that on rare occasions, depending on a person's individual digestive issues, colonic irrigation by a highly trained health-care professional may serve a valid medical purpose. In that case, however, it should only be performed by an experienced, skilled medical professional such as a naturopathic doctor (ND).

Source(s):

Andrew L. Rubman, ND, director, Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines, Southbury, Connecticut.
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