Wellness in North County: To cleanse or not to cleanse?

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The ancient Egyptians were centuries ahead in a number of ways; architecture, farming, door locks, medicine and paper are among them. While observant in most matters, they were also extremely naïve in some others — most notably the belief that royalty, who were sometimes considered gods, would need a bunch of cool stuff to keep them comfortable after they died. Judging by the amount of time and money they spent on building the most massive tombs in history, they really believed this myth. One quick view of a mummy in a museum proves they were wrong.

Considering their inconsistent batting average, I wonder if they were right or wrong about another of their inventions: colon cleansing. While many modern alternative health practitioners swear by the practice today, others are convinced that it is at the very least a waste of time and money, and perhaps detrimental to a person’s health.

I have employed several intestinal cleanses, including the master cleanse, which requires lemon, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. During the peak of its popularity, I once managed to choke down the said concoction for seven consecutive days. The results in my case showed no noticeable progress other than the loss of a few pounds from fasting. Then again, there was no apparent damage, either. Another method I’ve tried more than once is the saltwater cleanse, in which drinking two liters of very salty water before breakfast moves through you like a tsunami. After risking my guinea pig bowels, I have backed away from these methods in favor of a high-fiber diet.

While there are less extreme methods of cleansing the colon than what is alternately known as colonic irrigation, colonic hydrotherapy or a high colonic, we will concentrate on those for this column.

While often encouraged to do so, I have never tried a colonic, nor do I intend to do so. The idea (first proposed by the Egyptians, before being adopted by the Greeks) is that sending a gentle stream of water into the digestive tract will remove potentially toxic waste from the body. Believers in this therapy (and there are many in North County) say that it not only removes these toxins from the digestive system, but offers other benefits like weight loss, improved digestion, increased energy and clearer thinking. While colonic hydrotherapy products are available online and in drug stores, it is recommended that a professional be sought out for those interested. The procedure costs about $100 and initially takes about 90 minutes.

Those involved on either end of colonic hydrotherapy are quick to point out that it is different than an enema in that it cleans 5 feet to 6 feet of the intestine as opposed to the 8 inches to 12 inches covered by an enema.

Any medical treatment carries some risks, and colonic hydrotherapy is no exception. According to opponents, this method can lead to dehydration and kidney failure in extreme instances, electrolyte imbalance, and the removal of the protective layer that lines the intestine.

While I cannot personally recommend colonic hydrotherapy, I think it could have its place as an alternative to drugs used to combat chronic constipation. There may be some medical doctors who advocate colonic hydrotherapy for cleansing the colon, but I was unable to locate any of them. Of course, I am not a medical professional, but I do have one bit of advice for those still interested: Learn more and proceed with caution.

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