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Popping up in trendy spas and often touted as a health benefit, colonic hydrotherapy has been gaining more attention lately. But does the practice actually do any good?
The human body is very capable of detoxifying itself. Multiple organs are committed to different forms of detoxification. The lungs filter and expel unneeded carbon dioxide. The liver is a major detoxifying organ. Kidneys are the filtration unit for fluids including blood. The large intestine processes absorbed food and helps facilitate waste removal. Even your skin and sweat glands play a role in eliminating various toxins.
Most healthy people are able to get rid of toxins including bad bacteria and unwanted waste from the body without assistance.
Some people think that today's modern lifestyle bogs down their system with toxins and leads to toxic build up. Their concerns usually include:
- Fast food diet
- Excessive use of medication
- Abundance of processed foods
- Exposure to environmental pollutants
- Imbalance of gut bacteria
The general thinking is that most of this “build up” is stored in the colon, also known as the large intestine. The colon holds waste that then can be passed from the body. The colon can detoxify the body by helping remove excess waste and fuel your body didn't use.
As people are becoming more in tune with their bodies, they are wanting to improve all aspects of their health. Especially when high profile celebs start praising a treatment, a trend can quickly spread. This is one reason why colonic hydrotherapy has become popular in recent years.
What Is Colonic Hydrotherapy?
Colonic hydrotherapy or colon hydrotherapy is also known as colonic irrigation. It's basically a form of colon cleansing. The purpose is to flush out the contents in the colon or large intestine. There are many ways to cleanse the colon. Enema is another form of colon cleansing. There are capsules and tonics known as diuretics that also aim to cleanse the digestive and gastrointestinal system. Colonic hydrotherapy uses a liquid solution, in much greater quantities than found in enemas and diuretics.
Colonic hydrotherapy is carried out by inserting a tube in the rectum and then pouring the fluids through it. As much as up to 16 gallons of water may be used to flush out the lower intestine. However, most spas don't just use plain water. Many colonic treatments boast additives such as coffee or medicinal herbs. Some treatments advise the administrator to massage your lower abdomen and help the fluid “loosen up” your colon matter.
After a short time, you'll have the urge to have a bowel movement. The fluid will pass from your body, along with any fecal matter currently present in your system. The whole process may span from 45 minutes to an hour in some cases. Surprisingly, one bowel movement is usually not enough. You can expect to have frequent bowel movements over the next couple weeks.
Fans of this procedure say that toxins, bacteria, and unhealthy “build up” will also exit your body. This is supposed to make you healthier, happier, and have a cleaner colon. Treatment centers usually recommend you get this done several times to clear out your system. They also recommend making colonic hydrotherapy routine to make sure you don't undo your hard work. This can quickly add up, as treatments typically range from $80-$150 per session.
The Dangers of Colon Cleansing
You may be surprised to learn that many doctors actually don't recommend this practice for many people. There just isn't much research to support any real benefits of cleansing your lower intestine. The potential risks usually outweigh any proposed good, as there isn't scientific evidence to back up claims. The dangers of colon cleansing include many serious conditions that should give you pause.
Dehydration. Excess removal of your body's fluids can lead to severe dehydration.
Bacterial Imbalances and Infection. Inserting objects in your rectum can potentially invite bacteria to make a home in your lower intestine. This is especially true If the treatment center doesn't practice excellent hygiene. Also, the cleanse will remove all bacteria; the good and the bad. Without your good bacteria, infections can run rampant.
Electrolyte Imbalance. Fluid flushed through your colon can disrupt the harmony of electrolytes in your body, such as potassium and sodium. Serious side effects can include kidney damage and fainting.
Perforation. If the person performing the service tears your rectum or intestines, the consequences can be fatal. A person experiencing symptoms such as fever, pain, chills and nausea should seek medical attention right away.
Most states do not have any licensing requirements for colon hygienists.
What does this mean for you?
You may be lucky enough to visit a center with hygienists trained in basic first aid and CPR. They may have completed a hydrotherapy course. Many courses award certification after 100 hours of coursework.
Since there isn't much in the way of regulation, you may end up at a treatment center with not much experience. This may further increase your risk of infection and tearing, both of which can be fatal.
There are other dangers of colonic hydrotherapy or colon cleansing. People with prevailing medical conditions such as heart or kidney disease are at greater risk during colonic hydrotherapy. If you are still determined to give it a try, please talk to your doctor. Together, you can review your medical history and go over any personal risks.
To help mitigate the dangers of colonic hydrotherapy, you should:
- Talk to your doctor
- Stay hydrated, both before and after treatment
- Research your treatment center well
- Ask your therapist what their qualifications are
- Inspect the equipment before you get started.
You should only use new, in-the-package disposable equipment. If ANYTHING you see gives you second thoughts, cancel the appointment and walk away.
Your health and safety should be top priority.
Can you Lose Weight from Colonic Hydrotherapy?
Weight loss is often one of the most popular aspects of a colon cleanse.
Want to know the truth?
Colonic hydrotherapy really doesn't help with actual weight loss. The flushing out of all your fecal matter at once may have an immediate effect on weight, but this will be temporary. No fat is being lost in the process. Also, there will be more waste generated soon after your next meal. Cleansing your colon doesn't cause any lasting weight loss simply due to the nature of the process. If weight loss is your goal, you may be happy to see your numbers going down. However, you cannot expect to lose weight and stay lighter simply because you undergo colonic hydrotherapy. Real, lasting weight loss requires healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle.
Common Side Effects of Colonic Hydrotherapy
There are many side effects of colonic hydrotherapy, some of which are experienced right away. As a result, some may not hit you until after you've left the treatment. These may include:
- Stomach cramping
- Disruption of bowel flora (good gut bacteria)
- Potentially harmful interaction with your medications
Those who have ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, or hemorrhoids should not try this treatment. Similarly, people with tumors in colon or rectum, kidney or heart disease and Crohn's disease should also stay far away. Anyone who has undergone a bowel surgery recently should not go for colonic hydrotherapy.
Medically Necessary Colon Cleansing
While colon cleansing for most people isn't needed, there are some instances where this may be a good idea. For instance, those preparing for surgery may need to clear out their intestines. People preparing for a colonoscopy may also need to undergo colonic cleansing. In other words, this practice is best left to medical professionals. People touting this treatment as a wellness practice usually don't have concrete evidence to back it up. They rely more on an overall “feeling” of cleanliness.
How to Safely Cleanse Your Colon
If you truly think your intestines would benefit from a cleanse, there are some safer options out there. Instead of shelling out the big bucks, try some at home remedies. For instance, there are foods you can eat to help your system run smoothly. If your system could use a boost, try adding yogurt or other fermented foods to your diet. More on that here.
You can also try teas and kombucha, which are both known to help improve gut health. The high content of probiotics can help bring things back into balance. As a result, you may find it easier to go. Another thing you can try is apple cider vinegar. Simply mix in a couple tablespoons with your water and enjoy. You can also add an equal amount of honey to sweeten it up and boost your prebiotic count.
Not a fan of these foods and drinks?
As we mentioned early on, your system does a great job at taking care of business! Honestly, as long as you aren't doing drastic damage to your body, you don't need much assistance. If you'd still like to boost your gut health, look into supplements. A daily probiotic may be just what you need to give your intestines a helping hand.
Do you agree with our take or did you benefit from colonic hydrotherapy? Please feel free to share your experience or tips for improving colon health down below!