By Bianca Alexander
For the bulk of my life, I was chronically constipated. If I was lucky, I’d go to the bathroom once or twice per week. After wreaking havoc on my digestive system with a diet full of meat, dairy, and sugary processed foods, my colon was impacted, and I didn’t even know it.
At the time, I was so disconnected from my body that I never even thought about my colon. I knew from biology class that I had a colon – also known as the large intestine –swimming around down there somewhere, but had no idea how to take care of it until I booked my first colonic. During the session, I learned that the colon is one of the most important detoxification pathways in the body. Having a healthy colon is like having healthy plumbing in the house—when your plumbing is clear, the water runs smoothly, allowing pipes to drain out waste water and anything that’s no longer needed. The same is true for the body.
The average person is exposed to over 123 toxic chemicals each day from food, water, air, stress and personal care products. When the colon is clogged or impacted, toxins back up in the body with nowhere to go. Leading holistic health resource Body Ecology claims that the average person has between 7 – 10 pounds of old fecal matter in their colon, even if they have a bowel movement each day. Blocked detoxification pathways lead to toxic decay, fermentation and putrefaction that accumulate on the walls of the colon. This creates a perfect breeding ground for parasites, yeast, bad bacteria and viruses that cause disease, and autointoxication, a process where toxins are absorbed back into the blood stream and inhibit the body’s ability to absorb beneficial nutrients from food.
This is why regular colon cleansing is such an important part of a healthier you.
What exactly is a colonic?
During a colonic, also referred to as colonic hydrotherapy or colon irrigation, a colon hydrotherapist infuses purified water into the rectum via a tube to cleanse the colon from fecal matter that is not expelled during regular bowel movements. After the therapist fills the colon with water, the patient releases and flushes out old, impacted fecal matter, allowing more capacity for optimal elimination and detoxification. After a series of colonics, many patients who are constipated regain normal bowel function, and are able to minimize or eliminate chronic health issues stemming from overtoxicity. In time, the colon muscle gets strengthened (like a work out for the large intestine), causing a strong, healthy bowel to eliminate fully two or three times per day.
If you are on a detox or trying to unplug or clean the lower part of the colon, enemas can help, but they miss about five feet of the large intestine, which is why naturopathic doctors recommended colonics for deeper cleansing.
How to know if you need a colonic?
There were several factors that led me to my first session, including all of the symptoms below. Though I’m not a medical doctor and it’s always important to check with your health provider before trying a new modality, keep reading to see if any of these apply to you:
1. You get constipated. Doctors say you should have a bowel movement at least three times daily, shortly after every meal, totaling up to about 24 inches daily (yikes)! It’s no fun not being able to go to the bathroom, or being in pain while you do. If your visits to the bathroom are fewer and farther between, colon hydrotherapy could support more regular releases. After several series of colonic sessions and years of detoxing with a plant-based diet, I’m proud to say that I am regular!
2. You’re stressed/angry/depressed. The first time I got a colonic, I walked into the office with a heavy heart, mostly over past hurts, fears and disappointments. During the session, I felt a wave of sadness wash over my body. As I emptied, I felt the relief of releasing old emotions, and cried softly as I flushed old energy down the toilet, never to return. Afterwards, I felt so light and happy that I literally skipped out of the therapist’s office. Like toxins, old emotions can get trapped in the body and build up over time. If you find yourself feeling angry, stressed, or depressed for no reason, you may be emotionally backlogged. Colon hydrotherapy could help you let go of stuck energy from the past, bringing you more into the present moment.
3. You eat meat. Whether or not you believe the urban myth that claims John Wayne died of cancer with over 60 pounds of undigested red meat in his colon, doctors agree a plant-based diet is best for your digestive system, which is more akin to that of herbivores (like deer who have long digestive tracts) than carnivores (like tigers, with shorter ones). This means it’s harder and takes longer for humans to digest meat, allowing for a build-up in the colon after time. If changing your diet feels too extreme, baby steps are fine. In the interim, regularly colon cleansing can help eliminate a build up.
4. You have a pooch. Though it’s perfectly normal to have a little tummy fat, if you’ve battled for years with a pooch, muffin top, or stubborn rolls that hold on no matter how many crunches, cardio or sit-ups you do, and you’re not on your cycle, you may be bloated. This is a common side-effect of autointoxication, which colon flushing can help alleviate. I lost about an inch on my waistline after my first session, which was surprisingly noticeable as soon as I got up from the table.
5. You want to live long. According to 5,000 year old healing wisdom of naturopathic and traditional Eastern medicine, all death begins in the colon. With regular cleansing, you help offset the common toxins you are regularly exposed to in your home, the environment, or the food you eat every day. Over time, these toxins can lead to chronic health issues like colds, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, and every day aches and pains. If your colon is free to operate functionally, it can help eliminate the root causes of disease before it manifests.
What to expect during your first colonic:
Although getting a colonic is intimate, there’s no need to be embarrassed or feel awkward on the table. It’s a standard medical procedure your therapist has done thousands of times, which typically involves the following:
- After completing a health history form and consulting with your hydrotherapist, you’ll be asked to change into a gown and lie face up on a treatment table.
- The therapist inserts a disposable, lubricated speculum into your anus. The speculum is connected to a long disposable plastic hose connected to the colon hydrotherapy unit.
- Warm, filtered water is slowly released into your colon. The water causes the muscles of your colon to gently contract, called peristalsis. Peristalsis “pushes” feces out through the hose to be disposed in a closed waste system.
- Neither you nor your therapist can smell the feces. The therapist usually looks at them feces through the clear hose as they are released, and may comment on the color or texture, which can indicate health or dietary concerns.
- The therapist may apply light massage to your abdominal area in order to move impacted fecal matter, facilitating the process of release.
- You may feel slight discomfort in the abdomen during the session, like being full or needing to have a bowel movement.
- After the session, the therapist leaves the room, and you may sit on a toilet (also in the room) to pass any residual water and stools.
- A typical session lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour.
Ready for your first session? Before trying colon therapy, take these precautions:
- Check with your health provider before trying any new modalities, especially if you take medications.
- You don’t want to go just anywhere for a colonic. Make sure your therapist is certified through the International Association for Colon Hydrotherapy, comes highly recommended, and uses fresh, disposable equipment for each session.
- Get a list of specific herbal ingredients and amounts in any colon-cleansing products you use to avoid potential conflicts with existing medications.
- Hydrate yourself several days before the session by drinking lots of fluids (ideally water) to prevent dehydration. It makes everything flow smoother.
- Try not to eat or drink within 2-3 hours prior to the session. Filling up and releasing is easier on an empty stomach.
- Like all detoxing agents, colonics work best in conjunction with a healthy diet filled with lots of raw fruit, veggies, whole grains, and nutrients like omegas and fatty acids.
- As cleansing the colon can flush away good intestinal flora along with toxins, be sure to replenish your bowels with probiotics, or gut-friendly “good bacteria.” Probiotics improve digestion and strengthen the immune system, and can be found in fermented foods like kombucha, kimchi, miso and saurkraut.