Some of the most common questions I get from my patients are: “Should I do a cleanse or detox?” “Will it help improve my symptoms?” “What about my gut heath or my appearance?”
Some people rave about the cleansed, glowing feeling they have after a colonic, while others feel dried out and dizzy. Colonic irrigation, hydrotherapy, or colonics all refer to the practice of placing a tube up the rectum that’s attached to special equipment through which large amounts of water – sometimes mixed with herbs or other substances – are pumped into the colon to remove waste matter. Minor complications like dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and cramps and discomfort during the procedure can occur, but fortunately, more serious complications like infection from improperly cleaned equipment, and perforation of the colon are extremely rare.
There are a couple potential drawbacks to colonics:
The first is the potential disruption of the colon’s unique and delicate bacterial ecosystem when liquid is pumped in under high pressure. Although many practitioners of colonic irrigation claim that removing encrusted fecal matter in the colon actually enhances the growth of essential bacteria, the procedure can also indiscriminately wash away both good and bad species of bacteria, and taking a probiotic doesn’t come close to replacing the essential flora that may be lost.
The second drawback is the potential for dependency and the development of a condition called colonic inertia (decreased motility) in people who undergo frequent colonics. The colon eventually realizes that much of its job is being done for it and may become less active in terms of contractility, leading to greater dependency on regular colonics for elimination. Part of the popularity of colonics is that people feel really good when their colons are empty, and colonics are really good at emptying the colon. But the colon doesn’t need much help eliminating waste matter when we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing: eating a high-fiber plant-based diet, avoiding processed food and refined sugar, drinking lots of water, and getting regular vigorous exercise. Incorporating those four habits into your daily routine will keep your bowels moving like clockwork – and give you that all-over glow that no amount of bronzer can replicate.
For those of you who are wedded to the idea of a more drastic cleaning out, a two- or three-day green smoothie cleanse along with a couple tablespoons of prebiotic ground psyllium husk daily can give you similar results, and actually enhance rather than disrupt your gut bacteria in the process.
Ultimately, the less toxic your lifestyle, the less need you’ll have for detoxification!