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There are some who ascribe to an old saying: "Death begins in the colon." From the days of Ancient Egypt, a number of people have pursued alternative medical practice known as colonic cleansing or colonics to address various ailments said to be caused by the putrification of food in the colon or large intestine. Practitioners of colonic cleansing believe that if fecal matter is allowed to accumulate in the colon without regular elimination, various toxins and dangerous bacteria will eventually seep into the rest of the body and cause trigger a number of illnesses and maladies. Frequent headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, general fatique and even psoriasis can be traced back to toxins stored in the colon.
A healthy human colon collects waste fecal matter from the small intestine after digestion. This fecal material does contain some substances which would be toxic to the body if released, and it does contain some strains of bacteria which would adversely affect the body's natural gut flora if it remained in the small intestine. However, many medical experts suggest that the colon itself is self-cleaning, and the majority of the toxins and bacteria are carried away through normal bowel movements. There is little medical evidence of colons containing compacted fecal material or significant amounts of putrefied food.
One form of colonic cleansing involves going on a liquid fast for several days and then starting an herbal supplement regimen. These supplements, often marketed in health food stores as colon cleansers, are generally a mix of psyllium husks and natural herbs known to have laxative effects. Licorice root, marshmallow root and other natural ingredients are common. During this oral colonic cleansing, the user begins with a minimal dose of supplements and gradually ramps up to a daily multi-pill regimen towards the end of the cleansing.
By the end of the colonic cleansing session, many participants report an expulsion of fecal material containing unusual parasites or a green mucus-like substance. This is thought to be evidence of toxic materials which may have been trapped in the colon for a number of months or even years. Once the toxins have been eliminated through colonic cleansing, many practitioners report significant improvements in their moods, general energy levels and digestive motility. There are unverified claims of complete recoveries from certain skin conditions, as well as improvement or even reversal of digestive disorders.
Another form of colonic cleansing is also known as colonic hydrotherapy. This controversial procedure is generally performed in a private clinic or spa by a trained specialist. The patient reclines comfortably on a special table while the specialist inserts a speculum into his or her colon through the rectum. A calibrated machine then introduces warm filtered water into the patient's colon while the specialist massages the patient's abdomen.
Many colonic hydrotherapy patients report a strong sense of fullness during the procedure, akin to an extreme bout of bloating or diarrhea. Any solid fecal material removed during the colonic cleansing is gently drawn out through an evacuation tube, but it can be examined on a light table by the patient and/or the specialist. After approximately one hour of repeated fluid injections, the patient is encouraged to use the restroom to eliminate any residual material. A patient may have to undergo several colonic cleansing sessions before all toxic materials have been evacuated from the colon.
Critics of colonic hydrotherapy say the procedure can be extremely dangerous if not performed properly. A patient could suffer a rupture if the water pressure is not monitored, for example. There is also the possibility of cross-contamination if the machine and instruments are not sterilized completely between sessions. Introducing large amounts of water to the colon may also cause a serious fluid imbalance and lead to problems with natural elimination. This is why many mainstream professionals consider colonic cleansing to be a completely ineffective and unnecessary procedure based on a theory of auto-toxification disproved in the 1920s.