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Colon cleansing or therapy is an alternative medical technique that is intended to remove fecal waste and unidentified toxins from the colon and intestinal tract. Colon cleansing may take a number of different forms, such as colon hydrotherapy (also called colonics or colonic irrigation) and other oral cleansing regimens. Colon hydrotherapy uses enemas in order to inject water (sometimes mixed with herbs or with other liquids) into the colon using special equipment. Oral cleaning involves the use of dietary fiber, herbs, supplements and/or laxatives.
Colon therapy is given by a colonic hygienist or colon therapist, through the use of plastic tubes inserted through the rectum and into the colon. A machine or gravity-driven pump sends large quantities of liquid (up to 20 gallons) into the large intestine. After filling the colon with water, the therapist massages the abdomen to help the removal of waste material from the colon wall, and then fluid and waste are carried out of the body through another tube. The procedure is generally repeated several times, and the average session lasts from 45 to 60 minutes.
Adherents of colon cleansing believe that over time, putrefied (i.e. decayed) feces accumulates in the wall of peoples’ large intestine. These accumulations contain parasites, micro-organisms and various toxins that can give rise to a wide range of non-specific symptoms and general ill-health. This “auto-intoxication” hypothesis has its roots in the medical beliefs going back thousands of years to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians and is based
on the idea that when food is ingested it enters the intestine and rots. The ancient Egyptians believed that toxins formed as a result of decomposition within the intestines, and moved from there to the circulatory system where they caused fever and the development of pus. This idea was later adopted and expanded upon by the Greeks into their theory of the “four humors” – four basic substances which are in balance when a person is in good health. These “humors” are black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood.
In the 19th century, studies in biochemistry and microbiology seemed to lend credibility to the idea of auto intoxication. The notion was widely promoted
by mainstream physicians, some of whom believed that toxins in the colon shortened peoples’ life spans. In some cases, this led to radical surgeries to remove the colon for unrelated symptoms.
Colon therapy became very popular in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, when irrigation machines were commonly found in hospitals and physicians’ offices. Eventually the procedure became less popular when advances in science and medicine did not support its founding theory. Nonetheless, colon therapy has recently shown an increase in popularity along with other alternative medical therapies.
Today’s mainstream scientific and communities continue to reject the claims on which colon therapy is based. They maintain that the available scientific evidence does not support the premise that toxins accumulate on intestinal walls or that toxicity results from poor elimination of waste from the colon. In fact, they consider colon therapy to be potentially very dangerous as illness and even deaths have resulted from contaminated equipment, electrolyte imbalance, or perforation of intestinal walls. In addition, many substances can be absorbed into the body from the colon walls and cause toxic or allergic reactions. Relying on this type of treatment alone and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for diseases (such as cancer for example) may result in serious health consequences.