Alternative Medicine

The Scoop on Colonics: Helpful or Hype?

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By Kate Wharmby Seldman

What’s the poop on colonics? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) These enema-like treatments promise to cleanse the digestive tract by removing toxins from the body. Proponents say colonics leave them feeling energized; their skin clears up, digestive issues cease, and they may even experience weight loss.

A typical colonic involves an infusion of water into the rectum, which then pushes the feces out. The patient sits or lies on a table during the process, during which a tube is inserted into the anus for the water to flow through. Colonic hydrotherapists perform the procedure: they massage the patient’s stomach after the water is introduced, then let it flow out of the anus.

Colonic aficionados say the procedure rids the body of toxins from chemicals, plastics, pesticides and airborne contaminants. Without colonics, these toxins take up residence in the colon and affect health. It’s also claimed that many people have parasites living in their bodies, and that colonics flush them out. Candida, or yeast, is another health problem that colonic proponents say can be cured by bowel irrigation: systemic candida overgrowth in the body is a favorite diagnosis of alternative practitioners, and is said to cause anxiety and depression, migraines, acne, cravings for sugar, PMS, and low sex drive, among tens of other conditions.

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Are colonics dangerous? Potentially, say doctors. They can perforate the intestine, or, if performed with non-sterile equipment, they can introduce infection into the body through the colon. Altering the natural environment of the bowel, which includes disease-preventing bacteria, could make the bowel more susceptible to bad bacteria. People with medical issues could become dangerously dehydrated; conversely, for patients with heart or kidney problems, colonics could lead to fluid overload.

Celebrity physician Dr. Mehmet Oz says colonics are simply hype: the digestive system does not need help cleaning itself out, and will naturally eliminate waste products as long as you are eating well and drinking plenty of fluids.

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