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This article is written by Whitney Kear, former operator of Nourishing Roots and Thrive by Food team member.
Colonics…colon hydrotherapy….enemas, oh my!
Yes, we’re getting into squirmish gut health territory, but it’s such an important detox and support tool that we couldn’t not do a post about it. In fact, we believe that everyone working on gut health should know about this amazing tool.
What is a Colonic (or Colon Hydrotherapy)?
A Colonic, or colon hydrotherapy, is just that — the act of hydrating the colon with pure filtered water through equipment created just for this process and administered by a certified Colon Hydrotherapist. This technique helps to loosen up the matter in our large intestine in a way that we simply couldn’t do on our own (no, not even with a coffee enema!). The purpose of colon hydrotherapy is to help release toxins, provide symptom relief, and serve as a preventative health measure.
Some of the benefits of colonics include:
- Relief and healing for Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Mental benefits (increased focus, decreased brain fog, etc).
- Increased energy
- Weight loss
- Clearer skin
- Acute relief
If it’s true that our health BEGINS and ENDS in our gut, then occasional colon cleansing can effectively support many other organs and bodily processes to function more optimally. And… in case you’re wondering… just because you have a flat tummy doesn’t mean you might not need it. I had a client once who practically had a six pack and the tiniest tummy, yet she hadn’t had a bowel movement in 3 weeks. Could you tell from the outside?! Not in the least!
My Personal Experience: A Short Story
About 10 years ago, I was practically walking inflammation, highly triggered by food sensitivities and allergies, and in great digestive discomfort. I had puffy weight that I couldn’t shed but it had nothing to do with my diet. I was hardly consuming anything! I had so much brain fog but it had become my normal so I didn’t even know any different (I’m sure many of you can relate!) Add that plus heaps of stress and I was struggling.
So, I went in for my first treatment, a bit skeptical but curious. And wow, my friends, I can’t even tell you. I felt like I had a veil of fog lifted from my brain and my bloating significantly subsided after just a few sessions. Now, everyone will have a difference response, but I truly needed that extra support getting it out (literally)! I will never forget that moment of tremendous relief, like my eyes were wide open to life again. I was so grateful. I’m excited to say I also got Kristin into them! She texted me soon afterwards elated that she finally tried it and had yet another incredible gut healing tool for herself and her clients.
It really depends on someone’s current state of health and unique constitution, but colon hydrotherapy served as a critical turning point in my digestive healing journey. All the new I had been putting in wasn’t doing any good if the old wasn’t out!
What Does a Colonic Actually Do?
Let’s consider the small and large intestine for a minute.
The small intestine, while smaller in width than the large intestine, is 23 feet long. Yes, you heard right. Almost ⅓ the length of a tennis court! The small intestine’s job is to absorb the nutrients from our food and liquids while the large intestine, about 5 feet in length, absorbs water and creates the stool.
Colonics support clearing out old matter from the large intestine through 3 primary areas; the ascending colon that travels up the right side of the abdomen, the transverse which travels across the middle, and the descending colon which travels down the left side of the abdomen.
One of the primary ways in which the body helps to signal a bowel movement is through wave-like muscular contractions throughout the body, known as peristalsis. This process begins in the esophagus and ends at the anus. Colonics can also help strengthen a weak peristaltic muscle, so that you can actually have stronger bowel movements on your own!
Is Colon Hydrotherapy Right for You?
Let me name a few key factors that makes someone an ideal colon hydrotherapy patient:
- Toxic load
- Food quality
It’s no secret that we live in a highly stressed world. What tends to happen is our guts contract (literally) as a safety mechanism just to get through the stimulation and demands of our day. Think about this for a minute: how many of you can have a bowel movement when you’re out in public or busy area? Not many! Or, consider how fewer BMs you have when traveling. For some, BMs altogether stop when we’re not home. That’s because our bodies often need to feel safe and relaxed in order to have a bowel movement, and when we’re out of our element, our system goes into protection mode.
Next is toxic load. We live in a world now where GMO chemicals are the norm and low nutrient soil is, too. This only adds to the case that our bodies are carrying a burden that makes it hard to detox fully on our own. And with our fast-paced living comes a serious toxic load that can build simply based on our nervous systems being in fight or flight mode, rather than rest and digest. This is why it’s so important to give ourselves extra time in the morning to have a bowel movement before rushing out the door.
Last is food quality. We’ve seen a drastic change in agricultural and food practices over the decades. It’s much harder to gain (affordable) access to high quality produce that is rich in soil nutrients and therefore more nutritionally bioavailable foods. This combined with the increase of pollution, toxic chemicals in anything from food to household cleaning agents, and we are pretty bombarded with synthetic chemicals that the body is NOT equipped to break down. But they’ve got to go somewhere! And so they end up in our colon.
Colon Hydrotherapy: A History
Colon hydrotherapy and enemas date back to the Egyptians and Greeks when they often focused on “internal cleansing”. Enemas were recorded as early as 1500 B.C. in an Egyptian medical document known as the “Ebers Papyrus”, a 110-page scroll that includes the largest record of ancient Egyptian medicine known at the time.
Just think of how different their agricultural practices and food and soil quality were then and they still practiced this form of colon cleansing. This goes to show just how beneficial it can be for anyone, no matter how well they eat.
Today, consider some of those “beer bellies” you see people have. Some of them look awfully hard, don’t they? Did you know that sometimes that is simply impacted fecal matter that has become so dry and dehydrated that it can’t make its way out! Rumor has it that John Wayne and Elvis had up to 45 pounds of impacted fecal matter in their large intestines at the time of their death. Yikes!
Fortunately, colon hydrotherapy helps to soften and hydrate this matter and release it in a sterilized, safe, comfortable and odorless way.
Contraindications: When NOT to Cleanse the Colon
If you have any of the following conditions, colonics may require a doctor’s prescription or you may be advised not to get a colonic until your condition is in better standing. These conditions include:
- Cancer of the colon or GI (gastrointestinal) tract
- Acute abdominal pain (this depends – ask your healthcare provider)
- Recent history of GI or rectal bleeding
- Congestive heart failure
- Uncontrolled hypertension
- History of seizures
- Carcinoma of the rectum
- Abdominal surgery*
- Intestinal perforation
- Abdominal hernia
- Recent colon or rectal surgery
- Recent heart attack
- General debilitation
- Vascular aneurism
- Renal insufficiency
- Epilepsy or psychoses
- Severe hemorrhoids
- Fissures or fistula
- Ulcerative colitis
- Acute Crohn’s disease
- Rectal or abdominal tumors
That’s why we encourage you to speak with your healthcare practitioner first before beginning colon hydrotherapy to be sure it’s a safe and appropriate treatment for you.
A Few Final Questions:
If colonics are brand new to you, you may have a few other questions about it. Let’s cover the top ones we’ve received so far:
Are colonics safe?
Yes absolutely, so long as you do not have a contraindicated condition (see above). A certified colon hydrotherapist administers the session with FDA approved equipment and the process is oftentimes quite relaxing and reliving! A session lasts up to around 45 minutes. You can read more about the certification process on the I-ACT (International Association of Colon Hydrotherapy) page.
Will it smell?
Nope! The entire procedure is closed circuit. Therefore, no smell and no mess!
What does it feel like?
Depending on someone’s state of health, it could be mildly uncomfortable. As the water fills the lower part of the long intestine, it starts to feel like you have to go to the bathroom. But as the water makes its way around, that feeling can subside.
How many colonics are recommended?
It’s recommended to get 3-4 to start within 2-3 weeks. This allows the hydration to have its best chance to loosen the impacted matter. If you just get one session, and then don’t go back for months, the matter that started to hydrate may dry up again.
Pro-Tip: Get the Most of Your Cleanse and Avoid Auto-intoxication!
If you’re into seasonal detoxes, do Whole30, or any other kind of detox, listen up! If you do cleansing via yearly food-based detoxes, doesn’t it make sense to clean out the colon as well? If we detox our upper digestive tract with clean foods and yet don’t detox the colon, the material we detox may end up re-circulating back through the body and therefore, doesn’t fully expel from our system. I can bet you don’t want that if you’re going to go through all the effort to cleanse!
This is all to say that it makes sense to do a colonic during a cleanse, or at least make it a part of your yearly routine so that you don’t recirculate toxins you’re trying to rid of through diet. Colonics ensure a swift elimination for them so you can truly be clean and toxin-free!
How to Make Gut Health a Priority for You
If clean eating, colonics and detoxing all sound like something you should be prioritizing but you have no idea how to do it or are afraid you’ll fall off the bandwagon as quickly as you get on it, make sure you have support! Going at it alone, especially the first time around, can be difficult, and knowing what to do to optimize your time and money in your gut health journey is so important.
- A complete meal guide loaded with gentle, gut-loving foods
- A deep dive on all things gut health: pathogen education, detoxing, natural symptom relief, common roadblocks like candida, and even how sleep and energy are impacted by poor gut health
- 1 60-minute one-on-one session with Thrive by Food’s founder, Kristin Thomas, a functional nutrition practitioner and digestive health specialist
- 3 60-minute live group calls that dive deeper into specific topics and leave plenty of time to answer questions
- 24/7 support via a private group Facebook page
- Advanced lab testing and 10% off professional grade supplements
- Bonus guides like a Food/Mood/Poop Journal and What to Eat and Not Eat guides as well as 8 done-for-you protocols for common gut health issues like acid reflux, constipation and gas.