Colonic hydrotherapy consists of a series of techniques in which water is used to cleanse out toxins and waste matter from the large intestine. There are various types of colonics. A common one is the cleansing preparation for a colonoscopy medical exam. Another common method is the enema, which is a basic, self-administered colon washing procedure. More sophisticated colonic treatments must be applied by a professional in a clinical setting. So we know it’s great for clearing our colon, but what about our skin?
Historically, colon cleansing was a routine part of a medical practice. Doctors, centuries ago, understood the colon as an elimination organ for the body’s waste and toxins. If these toxins were not effectively eliminated, they tended to accumulate in the body, causing mild toxicities. The naturopathic medical discipline associates these toxicities with symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, joint pain, and skin rashes. Naturopathic doctors have traditionally administered colonics with the belief that by treating these underlying toxicities, optimal health may be restored.
Over the past decade, many researchers have explored the relationship between gut and skin health, which has allowed us to glean further insights about the effects of colon cleansing on our skin. This connection, commonly known as the “Gut-Skin Axis” signifies that the nature of our gut – how bacteria grow and flourish - affects our immune system and skin health. Early studies have explored how gut health plays a role in inflammatory skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis (eczema) and systemic sclerosis. The research in this area is still quite new, and we are just starting to understand how these components affect each other.
If you decide you want to try a colonic treatment, there are a few things you should expect. Unlike an enema, a professionally-administered colonic is slowly administered. You will lie flat on a table while a filtration machine is used to cleanse the water that flows in and out of your body. Enemas, on the other hand, allow the water to flow into your body using gravity. Throughout the procedure, you may feel some lower abdominal cramping, usually aided by slowing the flow of water. You may also gently massage your lower abdomen during the procedure, which allows the water to disperse more evenly as it gets absorbed into your body. There are different types of colonics and enemas, which vary in the type of liquid used—examples include coffee, lemon water, and vinegar water, among others. Seeking professional guidance about which type may be best for you will enhance your colonic experience.
Overall, colon cleansing is considered safe in healthy individuals, but there are admittedly few scientific studies on this procedure. More studies are warranted, as there is little consensus about how colonics may change the growth of bacteria in the gut. Currently, research trials show that colonics dramatically decrease bacterial count in the gut immediately after administration. However, bacterial levels and composition restore to baseline levels after about 14 days, with the recovery rate being dose-dependent. Long-term effects have not yet been clarified. Whether any health effects of colonics stem from the regeneration of the microbiota or from another reason is yet to be determined.
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