About the colon
To understand the role of the colon, it is important to first understand how the digestive tract (of which the colon is a part) is formed and functions in the body.
The digestive tract is the group of organs through which food and liquids pass when they are swallowed, digested and finally eliminated. These organs include the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum and anus.
The large intestine consists of the colon and the rectum. The colon is approximately 5-6 feet long and has an ascending, transverse and descending portion. From there, it joins the rectum. It takes food around 18 to 24 hours to pass along the entire length of the colon.
The main functions of the large intestine are: the formation and excretion of faeces; the absorption of water and minerals; and beneficial bacteria in the colon manufacture vitamins B1, B2, B12 and K. They also help to prevent the overgrowth of harmful bacteria.
Cells of the colon secrete mucus, which lubricates and protects the walls. Inflammation or irritation of the intestinal wall causes the release of large amounts of mucus, as well as water and electrolytes. In this case, mucus can be seen in the stools and there may also be diarrhoea.
On the other hand, if faeces remain in the colon for longer than is desirable, causing constipation, large amounts of toxins can be reabsorbed back into the bloodstream. This is called auto-intoxication or self-poisoning.
Waste matter is filled with bacteria, so it is important to get it out of the body as quickly as possible. If the colon isn’t working efficiently, problems such as bloating, wind and pain are likely to present.
The digestive system is under pressure to perform very important functions all day, every day. Generally, digestive system problems are caused by a toxic build-up in the body, so it can be beneficial to flush the body of such toxins and waste from time to time. It is widely held by many natural health practitioners that one of the best means of achieving this is with so-called “colon cleansers”.
What are colon cleansers?
Colon cleansers fall into two broad categories: oral/rectal supplements and colonic irrigation.
As the name suggests, they are all intended to cleanse or clean the colon of toxins and other substances that can lead to disease and/or the accumulation of fat.
They come in the form of supplements, laxatives or procedures / devices used to stimulate the bowels into producing a bowel movement. The idea is that, by stimulating the colon to expel its contents, this helps rid the body of the toxins and waste matter that has built up in the colon.
As mentioned above, the colon is the part of the digestive tract that stores the waste material that we would rather not think about (and most of us don’t, until our health starts to deteriorate or we experience digestive issues). Over time the colon has a tendency to get clogged with food particles, especially if the diet includes a high level of processed foods and insufficient fresh fruit and vegetables. This leads to an accumulation of parasites and toxins that can have a detrimental effect on health.
If the colon is repeatedly abused and neglected, it can become a cesspool of toxins. If these are not eliminated from the body, they can keep building up over time and may even be reabsorbed. This can lead to bloating, constipation, irritable bowel symptoms, fatigue and various other health issues.
Colon cleansers may therefore offer support for conditions such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, chronic fatigue, acid reflux and even skin and hair problems. Users of colon cleansers often say that they feel “cleaner” and healthier after cleansing, that they experience weight loss and increased bowel regularity.
Colon cleansing is not a new therapy. In fact, colonic irrigation was used by the Egyptians as far back as 1500 BC, was taught in Ancient Greece’s medical schools and was practised by Chinese medicine more than 3000 years ago. Even then, it was already recognised that water can be a highly effective cleansing agent that purifies, softens and neutralises.
In more recent years (and particularly as a result of the added pressure placed on our digestive systems by the modern-day diet), colonics and colon cleansing health supplements have seen a resurgence in popularity, as potential tools that can support digestive health and general well-being.
It is generally accepted that the colon is an important digestive organ in terms of our overall health. Colon cleansers have therefore become a popular means of detoxification, ridding the body of dangerous parasites that may have otherwise found a home in the digestive tract, and promoting colon health and a healthy balance of intestinal flora.