Everybody has a colon. It's the final stage of digestion where nutrients that have escaped absorption through the rest of the digestion system get their final opportunity to become part of our bodies. According to alternative medicine, our colons need cleansing on a regular basis. We can have them washed out by colonic irrigation or the less invasive method of using laxatives or dietary products.
So is there a scientific basis for colon cleansing? Sadly, no. As with all body detoxing practices, it is baaed on the medical wisdom of the past. The basic concept is that when we eat food some of it is used for our energy and growth needs, some is passed out of the body, and some sits inside us and decays.
In the distant past when there was no heavily polluted environment to blame, toxic substances were said to be manufactured inside the body from old food, which in turn caused serious illnesses. The basic ideas in this pre-scientific view of the workings of the body certainly make sense in the absence of any direct observation of the digestion of food.
The idea that toxins were made from food and accumulated in the body remained as modern science progressed. Surgical procedures were developed to remove the colon but gradually, through experience and research, it became obvious that the idea of toxic food scraps could not be supported by the evidence yielded by medical research.
As bodies alive and dead became available for research, no rotting food or solidified fecal matter was found in anybody's colon. It became obvious to doctors that a new view of the workings of the digestive system was needed.
Unfortunately, the rest of the population does not keep up to date with advances in science, so the idea that toxins were caused by food trapped within the colon stayed in the annals of popular wisdom. As with all medical beliefs that cannot be supported by evidence, colon cleansing has become one of the "alternative" therapies.
Science has found that the colon cleans itself without any outside help. Actually, efforts to cleanse the colon using badly maintained or improperly cleaned equipment have resulted in patients becoming infected. Also some of the liquids used for colon cleansing have been found to cause illness.
The stuff that is squirted into the colon during colonic irrigation is often just water, but also other soothing substances are added to the mix. This is washed into the colon through a tube inserted into the subject's rectum. Some people seem to enjoy this procedure for its own sake, others prefer to stick to the dietary fiber or laxative path to inner cleanliness.
So how has colon cleansing become established in alternative medicine? Well, your bowel can become sick. You can get irritable bowel syndrome which is an nasty and uncomfortable illness which can be triggered by stress or infection. So far, there has been no scientific evidence that colon cleansing - or conventional treatments - can cure this malady although it can be relieved by a change in diet.
So colon cleansing has joined the ranks of practices that make sense at first glance but don't hold up under scrutiny. But despite the dangers of infection and amateurish practices, some people still look forward to the introduction of Mister Tube to Miss Bottom.
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