The Truth Behind Colonics
Celebrities rave about them, Madonna has confessed to having them and Margaret Cho joked about them in her standup show Notorious C.H.O. Colonics-or hydrotherapy irrigations-are a popular practice among people who believe in their supposed detoxifying effects. But are they all they're cracked up to be?
Alternative medicine and holistic practitioners claim colonics rid the colon of caked-on fecal matter and harmful bacteria and parasites thus bringing greater balance and clarity to individuals' lives. The experience is said to also relieve folks of lethargy, depression and similarly oppressive maladies. Yet, stalwart physicians, who strictly adhere to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, pooh pooh such theories, saying the irrigations are hogwash.
While the debate over colonic integrity ensues, a bigger concern lurks in the shadows. Who is getting them done most often, and why?
Hidden Agendas or Innocent Patrons
According to Estronaut.com-a site touted as a women's health forum-women and gay men are colonics' No. 1 customers. The site reads, "Gay men are more likely to find the stimulation of the rectum arousing because of the indirect stimulation of the prostate. While some women may be aroused as well, weight concerns are by far the motive."
Contact numbers for this organization are no longer in service and further attempts to reach Estronaut.com were unsuccessful. A link to scientific papers supporting the site's statements appears online, but access to the papers is limited to authorized users only.
Anne Khoury, director of the Health Connections Center & Spa, Philadelphia, disagrees with Estronaut.com's gender and sexual orientation claims. For starters, she says colonics, which can run about $75 per session, are simply too expensive to abuse for any reason.
"About 65 percent of my clients are women," she concedes. "But they are not dependent upon the practice. Most women clientele come in for an appointment from time to time, but not on a regular, ongoing basis. If I felt someone had ulterior motives, I would say something and recommend help, but it hasn't happened yet."
Khaury adds that although colonics are uplifting for patients post-procedure, they are not that pleasurable for patients lying face down on the table with water streaming through their rectums and colons.
"I don't buy into the idea that gay men feel any pleasure with this. There is no pleasure, it's more of a sensation that you have to, you know, relieve yourself. In all my years here we've never seen anyone from the gay community abuse the service," she says.
The Health Connections Center is Philadelphia's oldest alternative homeopathic center, which is located within close proximity to the City of Brotherly (and Sisterly) Love's Washington Square West, or Gayborhood, enclave.
While QuackWatch.com administrator and psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Barrett MD, Allentown, Pa., believes colonics are more of a scam than anything else, he admits he can't say for sure if women or gay men have hidden agendas for pursuing them.
"I just haven't heard anything to state, definitively, that this is true. I know women abuse laxatives, which is very foolish because only water, not fat, is lost through laxative use," he says.
Barrett did say it is quite possible women utilize hydrotherapy irrigation in a similar way to laxatives because of the immediate weight loss gratification. "But, again, they're not losing fat in this process," he says.
Help or Hindrance?
Still, it is evident that patients will experience some level of weight loss and flattening of the stomach immediately after one session, says Khoury who explains that cleansing instantly relieves our sewer system-like colons of a few pounds of food and matter that just never fully digested.
"We naturally have some bacteria in our bodies, but we're supposed to have 85 percent friendly bacteria and 15 percent opportunistic bacteria," says Khoury. "For a lot of people, those numbers are reversed and that's when an overgrowth of fungus occurs."
Angel Healing Center, Las Vegas, supports Khoury's statement that several pounds of matter exist in our colons. IN fact, the center reports many folks walk around with upwards of 10 to 20 lbs. of fecal waste impacted in our abdomens and making their waist sizes bigger.
Khoury and the Angel Healing center devoutly advocate for colon therapy, saying the benefits of releasing encrusted materials is endless-from improved digestion and skin tightening to relief from painful menstruating and reduction of sugar cravings.
Barrett is skeptical, however. He says no crusting of matter and waste actually occurs in the colon because if it did doctors would see it during colonoscopies. "There's just no proof of it," he says. Barrett was unaware that some colonic practitioners reveal to customers the waste extracted from their colons. Instead, he was more concerned about the adverse affects that, for him, far outweigh any supposed benefits.
According to Barrett, dangers include serious infection and, in some cases, death due to non-sterilized equipment, over absorption of water, an imbalance of electrolytes and interference with normal bowel functioning. Even more of a concern: the thousands of unlicensed people performing colonics under the guise of professional therapists.
"There is so much illegal activity in this arena that many, many people wind up putting themselves in grave danger unknowingly," he says.
Still, many high-profile people tout colonics as a miracle cure for much malaise. Khoury was quick to point out Tony Robbins, Princess Diana and Shaquille O'Neal as pro-colonic. She also said a few celebrities have been to the Philadelphia office, typically during off hours.
Barrett isn't impressed. "It's not clear to me that being a movie star makes someone an expert on whether or not colonics are a healthy practice," he says.
It's Your Call
According to the Health Connections Center & Spa, Philadelphia, purported benefits of colon hydrotherapy include:
Improved nutritional absorption
Promotion of weight loss
Reduction of fatigue
Loosening of mucus
Reduction of cravings for sugars and starches
Removal of impurities from the blood
Relief of discomfort due to colitis, IBS, and
other gastro-intestinal disorders
Reduction or complete elimination of constipation and diarrhea
Restoration of the proper function of the nervous
and glandular systems
Removal of toxic material and parasites
Relief of painful menstruation
Improved muscular tone of colon
Enhanced mental clarity