Is humanity one step away from colonic self-destruction? If one were to make assumptions based upon the number of info-mercials and on-line web sites devoted to the colon and bowel function, the answer would be a resounding, yes!
Readers of my blog and web articles are aware of my sincere desire to promote the awareness that human beings are a hositic amalgam of mind, body and spirit. In this light, I am deeply committed to the exploration of the claims of holistic, spiritual healers as well as the world of alternative healing. I do so from the perspective of the open-minded skeptic as proposed by none other than Sidhartha Gautama, the Buddha.[see earlier blogs]
What frustrates me more than I can convey, however, are the practitioners of alternative healing who consciously or out of profound ignorance propose theories and therapies which are irrational, illogical and totally opposed to scientific truths. Again, this is not to paint myself as a blind defender of scientific studies as ultimate truth. They are the product of human interpretation of data as well. Science, however, does allow itself to be corrected over time by the reproduction of results and conclusions.
I base my belief system on empirical observation–weighing the risks and benefits of various therapies and continuous monitoring of their effects on individual patients. There must, however, be some rational underlying notion of reality to these therapies.
What science has repeatedly, over many studies, over decades proven to be true, however, must be acknowledged and recognized. My point is this–the doctrine that we become ‘poisoned’ by our own fecal residue is total nonsense. This arises from pre-scientific thinking, perhaps thousands of years old, but promoted in the early twentieth century in the theory of ‘autointoxication’.
The term Death begins in the colon, ascribed to Russian Nobel Laurete Ilya Mechnikov and 1908 has become the phrase adapted by a number of practitioners, advocates of ‘colon cleansing’ which features both oral and anal approaches.
The consequence of such thinking led to the widespread use of laxatives, purges, enemas and the unecessary pre-occupation with bowel ‘regularity’. A mega-billion dollar industry promoting this mind-set has been sustained by such pseudo-scientific thinking.
Just as an example, the following was obtained by a random search for websites devoted to ‘colon cleansing’. The colon is a sewage system but by neglect and abuse it becomes a cesspool. When it is clean and normal we are well and happy. Let it stagnate and it will distill the poison of decay, fermentation, and putrefaction into the blood poisoning the brain and nervous system so that we become depressed and irritable; it will poison the heart so that we are weak and listless; poison the lungs so that the breath is foul; poison the digestive organs so we are distressed and bloated; and poison the blood so the skin is shallow and unhealthy….[ascribed to Dr. Bernard Jensen, 1974]
Such pronouncements might even ‘sound’ even rational to the uniformed. However, I have been a practicing gastroenerologist for over 27years. Believe me–there is no truth at all to this statement. The concept of autointoxication from the colon is just false.
Now, the reader must also know that constipation can be an annyoing, upsetting and debilitating problem for millions of individuals. Much of this can be traced to poor eating habits, lack of fluids, exercise and a diet deficient in fiber. Also, many of todays pharmaceuticals have side-effects which worsen constipation. I spend many hours a day dealing with these issues.
Fecal impaction [hard stool in the rectum] can even produce a colonic obstruction and potentially a perforation with subsequent peritonitis [a true colonic ‘poisoning’] . Yet what is being promoted is the vigorous cleansing of what is a natural colonic function–the storage, transportation and elimination of normal and natural fecal residue.
My objection is to the misinformation which leads to the promotion of expensive and at times dangerous ‘alternative’ therapies. I have no argument with many of the holisitic, herbal preparations for oral ‘colon cleansing’. Most of them are expensive, ‘doctored’ forms of fiber therapy anyway. Some contain natural laxatives. But what disturbs me greatly is the obsession with colonic enema therapy.
Info-mercials which reveal the ‘casts’ of colons and claim that residue accumulates over years are absolutely wrong! Having performed approximately 30,000 colonoscopies in my career, I have found NO evidence of colonic ‘casts’ of long-term residue. Also, even after the strong laxatives that they must use prior to their procedures, my patients have NEVER described any bizarre casts or formations being ejected by their colons.
So, let the dialogue continue along the lines of rational yet empirical explorations of what produces healing. Let us be open to new and even paradoxical thinking. But let the buyer beware–there is much ‘out there’ that sounds reasonable, even scientific, but is not.