Colonics (Colon Hydrotherapy) for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complex illness that afflicts between 1 and 4 million Americans. The condition is extremely debilitating and there is no cure, therefore patients can only seek to alleviate their symptoms.
In this quest, some have turned to alternative medicine therapies, including colonics, also known as colon hydrotherapy, colonic irrigation, or high colonic. Although there is little scientific evidence to suggest that this is an effective treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome, anecdotal evidence by its proponents suggests that it may be a viable approach for some patients.
Why Use Colon Hydrotherapy for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic fatigue syndrome patients who have not had success with traditional medical treatments, or who are looking for a natural, alternative approach to medications and other medical treatment may want to try colon hydrotherapy.
Ordinarily, colonics are recommended for patients suffering from digestive problems such as gas, bloating, cramps, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Colonic irrigation can help alleviate these problems by flushing toxins from the lower gastrointestinal tract, thereby improving the overall function of the bowel. A properly functioning bowel can help the body better absorb nutrients from food and prevent vitamin deficiencies.
A person with chronic fatigue syndrome may suffer from vitamin deficiencies, so enabling the body to better absorb nutrients might alleviate some of the symptoms of CFS. Proponents of colon hydrotherapy also note that there are many mental benefits from the process. By cleansing the body of wastes, alternative practitioners say, one also cleanses the mind. Since chronic fatigue syndrome is a stressful condition that can sometimes lead to depression, the reported mental benefit from colonics is an advantage of the therapy.
Several sessions of colon hydrotherapy may be required before a patient with chronic fatigue syndrome experiences an improvement in symptoms. This is because material in the colon builds up over time.
What Causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Unfortunately, even after decades of researching, the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome—also known as chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome, myalgic encephalomyelitis and post viral fatigue syndrome—is unknown. Current theories suggest that a virus may be responsible.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is difficult to diagnose, because its main symptom—a debilitating level of fatigue that does not improve with bed rest—is a factor in other illnesses, and no specific diagnostic test is available. Generally, a patient must have both chronic fatigue and a number of other serious symptoms before being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.
What Is Colon Hydrotherapy?
Colon hydrotherapy is a practice that may date back to ancient times, and which has gained popularity in recent decades. The process is similar to a traditional enema in that it flushes wastes from the colon, the large intestinal tube directly connected to the rectum. It differs from an enema, however, in two distinct ways. First, while enemas are typically self-administered at home, colonics are performed by a professional in a specialized clinic. Second, enemas use a limited amount of water, while colonics use a device to control water flow and completely fill the colon with water, so that more waste matter can be flushed out.
Proponents say that colon hydrotherapy is often necessary to help cleanse the body by removing undigested food that can sit in the colon for years, blocking the normal elimination of waste matter, and turning toxic. Some alternative practitioners believe that having such an unhealthy colon can lead to a host of conditions, including chronic fatigue syndrome, and that flushing the toxic substances can help alleviate these illnesses. The medical establishment as a whole, however, does not support these claims.
What Happens at a Colon Hydrotherapy Session?
Patients may be nervous at their first colon hydrotherapy session, and often have concerns about sanitation and privacy. As with similar outpatient medical procedures, such as colonoscopies, every effort is made to ensure that the patient feels comfortable.
Although the process may vary by clinic, the session generally begins by having the patient put on a gown, then lie on a table with bent legs, which helps to open up the colon. The therapist inserts a small instrument, called a speculum, into the patient’s rectum. Two tubes are connected, one for pumping in temperature-controlled water and one for receiving the outflow of water and waste. Through several passes, the water that is added helps to loosen and flush out the waste that has collected in the colon. The therapist also has the patient switch positions during the treatment and may gently massage the patient’s abdomen to help dislodge more waste matter.
During the process, a patient’s colon will be completely filled with water. While this can be a strange and uncomfortable feeling, and can lead to cramping, most do not report feeling any pain. Safeguards are also put in place to ensure that none of the waste is pushed back into a patient’s small intestine. The waste that is released can include impacted fecal matter, worms, parasites and dormant gases. Patients are often surprised by how much waste is flushed out in the initial session. Even so, it usually takes repeat sessions to flush out all of the impacted waste that has built up inside the colon over the years.
Is Colon Hydrotherapy Safe?
While proponents of colon hydrotherapy insist that it is a natural, safe method for eliminating toxic waste, the medical community does warn against some possible adverse effects. Some physicians claim that such an extensive irrigation can flush out essential electrolytes and good bacteria in the colon, along with the impacted waste. Proponents say that the benefits outweigh this possible consequence, and that people can use probiotic supplements to restore their good bacteria.
The medical community warns of other serious adverse reactions, especially from frequent treatments, which can include heart failure, fluid in the lungs, infections, coma and the risk of tearing the bowel wall. They also note that colon hydrotherapy should not be used by people with diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, severe or internal hemorrhoids or tumors in the rectum or colon, and by patients who have recently had bowel surgery.
Also, both traditional and alternative practitioners stress the importance of ensuring that the colon hydrotherapy clinic uses sterile water and equipment during the procedure. Modern equipment is FDA-registered and includes built-in sanitizing equipment. You should also make sure that the therapist uses disposable, single-use rectal tubes and speculae.
Finding a Colon Hydrotherapist
When searching for a colonics therapist, it is important to find a qualified practitioner. The International Association for Colon Hydrotherapy provides examination for certification up to the instructor level in colon hydrotherapy. You can find information on becoming a member at their website.
Aetna’s InteliHealth website features a detailed overview of colonic irrigation by Natural Standard and the Harvard Medical School faculty, including a section on possible risks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website offers a comprehensive overview of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and includes links to helpful resources such as support groups.
The Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome Association of America website provides many resources for patients, including discussion of the latest research efforts.
The Health A to Z website features an informative entry on colonic irrigation.