by Gillian Edwards, Colon Hydrotherapist and ARCH member
Article published in the Natural Dispensary Magazine
Most people have an idea about colonic hydrotherapy, but may not know about the herbal infusions that we use and how we use variable water temperature to improve bowel function.
All ARCH Colon Hydrotherapists are trained to be able to identify different bowel types and in the use of herbs, so are able to use the correct balance of herbs to elicit a bowel response which is ultimately highly effective at restoring normal bowel rhythm.
Depending on bowel-type, herbal infusions are highly effective at stimulating, relaxing, soothing or toning the bowel, helping to restore a natural rhythm. During a colonic treatment the herbs are absorbed via the hepatic portal system and stimulate the liver very quickly.
Recent European Legislation and regulation of herb use has meant that colon hydrotherapists have been threatened with the inability to use some of the herbs that have proven to be most effective and safely used for many years. Thankfully, many of our herbal infusions are also classified as foodstuffs so are still available to us.
The majority of the herbs we use fall into four categories:
Saponins, antispasmodics, stimulants and mucilages.
Saponins are often used as a base for most of the infusions. Herbs with a high saponin content break down gas pockets in the bowel and allow them to be released.
Anti-spasmodics help prevent or reduce the involuntary muscle contractions of the smooth muscle of the bowel that cause cramp. For IBS sufferers, this can have an instant and dramatic effect, releasing cramps, gas pockets and spasticity, allowing a free-flow evacuation of the bowel.
Depending on bowel type, we then add other herbs. Bitters or hepatics stimulate digestion by increasing bile flow and blood flow to the spleen. As they are absorbed, they are highly effective at increasing and stimulating peristalsis. On their own, they can be too strong so need the saponins and antispasmodics to temper the effect.
For the bowel to contract, it first needs to be relaxed. Over-stimulating a tight tense bowel is not only painful, but ineffective. We need herbs to relax the bowel before the bitters and astringents are then able to stimulate effectively and without causing griping and cramping.
Carminatives can have a calming effect on the client and are also effective at aiding the expulsion of gas pockets. Emotional spasticity is common. Calming the nervous system has the effect of calming the bowel.
Astringents have a mild laxative effect, so have a gentle toning effect and mucilages are used to soothe inflammation in the bowel and are effective at releasing gas pockets.
ARCH members can recommend oral herb formulations, if necessary, which also help restore bowel rhythm.
Constipation caused by a lazy, or hypotonic bowel require herbs which stimulate peristalsis. Equally many clients have a hypertonic bowel so whilst the effect is constipation, we need to relax the bowel muscle by using carminatives and nervines. Evacuation of the bowel isn't necessarily achieved by stimulating it and may equally be achieved by relaxing it. Certain herbs have highly effective soothing properties so mucilages such as slippery elm and marshmallow root, that coat the whole gastrointestinal tract with a residue can soothe diarrhoea, inflammatory bowel conditions and other gastrointestinal problems.
A popular misconception is that water is pumped out of the bowel during a colonic. This is untrue. Water is allowed to flow in and it is the nervous system response of the bowel being full that triggers peristalsis. It is therefore the natural body response of having a full bowel that we are repeatedly stimulating. If someone has a bowel which isn't functioning properly, it will simply fill with water and fail to evacuate. This is why colonics do not make the bowel lazy and where the ability to vary water temperature can be so effective.
Cooling the water temperature makes the bowel muscle contract. With a hypotonic bowel we can cool the water to stimulate the bowel to contract a little, and then warm it again to stimulate it to relax. Repeated warming and cooling with a highly skilled practitioner and within strict parameters stimulates the contraction and relaxation and in turn stimulates peristalsis. During this time the nervous system messages of recognising a full bowel and then initiating peristalsis can be improved.
The ability to influence bowel behaviour in this way is something which can only be achieved by a skilled and trained practitioner.
Colonic Hydrotherapy is not just about emptying a bowel. The aim is to achieve a well functioning bowel.