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NewsHealth

Colon cleansing to maintain intestinal health

Dear Pharmacist: I had to get a colonoscopy last month, and fortunately, everything is OK, but it made me worry about colon cancer. My doctor recommended a stool softener and laxative for me if it gets bad. What else do you suggest for colon health? -P.C., Ocala, Fla.

Definitely clean yourself out. I'm not recommending gastric lavage, I'm thinking simple solutions like drinking more water, eating more fiber and taking probiotics and enzymes. The following dietary supplements act like a sponge that binds bile acids and toxins in your large intestine to form an insoluble complex that you excrete. Think of these as a rescue remedy, not for chronic daily use because they will latch on to your medicine and supplements: bentonite clay, activated charcoal and psyllium husk. You'd pick only one, not all. The bentonite and charcoal can be extremely constipating, so be careful, and be sure to ask your doctor if they're OK for you to use.

This may sound weird, but your colon is "connected" to your head and your gut is often referred to as your "second brain." That's why avoiding various food groups improves mood and migraines. Colonics are an option. Gun shy about these? I don't blame you, most colonic practitioners use an intimidating speculum, but the newer, thinner nozzles are more comfortable. That's what I'm told by my friend, Dr. Francis Gonzalez, ND, an I-ACT certified colon hydrotherapist instructor and founder of Fluid Water Therapy in New York.

Colonics improve lower intestinal health, especially if you eat lots of dairy, meat, white flour, processed, refined foods, milk chocolate, coffee or alcohol. For some reason, after a while, these foods encrust the intestines with a sludge made up of thick mucus, fecal material, and other trapped debris. The sludge promotes the growth of pathogens, adding to the intestinal mess. If you have any chronic illness, I urge you to consider internal pollution, not just environmental pollution! Digestive enzymes and probiotics can help, and they are more effective after colonic therapy.

Colonics (and gentle enemas) help remove toxins from your intestine, reduce bloating and relieve constipation. Colonics help remove rotting material like meat that gets stuck in your intestinal tract. Warming up to the idea? Be warned that many colonics are performed by untrained personnel using unregulated, homemade systems referred to as "Woods Gravity" method. Gonzalez provided some bare minimum criteria that your colon therapist should meet:

* Be certified and trained by the International Association for Colon Hydrotherapy (I-ACT) and/or the National Board for Colon Hydrotherapy.

* Only use FDA-registered Class II medical devices to conduct the therapy.

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* Only use disposable rectal nozzles that have been sterilized.

* Use colon hydrotherapy equipment installed with back-flow prevention valves so that fecal matter from one patient can't contaminate another.

* Can ensure that the water that is used to cleanse the patient's intestinal tract is properly purified to eliminate any waterborne microorganisms.

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