Keeping the colon healthy prior to pathogen exposure can help make it less vulnerable. Consequently, periodically detoxifying the colon can create an environment resistant to a number of conditions.
Our Westernized diet is often devoid of fiber, resulting in chronic constipation, a widespread disease affecting up to 25 percent of the population in Western countries. Constipation-related symptoms may lead to a heavy burden and a decrease in quality of life.
In one study of Dutch senior citizens, it was estimated that about fifty percent of the elderly use laxatives. In the very old and in institutions the use is even more frequent. In the aged, constipation can have dangerous complications, such as acute mental confusion, urinary retention, urinary incontinence and fecal impaction.
The human intestine is vulnerable to a wide array of intestinal invaders including the common protozoal parasite Giardia, which inhabits the small intestine of humans and other animals. Giardia cysts attach themselves to the intestinal mucosa from which they derive their nourishment. The concentration of chlorine routinely used in treating domestic water supplies does not kill Giardia cysts.
One pathogenic form of Giardia, Giardia lamblia, is transmitted by ingestion of cysts in fecally contaminated water or food. G. lamblia interferes with fat absorption and causes giardiasis. Symptoms of giardiasis include diarrhea, fever, cramps, anorexia, nausea, weakness, weight loss, abdominal distention, flatulence, greasy stools, belching and vomiting.
Giardia is a common infection in both the United States and the world’s population. In one study of 137 patients with irritable bowel syndrome and dyspepsia, it was found that 6.5 percent really had giardiasis caused by Giardia lamblia infection. In addition, there were no symptoms that reliably allowed for the recognition of giardiasis versus traditional IBS. A significant association also was found between giardiasis and H. pylori infection.
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied a large, prolonged outbreak of giardiasis that occurred in June through December of 2003 in families belonging to a country club in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. Of 30 primary cases, exposure to the children"s pool at the country club was significantly associated with illness. In addition, 105 secondary cases probably resulted from person-to-person spread.4
With the boundaries of the earth shrinking and international travel becoming more common, there is an increased risk in the United States for the transmission of parasites usually considered more common in other areas of the globe such as tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms.
Furthermore, Enterobius (pinworm) infections have always been quite common in the United States, with children contracting the nematodes and passing on the infection to other family members. It is estimated that in temperate climates 20 percent of children are infected with pinworms.
Food-borne transmissions of various parasitic and bacterial organisms also create a convincing case for ensuring that the intestinal tract is regularly detoxified. Researchers from Santa Barbara college hospital wrote of a case study of a 25-year-old woman who developed anisakiasis, a disease caused by human infection by the Anisakis larvae, a marine nematode found in raw or undercooked fish. Human infections are principally the result of ingestion of the anisakis larvae usually found in herring, mackerel, salmon, cod, halibut, rockfish, sardine, and squid. In the current case, the woman checked into the emergency room with anisakiasis and a resulting bowel obstruction. She had eaten seviche, a raw fish appetizer, 2 days earlier, and sashimi 3 weeks before admission. According to the researchers, “With the increased popularity of eating sushi and raw fish (sashimi) in the United States infection with anisakis is expected to rise.”
Food contaminated with E. Coli and Salmonella bacteria pose another threat to intestinal health. Escherichia coli is a gram-negative bacterium found in the intestinal tract of humans. Fecal contamination of food with E. Coli can cause travelers’ diarrhea and food poisoning. Salmonella is also a gram negative bacterium. Several Salmonella species are pathogenic and food contaminated with these pathogenic species can cause food poisoning ranging from mild to fatal.
The presence of Candida albicans, a common yeast-like fungus, in the intestinal tract provides further incentive to undertake a colon cleansing program. Normally this organism is present in the blood, gastrointestinal tract and vaginas of warm-blooded animals. Candida also lives in the folds, creases, and wrinkles of our skin.
Normally candida is a harmless symbiont, living in the gastrointestinal tract, kept under control by the inhibitory actions of beneficial bacteria and a healthy immune system. Unfortunately, consuming antibiotics or birth control pills or eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugars disrupts this internal ecology, leading to conditions that not only allow, but actually promote, the rapid growth of yeasts. These conditions can decrease the number of beneficial bacteria, lower immunity, and stimulate further yeast growth. As a result, the yeast cells quickly multiply out of control, especially in the colon. Candidiasis symptoms include fatigue, bloating, genital burning or itching, anal itching, frequent yeast infections and fungal infections, cravings for sweets and carbohydrates, mood swings, constipation, and diarrhea.
A combination of botanicals, fiber, and probiotics can help rid the intestinal tract of many of the pathogenic microorganisms mentioned above. Colon cleansing can also help improve colon motility and support the health of individuals with constipation.
Butternut and ginger possess pronounced activity against a variety of fungi, including strains highly resistant to commonly used pharmaceutical antifungals. Cayenne pepper is another potent antifungal and exerts strong anticandida activity. In addition, capsicum, a component of cayenne, was able to kill Schistosoma, an intestinal blood fluke found in Africa and tropical America, at a key stage in the parasite’s development.
Senna is another botanical that can simultaneously control constipation while demonstrating antifungal, antimicrobial effects. It has long been known for its laxative properties, but has recently emerged as an antibacterial agent. In cell culture experiments it has inhibited the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus subtilis and the yeast/fungus Candida albicans.
The licorice component glycyrrhizin is another botanical with colon-supporting properties. In mice with burn injuries, the animals’ susceptibility to Candida albicans infection is usually increased by up to 50-fold when compared with normal mice. However, glycyrrhizin reduced the Candida albicans susceptibility of thermally injured mice to levels observed in normal mice. Thermally injured mice inoculated with immune cells from glycyrrhizin-treated mice were also resistant to Candida albicans infection.
Licorice also has been shown to inhibit E. Coli and HIV. Like licorice, Rhubarb inhibits candida and E. Coli as well as the anaerobic intestinal bacteria known as Bacteroides fragilis. Bacteroides are the most common bacteria in the colon, outnumbering E. Coli by at least 100 to 1. Some species are pathogenic and are often found in necrotic tissue and in the blood after an infection.
Rhubarb also is a particularly helpful botanical for anyone suffering from constipation as it enhances the cellular electrical excitability of the colon, which results in a strengthening of colon contractions. It may help alleviate constipation through its ability to enhance peristalsis, the wavelike motion that is responsible for moving the colon’s contents onward.18
Furthermore, in studies of animals with colitis, a rhubarb component diminished the ulcerative area, and reduced colon weight and white blood cell counts.
Milk Thistle (silymarin), although best known for its liver-supporting properties, has additional colon-supporting properties. In dogs with Giardia infections, silymarin enhanced the efficacy of a standard drug used to treat giardiasis.
Fiber has long been considered the intestinal detoxifier par excellence and psyllium is one of the most effective fibers used to improve colonic function. Psyllium delays gastric emptying, probably by increasing meal viscosity, and reduces the acceleration of colon transit, possibly by delaying the production of gaseous fermentation products. Consequently, it has alleviated both constipation and diarrhea in irritable bowel syndrome patients.
Another fiber found to nourish the colon is citrus pectin. In rats with short bowel syndrome, citrus pectin improves small and large bowel mucosal structure, prolongs intestinal transit, and decreases diarrhea. Following massive intestinal resection in animals, citrus pectin significantly decreased body weight loss, increased stool solidity, and improved colonic water absorption without significantly altering mucosal structure. Researchers also have extensively studied modified citrus pectin for its ability to inhibit colon cancer.
Cascara Sagrada can be combined with fiber to help the intestinal tract function properly. Its laxative properties make it especially useful for individuals with constipation. Like Senna, Cascara Sagrada is used for intermittent periods as a colon detoxifier and laxative.
Colon cleansing is an important way to minimize the digestive tract’s exposure to the multitude of micro-organisms we encounter daily. The above botanicals often work best as a colon cleanser when combined with other colon supporting substances such as fennel seeds, digestive enzymes, Fructooligosaccharides (FOS), black walnuts, cranberry and the probiotic Lactobacillus, which has antigiardia, anticandida properties.