It may seem to some a dirty job, but others say you need to do it

Colonic hydrotherapy arrives in SE Alaska

Posted: Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Rainforest Naturopathic Medicine offers something that gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "spring cleaning."

Movie stars on Jay Leno talk about it and others are closet clients of a somewhat invasive but increasingly popular treatment known as colonic hydrotherapy. And now it is available in Juneau.

Naturopathic doctor Kristin Cox said many of her clients are initially nervous about the process but she says it's not as scary as it looks. A tube is inserted into the rectum that fills the colon and intestines with water, prompting the patient lying on a table to empty his or her bowels into a tube.

The result for some is the sensation that a 10-pound sandbag was lifted off their bellies, she said.

"Everyone that has done this says it wasn't as bad as they thought it would be," said Cox, who claims Southeast Alaska's only colonic hydrotherapy practice.

Cox said that colonic hydrotherapy is not a cure for diseases and it's frowned upon in the mainstream medical community.

"It's not very glamorous," she said. It's also hard to prove there is a direct link between colonic sessions and symptoms disappearing, she added.

Maureen Longworth, a medical doctor who has a holistic family practice downtown, said she has not researched the effects of colonic hydrotherapy, but it sounds to her like an extreme form of treatment.

"I would not refer my patients for a colonic," she said. In serious cases of constipation, the therapy may be helpful, but a standard enema may work just as well, she said.

The best way to have a happy colon is to drink lots of water, exercise and eat vegetables containing fiber, Cox said.

Before she introduced the therapy from her downtown office last year, constipated Juneau residents were traveling to Anchorage and Seattle for relief.

As many Americans eat more than their share of breads, cheeses, potatoes and junk food, all of that intestinal traffic tends to get clogged up and even breaks through the intestinal wall, she said.

Some of her clients only have bowel movements every two weeks.

"Having a bowel movement is like taking out the garbage in your house," Cox said. If it stays around for weeks, it starts to smell, grow legions of bacteria and attract flies and rats. Excrement that wears out its welcome spoils in the same way, she added.

Clients with thyroid problems, arthritis, skin problems and sinus infections are some of her customers seeking help.

A session takes about an hour, and half of that time is spent on the table. While assisting clients, Cox said she rarely gets her hands dirty because the tube and the machine catch any waste from spilling out.

"It doesn't even smell bad," she said.

Our society does not let people have bowel movements as often as they should, she said.

Some of her clients come by once or twice a year for cleanings, while others come several times in one month. The frequency of visits can often depend on the degree of constipation.

"If anything, this helps motivate people to keep that (healthy) feeling and stay on their diets," she said.

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