Autointoxication is an ancient theory suggesting that faulty digestion leads disease-causing toxins to gather in the colon. Colon cleansing has been considered a way to reverse this condition. This practice may involve the administration of an enema, which is the injection of liquid into the large bowel, cleansing with laxatives or dietary measures to clear the bowels of excess fecal matter. Baking soda is one of the ingredients used in these colon cleanses. While there is a lack of quality research to prove its value, colon cleansing is advocated by many alternative healthcare practitioners who believe that it helps rid the body of toxins.
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Baking Soda and Colon Cleansing
Sodium bicarbonate, better known as baking soda, is a home remedy for indigestion because its alkaline composition neutralizes acidic digestive juices. Over the years, it has also been used in enema solutions and touted to restore pH balance -- as a treatment for illnesses that some alternative health practitioners believe are linked to excess acidity. When a small amount of baking soda is mixed with water, and typically salt, to be used as a laxative or enema, it can help clear the bowel due to a process called osmosis. Essentially, as this solution enters the gut, it causes water to be pulled into the intestines -- softening the stool and increasing stool volume. How well it works to clear the bowel depends on the amount and frequency of use.
Other Methods of Colon Cleansing
There are also dietary approaches to cleanse the colon of fecal matter and to relieve constipation. The best way to aid in the elimination of stool is a high-fiber diet -- rich in whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts. For extra help there are also laxatives. Natural agents such as psyllium husk, wheat bran and other fiber supplements add bulk to the stools, speeding movement of fecal matter through the intestines, and also soften intestinal contents. Baking soda has a history of being used as a laxative, although research supporting its effectiveness is lacking.
Colon Cleansing Research
While cleansing the colon is important prior to certain diagnostic medical tests, such as a colonoscopy, and a high-fiber diet that promotes regular bowel movements is known to decrease the gut's exposure to toxins, there is little research to support that colon cleansing actually rids the blood and body tissues of toxins. Frequently cited signs of this autointoxication include bad complexion, muscle aches and fatigue, but as a rule, mainstream medicine denounces these claims. According to an August 2011 review published in the Academy of American Family Physicians, there is a lack of quality and published evidence linking colon cleansing to any health benefits.
Warnings and Precautions
Baking soda taken in excessive amounts can lead to toxicity, specifically a condition called metabolic alkalosis. This is more likely to occur in people whose kidneys don't function well. Colon cleansing of any kind can cause side effects that range from mild -- such as cramping, vomiting and nausea -- to severe, such as pancreatitis, infection and bowel perforation, according to the article in "Journal of Family Practice." If you suffer from constipation or for another reason would like to try colon cleansing, be sure to discuss it first with your doctor. This is particularly important if you have any health conditions or take prescription medications. Chronic constipation, bloating or abdominal pain may be signs of a more serious underlying condition and should also be discussed with your doctor.
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- British Medical Bulletin: Alternative Detox
- American Family Physicians: Colon Cleansing and Body Detoxification: Any Evidence of Benefit or Harm?
- National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Diseases: Symptoms and Causes of Constipation
- Clinics in Colon and Recetal Surgery: Bowel Preparation Before Elective Surgery
- Journal of Public Toxicology: Baking Soda Can Settle the Stomach but Upset the Heart: Case Files of the Medical Toxicology Fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco
- Neurogastroenterology & Motility: Pharmacological Management of Constipation
- The Journal of Family Practice: The Dangers of Colon Cleansing