Nothing has changed since Dr. John Harvey Kellogg said a century ago that “90% of diseases are due to improper functioning of the colon.

There is much talk today about the importance of colon cleansing, but how does having healthy intestines actually improve your health?

It has always been an axiom of naturopathic medicine and most forms of natural healing that the digestive system is the foundation for good or bad health. As naturopaths, we routinely assume that most people are constipated, no matter how many times a day they go.

In fact, nothing has changed since the great natural healer Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, founder of the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan, declared nearly a century ago that “90% of the diseases of civilization are due to improper functioning of the colon.”

In 1987, I developed a four-phase, four-week colon cleansing protocol using herbs, electrolytes, probiotics, and nutrients. Since then, an estimated 70,000 people have done the self-care colon cleanse.

The benefits of cleansing are numerous. One user stated: “The main improvements I have noticed are energy levels, vision, hair, skin, mental attitude, ability to cope with stress situations—generally I’m a much happier and healthier person.”

Other benefits typically cited by users are the cessation of menstrual pain, migraines, and joint pain, fewer colds, resolution of lifelong sinus congestion, skin problems, and breast cysts, weight loss, and improved concentration, among many others.

Consider the following cases from our patient files:

Lisa, 55, had suffered from a skin rash for 35 years. She had consulted numerous physicians but nothing had reversed this problem. When the intestines are clogged and toxic, and the liver, too, is overburdened, toxins start backing up into the skin for elimination from the body.

By the time Lisa completed the colon cleanse, 95% of her skin symptoms had disappeared. We find Lisa’s experience replicated often; cleansing the colon frequently yields softer, more beautiful skin, with long-standing blemishes removed permanently in many cases.

Traces of an earlier illness often remain in the intestines as potential seeds for a recurrence. During a cleanse, it is not unusual to re-experience the symptoms of the former illness as these traces are purged from the body.

Lil, 42, who suffered from chronic bronchitis, could not exercise or even walk up stairs without wheezing. During the cleanse, she had a ten-day fit of coughing and wheezing, then it abruptly stopped and never returned. By emptying her intestines of old, putrefied matter, Lil had purged her body of the seeds of her recurrent bronchitis.

Margot, 47, had been beset by intense hip pain for seven years, such that she needed a cane to walk. X rays showed that the cartilage was worn off the head of the femur (thigh bone connecting to the hip bone) and the nerves in that area were pinched. Margot had tried numerous alternative therapies but was still relatively crippled.

Margot reported that on the second day of the cleanse, 50% of her pain disappeared and she no longer needed her cane; on the third day, she was able to perform gentle stretching exercises; and over the next several months, Margot’s pain continued to diminish leading her to declare: “For the first time in seven years, I’m seeing the reversal of the downward spiral.”

What happens in a colon cleanse to produce these benefits?

Merely consider three facts about the intestines. First, if stretched out to their full length, the large and small intestines together would measure 25 feet long. Second, the total surface area in the intestines (made larger by myriad folds) capable of absorbing nutrients is the size of a tennis court.

Third, the intestines can store a vast amount of partially digested, putrefying matter (as well as drugs and other toxic chemicals)—for decades even. Some intestines, when autopsied, have weighed up to 40 pounds and were distended to a diameter of 12 inches with only a pencil-thin channel through which the feces could move.

That 40 pounds was due to caked layers of encrusted mucus mixed with fecal matter, bizarrely resembling hardened blackish-green truck tire rubber or an old piece of dried rawhide. I call this mucoid plaque. This mucoid plaque, when it is removed during an intensive colon cleanse, often shows ropelike twists, striations, overlaps, folds, creases—the shape and texture of the intestinal wall.

Mucoid plaque may vary considerably, depending on the chemical conditions in a person’s intestines. It may be hard and brittle; it may be firm and thick; tough, wet, and rubbery; soft, thick, and mucoid; or soft, transparent, and thin; it can range in color from light brown, black, or greenish-black to yellow or grey, and sometimes emits an intensely foul odor.

One client I know, in the course of a month-long colon cleanse, passed a single length of mucoid plaque 15 feet long; another client excreted a total of 11 pounds of mucoid plaque during a cleanse. It is not unusual to pass a total of 35 to 45 feet of plaque, often in the last week. In our clinical experience of monitoring thousands of intensive colon cleanse programs over the last 14 years, most people pass a staggering amount of this strange substance.

I coined the term mucoid plaque, meaning a film of mucus, to describe the unhealthy accumulation of abnormal mucous matter on the walls of the intestines. Conventional medicine knows this as a layering of mucin or glycoproteins (made up of 20 amino acids and 50% carbohydrates) which are naturally and appropriately secreted by intestines as protection from acids and toxins.

However, mucoid plaque is different from the mucosal lining (mucosa) of the gastrointestinal tract. The latter acts as a necessary buffer to the gastrointestinal wall and as a lubricant for peristalsis; it is also responsible for the secretion of mucins which comprise mucoid plaque. The cells of the outermost layer of the mucosa (the epithelium) stay fresh and vital, renewing themselves every four to seven days.

It sounds paradoxical, but medical research indicates that mucoid plaque is a normal self-defense measure—natural protection from unnatural toxins.

Evidence indicates that mucoid plaque, with the possible exception of that found in the stomach, is unnatural to the healthy body and is found only after the body has moved away from perfect health and into a diseased state. The theory goes that if you were completely healthy, your system would produce no mucoid plaque because it wouldn’t need to.

When the body has been chronically subjected to (or put under attack by) drugs (such as aspirin or alcohol), salt, heavy metals (including dental mercury), toxic chemicals, parasites, harmful microbes and their toxins, and circulating immune complexes (immune cells locked onto undigested particles or foreign substances in the bloodstream), it produces mucoid plaque to protect itself.

The trouble is once the mucoid plaque is created, for whatever biologically important reason, it is not routinely excreted from the intestines. Instead, it lodges in the numerous folds and crevices of this large organ and can remain there for many years. Over time, the mucoid plaque grows thicker, firmer, and more widespread—colonizing, as it were, the tennis court-sized interior of the intestines. Old feces adhere to the plaque and are not removed during a normal bowel motion.

The plaque slows down intestinal action, both waste excretion, and nutrient absorption. It can harbor pathogens, including bacteria and parasites, which actually hide underneath the plaque; it may block the normal outflow of lymph and mucin drainage. It binds toxins to itself and contributes to bowel toxicity, slowly emitting toxins into the bloodstream. Finally, plaque creates a friendly environment for disease, in some cases for colon cancer and gastric carcinomas.

Gradually your immune system is weakened as the chronically toxic bowel environment destroys useful bacteria. Your liver becomes overburdened by the unprocessed intestinal toxins, and nerve meridian points in the intestines related to hundreds of other parts of the body are compromised.

A toxic bowel results in toxic blood and lymph, toxic organs and cells, and toxic function. The bowel “feeds” every organ, tissue, and cell in our bodies, so when the quality of feeding from the digestive system is contaminated or of poor quality, the cells and organs elsewhere in the body will be compromised and grow sluggish and inefficient.

So while mucoid plaque is “natural” in that the intestines produce it, it is most unnatural in that the presence of a large amount of it indicates a high degree of intestinal ill health. When the intestines are ill, you will be ill.

The Bowel Management Cleanse Program

Based on Dr. Bernard’s Jensen method of Bowel Management for Tissue Cleansing, I prepare a detox cleanse for you to do at home!

Is there a connection between old emotions and colon cleansing?

Yes. You will find that in many cases a colon cleanse will purge old emotions and attitudes stored in the intestines.

Consider this case: Jessie, 20, was a vegan yet was bothered by digestive problems and candidiasis. Candidiasis, or the overgrowth of Candida albicans in the intestines, is a condition often reversed by an intense colon cleanse. During the first two weeks of the cleanse, Jessie began feeling better, but the turnaround came in week three. Jessie passed what looked like three white cotton balls (presumably Candida masses lodged in her colon), and thereafter had no more candidiasis symptoms.

In addition to her physical improvements, Jessie had an emotional benefit as well. She felt an increase in willpower, a clarity in her feelings, a new desire to be of service to others, and a release of long-held resentments.

These points highlight an important aspect of colon cleansing. Many people, after completing a cleanse, feel energized, uplifted, and freed of old patterns, thoughts, feelings, and memories that have held them back. When a person is on a course of personal growth and wants to change their consciousness but is stuck in old negative patterns of thinking and feeling, there is nothing that will get them unstuck and change them faster than a colon cleanse.

In my observation of many individuals doing the colon cleanse, a negative state of consciousness is often, at an energy level, at the root of whatever physical problem they suffer from. Every thought or feeling we have has the potential of moving from the mind into the physical structure of the body where it can provoke illness. I estimate that about 70% of those doing the intensive colon cleanse will experience long-forgotten memories and buried emotions.

Often the memories and emotions surface into awareness with all their original charge and soon afterward you pass a large section of mucoid plaque. As it passes out of your body, so go the emotions. In most cases, you don’t re-experience those particular emotional memories.

Here is what I think happens. It is as though you can magnetize proteins or undigested food left in the intestines with certain thoughts and feelings. These proteins hold onto the feelings for as long as the proteins remain in the intestines, and the old emotions and thoughts continually radiate through the body and mind.

They remain literally—tangibly—stuck in your body, somehow bound up with the mucoid plaque and contributing, though not often usefully, to the personality. Both the individual’s biochemistry and psyche are continuously negatively affected by these residues of emotionally magnetized matter.

Let’s say you were 13 and had a traumatic or deeply embarrassing experience. At some level, every cell in your body was affected by the emotions of that event. It is conceivable that some intestinal matter imprinted by that experience remains in your intestines, wrapped inside mucoid plaque and bearing the memory of the original pain (even though you are now 45 and barely remember the episode).

The personality and one’s operating belief system, after all, are controlled mainly by a massive accumulation of past thoughts and feelings. To a large extent, intestinal matter helps hold these feelings in place. The colon cleanses, by purging the intestines of the mucoid plaque, flushes out this accumulation of old negative thoughts and feelings.

Written by Richard Anderson, ND, NMD

The Bowel Management Cleanse Program

Based on Dr. Bernard’s Jensen method of Bowel Management for Tissue Cleansing, I prepare a detox cleanse for you to do at home!

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