I was the friend with daily complaints of "my stomach hurts," who tried over-the-counter and prescription remedies to no avail. I refused to slow down, kept Pepto in my purse, and saw stomachaches as a personal challenge to work through. Then, I learned about colon hydrotherapy, and I thought I'd found the perfect treatment for my irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms—a way to jump-start to my healing and keep my symptoms under control.
Colon hydrotherapy, otherwise known as a colonic, is a natural alternative medicine treatment. The Association of Registered Colon Hydrotherapists describes it as "a gentle wash out of the colon or large intestine, using warm water to remove waste matter, rehydrate, and exercise the bowel." While this procedure is not safe for all bowel conditions, I decided to try it since Western medicine provided me with no relief, and my body had just about had enough.
My first colonic was during a spa day in Bali. The hydrotherapist was great, but I experienced severe cramping during the procedure. I felt like my stomach was exploding, and the therapist massaged my abdomen to relieve the cramps. Eventually, the pain subsided, and after the procedure I felt great. I loved the results and felt lighter, emotionally cleared, and saw a reduction in my symptoms for weeks. I sang the praises of colonics to all my friends, and they, too, went to the church of colon hydrotherapy.
I noticed, however, that none of my friends were having the severe cramping experience I was. Despite different methods and different hydrotherapists, my experiences were always the same: severe, painful cramping during the procedure. During my last colonic session, the hydrotherapist told me I was the most extreme case of cramping she’d seen. We talked about my symptoms and she suggested increased colonic frequency and recommended I look at treatment options for severe IBS-C (IBS with constipation).
At that juncture, I realized I wasn’t interested in another symptom treatment but was finally ready to face the root cause. I was using colon hydrotherapy quarterly, when my IBS-C was so severe and uncomfortable that I couldn’t self-treat anymore. I needed to acknowledge that my IBS-C was caused by my diet and unhealthy lifestyle at the time. I knew I needed to make behavior modifications and stop using colonics as a quick fix to feel better. Once I got a handle on my behavior, I found I didn’t need to rely on colonics so heavily anymore. Below are the five reasons I no longer need colonics and am able to manage my IBS symptoms myself:
1. I started tuning into my body.
The first step to treating the cause was learning to communicate with my body in its language. After a session with an intuitive healer, I began to understand that stomachaches and pains were my body’s way of telling me something wasn't right. I learned to honor my body’s intelligence and stopped pushing and demanding so much from it. I tuned into how I felt after certain foods and drinks and began to learn what worked and what didn’t.
2. I stopped the binges.
Anyone who suffers from IBS-C knows the challenges posed by eating hard-to-digest foods: abdominal pain, bloating, and discomfort are very familiar feelings. Instead of avoiding the foods that caused trouble, I would binge on them, drink through the pain, and use laxatives. It seemed too difficult to turn down Mexican food and margaritas with friends, but eventually I had to learn to be firm with myself. As I started to embrace a more holistic life, I knew I couldn’t continue drinking or using laxatives as frequently as I was. I changed those behaviors and also made modifications to the foods I was eating. I used a low-FODMAP and other IBS diets to learn which foods would be easiest for me to naturally digest. I stopped my trigger food binges and added digestive enzymes to work on achieving balance in my diet and digestion.
3. I learned about the magic of probiotics.
As the father of medicine Hippocrates said, "All disease begins in the gut." I knew that if I wanted to heal my IBS I would have to heal my gut. I added daily probiotics to my diet and swapped my evening wine for kombucha. Adding these tools relieved the bloat I was carrying and helped my digestion become more "regular," if you get my drift.
4. I did more yoga.
My doctor felt that my IBS stemmed from stress and suggested I try yoga. At first I dabbled, but when I got serious about healing, I got serious about my yoga practice, too. As I noticed I was feeling better, I enrolled in yoga teacher training to learn more. If I experienced IBS symptoms I would sequence poses together that helped with digestion. As my internal philosophies about yoga and healing changed, I witnessed my external body and frequency of symptoms change as well.
5. I decided healthy was more important than skinny.
Before my IBS, I focused on being skinny. I skipped meals, took diet pills, and I tried all the fad diets. After my final colon hydrotherapy session, I realized the focus on "being skinny" was likely the driver of my unhealthy behaviors and was causing a strained relationship with my body. I decided to focus on preventing the symptoms that sent me running to get a colonic. I changed my intention to being healthy and put my digestion first. Ironically, I am smaller and look better now than I did before.
While colonics have many benefits, I haven’t had one in over a year and I’m OK with that. I needed this time to turn inward and let my body show me my own path to healing. I’m definitely not cured from IBS, but I seldom experience severe symptoms. I can still go out with my girlfriends for Mexican food and margaritas, but now I plan ahead and eat beforehand to prevent a digestive crisis and keep my belly happy.
Concerned about your gut health? Here are five signs that your digestive problems are more serious than you think and what everyone should know about IBS.