The theory that it is necessary, or even desirable, to cleanse the colon is old science, and not very good science at that. The only medically sound reason for a full colon cleansing is in preparation for a colonoscopy.
The reason that colon cleansing is thought to be necessary is the concept of “auto-intoxication”. This is the idea that food enters the intestines and rots. Auto-intoxication supposes that the putrefaction of fecal matter leads to disease. The body is thought to be incapable of completely ridding itself of waste which makes colon cleansing necessary.
There are two methods of colon cleansing, colon hydrotherapy and oral cleansing regimes. Just as you suspect, when we are discussing colon hydrotherapy, we are talking about enemas. While this will certainly cleans the lower bowel, there is danger if intestinal perforation if not performed properly, and the practice may lead to dependence on enema to defecate.
Oral Cleansing programs often use dietary fiber, herbal supplements, and laxatives. It is thought that these can be sufficient to cleanse the lower bowel of pathogens or parasites living in the accumulated fecal material. In fact, nature does a very good job of cleaning out waste.
So, is colon cleansing necessary or even desirable? Colon hydrotherapy should probably be avoided because of the dangers mentioned earlier. Some elements of an oral cleansing regime may have benefits.
Continued use of laxatives is not a good idea because of possible dependence issues. Herbal supplements are not regulated, so they must be used with caution because there is little hard evidence to back up their claims. There is a great deal of evidence to support the increased intake of dietary fiber, however.
The purpose of a colon cleansing regime is to help the colon expel its contents. Anyone who has experienced the discomfort of not being able to move their bowels can attest to the benefits of this. The frequency of bowel movements varies widely between individuals, but the longer stools remain in the colon, the harder they become, and the harder they will be to pass.
Considering what you eat, rather than what you flush through your colon will have a more direct impact on the organ’s health. Many oral colon cleansing regimes claim to be natural, but remember that natural does not directly equate to safe. The safest oral colon cleansing regimes will include increased consumption of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber.
Prebiotic, or soluble fiber, is easily broken down and fermented in the colon so that nutrient can be salvaged. Insoluble fiber is metabolically inert, but absorbs water as it moves through the digestive tract. The absorbed moisture will aid in softening stools and ease bowel movements.
Another important component in easing bowel movement and helping the colon clean is adequate hydration. Remember that insoluble fiber and the colon itself will need a good deal of water to do their jobs. Keep in mind that as the water is flushed from the system, it may take some water soluble vitamins with it. The body does not have a mechanism for storing vitamin C, among others, so there may be a benefit to including a multivitamin supplement with your colon cleansing program.