Add as bookmark

Colon Health - Are you confused?

by Peter Bartlett and Michael Sellar(more info)

listed in colon health, originally published in issue 42 - July 1999

Doctor Sheldon Saul Hendler describes a patient with a wide variety of diverse symptoms such as chronic fatigue, headaches, sore throat, bodily aches and pains, dizziness, poor memory, allergies, chemical sensitivities, etc. She came to him after her first doctor had carried out a series of tests for cancer but could find nothing, so sent her away.

The second doctor, after carrying out tests, diagnosed hypoglycaemia but after a year on a corrective diet she was no better.

The third doctor diagnosed an underactive thyroid. The treatment made her far worse.


The patient by this time was so disillusioned she decided to do her own research. She became convinced that her symptomatic profile matched that of systemic candidiasis. She sought out a doctor knowledgeable in this disorder. He confirmed her suspicions. She did indeed have chronic candidiasis. She did well on her new regimen for a short while but soon slipped back into her previously poor condition.

She then became convinced that her diverse array of symptoms was due to Epstein Barr Virus. This proved to be false.

Had she pursued other doctors she might well have been diagnosed with leaky gut syndrome, adrenal syndrome, gut fermentation syndrome, multiple allergies or parasitic infections. There are probably other possibilities (and no doubt other new syndromes will emerge in the future).

Fortunately, hers was a happy ending. She found a doctor who didn't believe in the single cause, single remedy approach but used a wide variety of complementary therapies, including diet, supplementation, exercise, corrective breathing, stress management, etc. She fully recovered.

It's possible that her previous doctors were not wrong. Maybe she did have some of the problems she was diagnosed with. But these may have been effects rather than causes. They may have been the result of her problems, not the cause of them. A more holistic approach was needed.

Patients tend to feel a lot happier when a name is finally given to their condition. It means it's real and not something they are imagining, which they may come to believe in time if enough doctors tell them "it's all in the mind". But a holistic approach may not lend itself to a definitive diagnosis. It will need a persuasive practitioner to convince the patient that their problems are real, and can be overcome without giving it a name.

In treating people who have a wide range of physical and mental symptoms that don't fit in to a conventional, 'named' condition, nutritional and naturopathic practitioners have for years been developing therapeutic tools for the handling of all manner of ailments. They have done this in the face of much opposition from scientists, doctors and policy-makers, but now, it would seem, they are being exonerated as many of their theories are being validated.

Often they have a particular bias towards one type of therapy or another, perhaps deriving from their own personal experience or from their particular interest or research. When seeking to understand conditions that have their origin in problems with the gastrointestinal tract, careful analysis must be undertaken, beginning with a thorough investigation of the patient's history.

Finding Out What's Wrong (Testing, Testing…)

The symptoms that the patient most frequently presents are diarrhoea and abdominal pain, but others include chronic constipation, excessive bowel gas and bloating, muscular aches, itchy skin, multiple allergies, headaches, anxiety, unexplained fatigue, poor concentration, etc.

This may prompt the doctor to diagnose Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) by symptoms alone, though some may prefer a more objective approach by using laboratory testing. There are a number of laboratory tests available for seeking out abnormalities in the gastrointestinal tract.

Stool analysis can be used to evaluate digestion, absorption and bacterial balance. It can identify pathogens, parasites, blood and yeasts.

Urine can be analysed for the presence of yeasts and to check for the clearance of two non-metabolised sugars, lactulose and mannitol to identify leaky gut syndrome and malabsorption. Blood is often used to check for antibodies to pathogens and to test immune functioning.

Vaginal, mouth and nasal swabs may be used to check for yeasts.

Breath samples may be taken to check for lactose intolerance and for abnormal levels of hydrogen and methane which indicate bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine.

Tests are useful if you know what you are looking for. Otherwise it can be a very expensive exercise to carry out a suitably comprehensive range of tests. As with most other tests, those done in a laboratory are subject to inaccuracies, giving rise to false positives and false negatives. There is also some controversy over the validity of some types of test.

For example, Candida albicans is normally present in the gut. A positive test for this yeast doesn't necessarily indicate that it is causing a problem. There are sophisticated tests which analyse how the digestive system manages sugar and fermentation. This also may show an overgrowth of the yeast but it isn't definitive.

The Micro-ELISA technique detects circulating levels of candida antigens, antibodies IgG, A and M, and immune complexes (CICs). The patient's white blood cells can be challenged with the yeast to evaluate whether or not the white blood cells' multiplication is inhibited.

Many doctors believe that since patients have as much candida in their guts as healthy people, then such tests are of little practical value. Even if a test is valid it may not be carried out properly. For instance, parasites may well be causing symptoms. However, a laboratory which only requires a single stool sample may have an unacceptably high false negative rate. It may not find them even though they are present because parasites don't show up in every stool sample (up to 50% are clear). Several stool samples are required as well as rectal swabbing to give the best chance of finding the parasite.

Let us look at some of the other testing methods currently in use: These include:

  • X-ray / MRI screening
  • Dark-field Microscopy
  • VEGA/Eclosion/EAP/EAV/MORA/BICOM and other electro-dermal based tests.
  • Applied Kinesiology
  • Structural Evaluation – e.g. Osteopathy, Chiropractic, Naturopathy
  • Visceral Palpation and Neurological assessment
  • Acupuncture/Chinese medical diagnosis
  • Homoeopathic diagnosis
  • Clinical Observation of stool – e.g. during colonic irrigation
  • Iridology, Reflexology
  • Subjective Questionnaire Analysis

What, if any of these tests should the patient be expected to take and are they valid? The answer to the first question is, of course, as many as is necessary to isolate the greatest number of causative factors so as to choose the most beneficial remedial path back to health.

As to their validity, each can reveal a part or indeed all of the puzzle but will be limited by the skills and depth of knowledge of the practitioner using the particular test. It is sensible therefore, when seeking professional advice, to ascertain, as one does in any other area of one's life, whether the doctor or complemen- tary practitioner has those particular skills and experience in dealing with colonic disorders. It sounds obvious to say this, but in this time of increasing scepticism by the public for conventional medical therapy, there are a few operators making judgements about a person's state of health for which they are clearly unqualified (a case of "where there's muck there's brass!").

Having said this, the bona fide practitioner, using one or more of the above testing procedures can identify, often with a remarkable degree of accuracy, the major causes of the patient's malaise, and determine the best course of action to be taken. Although a multiplicity of causative factors might be revealed, there are probably two findings which will be repeatedly observed. One is that the patient will probably be suffering from a state of chronic systemic acidosis and the other will be the presence of one or more intestinal parasites.

Symptoms of Chronic Acidosis

These can be any of the symptoms listed below under the 'Symptoms of Parasitic Infestation'. The human body is designed to function in an alkaline medium. That is, every cell has to retain sufficient ability to buffer the acids which are being produced continually as a result of metabolism (the burning up of oxygen and glucose to produce energy). These so-called buffering agents contain certain minerals, and if the diet is lacking sufficient amounts of them, it will draw on its 'mineral bank account', which are the minerals stored in the liver, the gall bladder, muscle tissue and bone. Should this continue over a long enough period it can ultimately lead to cellular malfunction within one or more organs.

Testing for Acidosis

The measurement of acid/base balance in the body's tissues is called pH. Urine, saliva, and blood samples can all be used to provide information to the practitioner, who will assess the relevance of such values to the individual's lifestyle and current state of health. This data can also be used to monitor changes over time whilst the patient recovers. This way, progress can be seen to be taking place in a truly scientific manner.

Symptoms of Parasite Infestation

In the absence of symptoms and a positive laboratory test result, it can be difficult to diagnose the presence of parasites. It is estimated that up to 50% of people with parasites are without obvious symptoms, but there may be some non-specific ones that could suggest that parasites exist somewhere in the body, according to Weintraub. See Table 1.

Table 1: Symptoms Of Parasite Infestation

Foul-smelling stools, worse later in the day
Bowel movements that are substantially different from the past
Abdominal cramps and noises, not associated with hunger or    eating.
Unusual chest pains
Coughing, wheezing and fever
Weight-loss, but with increased appetite

Other signs could include:
Anaemia, asthma, auto-immune disease (including rheumatoid arthritis), bedwetting, bloating, blood in stool, chronic fatigue, Crohn’s Disease, depression, digestive problems, dysentery, excessive nose-picking, feeling full in the stomach, flatulence, bruxism, headaches, feeling hungry all the time, immune dysfunction, IBS, itchy skin/ears/nose/anus, joint/muscle aches and pains, loss of appetite, low-back pain, nausea, nervousness, restlessness, shortness of breath, skin rash, sleep disturbances, sore mouth and gums, stomach ‘aching’ or ‘burning’ sensation, ‘toxic’ feeling, vomiting.


Testing For Parasites

There are two major categories of parasite; firstly there are protozoa, microscopic organisms which don't lay eggs, but which reproduce by simple duplication. They are transmitted by faecal-contaminated food and water supplies. It may be thought that in our modern high-tech sanitised society, such contamination would rarely occur. Sadly, this is not the case. Statistics on parasitic-based illnesses are woefully understated, due to failure of the victims to report all of their illnesses to their doctors, and the problems already outlined in making the correct diagnosis.


There are thirteen common protozoan pathogens including Giardia lamblia, Trichomonas vaginalis, Entamoeba histolytica and Cryptosporidium parvum. They live mostly on processed foods and can travel via the bloodstream to many parts of the body, in some cases causing devastating illnesses. However, infections caused by such parasites often run their course without too many complications in a person with a healthy immune system.

The second category consists of large parasites, basically worms, of which there are three main classifications, namely Cestodes (or Tapeworms), Nematodes (or Roundworms) and Trematodes (or Flukes). Being larger than protozoa, in some forms they can be seen clearly in the stool or around the anus, these creatures also have a different reproductive nature, producing larvae, eggs and cysts in regular cycles. Many of the problems associated with their detection arises out of this fact, and that any one stool sample may not exhibit signs of larvae, eggs or cysts and it often requires a series of stool samples to be analysed in order to provide the necessary evidence.

As naturopathic physician, Skye Weintraub, states in her excellent book, The Parasitic Menace, "It is hard to believe that parasites can be so prevalent in (the West), when we have grown up with so many modern sanitary conveniences" and that we might think that since we seem healthy and not aware of any problems, we could not have parasites. But, "to reach a level of 'vibrant' health it is necessary to find out which parasites are living inside us and get rid of them."

What Can Be Done?

Disturbances of the gastro-intestinal tract can be helped in a number of different ways and as the process of evaluation and consultation continues, a truer picture emerges and a plan of action evolves which best suits the patient, and which can involve a number of remedial activities.

There is unlikely to be one solution to the sufferer's condition, and the patient should be prepared to follow a healing path that could necessitate major changes in the way they live their lives. In chronic cases this could take time, in order to change the entire intestinal environment, which will provide the basis for improved wellness. Acute cases, if differential diagnosis indicates no critical pathogenic activity (i.e. cancer, etc.), can be dealt with swiftly through naturopathic means. If a patient is still following a drug-based regime, many naturopathic protocols can still be used, and with co-operation of their prescribing doctor, a combination or integrated approach can lead to a gradual lessening of their need for the drugs.

See Table 2 for some of the therapeutic activities that may be required.

Table 2: What Can Be Done?

  Colonic irrigation or hydrotherapy and enemas.
  Intestinal cleansing.
  Diet (including increasing intake of pure water)
  Correcting the acid/base balance.
  Food supplementation including pro-biotics, enzymes and
  Herbal therapy for parasites.
  Homoeopathic remedies, both constitutional and complex
   (for detoxification).
  Physical therapies and exercise.
  Personal and general hygiene; essential oils; spa-type
  Stress-management, behavioural and psychological training.


Colonic Irrigation

Many believe that 'death begins in the colon' and so may recommend a colonic irrigation or intestinal cleansing, to be carried out by a qualified therapist, using modern, sophisticated equipment.

Devitalised foods are said to put a coating of slimy mucous on the walls of the colon which will build up over time causing not just problems with the health of the colon itself such as constipation, diverticular disease or prolapse, but a wide variety of problems that can affect just about any part of the body.

Poor colon health will cause a slower transit time, fermentation, putrefaction, autointoxication, increased risk of parasitic infection, imbalance between the different strains of 'beneficial' and 'detrimental' bacteria and a reduction in nutrient production and absorption.

While colonic irrigation is certainly helpful, and indeed necessary in certain cases, it may require a large number of treatments over time to get the full benefit. Increasingly, people are using home enemas, in particular the Colema Board as advocated by Bernard Jensen. This provides for continual management of the weakened G.I. tract and is also ideally suited to anyone unable to attend on a regular basis a colonic hydrotherapy clinic.

Intestinal Cleansing

For some, intestinal cleansing is more manageable. Many herbs can be used to dislodge encrusted faecal matter. Psyllium is often used because it swells enormously with water, forming a bulky, jelly-like medium, remarkable for its ability to absorb large quantities of sticky, gluey mucus from the gastrointestinal tract. Bentonite is a type of volcanic ash which is effective at loosening stagnant material on the colon wall. Herbs such as cloves, plantain, rosemary and bayberry bark are used, as well as several others.

If yeast overgrowth is believed to be present, the natural practitioner has many choices including the New Zealand herb Pseudowintera colorata, which has a history of effective use. Caprylic acid and other long-chain fatty acids, garlic, goldenseal, cinnamon, aloe vera, oregano, clove and ginger may all be found in anti-candida formulae.


An essential part of the therapy will be reviewing and changing where appropriate the dietary habits of the patient. In our opinion, the most logical and rational approach is the one that sets out to restore the alkaline mineral reserves by using foods that are primarily from the vegetable and fruit groups whilst substantially restricting the protein and fat content of the diet, especially in the older patient. Much of the dietary advice seems to be contradictory and understandably confusing to the patient.

One researcher, however, Dr M.T. Morter from Arkansas, U.S.A. puts forward a convincing argument for making this transition in his book Correlative Urinalysis. The typical western diet, rich in protein and simple starches, form the perfect environment for disease-causing pathogens to operate. By slowly returning to a more alkaline-rich regime, the struggle to regain control over these pathogens is made much easier.

Restoration Of The Acid-Base Balance

The practitioner will encourage the acidotic patient to consume requisite amounts of alkaline-forming foods, and to use proprietary agents, such as freeze-dried extracts of rich, green leafy vegetable produce (such as spirulina, chlorella, celery, barley and wheat grass, alfalfa). These supplements are good sources of some of the most important minerals (sodium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, calcium, etc.) required by the body for every cell to operate normally.

Food Supplements

Few people with gut problems have the right bacterial balance for various reasons, including poor dietary habits and the use of antibiotics. Live yoghurt, or bacterial supplements (known as probiotics) containing, amongst others, actobacillus acidophilus, bulgaricus and bifidus are often used to repopulate the gut and create a more healthy intestinal environment. Naturally products containing such organisms need to be of the highest quality, and a qualified nutritionally-based doctor or therapist is best positioned to give advice on the most suitable products for the individual, as requirements differ radically from person to person.

Where leaky gut syndrome is suspected, the gut must be healed as it could lead to malabsorption and malnutrition. Many products are available for this purpose including the fructo-oligo- saccharides (FOS) and the amino acid L-glutamine.

Herbal Therapy

If parasites are diagnosed, it is useful to know which, as different herbs are effective against different types of parasite. Some herbs have a broad spectrum of activity and so can be used against any type. These are grapefruit seed extract and Artemesia annua.

Taking herbal medicines is not always risk-free, and using correct dosages of certain herbs is critical to achieving the desired effect safely. Seeking professional advice on using herbs will not only avoid disappointment (if, for instance, the wrong choice was made when the person self-selected), but also reduces the chances of adverse effects, as the guidance offered by the therapist is based on many years of training, research and keeping up-to-date on developments in the world of phyto-medicine.


Classical homoeopathy, and the more recent developments in complex homeopathy, offer remedies to help alleviate the toxic load on the body. Such medicines have a long history of use as both prophylactics (as when used by travellers, for instance, alongside conventional inoculations) or to assist in the healing process once infected. Many of the noxious mental and emotional influences in a person's life can be helped with this highly evolved medical discipline.

Physical Therapy And Exercise

If there is evidence of neurological damage or muscular- skeletal effects, screening by a physical therapist such as an osteopath, chiropractor, etc. can diminish the risks of perpetuating a condition that has as its foundation some kind of physical trauma.

Regular soft exercise such as stretching, yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi Chuan, relaxation classes, etc., can help the patient to release pressure on the autonomic nervous system (via spinal nerve ganglia which may be compressed) and in so doing positively influence the restoration of normal functioning within the intestines.


Analysis and treatment through Chinese Medicine, of which acupuncture is a part, has long been the subject of research and scientific investigation and is being used increasingly in the UK as well as in the rest of the western world. Its efficacy is attested to by many people, though as yet it is impossible to explain its action with conventional scientific wisdom. This is likely to change in the fullness of time.

Personal & General Hygiene

Prevention is worth more than cure and since parasites are steadily becoming more of a problem, it is important to identify some of the most likely reasons why contamination takes place. Increased awareness will lead to better hygiene. Some of the risk factors can be found in Table 3.

Table 3: Personal and General Hygiene: Risk Factors

In the home:
Children handling objects contaminated with animal faeces.
Walking barefoot in areas where animals have defecated.
Kissing pets.
Not wearing gloves when gardening.    
Not washing hands regularly after handling contaminated
   objects, or not bathing daily.    
Handling babies’ nappies and not cleaning up properly
Poor food handling in the kitchen, e.g. not using separate
   cutting boards for fresh flesh and other foodstuffs; having dirty
   fingernails etc.
Not taking care when using public conveniences or at
  swimming baths.
Not cleaning or sufficiently ventilating the house.
Drinking contaminated water.

Away from home:
As restaurant eating increases in popularity: Poor food handling in the kitchens; The same persons handle your food as handle your money.
Foreign travel: Poor immunity to new bacterial strains; General hygiene rules not adhered to.

Using certain drugs lowers the immune system’s defence capability, such as anti-biotics used in farming and in human medicine.

Clear links between parasites and some of the conditions associated with AIDS; Lack of awareness (or use) of safe-sex methods and personal hygiene

Certain jobs increase the risks of cross-contamination through continuous contact with both the public and the contaminants.


Stress Management, Behavioural And Cognitive Training

The relatively new science of psycho-neuro-immunology explains to some degree the way in which Mind affects Body and how health (especially colon health) is influenced by a person's emotional, behavioural and cognitive processes. How much needs to be changed at this level in order to bring about a high degree of healing is going to vary enormously from patient to patient, but inevitably it should be factored in.

Other Treatments

Aromatherapy, spa-type treatments (e.g. skin-brushing, mud, clay treatments and salt and moor baths) and hydrotherapy can all play a role in the reversal of unhealthy trends and habits.

We are often amazed at the body's ability to heal itself, and we should continue to be humbled by its power of restoration. Given the constant barrage of hazardous materials, environments, activities and behaviour patterns that we subject it to, its ability to survive is quite awesome, and given that the vast majority of disease processes are self-limiting, we should tread carefully when contemplating interfering with such a finely balanced and intelligent organism. By adhering to the principal that "Nature Knows Best", we are more likely to achieve and maintain a good if not 'vibrant' level of health for ourselves and our families.


Weintraub, S, N.D.: The Parasite Menace (Woodland Publishing, Utah 1998)
Hendler, S.S.: The Oxygen Breakthrough (Simon Schuster Pocket Books, New York 1990)
Jensen, B.: Tissue Cleansing Through Bowel Management 12th ed. (Bernard Jensen Int'l, Escondido, CA, 1st ed. 1981)
"Healing from the inside out – The Leaky Gut Syndrome" : Townsend Newsletter for Doctors (Feb/Mar 1995)
Morter, M.T.: Correlative Urinalysis (B.E.S.T. Research Inc.1987)
Archer, D.L., Glinsmann, W.H.: Enteric Infection and Other Cofactors in AIDS Immunology Today 9: (1985)
Canning, E.U. Parasitic and Other Infections in AIDS: Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 84 (1990): 19-24
Mirelman, D., Monheit, D., Varon, S.: Inhibition of Growth of Entamoeba histolytica by Allicin, The Active Principal of Garlic Extract (Allium Sativum): J. Inf. Dis. 156 (1) (1987): 243-244
Gershon, Michael D., The Second Brain (Harper Collins 1998)
Gardner, M.L.G., Steffens, K.-J. (eds.): Absorption of Orally Administered Enzymes (Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 1995)
Oral Enzyme Therapy; Compendium of Results from Clinical Studies with Oral Enzyme Therapy: Congress Report, Second Russian Symposium St Petersburg 1996 (Forum-Medizin, Stockdorf, Germany 1997)


  1. No Article Comments available

Post Your Comments:

About Peter Bartlett and Michael Sellar

Peter Barlett DO MCO MNTOS MCrOA is an Osteopath and Naturopath with clinics in London and Berkshire. He may be contacted on Tel: 0118 934 4203; Fax: 0118 934 4203;

Michael Sellar is the editor of Enzyme Digest, a quarterly newsletter on nutrition and complementary medicine for health professionals. For subscriptions Tel: 0845 1300 776. He is also the proprietor of a complementary health resource for the residents of Stoke Newington in north London and interested people worldwide. He may be contacted by email at:

  • Seaweed as Superfood

    Comprehensive nutrient balance found in no other natural food but seaweed: colon health, weight loss

  • June Sayer Homeopathy

    Training Academy Homeopathy Nutrition Reiki, Distant Learning. Diet, Health Screening, Detox, Stress

top of the page