Colon Hydrotherapy with Theresa Piela
Interview with Theresa Piela
A lot of women struggle with Chronic IBS-C (constipation). What is hydrotherapy and how can it help?
Colon hydrotherapy refers to the act of delicately washing out the entire 5ish feet of the colon with repeated fillings of warm, filtered water. This form of bodywork helps revitalize the colon by expelling compacted and often, very old fecal matter, trapped gas, mucous, and unwelcome pathogens and their toxic waste products (endotoxin, ammonia, mycotoxins, etc). It involves repeatedly infusing the colon with water using a speculum gently inserted into the rectum, which hydrates the colon, softens the impacted stool, which then allows the water to carry the waste out with each release, gently.
Off the bat, there are many controversial takes on it. What are your top 3 recommendations for vetting the safety of the facility you are considering using?
Great question. I would make sure the colon hydrotherapist is I-ACT certified, which means they have passed the rigorous standards to practice in a sterile and professional environment and uphold the safety standards set forth by the colon hydrotherapy association. Given the history of mythical horror stories and the controversial reputation of colonics that seem to be floating around, the I-ACT puts extra care in making sure the standards and safety are upheld and that colon hydrotherapists practice with the utmost attention to hygiene. Beyond that, I would meet the practitioner and make sure they are using single-use equipment and that you ultimately, feel safe with them!
What are your thoughts on Open Colonics vs Closed Colonics? Which type do you recommend?
I personally have had both and trained with both techniques, and my recommendation would be to choose what is most comfortable for the client and what technique they feel most drawn to. After only experiencing closed systems for the majority of my healing journey, I have since shifted towards the open system, as I find it gives the client much more freedom to “release” as needed (without having to ask for permission, as is necessary with the closed system), to have alone time on the device without risk of “leaks,” and this relaxation seems to allow for even deeper cleansing and relaxation of the colon. However, a skilled practitioner using a closed system should be able to help support the client in their ability to fully relax and release each fill, so again, completely depends on the client's preference and how skilled the practitioner is!
Let’s talk about intestinal mucus or sludge. What is it? How does colon hydrotherapy address it?
So many different ideas about this, but the general thought is that a lot of the gunk, parasite ropes, bacterial colonies, and fecal matter within us is old, very old: sometimes weeks or MONTHS old if it has gotten lodged within the folds of the colon. When sludge sits for too long, it gives ample opportunity for even the beneficial bacteria to feed, ferment, and putrefy, as well as providing plenty of surface area for other unwanted parasites to make a cozy home, leading to systemic health issues when this toxic waste is reabsorbed into the bloodstream and overburdens the bodies detox pathways. This is often the case when someone is very constipated and has the classic symptoms of brain fog, fatigue, acne, insomnia, and leaky gut in general.
Are there things we can consume after our session to help assist the body with clearing this mucus after our session?
My recommendation is to maintain proper hydration with things like the adrenal cocktail (OJ, coconut water, salt, collagen, perhaps a splash of cream), salted coconut water, adding a squeezed lime/lemon to salted water, and to support the liver with the necessary components for proper detoxification (Phase 1, Phase 2, and finally, to release/transport the waste out via the bowels, urine, sweat, etc.). I would also highly encourage someone to consume enough magnesium in the form of fresh fruits, mineral broths, and even magnesium bicarbonate or magnesium glycinate (in addition to enough sodium & potassium) as this magic mineral is CRITICAL for the colon to release the contractions and for proper liver detoxification. Non-fermenting/insoluble fibres can help to speed up gut motility and help the body maintain a better microbial balance within the intestine: a daily carrot or two can act as an intestinal broom and bind to what needs to be carried out of the body, without feeding any of the bacterial overgrowths in the process like fermentable/soluble fibres tend to. (Note: Any form of non-fermenting cellulose works, but carrots seem to be the most effective and the most gentle). Salted coconut water immediately following a session is my go-to drink, and then a protein-rich, mineral-heavy, easily digestible meal like shrimp, bone broth, papaya, and some raw cheese once I’ve rehydrated and returned home.
What are the top risk factors for colon cancer?
That’s a big question, which I cannot make any medical claims or give medical advice about without overstepping my scope of practice. However, most “experts” agree that colon cancer is triggered by chronic inflammation, triggered by highly processed foods and their additives, chronic constipation that compounds the inflammation, and specific overgrowths of bacteria & parasites that then take root and worsen the matter. If I were at risk for developing colon cancer, I would start by speeding up my gut transit time, start getting regular colonics, increase my gut healing protocol (bone broth, plenty of glycine, glutamine, proline, zinc carnosine, magnesium, etc). and start tailoring my diet for maximum liver function and detoxification by supporting my minerals, consuming ample amounts of anti-inflammatory proteins and most importantly, make sure my thoughts were in a place conducive to and confident in my ability to heal!
What top 3 diet recommendations do you have for people with IBS-C?
Such a good question….! The old advice was to eat more fibre and drink more water. Most people with chronic constipation know that oftentimes, more fibre actually makes it WORSE and water is not the issue. I would actually recommend trying far less fibre (aside from raw carrots), avoiding raw veggies or unripe fruit, and favour nutrient-dense, animal-based foods, fresh fruit and juices that provide ample amounts of magnesium, potassium, salting foods to taste (even fruit!), raw honey, maple, well-cooked roots, squashes, and testing out mineral & enzyme rich foods like papaya, figs, kiwis, pineapple, bee pollen, raw milk, etc. to see if that would help ameliorate the problem. If a food causes obvious bloating or fatigue, I would kindly suggest avoiding that food, as bacterial feeding can cause excess gas, which often leads to worsening of constipation-like symptoms. I would then address what might be causing constipation, which is often a thyroid deficiency, caused by a myriad of factors like a low-carb diet, high stress in general, autoimmunity triggered by a magnesium or copper deficiency, which only gets compounded as things start slowing down even more. My third recommendation would be to start eating regularly and often to start supporting the liver and thyroid conversion. Ideally, eating a balanced “meal” of mineral-rich carbs, protein, and a little saturated fat every 2-3 hours seems to keep stress hormones low and the liver & thyroid HAPPY.
What do you recommend eating after a hydrotherapy session?
Every colon hydrotherapist recommends something different, but I personally urge clients to stay hydrated and eat a nutrient-dense, easily digestible, SATISFYING MEAL. A simple soup cooked with bone broth, carrots, potatoes/squash/zucchini and some white fish/scallops/shrimp/oysters would be my go-to, but everyone craves something different. Oftentimes, people have intense cravings following a session. Since the body is always trying to self-correct and reorganize, I would encourage the client to listen to their cravings and choose what sounds truly nourishing, delicious, and balancing to them.
A lot of people with IBS-C rely on laxatives either from time to time or weekly. How is hydrotherapy better?
While laxatives can be the much-needed bandaid for a severely compromised gut, they do have some downsides. These drawbacks include dependency, gut irritation, diarrhea, dehydration, cramping, a worsening of histamine-like reactions, a potential increase in estrogen levels (& therefore inflammation), nausea, and can even make the colon “lazy” and unable to squeeze on its own. Hydrotherapy doesn’t have these risks! Colonics and enemas can actually help “retrain” a sluggish digestive tract in learning how to engage proper peristalsis again while lowering the toxic burden that might be preventing the body from healing! It has the added benefit of helping to hydrate the delicate tissue of the colon, which can easily become dehydrated in this wild world we all live in!
What is the difference between hydrotherapy and an enema? During these times, people are trying enemas for the first time. What is your recommendation for first-timers?
Hydrotherapy repeatedly fills up the colon until, in an ideal situation, the whole colon is cleansed, all the way up to the cecum (where the colon meets the small intestine!). Enemas really only help release the descending colon, so there still might be a lot of old poo that the enemas don't quite get to. However, they can remove just enough or even stimulate the reflexes in the bottom portion of the colon to signal that much-needed bowel movement. For first-timers doing enemas at home, I would recommend starting with warm, filtered water, a stainless steel enema bucket, and find time in the bathroom where you can lay down uninterrupted. It helps to have extra towels and easy access to the toilet, just in case you’d like to release earlier. I’ve written a guide to coffee enemas on my website which might be helpful (just starting with water!), and I’ve also found youtube to be quite helpful with understanding the simple setup when I was first getting started. If anything, patience! It gets easier with practice, and while the first time might be a little awkward and maybe feel a bit foreign, that’s part of the learning process! It’s okay to laugh while we’re filling ourselves from the bottom up!
A lot of people get an incredible sense of wellbeing, calm and lightness after their hydrotherapy session. What is happening there? Is contipa-cranky a thing, and why does it happen physiologically?
Yes, poo-phoria! That’s exactly it! The session is essentially freeing up so much toxic sludge from the body that when it's finally lifted, the normal energy production and detoxification pathways of the body can finally kick back into gear and, as you said, people feel BLISSFUL when their bodies can start FUNCTIONING again. The constipa-cranky describes when the brain matches the toxicity of the colon. Thanks to the vagus nerve, any shifts in neurotransmitters that signal danger & inflammation travel right up to the brain, sending cascades of inflammation rippling throughout the system. Amazingly, about 80% of the fibres travel from gut to brain, so when something is off in the gut, the brain quickly matches the tone in terms of foul moods, low energy, depression, brain fog, etc. The brain often feels toxic or cranky due to the overload of endotoxin and bacterial waste products that are sending signals of danger and inflammation right to the nervous system, a scenario that is definitely reflected by a larger metabolic and microbial issue! It just goes to show how so much of what happens in our gut can impact our moods and our overall feeling of blah. Since the overwhelming majority of the nerve fibres travel from the gut to the brain along the vagus nerve, it’s not at all surprising that someone feels EUPHORIC when a load of fermenting, putrefying, slightly toxic matter is gently released from the five feet of the colon, sending signals of rest, digest, and safety to the brain.
This is all about using the benefits of hydration to assist our body's elimination functions...
Yes, and physically using water to fill the colon, triggering peristalsis to then RELEASE the piles and piles of old poo and then allow for proper hydration of the body. If someone drinks a ton of water, even with added minerals, but never quite feels quenched, a backed-up colon and the consequent sluggish liver might be worth supporting.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about it? (we think that the doctors who write it off have never experienced chronic constipation for instance)
There is a LOT of controversy around the topic of colonics, with odd and seemingly boogyman-like stories about how dangerous, harmful, and possibly deadly colonics are, with no mention of the detrimental impacts to organ & systemic health it can be to be chronically constipated. Especially given the fact that colon therapists are not certified doctors or nurses, it can trigger the predominant medical voices that want to make practices like this solely available via a prescription, similar to fecal matter transplants being quarantined to only those with recurrent C. diff infections and kept from those with say, life-threatening chrohns, colitis, and colon cancer. I often wonder if the doctors that poo-poo colon hydrotherapy (no pun intended!), like you said, have never been constipated or experienced the detrimental effects of gut issues and their profoundly debilitating effects on the functioning of a mind & body when things get backed up for too long. If you were to read the Wikipedia page on colonics, it makes it sound like a dangerous, life-threatening procedure, to which I can only smile and wonder, “who started these stories?” If we look back in history, colonics have been used since the beginning of time, with documentation as far as 1500 BC in the Egyptian Ebers, honouring the ancient wisdom that the health of the gut determines the health of the entire being. More and more individuals, with all sorts of chronic, debilitating, auto-immune, & mystery diseases and experiencing firsthand just how supportive, stabilizing, and in my case, life-saving this practice can be when carried out by a skilled practitioner.
How should you restore your bacteria after a session?
GREAT question. There is a myth that colonics remove all the gut bacteria, which is just not true! Otherwise, we’d have a colonic and be able to “cure” our colon’s bacterial imbalances with one go! Similar to a bowel movement, the bacteria in the colon is extremely hearty and can withstand a bit of water! They can survive within the folds of tissues and within the healthy mucous of the gut wall for much longer than we realize. If anything, I’d supplement with a soil-based bacteria to gently urge the body to repopulate more of the helpful critters, but this is less about restoring and more about shifting the microbial terrain in our favour and away from pathogenic or small bowel overgrowths. If you’re thinking of doing an at-home fecal matter transplant from a tested and reliable donor or rectally inserting a spore-based probiotic, following a colonic would be the most ideal time to do so.
Some facilities do a chlorophyll rinse with electrolytes after the session. Do you recommend it?
I haven’t tried the chlorophyll myself, but I personally love restoring the electrolytes to ensure proper hydration and to minimize any side effects of dehydration or overhydration following a session. I’ve also found great benefit from lightly salted water, lemon water, and adding a spore-based probiotic to an enema following a colonic. Similar to drinking mineral-rich water, the colon also benefits from a balanced source of hydration vs. sterile, reverse osmosis water.
Do you recommend taking chlorella or activated charcoal after a session?
It really depends on the person, but I personally prefer to resume drinking and eating normally and in a way focused on nourishment. Since charcoal can also bind to valuable minerals, I’d prefer gentle binders like humic & fulvic acids, or something like shilajit. Chlorella can be helpful, too, as well as increasing non-fermentable fibres like carrots, bamboo shoots, and even sprouts.
What are the 3 biggest things you have done in your own life to optimize your health?
I come from a background of getting extremely sick with Lyme & co-infections, heavy metal and mold toxicity, and a big pile of parasites, hormonal issues & infertility, debilitating gut issues, and the psychological turmoil wrapped up within that lovely mess that seemed to compound the severity of my chronic diseases! When I lost all oral tolerance to foods and started wasting muscle shockingly fast, I almost lost all hope that I would live a life of joy and meaning. That breaking point was when I actually surrendered all hope that I would heal….and accidentally found a reason to keep fighting when I stopped the struggle and said, okay life, I’ll have to trust you on this one. In the up and down roller coaster of healing and trying everything from high-dose antibiotics, hyperthermia treatments, strict healing diets like GAPS, AIP, Carnivore, the elemental diet, things like fecal matter transplants, laser therapy, essential oils, acupuncture, I found gratitude as the basic things turned out to be the most healing. Firstly, colonics! Getting my gut moving gave me the needed leg up to start the deeper metabolic healing that was just not possible with so much toxicity still within me. Then it came down to sunshine, meaningful relationships, asking, “how can I still be helpful,” the ability to love and be loved, music, doodling, dancing, self-massage and trigger pointing, finding joy, awe, and wonder in the natural world and being lost in the beauty just admiring the flowers and the birds. The biggest game-changer food-wise was actually leaning on animal-based, nutrient-dense foods, inspired by the works of Dr. Ray Peat and Weston A Price. Underneath it all, learning to practice rewiring and releasing stories of trauma and truly learning to embody a feeling of safety no matter what my brain or body may have been doing. Based on my own journey, I now combine bio-energetic, pro-metabolic nutrition with brain rewiring and trauma-releasing therapies to help the most complicated cases finally start healing their chronic diseases, peacefully & sustainably!
Finally, where can people find you?
I’m quite active on Instagram @livingrootswellness. My blog is www.livingrootswellness.com, and release weekly Youtube videos for EFT Tapping and nutrition-based discussions. I’m currently working 1:1 with clients focusing mainly on gut infections, brain rewiring, trauma release, and somatic experiencing, and also have a group program for those interested in brain rewiring. More on the way with my brain rewiring program, called Tapping with T!