There's No Rubbery Gunk Stuck to Your Colon

Black Bile.jpgPeriodically, I see pictures showing this black, rubbery, gooey material people have passed while doing cleanses.  I'm very familiar with some of this stuff because I've passed it during my own cleanses.  People claim that this “gunk” was stuck to the lining of the colon for years and that the cleanse released it.  I used to believe this—until I learned differently.

It was my chemist friend, Mark Peterson, author of Nutritional Herbology, who helped me understand what this stuff really is. Mark was investigating a problem some people had taking Comfrey and Pepsin capsules (a popular supplement before issues surrounding the safety of comfrey arose). It seemed that some people taking this product were passing the capsules whole (Mark called this torpedoing). Essentially, the capsule was dissolving, but the contents were simply swelling to a larger capsule shape (absorbing water as mucilaginous herbs are prone to do) and passing in the stool as little tube-shaped objects, or ”torpedoes."

Mark discovered that it had something to do with digestive secretions. He found that dissolving the psyllium in certain substances would recreate the torpedoes. He also found that you could make the stringy stuff that people pass on cleanses by mixing certain substances with psyllium hulls. We surmised that the material people pass on cleanses is actually created by the interaction of the mucilage with certain substances the liver is dumping into the bile.

Based on what I learned from Mark and my subsequent personal experience, here's what I think is happening. On the typical cleanse, the liver is encouraged to make more bile, which helps the liver clear large amounts of toxins from the body. This “toxic bile” is absorbed by the mucilaginous fiber to form the nasty, rubbery stuff people pass on cleanses. This usually black (and foul) substance makes me think of the concept of “black bile.”

Traditional Western medicine says that an excess of “black bile” was the cause of problems like depression, constipation, stiffness (arthritis) and other diseases modern research has linked with intestinal inflammation and leaky gut. Perhaps what we're really talking about is a toxic condition of the liver, because the liver is the primary organ that has to enzymatically convert toxins into water soluble substances for elimination.

Consider these facts from my experience and understanding.  First, people never pass this material unless they are taking psyllium or a mucilagionous-based fiber supplement. Second, doctors use laxatives to completely clear the colon of all material in order to do a colonoscopy, and this stuff never passes when laxatives alone are administered.  Doctors don't see it on the colonoscopies either.  Third, the colon is an organ of assimilation, and I've read that if your colon actually became “encrusted” as some people claim, you would die within days.Colon-Intestines.jpg

We can also eliminate the idea that this material is only caused by the fiber.  In my experience, after two to three weeks of taking fiber, a person typically stops passing this material. Most people think that this is because they've cleared the encrusted lining off the colon. I think it's because the liver has stopped dumping toxins from the tissues and the bile is now healthy. Remember that bile is the primary pigment of the stool.

Healthy bile is a golden yellow color. According to Bieler in Food is Your Best Medicine, bile becomes increasingly dark and greenish the more toxic (or acidic) it is. When the body is toxic the stool is darker.

So, as the liver is cleansed and the bile becomes cleaner, the stool becomes lighter in color. It also becomes softer and easier to eliminate. At that point, the person will usually feel “lighter,” have less digestive discomfort, and often report improvement in many other health problems.

So, the fiber is cleansing the gastrointestinal tract—not just sloughing off some crusty lining.  Besides, the real problem isn't the colon becoming hard and encrusted, it's having the colon become inflamed and “leaky.” That's what the “cleanse” needs to fix. It needs to “tone” the colon wall so it doesn't allow toxic materials to enter the body.

Often our therapies work, but our explanation of how they work is totally inaccurate. I still believe in cleansing; I just don't explain it the way I used to. And, I think it's important for all of us to not get so “stuck” on what we teach that we aren't open to changing our minds when new and more accurate information comes along.

Colon cleansing works.  It relieves numerous health problems when done correctly.  However, if we avoid using scientifically inaccurate ways of explaining why it works, we will be able to build more bridges with medical doctors and help them to recognize the value of such therapies.  As it is, they often dismiss what natural healers say and fail to look at our clinical results solely because our explanation of why it works is not correct.