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These days, celebrities seem to be practising the strangest wellness trends. From Gwyneth Paltrow’s jade egg to Kim Kardashian’s vampire facials , the pursuit of unscientifically backed treatments doesn’t seem to be slowing anytime soon.
Now, Katy Perry is the latest pop star to join the wellness wagon with — drumroll please — enemas! Yeah, you read that right. Gut cleaning, water-purifying and sometimes oily enemas.
Perry went on the Australian radio show Smallzy’s Surgery to dish about her latest health hack. “So I did this thing called panchakarma — it stems from India and it’s Ayurvedic eating and cleansing. You do lots of enemas,” she laughed.
The singer professed that the practice gave her more energy. “It gets all the crap out of you — every pun intended,” she joked with the Aussie radio host, who also admitted he’s had an enema once. “There’s ancient ways to heal yourself besides just taking a pill, which is something I love to always investigate.”
Panchakarma, the practice Perry’s talking about, stems from Ayurveda — a holistic approach to healthy living that originated in India more than 5,000 years ago. Through lifestyle changes, such as yoga, meditation and healthy eating, as well as incorporating various medicinal herbs, Ayurvedic purports to improve one’s overall health.
Pancha in Sanskrit translates to five while karma translates to therapies, Andrea Olivera said. Olivera owns the Ayurveda Rituals spa in Toronto and is on the Ayurveda Association of Canada’s board of directors.
After receiving an assessment, an adherent is prescribed a range of the five treatments by an Ayurvedic doctor, she said.
There’s one treatment that involves using herbs and oils to induce vomiting, another mix of herbs and oils is used as a laxative, a third mix is used for nasal irrigation and then there’s the treatment that Katy Perry says she does: enemas.
That’s four steps, but some proponents claim there are two types of enemas — one involving an oil and herb mixture or just simply water. Others claim the fifth therapy is an oil massage.
In Ayurveda , the body is believed to be made up of earth, fire, water, air and ether. Three humours — called vata, pitta and kapha — make up the composition of the body and influence health. When they are imbalanced, due to factors such as poor diet, stress and lifestyle, toxins are produced in the digestive system. The digestive system is considered the body’s centre of health in this approach to medicine.
In order to restore balance, one or more of the five methods is prescribed by a doctor using panchakarma, based on an individual’s ailments.
So, if someone is susceptible to colds, congestion or asthma, they might be prescribed induced-vomiting to get rid of the toxins in mucous. If they suffer from acne, skin inflammation or jaundice, they might be given herbal laxatives. If they experience headaches, migraines or memory loss, nasal irrigation might be the appropriate remedy.
This all sounds a little frightening, but the aim is to expel the body of toxins, Olivera said. Based on one’s body type, a person accumulates toxins throughout life. She explained that these toxins affect our organs, skin and mind and that’s how people can develop illnesses such as anxiety and depression.
By literally purging our insides, the toxins supposedly exit with the waste and the practitioner begins to feel better.
People can be put on programs that last five to 10 days and, on Indian retreats, they can sometimes last 21 days.
Along with anxiety and depression, Olivera said panchakarma can help with diabetes, obesity and other illnesses, and it has anti-aging effects.
“Panchakarma is becoming so popular right now” but it’s always been prevalent in India, she said.
Part of the practice is for people to live and eat holistically, with regular exercise and an Ayurvedic diet.
But should you really be blasting your colon with an elixir of Ayurvedic herbs?
Medical professionals don’t think it’s necessary.
Dr. Jihong Chen, who runs the Colonic Motility Clinic at McMaster University, explains that an otherwise healthy person does not need to have enemas. Chen specializes in treating people with severe constipation and defecation disorders.
She refutes the idea that toxins stored in the body, particularly the colon, will return back into the body and cause illness or poor health. “The colon is designed to store all this waste. As long as the mucosal barrier is intact, there is no risk for the waste to go back.”
To have a healthy body, she said, all of your systems should be functioning well. A lot of people think that simply having an enema will help detoxify the body, she said, which is not true.
The only people who should use enemas or laxatives are those with severe constipation, Chen said.
Dr. Bruno Salena, who has visited and observed Ayurvedic hospitals in India, is doubtful of the benefits of panchakarma. “There’s this whole health movement to detoxify that is really unsupported by any scientific evidence,” he said.
In fact, both Salena and Chen warned that enemas for an otherwise healthy person can tear the bowel, lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, infection in the colon and cause bleeding.
Salena also warned that inducing-vomiting could make a person tear the esophagus and cause bleeding that would require surgery. He isn’t entirely opposed to Ayurvedic approaches, however, saying he sometimes advises patients to use herbs or take up yoga. “I just don’t want to do harm at the end of the day,” he said.
Chen agrees with Olivera and panchakarma proponents that having a clean, healthy colon can make a person feel better, but she insists that we ought to give our bodies more credit. So long as we eat healthy and exercise, our body should function properly enough to expel waste without the aid of an enema or other practices such as induced vomiting and laxatives.
Dr. Jan Huizinga also added that our bodies already have perfect systems like the liver and kidneys to rid our bodies of true toxins, such as alcohol. “Enemas do nothing compared to these amazing, powerful body systems,” he said.
Olivera also warned that people need to be careful when seeking out panchakarma, agreeing with doctors who say that a healthy person might not need enemas or any of the other methods to balance the body. She especially highlighted concern for people who might be obsessed with weight loss, pointing out that they might become unnecessarily turn to panchakarma’s therapies. However, she said she supports the idea that everyone is unique and no single therapy is good for everyone.
“We have to be careful and really emphasize that (panchakarma) has to be prescribed and that each treatment is prescribed to each individual’s case.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019