Spring “Cleaning”

The first time I saw an advertisement for Colon Hydrotherapy was in 2004 in Phoenix, Arizona. The concept sounded quite frightening to me, and I couldn’t understand why it would be attractive to people. I was young, carefree, and with my diet overflowing with fruits, vegetables and whole grains, I couldn’t imagine what would prompt someone to seek out a colonic. Over the past 9 years, I have seen a steady increase in products on TV, websites, supplement stores, you name it, advertising “colon cleansing” products, claiming to treat not only chronic constipation but every sort of ailment.



In a time of “faster, sooner, now” it is hard for all of us to resist the temptation of products that make claims to both lose weight and help us feel healthier, which is why colon cleansing products have their own shelves in stores.



Regularity is a very fishy topic. I did a little digging and talking with GI doctors at work. Some recommend a bowel movement (no specifics) every other day, while others recommend something of forearm length every day. Ok, enough poop talk, but you can imagine the wide range that people fall into here, and how it can be easy to convince yourself that your bowel function is abnormal. Factor in stress, and the picture becomes even cloudier. I could spend a year blogging about the impact of the nervous system on GI function, rather disturbances in GI function, but let’s stick to the current question: “Is colon “cleansing” safe? Effective? What about herbal supplements versus hydrotherapy?

I recently was in and out of GI care for non specific symptoms such as pain, bloating, reflux, all of which ended up being resolved by tripling my water intake and decreasing stress through meditation. 3 MRIs and countless lab tests later, I couldn’t have felt sillier. Before I got a handle on my symptoms on my own, I was signed up for a 5 session package at a hydrotherapy clinic. When I mentioned this to my doctor, I was surprised that his reaction was not immediately negative. He said that some people have used it with success, others have been injured, so it seems to rely heavily on the quality of treatment delivery, and the reason for the constipation. He of course pointed out that the problem with this therapy and other natural therapies, which we’ve discussed, is a lack of clinical evidence. How, for example, can you do a randomized trial on a procedure like this? 

I completed a brief literature review, and as I expected, found it to be a very polarizing topic. The most fair and balanced review I found was in the International Journal of Clinical Practice. The abstract and overview are here, and if anyone would like the full text, I can email that to you.


I did not keep the appointments. Call my crazy, but the more I teach research and evidence-based medicine, the more critical and fearful I become of any products, treatments, or “expert opinions” that cannot substantiate claims beyond anecdotal support, however overwhelming. Do I believe that because there hasn’t been extensive controlled research into a treatment, that it is not effective for some people, or is a sham? Certainly not. I can especially believe that with hydrotherapy, given the fact that it is simply warm water, and enemas are water with a saline solution that are used quite frequently in clinical care. Not only that, some doctors prescribe that osmotic laxatives be used on a daily basis for some patients. Clearly, the topic requires continued investigation, and as disorders such as IBS with no clear cause become more common, I believe the safety, benefits and risks of colon cleansing in whatever fashion will become more clear. 

If anyone who is not too shy is willing to share any experiences with cleansing products, we’d love to hear from you!

Thank you for your readership, and best of health to you! 


Put a Pin it That!

Acupuncture is one of the oldest medical practices in the world, having been used in China and other areas of Asia for thousands of years. Acupuncture involves the stimulation of anatomical points on the body that are connected along pathways known as meridians, using a variety of techniques. Most often, this will involve penetrating the skin with thin, metallic needles, with or without electrical stimulation.

Acupuncture is recognized by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as being “widely” practiced by thousands of physicians, dentists, acupuncturists and other practitioners to successfully treat a wide variety of conditions, including pain, digestive function, infertility, headaches, and more. Acupuncture is currently even covered by some insurance companies and the reimbursement programs are growing, especially for the treatment of chronic pain. According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included a comprehensive survey of CAM use by Americans, an estimated 3.1 million U.S. adults and 150,000 children had used acupuncture in the previous year.

I was only 19 years old when I was first exposed to acupuncture. After 6 months of being bounced from one doctor to another for intense pain throughout my entire body, coupled with fevers and fatigue, I was given a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (which in my opinion are diagnoses of exclusion when the answers are yet to be found). My physician at the time, a pain specialist, gave me 2 options: a spinal pain block that would be placed in my lumber vertebrae so that I could administer pain medication to myself as needed, or try acupuncture. 

Having grown up in a very isolated corner of Northeastern PA, where not even massage therapy was common and there were certainly no yoga classes, I was skeptical of Complementary Medicine, and wondered how laying on a table with pins in my body could help me. Was I ever wrong. 

I was privileged to meet David and Ming-Ming Molony, the owners of Lehigh Valley Acupuncture in Catasaqua, PA. My total physical, emotional and spiritual well-being were assessed in a way I never experienced before, and a treatment plan was tailored to address the integration of all of these components. The discomfort was quite minimal while the acupuncture needles were being inserted, and any discomfort was well worth the feeling both during the treatment and afterwards. Within a few months, nearly all of my pain was relieved. It came back, however, after I discontinued treatments. Months later, after extensive testing and clinical assessments, I was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease. It took doctors 2 years to figure it out due to controversy surround the Western Blot.

Although acupuncture could not cure a rampant bacterial infection, I marvel at the fact that not a single prescription I was given to manage my pain came close to the effect acupuncture had.  More importantly, I never viewed medicine in the same way again. Today I take advantage of the best of both traditional and complementary medicine and encourage others to do so as well. 

Here are some great resources detailing the theory and physiology of acupuncture in better detail:



Best of health to you!


The Human Spirit

I’m taking a week hiatus from discussing the next type of alternative therapy on my list. In light of this week’s events in Boston, I would be remiss to continue writing as if an average week in American life occurred. 

As Anatomy and Physiology enthusiasts, we spend all of our time discussing, studying, teaching, researching and appreciating the wondrous creation that is the human body. Its ability to adapt to disease, to recover from major illnesses and injuries, and meet all of the demands we place on it throughout life is nothing short of a miracle.

What we don’t take enough time to marvel at is the power and resilience of the human spirit. Maybe it is because we only hear about that bad things that happen in the news. If aliens came to Earth and stood in line at a supermarket, they would leave with 2 assumptions: 1) Earthlings take enjoyment in the pain and shame of others, and 2) there’s little good to be found. Sadly, it takes the most horrific of events and tragedies, whether committed by fellow humans or unavoidable disasters, for us to look up from our tabloids and reality shows and realize what binds all of us. As humans, we are bound, not by our mutual interest in the pain or humiliation of others, but in our ability to come together in our darkest hours to perform heroic acts of service. I feel I can confidently say that there isn’t a single person in this nation who hasn’t felt deeply saddened by this tragedy and wished there were any possible way that they could help the victims or the search for the responsible parties. 

My hat goes off, and my heart goes out, to all of the emergency response workers, doctors, firefighters, policeman and civilians who worked tirelessly to minimize fatalities in Boston this week. I cannot imagine the things that they saw, and how easily fear could have overcome anyone on the scene. So many people, without regard to their own safety, rushed to help. We saw this on 9/11, and it’s a great comfort to know that even in the face of danger, the innate human desire to help and save others cannot be shaken.

The heart may beat throughout our lives, bones may withstand incredible forces, and the immune system may fight impossible infections. While fascinating, they pale in comparison to the power of the human spirit in the face of adversity. When we think back on April 15th in Boston, let us remember not the cruel and senseless act of the responsible parties, but the immeasurable compassion and bravery of everyone else involved. 

My money is on next year’s Boston Marathon being the biggest event running has ever seen.


“Adjust” Your Thinking

There is a debate as old as time in the medical community about the benefits and risks of chiropractic care. Some of the questions are based on the principles of chiropractic care, and some on the practices. Regardless, it is a polarizing topic, despite being the most widely used form of Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM). 


 I have been in and out of chiropractic care for almost half my life (I’m pushing 30!). What I believe is that the debate lies in the practice, not of chiropractic techniques themselves, but in the delivery of care. I have experienced 2 general types of chiropractors:

   1) Those that see several patients an hour, sometimes callously referred to as the “Rack and Crack” doctors, and

 2) Those that spend significant time (whatever is needed) with a patient one-on-one.

My first chiropractors, a married couple in my hometown, were the latter type, and I continue to travel 2 hours home to see them when I have any issues. Sadly, of all the cities I have lived in and all the chiropractors I have met throughout the years, I only encountered this style 2 more times, once in Arizona and once in my current town of residence. What this signals to me, sadly, is that this is not the most profitable form of care for chiropractors, since any treatments beyond spinal adjustment and traction, such as soft tissue, electric stimulation, ultrasound, and adjustments of other joints take time to perform. My hometown chiropractors place a great deal of emphasis on nutrition, exercise, stress management, and medication-free living. They also stressed returning when it was needed, on a case-by-case basis. It is easy to understand why, at a young age, I developed such a positive view of chiropractic care.

The high-volume chiropractor will see several patients an hour in an open-room setting, which may eliminate a sense of privacy and one-on-one attention from a health care provider. These chiropractors will almost always take X-rays of your spine (which I’ve found are never normal despite the presence or absence of pain) then insist you sign up for a minimum of 25 adjustment appointments, sometimes paid in advance. This is one of the most common criticisms of chiropractors – that patients end up relying on coming regularly to feel well. I am sure countless people have been relieved of their pain and dysfunction with this model, but it is easy to see where the may controversy arise when comparing these 2 styles.

If you are considering chiropractic care for ANY musculoskeletal condition, consider asking a few questions about their style of care. Do they see patients one-on-one in private rooms? Do they see patients as needed, or do they emphasize X amount of visits? If you have a simple to treat condition, this question may be less important, but it is certainly worth asking. Personally, I never see a new medical doctor without reading every review on health grades I can find. Practitioners of complementary medicine should be held to the same standards. 

Best of health to you!



Hello HAPSters!

Complementary medicineHello HAPS community!

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Krista Rompolski, and I’m addicted to Anatomy and Physiology (just kidding). I am a first year professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA and am currently starting my third semester of teaching A&P to freshman nursing students. I was introduced to HAPS via a thrilling email from the chair of my department. He asked if I would like to go to Las Vegas for a week in May (he could have stopped there) to attend the Human Anatomy and Physiology society annual conference. Since registering, I’ve grown increasingly excited about the potential of HAPS to reach teachers of A&P, Pathophysiology and other health related courses at all levels of teaching. I am grateful to have a community to bounce ideas off of, share research, and an overall appreciation and fascination for the glorious machine that is the human body.

What has interested me most in my years of studying, teaching and simply living is the potential for disturbance or disease to develop, and how resilient the body is in the presence of chaos. What is even more fascinating is the countless approaches to treating the same conditions, whether chronic pain, infection, injury, or terminal diseases. I have spent a great deal of time exploring and taking personal advantage of alternative medicine at times in my life when I felt conventional/allopathic medicine was leading me nowhere, or at times to even poorer outcomes. There seems to be a great divide in the medical community over the benefits of alternative/complementary medicine versus risks, with some physicians adamantly skeptical or even opposed to alternative treatments, while others may even integrate them into their own practices. Patients are finding it increasingly difficult to know where to go for help and who to trust, since physicians are often under severe time constraints to truly listen to their patients or keep up to date on clinical research findings (which are susceptible to selective reporting).

My goal for this blog series is to share my experiences with complementary medicine, some of which I have been a long-time customer, and others that are new to me. I will share as much detail as I can about the theories behind these treatments so that you can form your own opinions about their potential benefits versus risks in physiology. I will do my best to present non-biased information, with as clear scientific explanations as possible.

I hope you all enjoy the journey, and learn a few things along the way!