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Researchers Question Purpose of Colon Cleanse

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If you are a fan of colon cleansing, then you’re not going to be happy with an August 1, 2011, article on Time magazine’s health website that said, the practice is unnecessary, has no medical evidence to support it, and is possibly harmful.

“Colon Cleansing: Not So Cleansing After All” stated that the human body can usually be left to its own devices as far as voiding waste. Researchers expressed concern about non-medical use of colon hydrotherapy - inserting a tube into the rectum to wash out the colon - saying it can prompt infections or accidentally puncture tissue.

As far as the supposed cleansing from supplements, laxatives, teas and herbal remedies, the researchers noted side effects of abdominal pain, cramping, nausea and vomiting, even electrolyte imbalance and kidney failure in more serious cases.

The rationales for colon cleansing talk about the need to flush out possible impurities in your digestive system and to move everything out of your bowels. But here’s what a doctor from a team who studied colon cleanses had to say:

“I totally understand where people are coming from in wanting to detoxify,” Dr. Ranit Mishori told Time. “You want to get all the gunk out. But there is no evidence that (the cleanses) are doing anything, and physiologically it doesn't make sense. The body has a system for detoxifying itself -- it's called pee and poop. And for healthy people, that's all it takes.”

The benefits of colon cleanses are also questionable if they affect the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut - a balance that aids digestion. The researchers, who hailed from Georgetown University School of Medicine and Providence Hospital, published their report in the Journal of Family Practice after reviewing 20 studies on colonic cleansing.

Maryann Gromisch, R.N., in a September 1, 2010, article on EmpowHER.com, advised against colon cleansing unless it is prescribed by a doctor as a bowel preparation for a colonoscopy or other medical procedure. Better paths to colon health, if you’re worried about it: drinking plenty of water, eating fiber, eating less red meat and trying probiotics.

There is sure to be some debate stemming from the article, especially from those who like to partake in a colon cleanse while relaxing at a spa or who regularly use products from health food stores. I have a box of “detox tea” in my cupboard that seems innocent enough, containing ginger, black pepper, long pepper and dandelion to “gently increase circulation.” It doesn’t have much of an effect on me but, hey, I like the taste of it.




Reviewed August 2, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Shannon Koehle

Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Ideally we would be eating a diet rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean, clean cuts of meat and other whole foods. Then we would not need a detox/cleanse. But, unfortunately, that is not the case for many. For those that want a quick fix, you could risk a day in the bathroom on a cleanse but then use it to kick off you new healthy lifestyle. http://mydiscoverhealth.com

August 15, 2011 - 7:19am
(reply to Anonymous)

Yes, good point. For some women, that onetime colon cleanse might be the signal to get serious about better eating and drinking habits.

August 15, 2011 - 11:26am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.