What Is Colon Cleansing and is it Good for Your Body?
Colon cleansing refers to various alternative medical processes for removing fecal waste material and toxins from the digestive system. While many alternative medicine practitioners recommend the practice, most conventional medical doctors do not recommend it. Let’s take a closer look at what colon cleansing is and the controversy that surrounds it.
Side Effects and Benefits of Colon Cleansing
Opponents of colon cleansing say that colon cleansing is unnecessary because the bowel is not dirty and the digestive system rids the body of waste and toxic bacteria naturally. They are concerned that colon cleansing can actually be cause harm by:
- Increasing the risk of dehydration;
- Increasing the risk of infection (from unclean equipment);
- Possible interacting with medications;
- Reducing the effectiveness of prescription medications because of interactions with herbs used in cleansing;
- Making the bowels dependent on enemas to defecate;
- Risking perforation of the bowel; and
- Increasing the electrolytes in the body, which can be dangerous for people with kidney or heart disease.
Research shows other side effects from using cleansing products, such as bloating, nausea, and vomiting. Users of certain cleansing products report increased intestinal cramping and bloating. Ingredients of some products have been found to cause heart disease and bowel problems. Other users report diarrhea, back pain, and body odor.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the production of colon hydrotherapy equipment and has issued warnings to companies about false claims, safety issues, and quality control. The FDA does not regulate colon-cleansing supplements, so companies can health claims that have not been verified scientifically.
Opponents believe that constipation can be relieved by simpler, less risky, methods, such as drinking plenty of liquids, eating a fiber-rich diet, limiting red meat, and exercising regularly.
Proponents of colon cleansing say that the procedure rids the gastrointestinal tract of toxic materials that are not voided naturally, toxins that can cause health problems such as colitis, constipation, allergies, asthma, fatigue, headache, weight gain, low energy, and arthritis. Those in favor of colon cleansing also cite body odor, psoriasis, anxiety, sinusitis, frequent colds, and hyperactivity as indications that a colon cleanse is in order. They claim that removing these toxins promotes healthy intestinal bacteria, enhances the immune system, relieves constipation, maximizes the absorption of nutrients, and boosts energy. It may also improve mental outlook and help people lose weight. Some holistic practitioners promote colon cleansing as a treatment for certain cancers and other diseases and as an effective way to prevent colon cancer.
Users of certain cleansing products report improvements in overall health and digestive functioning, weight loss, and increased energy.
What are Colon Cleansing Methods?
There are basically two general methods of colon cleansing. You can either do it yourself or see a practitioner for cleansing.
1. Do it Yourself. You can do colon cleansing yourself with supplements you can buy over the counter. You take powdered or liquid supplements orally or through the rectum to force out the contents of the bowel. These supplements are in the form of enemas, laxatives, strong herbal teas, enzymes, or anti parasite capsules. They often include ingredients such as slippery elm, aloe vera, senna, psyllium, lactobacillus acidophilus, and goldenseal. Products for colon cleansing vary greatly; product reviews on the Internet can be helpful guides to selecting a product.
The Internet also has many recipes for homemade colon cleanse. The Master Cleanse, or Lemonade Diet, is a popular weight loss diet and colon cleaning technique. It relies on a drink made from lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper combined with daily laxative treatments.
2. See a Practitioner. Colonic therapists use colonic irrigation machines to pump as much as 20 gallons of warm, sanitized water into your rectum through a tube in a procedure called colonic irrigation or colonic hydrotherapy. The practitioner flushes out the water and waste through another tube, and may repeat the process. The therapist may add enzymes, herbs, or probiotics to the water. (Opponents of colonic irrigation point out that there is no specific training or licensing of colon hygienists or colonic therapists.)
Before Deciding to Cleanse
Conventional medical providers recommend that you do the following before you have a colon cleanse:
Check with a conventional medical provider before you decide to have a colon cleansing, especially if you take medications or have health problems. Medical doctors recommend against colon cleansing for people who have the following conditions:
- Ulcerative colitis*
- Crohn’s disease*
- Internal hemorrhoids
- Recent bowel surgery
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
(*Proponents of colon cleansing believe that a cleanse can help cure these conditions.)
Check the safety of the ingredients in colon cleansing products before you use them. Some may have disagreeable side effects.
Stay well hydrated by drinking lots of fluids (especially water) during colon cleansing to avoid dehydration.
Most doctors do not recommend colon irrigation for young children because of the risk of electrolyte imbalances from the procedure.
Other Options for Optimum Health
It’s easy to define what colon cleansing is than to decide if it’s right for you.
Instead of risking the negative effects of colon cleansing, traditional doctors say most people can achieve good health by eating a balanced diet high in fiber, exercising regularly, getting six to eight hours of sleep each night, and seeing a doctor for regular checkups. And not smoking.
Even proponents of colon cleansing agree that these basic lifestyle choices help promote health. Many recommend that people who use colon cleansing products and methods also adopt these practices.