The idea behind colon cleansing is that waste builds up in the colon over time and stagnates, allowing toxins to develop and disseminate throughout the body, a process known as “autointoxication."
Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 25th Feb 2022.
Colon Cleansers: Are They Safe?
According to some alternative health experts, just as you wash your hair or scrub your floor constantly, you should also clean your gut regularly. Some individuals make a living by convincing people that their colons are clogged with years of rotting garbage and that a colon cleaner would cure the issue. Capsules, laxatives, enemas, and “high colonics," which flush huge quantities of water through the intestines, are all examples of colon cleansers.
“Artificial colon cleansers are a huge business," says Melinda Johnson, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association headquartered in Phoenix, Ariz; who told WebMD. What is the size of your company? You may get an idea by typing “colon cleansers" into any search engine.
However, it turns out that when pushed to its logical conclusion, an obsession with inner purity may be detrimental.
Colon Cleansers: Dirty Business
The idea behind colon cleansing is that waste builds up in the colon over time and stagnates, allowing toxins to develop and disseminate throughout the body, a process known as “autointoxication." Many doctors in the nineteenth century regarded autointoxication as reality. Even though scientific studies dating back to the 1920s failed to prove it, the myth remains. Other colon cleanser proponents argue that retained faeces clogs the colon, inhibiting normal waste removal.
Experts disagree, claiming that autointoxication does not exist and that the human body can self-care. According to Ruth Kava, PhD, RD, director of nutrition at the American Council on Science and Health in New York City, colon cleansing is weird. The body has a remarkable ability to detoxify itself. Toxins and by-products are removed from the bloodstream by the kidneys and lungs, and waste materials are removed from the gastrointestinal [GI] tract by frequent bowel movements."
David L. Diehl, MD, head of gastrointestinal endoscopy at Bellevue Hospital Center and clinical associate professor of medicine at New York University, agrees. “High colonics are often promoted as a method to rid the colon of ‘adherent stool’ that has been there for years, if not decades," he adds. “The issue with this notion is that it does not exist." The body performs an excellent job of removing faeces, and the colon has no ‘pockets’ that accumulate stool for years. Every week, I do a colonoscopy, and a pre-procedure purge is adequate to clear out the faeces and leave a spotless colon."
Colon Cleanser Cautions
According to specialists, Colon cleansers are useless, but they may also be harmful. “Repeatedly using colon cleaners is not a good idea," Kava warns. Your intestines are more than simply a waste disposal system; they’re also a location where nutrients from meals are absorbed and distributed throughout your body. According to Kava, washing out the digestive system may disrupt absorption, leaving you with a vitamin or mineral deficit. Furthermore, regular use of some kinds of laxatives may have a boomerang effect, making your colon less able to perform its function the way nature intended.
Another disadvantage of colon cleansers, according to Johnson, is that they may cause dehydration.
Furthermore, high colonics may cause small rips or internal damage to the colon.
Perhaps most concerning, colon cleaners have never been shown to be safe. “Colon cleansers aren’t regulated or tested," adds Johnson. “If a product is shown to be dangerous, the FDA will take steps to remove it from the market, but that’s not the same as taking a prescription medication that has been thoroughly studied."
Healthy Colon Cleansers
“Nature’s method of cleaning your gut is a balanced diet that includes adequate fibre and water," Johnson told WebMD. Constipation is common in those who eat a poor diet in fibre and fluids. She adds that we can think of fibre as a “toothbrush" that passes through your gut. You’re eating a colon cleaner every day you reach your recommended daily dosage — between 21 and 25 grammes for adult women and 30 to 38 grammes for adult males. Increase your fibre intake gradually by including more fruits, vegetables, beans, and high-fibre cereals in your diet. According to Johnson, it’s also essential to keep your body moving as much as possible. Physical exercise improves blood flow throughout the body, making it simpler for your colon to function properly.
The Truth About Colon Cleansers
“They may offer brief relief if you’re constipated, and sure, they will cleanse your colon of its contents," Johnson adds, “but they may also be dangerous, costly, and uncomfortable." What’s the bottom line? Your colon understands what it’s supposed to do; if you leave it alone, it’ll take care of itself.
- Melinda Johnson, MS, RD, spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association, Phoenix, Ariz. Ruth Kava, PhD, RD, director of nutrition, American Council on Science and Health, New York City. David L. Diehl, MD, clinical associate professor of medicine, New York University; chief of gastrointestinal endoscopy, Bellevue Hospital Center. Ernst E. J Clin Gastroenterol, June 1997; vol 24: pp 196-198. Chen, T.S. J Clin Gastroenterol, August 1989; vol 11: pp 434-441. Muller-Lissner, S.A. Am J Gastroenterol, January 2005; vol 100: pp 232-242. WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: “Digestive Diseases: The Digestive System." Institute of Medicine web site: “Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs)."