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Colon Cleansers: Are They Safe?

Experts discuss the safety and effectiveness of colon cleansers.

Colon Cleanser Cautions

Colon cleansers aren't just unnecessary, according to experts, they may even cause harm. "Using coloncleansers on a repetitive basis is not a great idea," Kava says. Your intestines aren't just a waste disposal unit; they're also a place where nutrients from food are absorbed to the bloodstream, to be transported throughout your entire body.  Washing out the intestinal tract could potentially interrupt this absorption, leaving you with a vitamin or mineral deficiency, Kava tells WebMD.  In addition, frequent use of some types of laxatives can have a boomerang effect, so that cleaning your colon could leave it less able to do its job the way nature intended.

Another pitfall of colon cleansers is that they can lead to dehydration, Johnson says.

Moreover, high colonics can potentially harm the colon, causing small tears or internal damage.

Perhaps most alarming, colon cleansers have no proven safety record. "Colon cleansers are really not strictly regulated and tested," Johnson says. "If a product is shown to be harmful, the FDA will take action to have it removed from shelves, but it's not at all the same as taking a prescription drug that's been tested meticulously."

Healthy Colon Cleansers

"A healthy diet that includes enough fiber and water is nature's way of cleansing your colon," Johnson tells WebMD. A diet that is low in fiber and water, on the other hand, usually results in constipation. You can think of fiber as acting like a "toothbrush" passing through your colon, she says. So every day that you meet your recommended daily dose -- between 21 and 25 grams per day for adult women and 30 to 38 grams for adult men -- you're literally consuming a colon cleanser.  Up your fiber intake slowly by making room in your diet for foods like fruit, vegetables, beans, and high-fiber cereals. Keeping your body moving as much as possible is important, too, Johnson says. Physical activity increases blood flow throughout the body, and the better your blood flow, the easier it is for your colon to work efficiently.

The Truth About Colon Cleansers

"They may provide temporary relief if you're constipated," Johnson says, "And yes they will cleanse your colon of its contents, but they can also be dangerous, expensive and inconvenient." Bottom line? Your colon knows its job; leave it alone and it will take care of itself.

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Reviewed on February 08, 2007

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