Natural Colon Cleansing: Is It Necessary?
What is the goal of natural colon cleansing?
The health claims made by producers of colon cleansing products and colon irrigation practitioners are broad and wide-reaching. Their main goal is to clear the colon of large quantities of stagnant, supposedly toxic waste encrusted on colon walls. Doing so, they claim, will enhance the vitality of the body.
Other stated goals include:
- Improving mental outlook
- Improving the immune system
- Losing weight
- Reducing the risk of colon cancer
Colon cleansing has been studied in relation to a few health concerns. These include:
- Fecal incontinence
- Ostomy (surgical connection between an intestine and the outside of the body) care
- Spasm during colonoscopy
- Drug withdrawal
- Before and during bowel surgeries
In most of these cases, no quality research has been done to tell whether or not a colon cleansing is helpful.
Is natural colon cleansing needed?
Are bowel movements enough to clear the colon? Or is it true that colon cleansing can be beneficial? This is still unclear. We do know that the body alone can do the following:
- Natural bacteria in the colon can detoxify food wastes.
- The liver also neutralizes toxins.
- Mucus membranes in the colon can keep unwanted substances from reentering the blood and tissues.
- The colon sheds old cells about every 3 days, preventing a buildup of harmful material.
- The normal number of bowel movements varies from person to person.
- Increasing the number of bowel movements doesn't improve weight loss. That's because the body absorbs most calories before they reach the large intestine.
Are there risks associated with natural colon cleansing?
Remember that "natural" doesn't necessarily mean safe. The government doesn't regulate natural colon cleansing products, so their potency, safety, and purity can't be guaranteed. And, each state has its own rules about whether or not practitioners must be professionally licensed.
If you do decide to see a colon-cleansing therapist, choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who follows that organization's standards. It's always a good idea to talk with your primary health provider before starting a new practice such as colon cleansing.
Although the risk becomes greater the more often you have a colon cleanse, a review of similar procedures, such as enemas and sigmoidoscopies, shows the risk of severe effects is low when colon irrigations are performed by trained personnel using low pressures with the right equipment. In Britain, where practitioners carry out 5,600 colon irrigations each month, no serious side effects have been reported.
However, there are some potential side effects:
- Vomiting, nausea, cramps
- Dizziness, a sign of dehydration
- Mineral imbalance
- Potential interference with medication absorption on day of procedure
- Bowel perforation
- Depletion of helpful normal bowel flora unless replaced (i.e. probiotics)
Be aware, if the therapist adds a substance to the water during colon irrigation, you run the risk of an allergic reaction. Do not use laxatives or colon irrigations long term. They can irritate or upset the balance of your colon's good bacteria and interfere with normal bowel function.
Avoid colon irrigations, if you have:
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn's disease
- Severe hemorrhoids
- Tumors in your rectum or colon
- Recent bowel surgery
- Heart disease or kidney disease, unless approved by your health care provider
Regarding children, there may be an increase risk of mineral imbalances, therefore use caution with children. Follow the guidelines of the IACHC (International Association of Colon Hydrotherapists www.i-act.org) and your health care provider.