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Natural Colon Cleansing: Is It Necessary?

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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
  • Infection
  • 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:

  • Diverticulitis
  • 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.

What else can you do to enhance colon health?

What you eat -- not what you flush through your colon -- may have the greatest impact on colon health, lowering your risk of colon cancer and enhancing your overall health.

Increasing both soluble and insoluable fiber can help with a wide range of gastrointestinal problems, including constipation, diverticular disease, and colorectal cancer. The typical American consumes 10 grams to 15 grams a day, but you need closer to 20 grams to 35 grams. If there are no gluten issues, add sources of both insoluble fiber, such as cereal and whole grains, and soluble fiber, such as bran, fruit, vegetables, and oatmeal.

Also, drink plenty of fluids, but drink alcohol in moderation. Avoid tobacco and limit red meat. And, of course, get screened for colon cancer beginning at age 50, or earlier if your doctor advises.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on May 26, 2014
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