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Colon Cleansing May Be Risky, Study Finds

Hazards May Include Nausea, Vomiting, Kidney Failure; Advocates Cite Energy Boost, Other Health Benefits
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Colon Cleansing: The Report continued...

Some herbal preparations have been linked with liver toxicity and aplastic anemia, she says. In aplastic anemia, the bone marrow doesn't make enough new blood cells.

In hydrotherapy, ill effect reports have also included rectal perforation, colitis, and death from intestinal infection, she says.

In the report, Mishori describes two patients she cared for who had colon cleansing. One was hospitalized for dehydration, inflamed pancreas, and other problems. Another had cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting.

"If you want to enhance your sense of well-being, there are many other ways of doing this," she says. On her list: exercise, meditate, go to a yoga retreat, or have a glass of wine with a loved one.

The preparations used for colon cleansing are classified as dietary supplements, Mishori says, so the FDA does not pre-approve them.

The FDA requires that devices used for colonic hydrotherapy meet certain requirements, but no system has been approved for general nonmedical purposes such as routine colon cleansing, she says.

Colon Cleansing: Industry View

Colon hydrotherapists who are members of the IACT use equipment that is classified by the FDA as a class II medical device, Hoenninger says. "It is to be used when medically indicated, such as before radiological or endoscopic examinations," he says.

"Constipation may be one of the medically indicated conditions," he says, with a prescription from a health care provider.

Colon Cleansing: Perspective

"I don't agree there are no benefits,'' says Jamey Wallace, ND, clinic medical director for Bastyr Center for Natural Health of Bastyr University in Seattle.

"If someone is constipated and they have no other medical diagnosis, it can be very helpful," he tells WebMD. He reviewed the study but was not involved in it. He says it can improve bowel function.

Certain people should not consider hydrotherapy, he says. Among them are people with colon cancer, ulcerative colitis, and other bowel problems, he says.

"If a patient is interested in a colonic irrigation they should first see a physician to make sure there are not health concerns that should be addressed medically," he says.

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