What is Colon Cleansing?

colonJohn Wayne did not die with forty pounds of fecal matter impacted in his colon. Where does such a preposterous notion come from? Generally one of two sources. The nonsense stems either from people who promote the notion that eating animal foods leads to the buildup of toxic sludge in the colon, or from promoters of various colon cleansing regimens. Promoting a vegetarian diet is fine, even if it is for the wrong reason, but colon cleansing is a different matter.

The idea does sound reasonable. After all, the colon stores the body’s refuse, just waiting to make its final exit. If it doesn’t all get eliminated properly, maybe some of the waste will stick to the wall of the colon and its toxic contents can then diffuse into the bloodstream and trigger various calamities through what is called “autointoxication.” Sounds believable. And it is, if you ignore everything we know about how the colon functions and about the composition of fecal matter.

Surgeons and pathologists are very familiar with the insides of the colon and surely would have noted long ago the presence of hardened fecal matter along the intestinal wall if this were a common occurrence. The notion that toxins produced by the putrefaction of fecal matter sneak into the bloodstream has no scientific merit. There is just no evidence for any such thing. What are these unnamed toxins? Of course there are legitimate colon issues that can arise. Constipation is very real and sometimes bowels can really get blocked. However, these are medical matters that need evaluation by a physician. An enema may be ordered, but this is quite a different matter from pumping several liters of water into the colon through the rear portals for routine cleansing purposes.

Not only is there no evidence for any benefit from this procedure, except of course to the bank account of the therapist, but there is evidence of possible harm. Insertion of tubes through the rectum by “therapists” with highly questionable training can lead to bowel perforation, a serious matter. The excessive flooding with water can lead to loss of minerals such as potassium, as well as to the loss of beneficial bacteria that normally inhabit the colon. “Alternative” practitioners who promote colonic irrigation often promote the taking of probiotic supplements, which are fortified with the “good bacteria” needed for proper digestion. Curiously, they don’t seem to realize the conundrum here. On the one hand they promote the introduction of bacteria, on the other hand, thay flush everything out of the colon.

Of course there are people who claim that all their health problems, be it asthma or acne, resolve after they cleansed their colon. The power of the mind in action. The truth is that cleansing the colon by infusing water can nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, dehydration, electrolyte abnormalities, kidney problems, infection and possibly even heart failure. Furthrmore, there is no licensing of colon cleansing practitioners, the devices used are not approved for this purpose, and in the US FDA has issued numerous warning letters about the unapproved use of devices for colon cleansing. What needs cleansing is the notion that colon cleansing is a healthy endeavour.

Joe Schwarcz

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