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Maybe Colons Aren’t Meant To Be Cleaned

I confess, there are times when the idea of colon-cleansing has a certain appeal. During relentless bloating. Or when juice fast types propound the canard that the average American man has five pounds of meat backed up in his colon. Or when brinksmanship in Washington leaves me with such lingering nausea that I feel like the whole country just needs a giant enema.

But a paper just out today in the Journal of Family Practice debunks the notion that we can so easily cleanse away our sins. Examining 20 previous studies, it finds that no matter how many celebrities may tout it, there is no medical evidence that colon cleansing is healthful, but plenty of evidence that it can cause harm. Researchers at Georgetown University School of Medicine and Providence Hospital report that the cleaning can cause bacterial complications and punctures.

The study is reported widely today, including in The Telegraph and on MSNBC here. Time’s Healthland has some particularly nice quotes from researcher Ranit Mishori in its piece here, including:

“I totally understand where people are coming from in wanting to detoxify,” says Mishori, “You want to get all the gunk out. But there is no evidence that [the cleanses] are doing anything, and physiologically it doesn’t make sense. The body has a system for detoxifying itself—it’s called pee and poop. And for healthy people, that’s all it takes.”

And while the idea of cleaning out the intestines sounds like a good idea, you actually need a good growth of bacteria in your gut to ease digestion and voiding of waste.

But what concerned Mishori and her team wasn’t simply the fact that patients didn’t appear to be getting any benefit from the cleanses, but that the procedures were causing harm. “Every time you put something where it’s not supposed to be in the body, you can poke tissue, make holes and disrupt architecture,” she says. And that’s exactly what the studies found.

A bit of history from The Telegraph: Continue reading