The Colon Cleanse Debate

Cayenne Cleanse, Detox, cleanse, cider vinegar cleanse – you have seen the ads online and in magazines. You may have read the testimonials, but what is a “cleanse” and why would you need one? Will

you lose weight, feel better, and have more energy? Or could you accidently damage your kidneys or liver? Is a cleanse even necessary? Don’t our bodies
just naturally detoxify? The answers are not as clear and concise as one would think.

shutterstock_174364115What is a Cleanse

In the simplest of terms a “cleanse” is a treatment, prescribed by a physician, which eliminates unhealthy toxins from the body.  Most of the time, a cleanse treatment involves a temporary but drastic change to one’s diet.

Each day we are exposed to toxins: pesticides, air pollution, microbes, deodorizers, and gasses released by paint or carpet. The body’s design to rid itself of these harmful toxins is nearly perfect. Enzymes break down and dispose of these toxins every day. What if the buildup of toxins happens quicker than our bodies can remove them? That is when a cleanse might be recommended by your doctor.

What are the Benefits of Detoxifying?shutterstock_348391388
If done properly, under the supervision of your doctor, a cleanse can have a positive effect on the whole body. One theory behind cleansing is autointoxication. This is the belief that undigested meat and
other foods cause mucus buildup in the colon. This buildup produces toxins.  Some people claim these toxins cause a wide range of symptoms, such as

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Weight gain
  • Low energy

So, if the manufacturers claims are to be believed, the positive effects of a cleanse would be increased energy, weight loss, and increased mental clarity.

The positive health claims by manufacturers of colon cleansing products are extensive. Of course, the manufacturer wants to sell as many colon-cleansing products as possible.  The claim is that these products can clear the colon of copious amounts of stagnant, allegedly harmful waste that cover the colon wall. By using a cleanse properly the user will improve the health of the entire body.

Other frequent claims are:

  • Increase mental focus
  • A better functioning immune system
  • Weight loss
  • A reduction is the risk of cancer

shutterstock_149502551Is colon cleansing necessary?Are bowel movements adequate to clear the colon? Alternatively, is it true that colon cleansing can be beneficial? There is a debate about the benefits of colon cleansing. Research supports that the body can and does eliminate toxins without outside help. For example:

  • Healthy bacteria in the colon detoxify food wastes.
  • The liver neutralizes toxins.
  • Mucus membranes in the colon can keep unwanted substances from reentering the blood and tissues.
  • The colon sheds old cells approximately every 3 days, preventing a buildup of harmful material.
  • Increasing the number of bowel movements does not support weight loss. Because the body absorbs most calories before they reach the large intestine.

What are the possible risks of colon cleansing?

Remember that products marketed as “natural” are not always safe.  The FDA does not yet regulate colon-cleansing products, so their strength, safety, and pureness can’t be guaranteed. In addition, each state has its own rules regarding professional licensing.

If you do decide to see a professional, choose one licensed by a recognized national organization and one who follows that organization’s standards. It’s always a good idea to discuss any new treatment with your primary health provider before making any changes.

The risk associated with colonics grows with the frequency.  The threat of negative side effects is diminished when performed by a trained and licensed professional.  Some of the possible negative side effects include:shutterstock_295333166

  • Vomiting, nausea, cramps
  • Dizziness, a sign of dehydration
  • Body chemical imbalance
  • Potential interference with medication absorption on day of procedure
  • Bowel perforation
  • Infection
  • Depletion of helpful normal bowel flora unless replaced (i.e. probiotics)

A terrific example of how not to go about doing a cleanse recently came to my attention when a  friend of mine tried a liver and gallbladder cleanse originally created by Dr. Hulda Clark and recommended by another friend. It CAN be a great cleanse, when done under proper supervision. The liver and gallbladder can contain a surplus of toxins, so flushing them out improperly can have a devastating effect. By not properly prepping his body for the toxin release, he ended up sick for several days following the cleanse. Was his liver cleaner? Yes, but now those toxins were resting in other places and had to be cleansed from those areas to fix the problem created by the first cleanse.

Whether you decide to see a professional or try an over-the-counter home product please talk to your primary care provider first.