Colon Cleanses Clean Out Your Wallet, But Not Your Digestive Tract

Medically reviewed by: Gary H. Hoffman, MD

You’ve heard the commercials and spotted the products on the shelf at your local health food store. You’ve probably even seen ads on Facebook or elsewhere online. Colon cleansing pills, teas, and other products are almost unavoidable.

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In today’s marketplace where “natural” and “clean” are buzzwords, and there is a new weight loss fad every week, colon cleanses have found their audience. But, as it turns out, your colon does a fine job of staying clean without the help of laxatives, herbs, or any other “cleansing” concoction. Colon cleanses are entirely unnecessary, and only good for cleaning out your wallet.

Is There Proof to Back Up the Claims of those Who Use These Cleanses?

In ancient times, autointoxication was a popular belief. Those who studied the human body theorized that undigested food remained in the colon, building up with every meal. Over time, this created more and more toxins, which they believed could poison the person. Today, modern science allows us to know exactly what happens as food moves through the digestive tract. We know the theory of autointoxication is not possible, much less probable.

Still, the claims of those who manufacture, distribute, and use colon cleanses rely on much of the same framework to explain their products and sell their teas and pills. They claim there is build up in the colon that can lead to a range of systemic problems, including fatigue, headaches, and weight gain.

There is no scientific research to back these claims, and there will not be any in the future. The theory of autointoxication is a myth. We know how food passes through your body, and can even perform tests to find out how long it takes. Your digestive system rids your body of waste materials, and your colon empties every time you have a bowel movement.

Side Effects of Colon Cleanses

Not only is there no evidence that you need to use a special product to cleanse your colon, they could cause you to suffer side effects. Colon cleanses are not necessary, so why take the risk?

Most people experience no side effects or mild side effects related to a cleansing product. The most common are cramping and bloating, which is not surprising since many of these concoctions contain laxatives. Some people report diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting.

Depending on your colon health and general well-being, you might experience other, more severe side effects. Because there is such a wide range of products on the market and they are virtually unregulated, the possible issues they could trigger are almost endless. If you absolutely must use a colon cleanse, it is a good idea to discuss it with your doctor beforehand.

How Can I Improve My Colon Health?

The best way to keep your colon – and the rest of your body – working properly is to eat a healthy diet with a variety of foods. A high fiber diet with plenty of whole grains, vegetables, and fruit, and with limited red meat, will lower your risk for colon cancer, hemorrhoids, constipation, diverticular problems, and a number of other conditions. We recommend that our patients quit smoking and drink alcohol only in moderation, as well.

If you eat a healthy diet and still have concerns about your colon, talk to your doctor. If you are over age 50 or have a family history of colon cancer, ask for a referral. We can perform a colon cancer screening and ensure your bowels are working as they should be.

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