Non-medical colonic cleansing, also known as colonic irrigation or colonic hydrotherapy, has been touted for centuries as a way to get rid of toxins, prevent constipation, renew energy and lose weight.
Proponents say that stool builds up in the colon and toxins from that stool are absorbed back into the bloodstream to poison your system. Some claim that your colon can hold up to 20 lbs of waste. Practitioners use an “extreme enema”, up to 16 gallons at a time, of fluids such as water, coffee or herbs rectally or recommend sodium phosphate or polyethylene glycol orally.
About a century ago, the American Medical Association published a condemnation of colonic cleansing and the medical community has been pushing back against this harmful practice ever since.
Dr. Darrien Gaston agrees, “Of course there are reasons to perform a colon cleanse, such as before a colonoscopy, but these are carefully controlled with medical supervision. For non-medical cleanses, there is not a single controlled trial resulting in data proving benefits of a colonic cleanse, either oral or rectal. There is no evidence of weight loss after a colonic. There are zero benefits, but there are a variety of risks, some of them life-threatening.”
First, the myth of years of stool built up in your colon is just not true. Your body is designed to efficiently get rid of wastes all by itself. Your gastrointestinal tract, along with your liver, kidney and immune system, all work together to keep your body and bloodstream free of toxins.
Regular use of colonic irrigation or oral colonic cleansing will throw off the balance of your electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, calcium and bicarbonate. This can lead to seizures and heart arrhythmia. Other risks include:
• Mild cramping or nausea
• Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract
• Gastrointestinal microbiota disruption
• Serious bacterial infections
• Kidney failure
• Perforations of the rectum or intestines. causing waste to enter the abdominal cavity, resulting in deadly peritonitis
Hydrotherapists who perform colonic irrigations and colonic facilities are not licensed, inspected or certified by any scientifically-based organizations, which can lead to poor sterilization and maintenance of equipment and dangerous administration of the procedure. The FDA has not approved any colon cleansing device or supplement for non-medical purposes because no valid studies prove benefits, and because there is no medical approval for these procedures.
Says Dr. Gaston, “I do not recommend any colon cleanse unless it is for a specific medical purpose. Those with diabetes, Crohn’s disease or other gastrointestinal conditions are at a heightened risk for complications.
If you find you are often constipated, increase your exercise by walking, swimming or biking at least 20 minutes each day. Eat more fiber including beans, whole fruits and vegetables. If these tips don’t alleviate your constipation, call Dr. Gaston at 773-238-1126 and make an appointment. At Metropolitan Gastroenterology Consultants, we are always happy to help.