Tuesday, February 9, 2010
The internet is full of colon cleansing methods that tout the benefits of colon detox. I saw one website that showed long "worms" that live for years in the colon that "need" to be removed with special expensive potions. One of the most common questions for GI doctors is about colon cleansing and if it is beneficial. I don't know any physicians who believe the colon needs "detoxification" or special cleansing, but until now I didn't have a scientific way to answer that question from patients.
A study from the Am J. Gastroenterology now gives us the answer. The study authors looked at all relevant articles published between 1966 and 2008. They blinded the articles and measured outcomes and adverse events.
No research articles addressed the effect of colon cleansing on general health or on specific conditions such as hypertension, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, sinus congestion or alcoholism, despite the fact that these conditions are mentioned in ads. They did find adverse events such as electrolyte imbalances, septicemia, colitis, rectal perforation and death. One article reported an outbreak of amebiasis (amoeba infection) attributed to colonic irrigation therapy with at least 36 patients infected. Ten required colectomy and six patients died.
There was no good quality published evidence of any health benefit from colonic cleansing and many reports of adverse events. This practice has a large following with many colonic substances including coffee enemas and other herbs administered in the enema fluid.
The colon is designed to absorb nutrients and remove waste. The best way to keep your colon and GI tract healthy is to eat fruit, vegetables and fiber, stay hydrated and active. Special potions or enemas not needed.
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