Over the last few years, colon cleansing has become a huge trend among health-food and dieting circles. The basic idea is simple: over time, the body gradually accumulates toxins, and colon cleansing is the process of flushing these toxins out of the system. The goal is to purify the body and encourage a greater state physical and mental health.
Although the colon cleansing trend seems relatively new, things like this have actually been around for thousands of years, going back as far as Classical times. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians, for example, believed that the body needed to be purified on a regular basis. It was not until modern times, however, that these claims could be backed by real scientific research.
Unfortunately, the evidence for the benefits of colon cleansing is not always as solid as it is made out to be. The people who sell colon cleansing procedures and products have amped up the rhetoric and made lots of bold claims about what cleansing can do, but many of these claims are unfounded. Meanwhile, the legitimate medical community continues to look upon these practices with skepticism and even derision.
The intestines are full of countless types of bacteria, most of which are beneficial. These microscopic organisms help break down food, absorb the nutrients, and get rid of any toxins that may be present. Unlike other, more harmful types of bacteria, these are largely left alone by the human immune system. However, these bacteria do need to be moved along on a regular basis, or else they will build up and become too abundant, leading to digestive problems.
At the same time, it is true that toxins can get left in your intestines for longer than the standard digestive cycle, and over time some of these toxins may get absorbed into the bloodstream, potentially contributing to problems such as headaches, fatigue, allergies, and even certain illnesses. This is just speculation, though, and these claims are still unproven.
How does colon cleansing work?
There are different ways to do a cleanse. For example, there is a medical procedure in which the professional inserts a tube into the rectum and uses filtered water to irrigate the intestines and help get rid of any gunk that may be built up there. This relatively non-invasive procedure lasts about 45 minutes and, according to some people, can actually make you feel lighter and refreshed.
But not all colon cleansing uses quasi-surgical practices such as this. Some proponents of cleansing use combinations of fluids, supplements, and certain foods to help flush toxins out of the intestines, and there are also certain types of yoga and other exercise that are thought to help with digestion.
The drawbacks of colon cleansing
There is still a large amount of doubt in the medical community with regard to colon cleansing. For one thing, the basic premises behind these practices may be false. Toxins can linger in the intestines for longer than they should, but most things do get purged out within a couple of weeks. The intestines are very efficient, with millions of years of evolution making them what they are today, and they are quite good at preventing harmful substances from being absorbed. In the end, there simply has not been enough study to provide real scientific justification for cleansing.
Still, based on anecdotal evidence, there is no denying that colon cleansing has made people feel better. It is just a matter of balancing the modest benefits with all the potential drawbacks. Cleansing procedures typically cost anywhere from $100 to $200 or even more, and there are real safety concerns. Self-cleansing, meanwhile, can lead to dehydration and electrolyte disturbances, both of which are potentially life-threatening, similar to the effects of a serious eating disorder.
In the end, if you are having serious digestive problems, it is best to see a real medical doctor to find out what might be the problem. Cleansing may have some short-term benefits, but it will not treat the root causes of what is going wrong in your body. Then, if your doctor tells you that cleansing is okay, then there is nothing to stop you.
By Marc Courtiol