Colon Cleansing Ineffective and Unsafe, Say Researchers

VIDEO: A new study suggests there is no real benefit to this procedure.
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Beyonce reportedly does it. So do Kim and Khloe Kardashian. What's the fad these and other celebrities have embraced? Colon cleansing.

There has been a lot of debate over the usefulness of colon cleansing. Proponents believe it helps purify the body and treat certain diseases. But a new report published today says colon cleansing offers no benefits and can actually be quite dangerous.

Colon cleansing has been around for centuries, and it's based on the theory that waste products build up in the colon that can enter the bloodstream and poison the body. Colon cleansing can be accomplished in a variety of ways, including supplements and the enema-like practice of flushing out the colon with water and other substances such as coffee.

"Despite colon cleansing's long history and current popularity, the literature does not support its purported benefits," wrote the report's authors, led by Dr. Ranit Mishori, clinical faculty at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

Mishori and her colleagues reviewed published case studies and found that most of them noted numerous adverse effects from colon cleansing. They ranged from mild cramping and nausea to serious effects such as kidney failure.

Mishori said that she and other doctors at Georgetown University Hospital have seen an increasing number of patients who have suffered the ill effects of colon cleansing as well as patients who have asked about it, which is why she decided to undertake this research.

In addition to the side effects of colon cleansing, the authors warned that the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the devices used for colon hydrotherapy, the procedure that uses water to flush out the large intestine.

Some of the equipment is FDA-approved for use only for cleaning out the colon before a medical procedure, such as surgery. It is not approved, however, to clean out the colon for non-medical reasons. Dietary supplements used for colon cleansing are not subject to pre-approval by the FDA before they are marketed, but they must not make false or misleading claims.

The equipment may not be sterilized properly, and the authors noted is that practitioners known as hydrotherapists are not licensed by scientifically-based organizations.

While it may seem as if it's only an enema, colon hydrotherapy uses much more water than a standard enema.

"Hydrotherapy is extreme enema, and it can be harmful," Mishori said.

"You can get into quite a lot of trouble doing repeated enemata, including serum electrolyte imbalance from absorption of the fluids used," said Wendie Howland, a nurse and health care consultant.

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