Colon Cleansing Myths

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Published: 25th March 2009
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Many people approach colon cleansing with the wrong expectations. Some of it is built up by media hype and advertisements that claim colon cleansing to have astounding benefits. It is true that a superior colon cleanser can have benefits on your overall health, but being able to differentiate between the myths and the real facts about colon cleansing will help you to choose the right colon cleanser for your health and well-being.

Myth: The colon (large intestine) is like a sewage canal and needs a thorough cleaning periodically.

Truth: Most people who fall prey to prevalent myths of colon cleansing would find it helpful to do a basic study of how the colon works. Often people are misled by hype to think that the colon has to be cleaned up, that somehow it is similar to how a sewer works and it needs regular cleaning.

The fact is that the colon has an internal clean-up system in place and a good diet (with adequate fiber) and exercise play a vital role in keeping this process in good working order. The good bacteria inside the colon help to keep the colon clean as well as act on prebiotics (fiber) producing important nutrients that the body requires for maintaining optimal health. Myths such as these, often lead people to colon hydrotherapy in an effort to make the colon pristine. What they do not realize is that such methods drive away even the good bacteria in the colon which is necessary for colon cleanse and maintenance. Prolonged treatments may lead to malnutrition, anemia and a gradual decline in health.

Myth: The lining of the colon is full of waste matter which has not been eliminated and sticks to the colon walls forming a hard layer of mucoid plaque which can remain in the colon for years causing toxins in the body.

Truth: Many conventional doctors report that there is no such thing as accumulated waste in the colon since the body is designed to eliminate waste in a timely manner.

New York University's Howard Hochster, in a review of websites which promote colon cleansing and successful clearing of "mucoid ropes" (those green slimy ropes that are said to have come from the colon) or mucoid plaque stuck for years to colonic walls said these websites were, "abundant, quasi-scientific, and unfortunately convincing to a biologically- uneducated public." Such sites create sensationalism, but there is no basis for their claims in the science of physiology.1

Doctors who review such websites explain that these mucoid ropes are formed by the ingredients in the colon cleanse program themselves, rather than plaque that has remained inside the colon for years. Such phenomena can result from figs, senna, bentonite clay or other fibrous materials often found as ingredients in herbal colon cleansers.2

Myth: The number of bowel movements a day must be equal to the number of meals we eat.

Truth: Frequency of bowel movements in adults varies from 3 to 21 in a week. It varies from individual to individual. Medical science has defined constipation when an individual has had less 3 bowel movements in a week. A healthy average would be 1 or 2 bowel movements a day.

Myth: A good herbal colon cleanser will also detoxify your body of heavy metals like lead and mercury.

Truth: Detoxification is done by the colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph system, and skin. When the body fails to eliminate toxins through these eliminatory organs, it stores toxins all over the body, including in fat cells, in the liver, in muscles and joints.. Once they are stored it is difficult to detoxify them. Good nutrition, especially green leafy vegetables can help to aid the body to release toxins from these cells and therefore allow them to be naturally eliminated from the body. Many herbal colon cleansers have a nutritional maintenance program which can be beneficial.

Conventional colon cleansers only focus on detoxification in the colon. Herbal colon cleansers, because of their fiber content, can help bind toxins in the digestive tract and eliminate these from the system.

However, toxins such as heavy metals can only be effectively removed through chelation therapy.

Myth: The colon is simply a collection organ for the body's waste matter.

Truth: It takes about 6 to 8 hours for food to pass through your small intestine, where most of the digestion takes place. But the indigestible matter that is passed into the colon sits in the colon for about 72 hours before it is eliminated from the system. Here it is acted upon by the good bacteria in the colon. Fermentation takes place and this fermentation process produces nutrients that regulate such vital functions like cholesterol and glucose levels. Some of these nutrients nourish the liver; some provide energy for colon cells. Good bacteria proliferate in such an environment and establishes intestinal flora which in turn, helps the body to absorb nutrients. It also helps to support immune functions. Water, nutrients and salts are passed through the colon lining. The colon does much more than collect waste matter.

Myth: Colon Cleansing will help you lose weight

You may experience a loss of weight when you initially begin colon cleansing. But prolonged use of colon cleansers is not recommended as part of your weight loss management programs. This is because prolonged use of some herbs can cause side effects. Studies indicate that the fiber, the main ingredient in herbal colon cleansers, may help to reduce hunger pangs, resulting in the apparent experience of weight loss when using colon cleansers.3

Truth: A good colon cleanser will help to alleviate constipation which affects about 2 million Americans. It will aid the body to establish regular patterns of waste elimination establish healthy intestinal flora and help to detoxify the system through a nutritional maintenance program. Ask your doctor about the benefits of a colon cleansing program.

Colon health can be enhanced by a balanced diet consisting of plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables and probiotics. Avoid saturated fats and get regular exercise. If constipation persists, consult your doctor.

  1. Hochster H. (2007). ""Colon Health" Websites". Current Colorectal Cancer Reports
  2. Joe Schwarcz "I have a gut feeling something's wrong here." The Gazette Saturday, April 05 2008
  3. J.L. Slavin. Dietary fiber and body weight. Nutrition 2005; Mar;21(3):411-8. PubMed:15797686.

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