Colon cleansing, a historic practice of flushing out the end part of the digestive system, has returned in modern practice. Although lacking proof of its usefulness, this procedure, which is invasive and often dangerous, has attracted people because of being promoted by celebrities. This report presents two case studies that demonstrate the dangers of the procedure. It also highlights the fact that many devices and preparations used for the procedure are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Colon cleansing can be self-administered or performed by colon hygienists. The procedure involves pumping huge amounts of water, with or without herbs, using a tube into a person’s rectum. The fluids along with wastes are then expelled out through another tube. Tea, coffee, different herbs and certain types of powders and laxatives are commonly used for this procedure. The procedure is used to remove intestinal waste, and is believed to be helpful in reducing tiredness, aches, weight gain and body toxins. This therapy was in use in ancient times, when it was believed that the presence of wastes in the intestines led to autointoxication. While the therapy is believed to be beneficial for health and well-being, it has caused harm to many users. According to the present report, the therapists are poorly trained, there is little systematic research done to understand the possible implications, and the FDA does not approve the material used.
The authors of this study report two case studies wherein the patients had reported adverse effects after undergoing colon cleansing. The symptoms, case history, and health statistics of these patients were recorded. The authors reviewed 26 published studies to report the kinds of products available for use in the therapy, their safety levels, and the adverse effects. The FDA requirements for use of this therapy and its potential hazards are also discussed.
* The symptoms observed in the first case that reported adverse effects of colon cleansing include diarrhea, lower serum potassium levels, higher blood urea nitrogen and creatinine levels, and higher blood pressure and heart rate. With normal diet and lot of fluids, the patient felt better within a week.
* In the second case, the patient had lost 24 lbs. in 10 days. His serum potassium was low and creatinine was high. His intestine showed abnormal enlargements in several places, indicating blockages. After three days, his status had worsened with a swollen pancreas and severe swelling in the intestine. He suffered from “herbal intoxication.” With hydration, normal diet, and replacement of electrolytes, he returned to normalcy.
* The authors report that there is no scientific study yet that supports colon-cleansing therapy or proves its beneficial uses.
* Adverse effects of the therapy include abdominal pain, cramping, vomiting, nausea, perianal pain, soreness, irritation, and renal failure. The herbal preparations used are associated with liver toxicity and aplastic anemia. Several other harmful effects such as air emboli, perineal gangrene, and septicemia have also been reported.
Colon cleansing, though disapproved by medical organizations, has become popular in recent years. It is being advertised as a natural method to enhance health and well-being based on herbal remedies, making it attractive to many people. While it can be self-administered, it is an invasive procedure, and is not backed by scientific evidence. The adverse effects of the therapy range from mild to very severe. There are also cases of injury to the rectum and intestine because of untrained handling by therapists and the use of inappropriate and often unhygienic equipment. This is a dangerous procedure with no proven benefits and should be avoided.
For More Information:
The Dangers of Colon Cleansing
Publication Journal: The Journal of Family Practice, August 2011
By Ranit Mishori, MD; Aye Otubu, MD, MPH; Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, DC