Ask Dr. Dave: Will Cleansing My Colon Make Me Healthier?

Colon cleansing might provide temporary relief, but your body has its own cleaning system that shouldn't be messed with.

Does your colon need to be cleaned? Probably not, as studies show there are no real benefits to the practice. (Photo: PhotoAlto/Odilon Dimier/Getty Images)

Aug 15, 2012

Thinking about getting a colonic? Before you do, here’s what happened to one poor guy (or gal) who seems to have gone the DIY route:

“The patient who suffered a perforation with the garden hose-administered enema suffered from chronic constipation symptoms, although the methods used also raise questions regarding the psychological status of that individual.” American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2009.

(In the spirit of Fareed Zakaria, all sentences that awesome need quotation marks and a full citation, and that was a really awesome sentence.)

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That’s right, you too can visit your local medical school university library and pick up volume 104, issue 11 of the American Journal of Gastroenterology and peruse what an esteemed group of gastroenterologists determined are the risks and benefits of the en vogue health intervention called the colon cleanse.

Spoiler alert: benefits, none. Risks: lots of wild stories like the one quoted above.

Colon cleansing encompasses a number of interventions meant to clean out your colon (good thing I’m here to clarify that, right?). They can range from taking a bunch of laxatives by mouth, sticking them up your butt, sticking herbs up your butt, or using a hose to spray water into your colon. (To the credit of The Global Professional Association for Colon Therapy, usually the hose is cleaner and better designed for this purpose than our aforementioned friend with the garden hose.)

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People who have colonics generally believe that the intestines are full of toxins and cleaning them out will make you feel better.

The truth is that washing your colon out with a jet of water or laxatives might make you feel better if you suffer from severe constipation, but I hope you’d try a high-fiber diet (read: more vegetables) before going to this extreme. For chronic constipation problems, you should see your doctor.

As the study above, which reviewed a bunch of research, noted: “The practice of colonic cleansing to improve or promote general health is not supported in the published literature and cannot be recommended at this time.”

Other than in cases of extreme constipation, no evidence exists demonstrating that this treatment will make you feel better. The colon has its own natural cleaning system, one that generally doesn’t need help any help. Especially from a garden hose.

EDITOR’S NOTE: provides news and information about a variety of health topics. Do not use as a substitute for professional healthcare. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified medical care provider for any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Do not disregard the advice of a qualified medical care provider because of something you read on, or any other website. 

Do you have a health or medical question for Dr. Dave? Leave it in the comments.

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