In my best-selling book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, in the chapter on “Colonics,” co-author Donal O’Mathuna, PhD, and I conclude: “There is no scientific basis for using or recommending colonics for general health.” A new report confirms our recommendations. Continue reading
The Los Angeles Times “Healthy Skeptic” column reports that “NuAge Colon Cleanse and Oxy-Powder makers say their products rid the body of toxins and help people lose weight.”
According to the “NuAge website … the product contains ‘muciligenic fibers,’ but it doesn’t provide any other information about ingredients or directions for use,” while “Oxy-Powder, a supplement from Global Healing Center, takes a low-fiber approach to colon health.”
Indeed, the “lower digestive tract really does set a foundation for health and well-being, says Dr. John Inadomi, chairman of gastrointestinal medicine at UC San Francisco and chairman of the Clinical Practice and Quality Management Committee for the American Gastroenterological” Association.
“But claims that colon cleansing supplements can somehow detoxify the colon and improve overall health ‘have no basis in science,’ he says.”
In my best-selling book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook, in the chapter on “Colonics,” co-author Donal O’Mathuna, PhD, and I conclude:
We could find no studies to prove that colonics enhance health.
No medical evidence supports the use of colonics other than for constipation and pre- or postoperative reasons.
Adverse effects appear to be relatively infrequent. Yet when there is no evidence that something is effective, any risk is too large to take.
We are also concerned that those who promote colonics do not place enough importance on having evidence to support their recommendations.
There is no scientific basis for using or recommending colonics for general health.
Claims of marked health benefits from “detoxification” have stimulated public interest in colonic cleansing and generated a multimillion-dollar industry promoting oral agents, colonic hydrotherapy, or enema therapies designed to empty the bowel. Questions about colonic cleansing are among the most common inquiries to the American College of Gastroenterology and are often posed to family physicians.
Family physician and medical editor, Anne Walling, MD, has reviewed a study on colon cleansing and body detoxification for American Family Physician. The study, by Acosta and Cash, reviewed the evidence of benefit and risk of harm from colonic cleansing to better inform physicians and the public.
The Study: The authors searched Medline, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Collaboration Database to identify relevant articles published between 1966 and 2008. They also reviewed abstracts from gastroenterology subspecialty conferences and the alternative medicine subset of PubMed. The bibliographies of all identified articles were reviewed for additional articles of interest.
Potentially relevant articles were independently assessed by each of the two authors for relevance and methodologic quality. The eligible articles were then reviewed in a blinded manner; investigators abstracted data concerning the population studied, condition of interest, intervention, measured outcomes, and adverse events. A formal meta-analysis was not possible because of the heterogeneous methodologies of the reported studies.
Results: From 297 potential citations, 16 articles and one letter met criteria for inclusion in the study. Only two clinical trials were identified. Case reports, case series, and reviews accounted for the other material. None of the articles were of good methodologic quality. Eleven articles had quality scores in the middle tertile and six had scores in the lowest tertile.
No eligible articles were identified concerning the effect of colon cleansing on general health or on specific conditions such as hypertension, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, arthritis, sinus congestion, or alcoholism. One study reported that heroin withdrawal symptoms resolved more quickly and abstinence rates were higher in addicts who received colonic hydrotherapy and Chinese herbal medicine in addition to medical treatment, but the methodology and end points of this study were obscure and questionable.
Adverse events such as electrolyte imbalances, septicemia, colitis, rectal perforation, and death were reported. In an outbreak of amebiasis attributed to colonic irrigation therapy at a single clinic, at least 36 patients were infected, 10 required colectomy, and six died.
Conclusion: The authors report the notable lack of good-quality published evidence of any health benefit from colonic cleansing and the many publications concerning adverse events, including death.
They draw attention to the long history of the practice, and to the wide range of herbs and other substances, especially coffee, that are commonly administered in the hydrotherapy or enema fluid.
Although the medical literature may have a publication bias towards adverse events, the authors conclude that colonic cleansing cannot be recommended because of the overwhelming lack of evidence of health benefit and significant evidence of harm.
You can read my posts on the topic here:
- Is Prince Charles Endorsing Quackery? His Herbal Detox Products Stir Controversy
- Most people do not need colon cleansing (colonics)
- Debunking The Myth of “Detoxification”
- A natural product may falsely claim it uses “secrets of ancient medicine.” Ya think?
You can read more about colonics and detoxification in my book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook:
- You can read about and order the book here.
- You can read the Table of Contents here.
- You can read a sample chapter here.
A Los Angeles Times health column advises people not to believe that “our bodies [are] awash in ‘toxins,’… and that we should therefore go to dramatic lengths, such as ‘colon cleansing’ and chelation, to get rid of all this bad stuff.”
My Take? Continue reading