Everybody's doing cleanse diets. Are they really a good way to flush out toxins or jump-start a diet?

Everybody's doing cleanse diets. Are they really a good way to flush out toxins or jump-start a diet?

Question:
Elizabeth Ricanati, M.D.
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Elizabeth Ricanati, M.D.

Elizabeth Ricanati, M.D., is the founding medical director of Lifestyle 180, an innovative Cleveland Clinic program aimed at treating and... Read more

Colon cleansing (also known as a colonic, colonic irrigation and colon hydrotherapy) is as old as the ancient Greeks. Essentially, the process of colon cleansing involves completely evacuating the contents of your colon, either through products you use at home (think enemas, laxatives, herbal laxative teas) or through a procedure done by a physician or colon therapist (think inserting a tube into the rectum that releases filtered water into the colon to prompt waste removal). The practice has gone in and out of favor over the last few decades.

Many theories exist as to why colonics may be good for you, such as getting rid of excess toxins from sugar, alcohol, caffeine and meat, and improving your overall health and well-being through quick weight loss and increased energy level. With that said, there's not a whole lot of research to back up these claims (especially with gold standard, randomized controlled trials).

Our bodies are also made to handle toxins: We have bowel movements, we shed old cells and we neutralize toxins in our colon and our liver. Having a regular bowel movement (which varies for each individual) is likely all that's needed to clear the colon of impurities.

And just because colon cleansing is touted as being "natural"—due to the fact that filtered water or herbs are used to promote waste removal—doesn't mean it's safe (cyanide is a natural organic compound!). In fact, most "natural" colon cleansing products on the market are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration and can cause unwanted side effects, including an imbalance of electrolytes, dehydration and rectal perforations.

If you really want to go all-natural promoting your colon health, drink lots of water and increase your fiber intake (women need 25 grams a day). And if you're 50 or older (or younger if you have a relative with colon cancer), do your colon a favor and get it screened for cancer.

If you are still interested in a colon cleansing, please discuss this with your physician first (especially if you have a condition that would prevent you from even trying this, such as hemorrhoids or kidney disease).

 

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