David L. Katz, MD
Photo: Mackenzie Stroh
Q: What's up with all the ads for colon cleansing products? Does my colon really require cleansing?
— Barbara Adams, Landrum, South Carolina

A: No, your colon does not require that. The reason behind the onslaught of advertising for colon cleansing enemas, diets, and supplements is that, in a nutshell, if you're buying, someone will be happy to sell.

The colon is designed to do just what it does—remove solid waste from the body. Eat a wholesome diet, and it will perform admirably. Insoluble fiber—found abundantly in whole grains, vegetables, beans, and lentils—is of particular importance in keeping things moving along as they should. Since these foods are just plain good for you, eating more of them will benefit your colon as well as all your other vital organs. Good hydration will also help your colon with digestion, so drink plenty of water.

There are circumstances in which the body needs help detoxifying itself, such as when a chemical toxin or heavy metal has accumulated in the body. But in such situations, doctors follow medical protocols involving a variety of specific chelating agents that bind with the toxin and escort it out of the body before it can do harm.

Colon cleansing isn't always benign, either. It can deplete you of vital nutrients, and doing it regularly could lead to malnutrition, anemia, or heart failure. Considering that under ordinary circumstances your colon—along with your kidneys, liver, and spleen—is more than qualified to cleanse itself, my advice is to save your money and skip the cleanses.

As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.


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