Do commercial colon-cleanse products actually solve the myriad of problems they claim to?
July 6, 2008 11:01 AM   Subscribe

Do commercial colon-cleanse products actually solve the myriad of problems they claim to?

Some background:

I'm a 33 yr old male, programmer. I play sports a couple times a week, but am fairly sedentary in general. I don't eat as well as I should. I am chronically fatigued, high-stress and plagued by persistent adult acne.

I also don't have regular bowel movements, and because of my sedentary nature, I often don't get up to have a BM even when I should.

If you've seen advertising and marketing for commercial colon cleanse products, you'll know that they promise to cure all these things by getting rid of excess internal bacteria. I don't want to sound like a complete rube here - I realize advertising is full of empty claims. But is there some legitimacy to the cleanse approach? Has anyone in my situation had positive experiences?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (23 answers total)
All the poop on the scam that is "colon cleansing".
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:07 AM on July 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by jourman2 at 11:13 AM on July 6, 2008

The invention of the sewage system has done many great things for human health, in general. But, that's about the only time you could use 'moving shit' and 'improving health' in the same sentence.

Enemas used to have a great reputation in the 18th and 19th century for improving health. Still, to put this in perspective, those were the days doctors were far more effective in klilling their patients than healing them.

Even medical science has moved on a bit, you know.
posted by ijsbrand at 11:17 AM on July 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

Previously on the Blue.
posted by Bodd at 11:22 AM on July 6, 2008

Via Respectful Insolence on Scienceblogs
posted by melissam at 11:31 AM on July 6, 2008

the way this question is worded tells me you already know the answer: colon cleansing is not the easy way to solve your problems because there is no easy way—you have to eat right and get off your butt to exercise if you want to feel better.
posted by lia at 11:43 AM on July 6, 2008

As a nurse I have witnessed several colon preps. Too many to count. I have taken care of hundreds of patients that drank a preparation to completely clean out the colon. I have given many, many patients soap suds and Fleets enemas. The only thing that comes out of the bowel is shit. There was blood at times, everything to huge clots to black tarry stools laced with blood, but there is no bubble gum or Christmas tree tinsel or GI Joe men. It's only feces. The colon isn't lined with spackle and for the average bear there are no "toxins" or horrible things in your bowel preventing you from living a healthy life. There are no health benefits from cleaning the colon out. This colon cleanse stuff is just as bad as those foot pads that claim to eliminate everything from parasites to cellulite. It's bunk.
posted by LoriFLA at 11:51 AM on July 6, 2008 [7 favorites]

About the only real reason to have one (this from my wife's uncle who is a doctor) is if you enjoy the sensation...
posted by jkaczor at 11:59 AM on July 6, 2008

Absolutely not.

If you're worried about your GI system, go see a gastroenterologist. Most would be willing to do an easy colonoscopy on an otherwise healthy adult if you requested. You will then have a colon prep, like LoriFLA mentions, and then the GI doctor will check your entire colon to make sure you are healthy. Otherwise, start eating a high fiber diet (try it for just 2 weeks) and I'm sure you'll be regular as a Swiss train. (About your acne, see a dermatologist.)
posted by ruwan at 12:24 PM on July 6, 2008

I think this awesome comment in the thread linked by Bodd sums it up pretty well.
posted by Wet Spot at 12:26 PM on July 6, 2008

Short answer: No.

Your body does a perfectly fine job cleansing itself.
posted by aleahey at 12:27 PM on July 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by delmoi at 12:29 PM on July 6, 2008

I was about to post a comment here saying, "But no one has adequately explained what that long, stringy, yellowish stuff is that comes out of your ass after you cleanse your colon. Surely that stuff pouring out of your ass means that your colon is being cleansed."

Then I read this comment (from the above-linked thread in the Blue).
posted by jayder at 12:29 PM on July 6, 2008

Actually I meant this comment.
posted by jayder at 12:31 PM on July 6, 2008

Meanwhile, start keeping some dried apricots(or prunes or raisins) handy, and have a few a day. Add some oatmeal to your diet. Eat some raisin bran a couple mornings a week. Fruit is actually really yummy; and you can buy it pre-prepared at the grocery. That'll help.

Exercise, and drinking water would also really be good for you. Ignoring the need to poop leads to hemorrhoids, and is not fun.
posted by theora55 at 12:34 PM on July 6, 2008

Seconding theora55's advice, which is spot on. Drink water. Exercise can be taking a half hour walk daily. Does your building - either work or home - have stairs? If so, do some walking up and down for exercise when you need to take a break from the computer. Keep the dried fruit handy at your computer and have a bit as a snack daily. Keep fruit around, including stuff that stores well, like apples, oranges. Have raisin bran for breakfast. Keep packets of microwave oatmeal around to make it easy on yourself. Make sure your takeout sandwiches are on whole wheat bread. Low fat popcorn is a good source of fiber. If you need to, use citrucel or metamucil or another fiber product. Theora55 said: "Ignoring the need to poop leads to hemorrhoids, and is not fun." This is absolutely true, and can lead to not pleasant surgery if ignored.
posted by gudrun at 1:08 PM on July 6, 2008

thirding theora55 and gudrun.

don't ignore the urge. both my father and my mother have/had horrific hemmorhoids. you do *not* want to have to go there.

you may not think about it a lot now, but trust me -- when you're older, it'll consume your every thought. good poop health when one is aged is a glorious thing.
posted by CitizenD at 2:06 PM on July 6, 2008

I think this has already been beaten to death but maybe I can add the final blow. My wife damn near died from one of these that gave her an incredible bout of hepatitis. She is still mighty messed up and has required IV steroids and whatnot for the last 3 months to get it under control.

Does this happen to everyone? Of course not. But given the limited upside to taking the herbs I would highly recommend staying away. Do you know how your body is going to react to giant, concentrated doses of essentially random herbs?

FWIW, straigt up silium seeds or metamucil if you like a little sugar with it does the trick.
posted by H. Roark at 3:12 PM on July 6, 2008

To summarize: high fiber, fresh unprocessed food, lots of fruit and vegetables, lots of water, and exercise, and all will be well in the Poop Department, or as well as it's going to get.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:02 PM on July 6, 2008

Psillium fiber tends to cure what ails ya, shitter-wise. Or a nice steak with creamed spinach.

I don't doubt that *IF* someone has a colon problem, that a nice good purge would be helpful. But I also think that's probably rare.
posted by gjc at 6:22 PM on July 6, 2008

No, Your colon is already beautifully clean. Love it.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 7:02 PM on July 6, 2008

No. No. No. No. No. But you knew that.

If you still are having doubts regardless, my anecdotal experience is the only people I've known to take this stuff seriously, and by that I mean actively pitch this, have been extremely scientifically challenged. Okay, they were pretty stupid.
posted by Opposite George at 8:34 PM on July 6, 2008

My GI doc had me take FiberCon pills for a couple of months when I was chronically backed up, and I've been like clockwork ever since (almost 2 years).
posted by IndigoRain at 10:10 PM on July 6, 2008

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