It seems there is no evidence that colon cleansing has any real benefit according to a new study released this week. In fact, it is reported that colon cleansing can cause serious side effects ranging from vomiting to kidney failure and death. The death rate for colon cancer has dropped in the last 15 years, and this may be due to increased awareness and screening by colonoscopy. So why the push back now?

Colonic irrigation or colonic hydrotherapy involves the use of chemicals followed by flushing the colon with water through a tube inserted in the rectum. Twenty past studies about colon cleansing published over the last decade were analyzed by researchers, and found little evidence that the procedure offers any benefits. Instead, a number of the studies noted side effects such as cramping, bloating, vomiting, electrolyte imbalance and kidney failure.

There are opposing viewpoints however. Author of the report, Dr. Ranit Mishori, a family medicine physician at Georgetown University School of Medicine explains:

“There can be serious consequences for those who engage in colon cleansing whether they have the procedure done at a spa or perform it at home. Colon cleansing products in the form of laxatives, teas, powders and capsules tout benefits that don’t exist.”

However, Dick Hoenninger, a spokesman for the International Association for Colon Hydrotherapy (I-ACT), which oversees the NBCHT said in rebuttal:

“Colon hydrotherapy when performed by a trained therapist using FDA registered equipment and disposable speculums or rectal nozzles is safe. The study mixes up laxatives, both pharmaceutical and herbal; and colon hydrotherapy. Most of the studies referenced are for the use of laxatives, not colon hydrotherapy. I-ACT therapists are trained in the proper use of the [colon cleansing] equipment and are told to not make any statements or advertisements that cannot be verified in peer reviewed literature.”

I-ACT has four levels of certification. The initial level is the Foundation Level. The second level is the Intermediate level, and the highest level of Certification is the Advanced Level. To train others in the field of colon hydrotherapy one must be certified by I-ACT at the Instructor Level.

Colon cancer can almost always be caught by colonoscopy in its earliest and most curable stages. Almost all men and women age 50 and older should have a colon cancer screening. Patients at risk may need earlier screening.

Colon cancer screening can often find polyps before they become cancerous. Removing these polyps may prevent colon cancer.

Changing your diet and lifestyle is important. Some evidence suggests that low-fat and high-fiber diets may reduce risk of colon cancer.

Some studies have reported that NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, celecoxib) may help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. However, these medicines can increase risk for bleeding and heart problems. Most expert organizations do not recommend that most people take these medicines to prevent colon cancer. Talk to your health care provider about this issue.

Colon cancer is, in many cases, a treatable disease if it is caught early.

How well you do depends on many things, including the stage of the cancer. In general, when they are treated at an early stage, many patients survive at least 5 years after their diagnosis.

Written by Sy Kraft