By Lisa Barger
“Do you need a good cleanse?” the ads ask. Often showing graphic photographs of “excess fecal matter” allegedly expelled by one of their customers, these sites promise nothing short of miraculous healing. But are they all they promise? Or are they just another way to scare you into buying another “natural” product you don’t really need? Let’s examine the facts:
Colon cleansing is an old idea that dates back to at least the time of the ancient Egyptians, who believed that all disease resulted from rotting food in the bowel. Science has since disproved this “disease starts in the bowel” idea but for some reason, it found a new audience a few decades ago when “natural medicine” came into vogue once again. Not only did this new breed of “natural” practitioners re-claim the belief that all disease is rooted in the bowel, they went a step further and claimed that most of us are actually walking around with “pounds and pounds” of old fecal matter inside us. And a few even produced some pretty dramatic photos as proof.
The fact is, your colon does exactly what it’s supposed to do most of the time. Unless you have an impacted colon, which is a very real and very easily identifiable medical condition, you do not have excess fecal matter “stuck” to your colon wall. Of all the autopsies ever performed, not a single one has ever produced evidence of this supposedly common malady.
It’s important to remember that colon cleaners are mainly fiber and that fiber bulks up when it comes into contact with the moisture in your digestive tract. Now, it’s true that some colon cleansers contain herbs with anti-parasitic properties and some contain herbal laxatives, but all colon cleansers are mainly just plain old vegetable fiber. So, if you’re a typical American you probably eat a typical American diet–low in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and, consequently, low in fiber. You probably have a correspondingly sluggish colon and small, infrequent bowel movements. But during a cleanse, your dietary fiber intakes jumps dramatically (because of the fiber in the cleaner) and this means that you now have 2 or 3 bowel movement a day for several days in a row. And not only does the frequency of your bowel movements increase; the comfort level rises as well. Plus, you feel “finished”–perhaps for the first time in years.
Given the dramatic results people experience during a cleanse, it’s easy to see how easy it would be to convince them that they’re being “cleaned out” for the first time.
Most colon cleansers are completely harmless and they can be a great psychological “kick-start” to a new, healthier lifestyle. But if you choose not to do one, don’t worry. You aren’t really walking around with “pounds of old fecal matter” inside you.
Lisa Barger is a traditional naturopath specializing in natural health education. To learn more about Ms. Barger’s belief in “Empowerment through Education” or to take a free online natural health class see her website, http://www.LisaBarger.com
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