Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Should I CLEANSE my colon?

Yesterday I was talking about constipation, so naturally today follows with a discussion of a "home remedy" for that very problem. Patients often ask me to prescribe something to "CLEANSE their COLON". Typically they have seen an infomercial that suggests that we all are walking around with an extra five to ten pounds of gunk lining our colons, and if we simply buy their miracle product, we will have sparkling clean colons and look a sexy ten pounds lighter. The ad even shows pictures of before and after colons to "prove" their case.

Well, as much as I would love this simple fix, it is not true. Think about it. If you are anywhere near the age of 50 or have friends or parents in that category, you hopefully know people who have had their recommended screening colonoscopy (to look for colon cancer.) Every colonoscopy patient remembers the dreaded "bowel prep" where you typically drink a yucky sweet and salty prescription beverage and then poop until you are passing only clear liquid from your bowels. (As an aside, it's not that big of a deal- simply a couple hours of mild discomfort, compared with the benefits of colon cancer screening and early detection.) Without a doubt, your weight is often down a couple pounds the morning of your procedure, but this is pure water weight loss. Within a couple days, your weight is right back to your baseline. There is no question that your bowels were sparkling clean (check out the pics from the gastroenterologist who performed your procedure), but you have not permanently removed "years of buildup".

Once again, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If doctors knew of an easy way to lose weight without diet and exercise, do you think there would be overweight doctors out there? Heck, we'd take it ourselves before we prescribed it for our patients!

BOTTOM LINE: COLONS do not need to be "cleansed". They DO need to be scoped at age 50 to screen for colon cancer (sooner if you have a family history or other concerns). Let's fill them with a high fiber diet and they will be "cleansed" as much as they need.

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