Proponents of colon cleansing-also known as colonic irrigation, detoxification therapy, colon hydrotherapy, and enema irrigation-claim that the unhealthy American lifestyle (including a poor diet, extreme stress, and lack of exercise) all contribute to clogging of the lower intestinal track. The belief is that this can result in everything from headaches and allergies to chronic fatigue and cancer. They feel that removing the accumulation of fecal matter from the colon with laxatives, supplements, or by flushing the colon with warm water increases the body's natural ability to heal itself.

But medical experts say there's no scientific evidence to back up those claims and that it's unnecessary for people to use artificial means to detoxify themselves. They believe the body already has multiple systems in place for ridding itself of waste material and bacteria through sweating, exhaling, urinating, and defecating. Plus, according to the American Cancer Society, colon therapy can actually be harmful because equipment used in cleansing procedures may injure the bowel-and in some cases even cause rectal perforations. In addition to the possibility that colonics can also wash out beneficial bacteria and create infections, certain laxatives used in colon cleansings, such as those with sodium phosphate, can cause an increase in the body's electrolytes. This can be especially dangerous to people with kidney or heart disease.

Medical experts warn consumers to be aware of broad or inflated claims by colon cleansing proponents that colonics will cure an illness or improve their health. They advise that you check with your doctor first before trying any colonics products, especially if you take medications or have any health problems.

Alleviating Constipation-Naturally

If the practice of colon cleansing appeals to you because you think it will help rid you of constipation, there are safer methods to use. The best remedies, say gastroenterologists, involve eating a well-balanced diet that includes foods high in fiber such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables; drinking plenty of fluids; lowering your fat consumption; and getting regular exercise.