Are Colonics Good for Your Health?

The myth: Colon cleansing is good for you. True or false? Mike Dawson has the answer.

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And now it's time for a few giggle-free words on the controversial colonic, one of medicine's most divisive detox procedures.

Whether you call it a colon cleanse, an enema, a colonic, or colon hydrotherapy, flushing excess waste and toxins from the large intestines as a way to maintain health is hardly a new concept. Hippocrates prescribed it. Lewis and Clarke underwent the procedure as a means to "cure" fevers. "Nutrition, exercise, and enemas!" were the three main tenets of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the father of modern holistic medicine (and, oddly, cornflakes).

Today, upscale spas and retreats offer and even encourage the procedure as a way to enhance the effects of detoxing. That makes sense, right? Excess waste has to be bad, so why not make your intestines squeaky clean? But the colonic is not only redundant (your body, it's been proven, is adept at ridding waste on its own, thank you very much), the procedure may actually jeopardize your health.

Mainstream medicine has long looked askance at the practice. Last summer, the Journal of Family Practice published a study concluding that colonics can increase the risk of kidney failure, pancreatitis, and damage to the intestinal tract. The American Medical Association in 1919 (at the height of Kellogg's influence) earnestly declared the enema "invalid," and today it still maintains that the widely popular alt-med practice has no empirical health benefits.

— Dawson is a magazine writer and editor, and a regular contributor to Details.

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