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Colorectal Diseases

Fiber-Not Fast Fix 'Colon Cleansing' Products-Key to Colorectal Health

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is, especially when it comes to fast-fix weight-loss solutions. Some over-the-counter consumer products may even do more harm than good.

A recent example is the concept of colon cleansing for weight loss. Companies are touting the benefits of colon cleansing products (Colonix, Acai Power, Bromalite, ColonMed), claiming they can help people lose weight, release toxins, rejuvenate the body, relieve constipation and more.

These products are not scientifically proven to have the advertised benefits. Good colorectal health boils down to a few simple concepts:

Fiber and Fluids Are Key

What people need for general colorectal health is a diet high in insoluble fiber and low in fat. It will help maintain regular bowel function and help prevent benign anorectal problems, like hemorrhoids and fissures.

People should not instantly equate the term 'natural' with 'healthy.' Many of these over-the-counter colon cleansing products contain a natural laxative like senna. These natural laxatives are stimulants that cause the smooth muscle in the colon to contract, and over time these products can cause the colon to stop contracting on its own and lead to serious problems that require surgical intervention.

All adults aged 18 or older are recommended to consume at least 25 to 30 grams of fiber every day from whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Fiber has the added benefit of making you feel fuller, especially if taken before a meal, which can be beneficial for people trying to lose weight.

The vast majority of people eating a typical western diet don't get enough insoluble fiber or fluid. If you maintain a healthy food intake, the colon won't need any help to do its job of removing waste and toxins from the body. A normally functioning colon should also have bacteria in it, so removing bacteria with these 'get skinny quick' schemes is not necessary, and can actually be harmful.

Straining or sitting on the toilet for long periods of time in an effort to have a bowel movement is a bad idea as it can cause damage to the pelvic floor, leading to elimination problems later. The first thing people who suffer from constipation should do is look at their diet and make modifications. Persistent problems should be discussed with a gastroenterologist or colorectal surgeon.

What goes in must come out. Many patients who complain of constipation and hard stool are consuming mostly processed food and virtually no fiber or water, so the source of the problem is obvious.

This article originally appeared in UC Health Line (1/29/09), a service of the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center Public Relations Department and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission, 2007.

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Last Reviewed: Feb 04, 2009

Janice Frederick Rafferty, MD Janice Frederick Rafferty, MD
Professor of Surgery
Chief of Colorectal Surgery Division
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati