To "cleanse" or not to "cleanse"?

B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

If you have ever had any sort of GI issue you have probably come across advertisements for a colon cleanse product.

These products promise that with a little "cleaning" your colon will thank you.   Perhaps even that it will be a cure for your GI troubles.

While a colon cleanse might be a temporary fix for constipation, or legitimately used prior to a surgical procedure or testing, it is not the cure all that its proponents claim.

Your colon is a self cleaning machine.

It does not require chemical or herbal cleansing in most instances.

In fact, for some people cleansing can be very dangerous.

So what about all these scary adds?

Many of these advertisements claim that people have fecal matter "trapped" in their intestines for years.   As most GI doctors will tell you this is simply not the case. The average person clears fecal matter from their intestines with in three days. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times many of these insane pictures shown are actually caused by the gels in the "cleansing" product binding with normal fecal matter.

Unfortunately that kind of scare tactic has sold many products.

What's the big deal if you choose to cleanse?

Well, maybe nothing but wasted money for most of us.

That having been said, people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease need to be especially careful about anything that puts an added stressor on their GI tract.

Even high fiber foods can cause an extreme amount of pain in an IBD patient who is experiencing a flare.

Can you imagine what a "cleanse" would cause?

In addition to pain these types of products can also mess up the delicate balance of electrolytes with in your body.

IBD itself can cause problems with electrolyte balance and nutrient absorption.

It just does not make sense to add something else to exacerbate the issue.

If you still feel like you need something then perhaps the real "natural alternative" is a healthy dose of good nutrition.

Nutrition is key in maintaining all of the cells in your body and that includes the proper functioning of your GI tract.

If you are having random bouts with bloating and constipation it might be a good idea to look at what you are ingesting.

A diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables and adequate water can remedy a lot of these problems.

If you have painful gas you may need to avoid some of the foods that can add to the problem.

During flare ups it may not be possible to follow this type of plan but when your flare subsides it is a good idea to add back these healthy options.

If you are still having problems please discuss the issue with your physician.   Only they can provide you with alternatives that will fall in line with your current treatment plan.

Please do not begin any type of "cleanse" with out first consulting your physician.