DO COMMERCIAL COLON CLEANSERS REALLY WORK?
If you have insomnia, you have probably seen one or more infomercials for colon cleansers. Are they really a scam? An industry insider tells the story.
Colonics and colon cleansers have always held a peculiar fascination for Hollywood celebrities. Colonic boutiques have been common in Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, and Las Vegas for over 50 years. From time to time some television or movie personality will announce a miraculous change in health, and tens of thousands of viewers will seek out a similar method.
Regularity is a sign of good health, and constipation is more than just a nuisance. When the colon is sufficiently full of waste that the abdomen is stretched out, nerves in the lining of the colon send a message to the pancreas that digested food is on its way to the bloodstream. The pancreas churns out insulin in expectation that there will be a sharp rise in blood sugar levels. When the digested sugars from food don’t arrive, insulin is used to transport excess fatty acids straight into waiting fat cells. Constipation really can cause weight gain, and weight loss detoxification really does work (to a modest degree) like most constipation remedies, but taking off the pounds for good always is more about eating less than going to the bathroom more.
What about the colon cleansers you see on TV?
Leaving aside the issue of whether the descriptions of what goes on in the human colon have any connection to reality or not, the products themselves are mildly, very mildly, laxative. They contain just enough on an herbal laxative that people will want “to go” more often than before. Usually this laxative is senna, rhubarb root, or cascara sagrada. All of these herbal laxatives have to be properly aged before they are used as laxative ingredients. They have to be activated by Lactobacillus bacteria after they reach the intestine. If they aren’t aged properly before they are added to the product, and if friendly bacteria are not present in the colon of the user, the laxatives simply won’t work.
On the other hand, if these herbal laxatives are used over and over again every day for a period of months, the muscles they stimulate (to increase the urge to “go”) stop responding to them. People who see visible results the first month usually don’t continue to notice an effect after six months. By that time, they think it must be something they are doing wrong, so they tend to buy the product with a greater sense of urgency. It’s a marketer’s dream.
Commercial colon cleansers also usually provide 1 to 3 grams of fiber per day, which is just enough to make a noticeable difference in the size of stools if you eat a low-fiber diet. But if these products really “cleaned you out,” you wouldn’t want to give the company your credit card so they could send you more of the product every month, would you?
There are simpler and cheaper detoxification diets than you see on TV. Before you make a long-term commitment to an expensive program, at least try the product for a month to see if it really makes a difference in how much you weigh and how you feel.