December 13, 2007

What's in Your Colon?

When you read that post title, you have to read it like that “What’s in your wallet” commercial. So, do that for me, won’t you?

Did you know that your colon is slowly poisoning you to death?

If you do, then you’ve fallen for one of many stories about how your colon is slowly poisoning you. Maybe you’ve had someone blame it on red meat1. The presentation is usually something like, “if you’ve been eating meat all your life, your colon has all sorts of red meat packed into it, rotting away and poisoning your body.” Or, maybe someone was just trying to get you to use bowel cleansing products.

Years ago, I read with some astonishment that medical fads of years past included consuming products like paraffin wax that were thought to help you expel stuff from your colon. In other extreme cases of quackery, people would have large portions of their intestines removed simply on the principle that it was good for nothing but making them sick.

At the turn of the century, this theory of colon poisoning was called “autointoxication.” From an abstract of the paper Colonic Irrigation and the Theory of Autointoxication: A Triumph of Ignorance over Science:

Autointoxication is an ancient theory based on the belief that intestinal waste products can poison the body and are a major contributor to many, if not all, diseases. In the 19th century, it was the ruling doctrine of medicine and led “colonic quackery” in various guises. By the turn of the century, it had received some apparent backing from science. When it became clear that the scientific rationale was wrong and colonic irrigation was not merely useless but potentially dangerous, it was exposed as quackery and subsequently went into a decline. Today we are witnessing a resurgence of colonic irrigation based on little less than the old bogus claims and the impressive power of vested interests. Even today’s experts on colonic irrigation can only provide theories and anecdotes in its support. It seems, therefore, that ignorance is celebrating a triumph over science.

These colonic fixations survive today in the form of colon cleansing products and “irrigation” techniques.

Today, you may encounter people who tell you that you have a dangerous “mucoid plaque” that is clinging to the walls of your colon, but that they can sell you a product which will help you expel this plaque. It’s a convenient story, not backed by any science, and nobody who does not use one of these cleansing products ever sees a “mucoid plaque.”

If your gut is bothering you, see a doctor2. He will best be able to do the tests to find out if you have an actual problem. But if you don’t have a condition requiring medical or surgical intervention, he will likely tell you that even healthy bowel functioning has a range of variation. Including fruits, fiber-rich veggies and whole grains in your diet is the moderate and safe way to keep the average colon functioning. Stay away from that guy with the 30 inch hose and the 20 gallon tank of herb-infused water.

1 There are a lot of reasons to be careful about your red meat consumption. But the question here is what this has to do with your colon. I haven’t yet seen evidence that a diet with moderate amounts of red meat puts you in any danger. Of course, we all wonder about BSE…

2 I’m serious. I am not a doctor; see a physician for medical advice.

Posted by James at December 13, 2007 10:37 AM
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in other words...

you can't beat a good, healthy dump.

Posted by: Bull at December 13, 2007 11:52 AM

I guess I just prefer them the old, old-fashioned way.

Posted by: James at December 13, 2007 12:13 PM

Two periods, stacked vertically.

Posted by: David grenier at December 13, 2007 12:18 PM

easier to read or play PSP that way...

Posted by: Bull at December 13, 2007 12:21 PM

I misread that as "mucoid PLAGUE". I don't wanna get the mucoid plague! Irrigate me! Irrigate me!

Posted by: briwei at December 18, 2007 4:08 PM

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