Friend or enema?

Dear Lucy: There has been a lot of “hype” on television regarding colon cleansing and, of course, all the expensive products that go along with the cleansing. Should one really pay attention to these infomercials? Should we be ordering these products, or are there similar products that can be purchased over the counter? —Colonic Quandary

Dear CQ: Put your wallet away! That’s the message Lucy heard, loud and clear, when she posed your question to MIT Medical gastroenterologist Richard Gardner, M.D. “Based on what we know about normal function and physiology of the colon or large intestine, there is absolutely no justification for this practice,” Gardner says emphatically.

Not only is “colon cleansing” unnecessary, Gardner says, it can actually be harmful. “Roughage—or dietary fiber—and probiotic bacteria are essential to a healthy colon,” he explains. “Bacterial fermentation and its byproducts provide the colon with the nutrition and energy it needs to keep its ecosystem running healthily. Purging, or ‘cleansing,’ the bowels deprives the colon of these elements that are essential for its normal function.

“There’s no substitute for a healthy diet,” Gardner concludes, and Lucy concurs. Rather than shelling out large sums for questionable “ health products” seen on late-night TV, he recommends a trip to the local supermarket or farmer’s market to buy some healthy, high-fiber foods—and eating such foods regularly. High-fiber foods include whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables.

Lucy hopes this helps, and she’s glad you thought to check out these health claims before spending money on something that could cause more harm than good. —Lucy

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