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Gastrointestinal Quackery: Colonics, Laxatives, and More, 4/8/2010
Some chiropractors, naturopaths, and assorted food faddists claim that "death begins in the colon" and that "90 percent of all diseases are caused by improperly working bowels." The practices they recommend include fasting, periodic "cleansing" of the intestines, and colonic irrigation.

Colonic irrigation, which also can be expensive, has considerable potential for harm. The process can be very uncomfortable, since the presence of the tube can induce severe cramps and pain. If the equipment is not adequately sterilized between treatments, disease germs from one person's large intestine can be transmitted to others. Several outbreaks of serious infections have been reported, including one in which contaminated equipment caused amebiasis in 36 people, 6 of whom died following bowel perforation .

Cases of heart failure (from excessive fluid absorption into the bloodstream) and electrolyte imbalance have also been reported . Direct rectal perforation has also been reported . Yet no license or training is required to operate a colonic-irrigation device. In 1985, a California judge ruled that colonic irrigation is an invasive medical procedure that may not be performed by chiropractors and the California Health Department's Infectious Disease Branch stated: "The practice of colonic irrigation by chiropractors, physical therapists, or physicians should cease.

Colonic irrigation can do no good, only harm." The National Council Against Health Fraud agrees .

The FDA classifies colonic irrigation systems as Class III devices that cannot be legally marketed except for medically indicated colon cleansing (such as before a radiologic endoscopic examination).

In 1997, Tiller Mind & Body, of San Antonio, Texas and its owner Jeri C. Tiller, were ordered to stop claiming that their Libbe colonic irrigation device was effective against acne, allergies, asthma and low-grade chronic infections and improved liver function and capillary and lymphatic circulation .

In 1997, Colon Hygiene Services, of Austin, Texas and its owner Rocky Bruno was notified that their colonic irrigation system could not be legally marketed without FDA approval .

In 1999, Dotolo Research Corporation, of Pinellas Park, Florida, and its chief executive officer Raymond Dotolo were warned about quality control violations and lack of FDA approval for marketing its Toxygen BSC-UV colonic irrigation system .

Girouard, Colon Therapeutics, Tiller Mind & Body, operators of the Years to Your Life Health Centers, companies that manufactured several components of Girouard's colonic irrigation systems, and organizations that trained operators of the devices are being sued in connection with the death of a 72-year-old woman who perforated her large intestine while administering colonic irrigation. The suit alleges that the woman was unsupervised when she administered the "colonic," perforated her colon early in the procedure, required surgery the same day, and remained seriously ill for several months before she died from liver failure. The complaint also alleges that Years to Your Life Health Center falsely advertised colonic irrigations as "painless" procedures which provided health benefits including an improved immune system and increased energy, as well as relief from indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, weight loss, body odor, candida, acne, mucus colitis, gas, food cravings, fatigue, obesity, diverticulosis, bad breath, parasitic infections, and premenstrual syndrome . In response to the woman's death and reports of serious injuries to four other patients, the Texas Attorney General filed lawsuits against:

Amebiasis associated with colonic irrigation - Colorado.

Benjamin R and others. The case against colonic irrigation.

Handley DV and others. Rectal perforation from colonic irrigation administered by alternative practitioners.

Ernst E. Colonic irrigation: therapeutic claims by professional organizations, a review. International Journal of Clinical Practcie 64:429-431, 2010.

Miniglossary of "Alternative" Methods, 23/6/2004
Each of the following approaches has at least one of the following characteristics: (1) its rationale or underlying theory has no scientific basis, (2) it has not been demonstrated safe and/or effective by well-designed studies, (3) it is deceptively promoted, or (4) its practitioners are not qualified to make appropriate diagnoses. This article covers traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, ayurvedic medicine, clinical ecology, colonic irrigation, craniosacral therapy, herbalism, iridology, macrobiotics, naturopathy, orthomolecular therapy, and therapeutic touch. Full-length articles on aromatherapy, chelation therapy, chiropractic, and homeopathy are available elsewhere on Quackwatch.

Colonic irrigation -- also called colon hydrotherapy -- is typically performed by passing a rubber tube into the rectum for a distance of up to 20 or 30 inches. Warm water is pumped in and out through the tube, a few pints at a time, typically using 20 or more gallons.

Proponents may also suggest that fecal material collects on the lining of the intestine and causes trouble unless removed by laxatives, colonic irrigation, special diets, and/or various herbs or food supplements that "cleanse" the body. The falsity of this notion is obvious to doctors who perform intestinal surgery or peer within the large intestine with a diagnostic instrument.

Eisele JW, Reay DT. Deaths related to coffee enemas. JAMA 244:1608-1609, 1980.Amebiasis associated with colonic irrigation - Colorado. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 30:101-102, 1981.

Amebiasis associated with colonic irrigation - Colorado.

Benjamin R and others. The case against colonic irrigation.

"Detoxification" Schemes and Scams, 7/9/2014
Marketers also suggest that fecal material collects on the lining of the intestine and causes trouble unless removed by fasting, laxatives, colonic irrigation, special diets, and/or various herbs or food supplements that "cleanse" the body. The falsity of this notion is obvious to doctors who perform intestinal surgery or look inside the large intestine with diagnostic instruments. Fecal material does not stick to the intestinal lining.

Colonic Irrigation

Colonic irrigation (also called colon hydrotherapy) is intended to flush the entire length of the colon. It is done both at home and in commercial offices. The fluid may be plain water or contain enzymes, coffee, probiotics, ozone, and/or herbs. Various web sites indicate that the amounts used range from a few gallons up to as much as 30 gallons, a few pints at a time. The fluid is delivered through a tube or speculum inserted into the rectum. Most devices depend on gravity to deliver the water and peristalsis to expel the fluid and debris. Home kits (colonic boards) enable the user to flush gradually from a 5-gallon tank. Closed-system colonic machines have one tube for delivering the fluid and another for its removal. Open-system devices use a smaller tube connected to a water tank and a built-in basin to receive the waste. Sessions generally last between 25 and 50 minutes and may include abdominal massage. Some systems have disposable specula and tubing. Reusable components are sterilized after each patient. Colon irrigation has a few legitimate medical uses, such as preparation for surgery or radiological endoscopy and for treating fecal incontinence, but its use for “detoxification” is irrational .

Colonic irrigation is not only therapeutically worthless but can cause fatal electrolyte imbalance. Cases of death due to intestinal perforation and infection (from contaminated equipment) have also been reported.

OTA Report: Dietary Treatments, 13/1/2006
These supplements were intended to stimulate the release of "wastes and debris" from the body. Ridding the body of these wastes through detoxification was advised as essential to the program's success. Kelley recommended that patients take at least one strong coffee enema each day, to clean out the liver and gallbladder and to rid the body of toxins produced during tumor digestion (see also discussion in Box 3B). In addition to coffee enemas, Kelley recommended regular purging, fasting, and colonic irrigation (high enemas, between 18 and 30 inches into the body). He also advised cleansing the kidneys, nostrils, lungs, and skin (761).

Several of the current unconventional cancer treatments, e.g., the Gerson treatment and the Kelley regimen, include a recommendation that patients take coffee enemas several times a day. Proponents believe that coffee enemas stimulate the secretion of bile and the action of the liver, helping to "detoxify" the body of waste products and poisons accumulated in the gastrointestinal tract (337,472). "Colonic irrigation" and "high colonics" are terms referring to a related procedure that involves flushing a larger portion of the colon with water. Colonic irrigation is used in the context of physical cleansing and general detoxification in many unconventional settings (450,959), but is usually distinct from the use of enemas in cancer treatment.

The occasional use of enemas, usually consisting of plain water, is conventional practice for a number of medical purposes, e.g., to prepare for x-rays of the intestines, surgery, or childbirth (649), or to relieve constipation (613c). The enema procedure is reportedly not without certain risks, however (970). Case reports of serious adverse effects associated with enemas used in conventional and unconventional treatment have appeared in the medical literature. Coffee enemas, as discussed earlier, have been associated with fatal electrolyte imbalances. Transmission of enteric pathogens (835), fatal bowel perforation and necrosis (196,454), and toxic colitis (478,727,793) have been associated with various other types of enema (soapsuds, water, barium, herbal, etc.). Colonic irrigation has been linked with fatal amebiasis resulting from contaminated equipment (450).

Colonic Promoters Facing Legal Actions, 3/12/2003
Jimmy John Girouard, Colon Therapeutics (Girouard's company), operators of the Years to Your Life Health Centers, companies that manufactured several components of Girouard's colonic irrigation systems, and organizations that trained operators of the devices are being sued in connection with the death of a 72-year-old woman who perforated her large intestine while administering colonic irrigation.

Colonic irrigation has no rational role in the prevention or treatment of any health problem. The Colon Therapeutics Web site actually states that "there are no proven medical benefits from colonics."

The colonic irrigation devices described above were unreasonably dangerous, and were designed, manufactured, produced, sold and/or marketed by Cynthia Pitre, Eternal Health, Inc. d/b/a Years to Your Life Health Centers, Candace L. Stowers, Jimmy John Girouard, Colon Therapeutics, Inc., Alice Coudrain, Atlantis Plastics Company, and PFI Molding, Inc. The dangers of these devices, when in the hands of untrained medical personnel, went beyond that which would have been contemplated by the ordinary user of the product, with the ordinary knowledge common to the community as to the products' characteristics.

Massage Therapy: Riddled with Quackery, 19/2/2015
Colonic irrigation (also called colon hydrotherapy) is typically performed by passing a rubber tube into the rectum for a distance of up to 20 or 30 inches. Warm water is pumped in and out through the tube, a few pints at a time, typically using 20 or more gallons. Some practitioners add herbs, coffee, or other substances to the water. The procedure is said to "detoxify" the body. Its advocates claim that, as a result of intestinal stasis, intestinal contents putrefy, and toxins are formed and absorbed, which causes chronic poisoning of the body. This "autointoxication" theory was abandoned by the scientific community during the 1930s. No such "toxins" have ever been identified, and careful observations have shown that individuals in good health can vary greatly in bowel habits.

Proponents may also suggest that fecal material collects on the lining of the intestine and causes trouble unless removed by laxatives, colonic irrigation, special diets, and/or various herbs or food supplements that "cleanse" the body.

The falsity of this notion is obvious to doctors who perform intestinal surgery or peer within the large intestine with a diagnostic instrument. Fecal material does not adhere to the intestinal lining. Colonic irrigation is not only therapeutically worthless but can cause fatal electrolyte imbalance. Cases of death due to intestinal perforation and infection (from contaminated equipment) have also been reported .

A Close Look at Robert W. Bradford and His Committee for Freedom of Choice in Medicine, 20/3/2012
Robert Bradford's wife Carole Bradford, the Committee's secretary/treasurer, was also chief executive officer of American Biologics Integrative Medical Center and Director of the Bradford Research Institute, She is coauthor of Cookbook for Healthful Living, a book said to include recipes accompanying the American Biologics Hospital treatment program. In 1998, she announced that she had undergone successful treatment of a breast cancer at the Hospital. According to her story, a breast cyst she had removed in 1993 turned out to be an ductal cell carcinoma the size of a golf ball. She took tamoxifen (a standard drug) for two months plus 30 types of supplement, herb, and homeopathic pills and daily injections of laetrile and many other substances for several months. Later she reduced the number of pills and "crammed 12,000-gauss magnets into her brassiere as a daily kind of localized magnetic therapy." . In a 1999 interview, she stated that she considered herself "privileged because I had the best doctor—my husband—and my hospital." She also said that she was using a preventive program that dietary measures, "organic foods," nutritional supplements and colonic irrigation . Although she would like to believe that her unconventional treatments have cured her. However, ductal cancer treated with lumpectomy (lump removal) alone has a fairly good prognosis. According to one study, for example, the odds of surviving eight years without evidence of recurrence were about 60% .

In 1999, American Biologics stopped licensing its name to the Mexican facility (which was renamed International Biologics Hospital and Medical Center) and began operating a new Tijuana facility called American Biologics Integrative Medicine Center. The treatments listed on the center's Web site included: acupuncture; advanced oxidative therapy; anti-microbial therapy; applied kinesiology; bioelectrical therapy; bioelectrical therapy; chondroitin sulfates; colonic irrigation and/or rectal implants to establish; comprehensive antioxidant therapies; detoxification/modalities; dietary modification; DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide); EDTA chelation treatments; enzyme therapy; genetic repair therapy; genetic therapy ("to repair or normalize the DNA of cancer cells"); hormonal and glandular supplementation; hydrotherapy; intravenous infusion therapy; laetrile therapy; live cell therapy; liver, bladder and kidney flushes; massage therapy; nutritional medicine; pulsed magnetic therapy; and oral/intravenous administration of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, and essential fatty acids. Some standard treatment modalities are also offered. At about the same time, Culbert terminated his association with Bradford and the Choice published a few issues and then became defunct. Today, Bradford is listed as "scientific advisor" of Ingles Hospital & Integrative Medical Center in Tijuana.

OTA Report: References, 13/1/2006
450. Istre, G.R., Kreiss, K., Hopkins, R.S., et al., "An Outbreak of Amebiasis Spread by Colonic Irrigation at a Chiropractic Clinic," N. Engl. J. Med. 307(6):339-342, 1982.

650. Moxley, J.H., "Informational Report of the Council on Scientific Affairs. Issues in Health Fraud: Colonic Irrigation," Chicago, IL, American Medical Association, February 1987.

OTA Report: Financial Access to Unconventional Treatment, 13/1/2006
The law that created Medicare prohibits payment for services or items that "are not reasonable and necessary for the diagnosis or treatment of illness or injury" (Social Security Act, Section 1862(a)1, 42 USCA 1395y (1)(A)). As interpreted by HCFA, a treatment is considered medically reasonable and necessary if it has been generally accepted by the professional medical community as effective and safe for the condition being treated . Colonic irrigation, cellular therapy, and laetrile are among the medical procedures or items HCFA does not consider to be reasonable and necessary; therefore, they are not currently covered by Medicare (221).

While HCFA clearly prohibits coverage for some unconventional cancer treatments, such as colonic irrigation, cellular therapy, and laetrile (221), policies for other unconventional cancer treatments are not stated explicitly.

Live Cell Analysis: High-Tech Hokum, 15/1/2017
Colonic irrigation.

Twenty-Six Ways to Spot Quacks and Vitamin Pushers, 5/6/2016
are based on notions that, as a result of intestinal stasis, intestinal contents putrefy, and toxins are formed and absorbed, which causes chronic poisoning of the body. This "autointoxication" theory was popular around the turn of the century but was abandoned by the scientific community during the 1930s. No such "toxins" have ever been found, and careful observations have shown that individuals in good health can vary greatly in bowel habits. Quacks may also suggest that fecal material collects on the lining of the intestine and causes trouble unless removed by laxatives, colonic irrigation, special diets, and/or various herbs or food supplements that "cleanse" the body. The falsity of this notion is obvious to doctors who perform intestinal surgery or peer within the large intestine with a diagnostic instrument.

Be Wary of "Fad" Diagnoses, 17/5/2015
Another diagnosis that is popular among supplement promoters is "parasites," which may be "treated" with laxatives and other "intestinal cleansers," colonic irrigation, plant enzymes, dietary measures, and homeopathic remedies. In recent years, "rope worms" (long objects that result from accumulation of fiber and other materials in cleansing products) have been promoted as a new form of parasite.

Be Wary of the National Health Federation (1993), 31/7/2013
In 1980, he opened the ninety-bed Evers Health Center in Cottonwood, Alabama. His letter to prospective patients stated that his practice was "limited to the diagnosis and treatment of chronic degenerative diseases by the nutritional, non-toxic, metabolic method including chelation therapy" and offered "special regimes of treatment" for arthritis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, cancer, Parkinson's disease, and other diseases. According to the clinic brochure, a patient's typical day would include a visit with Dr. Evers, spinal manipulation by his chiropractic associate, chelation therapy (three hours), and other therapies such as hyperbaric oxygen and colonic irrigation.

Tips on Choosing a Chiropractor, 6/8/2010
Avoid chiropractors who utilize acupuncture, Activator Methods, allergy testing, applied kinesiology, Bio Energetic Synchronization Technique (B.E.S.T.), chelation therapy, colonic irrigation, cranial or craniosacral therapy, laser acupuncture, magnetic or biomagnetic therapy, Neuro Emotional Technique (NET), or Neural Organization Technique (NOT), or who exhibit a dogmatic attachment to any other specific chiropractic technique or school of thought.

American Association of Nutritional Consultants, 15/4/2010
"Modalities offered" include acupressure, acupuncture, intravenous chelation therapy, oral chelation therapy, general medicine, detoxification, herbology, homeopathy, hypnosis, naturopathy, nursing, optometry, osteopathy, reflexology, colonic irrigation, chiropractic, dentistry, biofeedback, hydrotherapy, massage, yoga and megavitamin and mineral therapy.

The Sad Allure of Cancer Quackery, 6/12/2009
For cancer therapy, Keller was using virtually all the popular but unproved remedies. His brochure listed "tumorex and other support modalities, including DMSO, live cell therapy, Gerovital, enzyme therapy, cardiovascular chelation, nutritional education, colonic irrigation, reflexology, iridology, and deep nerve, deep tissue, lymphatic and Shiatzu massage therapies."

Nicholas Gonzalez Treatment for Cancer, 11/9/2009
Istre GR, Kreiss K, Hopkins RS, et al. An outbreak of amebiasis spread by colonic irrigation at a chiropractic clinic. New England Journal of Medicine 307:339-342, 1982.

Live Blood Cell Analysis: Another Gimmick to Sell You Something, 7/11/2007
Colonic irrigation.

URAC Violators, 17/11/2004
WebMD Health contains many staff-generated articles that promote nonsensical "alternative" methods, including homeopathic treatment of earaches and cancer. Colonic irrigation is senseless and has killed people. But instead of telling the truth, an article states that it "has yet to gain the endorsement of any mainstream medical organization." WebMD also includes an extensive collection of articles from Healthwise that fail to adequately criticize what they describe. Its chelation therapy article, for example, states that, "Chelation therapy has also been used by some health professionals to treat atherosclerosis and/or coronary artery disease, although there is inadequate current scientific evidence that proves this treatment is effective. Some believe that EDTA binds with calcium deposits (the part of plaque that obstructs the flow of blood to the heart) in the arteries and then the calcium deposits are 'cleaned out' of the arteries by the EDTA, reducing the risk of heart problems. This treatment is controversial, and research results have been inconsistent." An honest presentation would say there is no logical reason to believe EDTA chelation is helpful against cardiovascular problems and that the "inconsistent results" consist of poorly designed studies that claimed benefit and well-designed studies that found none.

Induced Hypoglycemic Treatment (IHT), 30/7/2002
The IHT program usually included "detoxification " with colonic irrigation; intravenous infusions of vitamin, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes; oral supplements; dietary strategies; and referral to "biological dentists" to remedy alleged problems caused by amalgam fillings and root canals.

Licenseure of Naturopahic Physicians, 16/1/2002
(b) Other treatments routinely taught at the colleges of naturopathy and used in naturopathic practice include health counseling, therapeutic nutrition, homeopathy, Oriental medicine, hydrotherapy, Ayurvedic medicine and naturopathic manipulative therapy. Counseling and therapeutic nutrition are also taught in medical schools, because they generally have a sound basis in biological science. They were a part of regular medical teaching long before the current naturopathic colleges were even founded, although it is true that much responsibility for therapeutic nutrition has recently tended to be shifted to professional dietitians and nutritionists, who work in collaboration with physicians. The other modalities used by naturopaths are not taught in medical schools, because they are for the most part unscientific and unsupported by any credible body of clinical knowledge. Their use, along with other irrational and unsupported treatments such as chelation, magnetotherapy and colonic irrigation, is sometimes cited by naturopaths as evidence of the unique contributions of their profession. However, it is hard to understand why the Commonwealth would want to put its imprimatur on health care practices that defy well established scientific principles, and have no credible support in the medical literature.

Unnaturalistic Methods: N, 4/6/1997
naturopathy (natural healing, natural health, natural medicine, natural therapies, nature cure, naturology, naturopathic healing, naturopathic health care, naturo pathic medicine): Miscellany that encompasses auriculotherapy (ear acupuncture), Ayurveda, bioelectronic diagnosis, biofeedback, balneotherapy (e.g., mud baths), cupping, electroacupuncture, fasting, the Grape Cure (and other mono-diets), hair analysis, herbalism, homeopathy, hypnotherapy, in ternal hydrotherapy (e.g., colonic irrigation), iridology, Jin Shin Do, Jungian psychology, macrobiotics, moxibustion, Oriental medicine, Ortho-Bionomy, orthomolecular psychiatry, thalassotherapy ("therapeutic" use of seawater and sea air), Tuina, and zone therapy. Naturopathy originated in the latter half of the nineteenth century, in Germany. Dr. John H. Scheel, a German-born homeopath, coined the word "naturopathy" in 1895, when he opened the Sanitarium Badekur in New York. Vitalism is fundamental to naturopathy.

Unnaturalistic Methods Glossary, 4/6/1997
(water therapy) A variety of methods whose categories are: (a) external hydrotherapies (e.g., whirlpool baths) and (b) internal hydrotherapy (e.g., colonic irrigation). Some alternativists depict water as a universal remedy provided by "Nature." Others say simply that it has powerful "healing properties."

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