Diverticulosis, or the presence of small herniations in your intestinal lining, may occur when you exert pressure on your colon while straining to pass hard stools. If you have bulging, weakened areas, or diverticula, in the lining of your colon, undergoing a colon cleanse to detoxify your body may pose a risk of bowel perforation. Consult your doctor about the safety of colon cleansing before you consider this alternative therapy.
Diverticulosis may affect as many as half of all people over the age of 60, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, or NDDIC; however, many of these individuals may show no symptoms of diverticular disease unless one of the herniated areas becomes inflamed or infected, a condition called diverticulitis. During a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy – diagnostic exams that allow visualization of your lower intestinal tract – a doctor may find diverticula in your intestinal lining. To prevent complications of diverticular disease, such as perforations or infections, your doctor may recommend that you avoid procedures that could cause excessive pressure on your lower intestinal tract.
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Colon Cleanse Risks
Diverticula occur most frequently in the lower segment of your colon, or sigmoid colon, which stores digestive wastes until they pass from your body. Medical colon cleansing may be prescribed by your doctor to clear wastes from your lower intestinal tract before surgeries or diagnostic procedures. However, colon cleansing for detoxification – also known as colonic irrigation -- presents health risks if you have diverticular disease. During some colon cleansing procedures, water, herbal preparations, coffee or other fluids are injected into your colon using plastic tubing attached to a pump in order to rinse toxic materials from your colon walls. The equipment used in colonic irrigation or pressure from a high volume of fluid may tear or puncture the weakened segments of your intestinal lining, which could lead to bleeding or infection. Colon cleansing may also cause fluid overload, electrolyte imbalance or allergic reactions to herbal solutions, the American Cancer Society cautions.
Proponents of colon cleansing believe that this procedure removes toxins from your system, encourages the growth of helpful intestinal bacteria, supports your natural immunity, and may help your body fight cancer or other chronic diseases. If you want to undergo colon cleansing, consult your doctor first for advice on the safety of this procedure. Review the list of ingredients in any herbal solutions to see if these ingredients may cause allergies or interact with your medications. Make sure that the colonic hygienist or therapist who performs the procedure uses clean, disposable equipment.
If you've been diagnosed with diverticulosis, eating a high-fiber diet may reduce your risk of diverticulitis while preventing constipation and supporting your colon's self-cleansing properties. MayoClinic.com recommends drinking plenty of water and other fluids, eating a high-fiber diet and getting regular exercise, as natural, noninvasive methods for keeping your colon healthy. These activities encourage regular bowel activity and help prevent constipation. Consuming 20 to 35 g of fiber each day in foods like apples, broccoli, potatoes, squash, navy or kidney beans, and whole-grain cereals and breads may help prevent the complications of diverticulosis, according to the NDDIC. Talk with your doctor about safe ways to manage diverticulosis.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.