Ashley Graham Swears By Colon Cleanses, but Are They Necessary?
An expert says otherwise.
Ashley Graham is the queen of keeping it real on Instagram. Whether she's sharing the pain of wearing the wrong sports bra to a workout or simply serving some real-talk to aspiring models, Graham isn't known to hold things back. But recently, she got more personal than ever by sharing a video of herself while she was getting a colonic, otherwise known as a colon cleanse. Apparently, this is something she does on the reg, and in a series of Instagram Stories, she had her therapist go into all the reasons why it's so, er, wonderful. (Related: The Colonics Craze: Should You Try It?)
"I always show you guys a little picture of my knees and the drain-what's that thing called? A tank," Graham says in one of her Instagram Stories. "But I figured I'd have my colonic therapist explain why I get them, and why you should be getting them."
Graham's therapist, Lena, goes on to share three main reasons why everyone should be getting a colonic. To start, it can apparently help with any kind of digestive distress, including "constipation, obviously, any kind of bloating, diarrhea... any kind of digestive issues," she says.
Second, she claims it helps with inflammation. "Whenever you have inflammation in the body, it can show up as breakouts or you can feel really puffy," says Lena.
"Getting into there can help your face?" Graham asks. "Exactly," her colonic therapist answers. "It's very anti-inflammatory-people see their skin glowing and less puffiness all over the body, too, if that was the issue."
Finally, the therapist says that getting a colonic can even boost your immune system. "Whenever you feel sick, the congestion and headaches go right away," she says.
But before you decide to schedule your first colonic appointment, it's worth noting that at least one expert isn't so sure about the health claims associated with this procedure. In fact, it might be completely unnecessary, regardless of whether or not you have digestive issues. (Related: 7 Ways to Bolster Good Gut Bacteria)
"Your body is too smart to need a colon cleanse of any sort," says Hardeep M. Singh, M.D., a board-certified gastroenterologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange County, CA. "Your body is plenty efficient on its own in clearing out waste, toxins, and bacteria, so there is never a need to get a colonic, even if you're suffering from digestive issues."
What's interesting, though, is that getting a colonic can, in fact, make you feel better down there-but only momentarily. "When patients do a colonic, they evacuate a lot of toxins and bacteria in a short period of time. Typically after that, they say they feel amazing and lighter on their feet, and want to keep coming back for more" explains Dr. Singh. "But in reality, if you're feeling that way after a colon cleanse, it's likely that you have other issues. More likely than not, you could be constipated, and need to make lifestyle changes to fix the problem and promote regularity in your bowel movements. At the end of the day, all a colon cleanse does is take the symptoms away temporarily."
Plus, if you're constipated to the point that you're considering a procedure like a colonic, you could have a more serious underlying health issue, says Dr. Singh. "My question to a patient who comes in inquiring about a colonic would be: Why are you so constipated in the first place?" he explains. "From there on, I'd recommend that they get screened for colon cancer, thyroid issues, or other serious metabolic problems that could be causing such severe constipation." (Related: What Your Farts Can Tell You About Your Health)
On top of simply being unnecessary, colonics can sometimes be dangerous, and there have been reported deaths in the past, shares Dr. Singh. "You usually have a non-board-certified professional putting a foreign object into your rectum and pumping a lot of water, coffee, and sometimes other substances with such force that it can perforate a hole in the colon. That can cause life-threatening complications," he explains.
Not only that, but by flushing the body out so quickly, you can cause electrolyte disturbances, notes Dr. Singh. "Suddenly, a patient can become really dehydrated and low on potassium," he says. "That can cause some people to pass out or go into an arrhythmia, which can, at times, be fatal. That's why we don't ever recommend colonics to patients."
So what are you supposed to do if you're feeling seriously constipated and struggling with going to the bathroom on a regular basis? Dr. Singh believes the problem could be as simple as being low on fiber. "Most Americans don't get enough fiber," he says. "In general, you need between 25 and 35 grams of fiber on a day-to-day basis, but typically people fall under that. Ninety percent of the people who feel like they need a colon cleanse can easily fix the problem by adding a fiber supplement like Metamucil to their diet, making exercise a more regular part of their routine, and by drinking lots of water." (Here are six reasons drinking water helps solve any problem.)
If you feel like you could have a more serious problem, be sure to reach out to your general practitioner, suggests Dr. Singh. "I think one big misconception out there is that physicians are against alternative therapies," he says. "I don't think that's true. Most of us want our patients to get better, either by taking a medication we prescribe or through alternative treatments. But those treatments have data behind them to validate their effectiveness."
Bottom line: Do your research before resorting to questionable alternative therapies, and try not to trust everything you see and read, especially when it comes to your health. We still love you though, Ash!