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Would you get a colonic even if your doctor told you not to?

Garden hoseThis month, a major review of scientific literature, published in The Journal of Family Practice, reported that colon cleansing has little to no benefit and can cause serious side effects.

While the medical establishment has been anti colonics for almost a century—since 1919 when the Journal of the American Medical Association disproved the theory of “autointoxication” due to trapped fecal matter rotting in the colon—proponents of the therapy have essentially ignored them.

This new review, however, looked at 20 studies from the past decade, and found “little evidence of benefit,” according to, and called attention to side effects from cramping to renal failure.

Meanwhile, at spas across Manhattan, New Yorkers continue to make room in their calendars for colonics. Study or no study, it seems, they want that clean, invigorated, flat-belly feeling.

colonic Arul Goldman Sana Vita
SanaVita's Arul Goldman

“You can do as many studies as you want,” says Arul Goldman, owner of SanaVita, New York’s go-to colonic center and the Barneys of booty cleansing. “Just like going for massage or acupuncture, how you can qualify and quantify the exact benefits that each person is having?”

Goldman didn’t down-play the side effects, when I asked her about them. Many people experience nausea and bloating during the therapy, and for some people, she says, it may last a while. (She did not address renal failure.)

The most important thing, she says, is to make sure you’re going to a therapist certified by the International Association for Colon Hydrotherapy, who uses FDA-approved equipment.

The study, on the other hand, points out that despite the certification process, therapists still have “no significant medical training.”

Which brings us to the discrepancy. In the world of holistic health, scientific data is not always the value marker. Many are more interested in the way their body responds to a treatment, and how they they feel afterward. Plus, people really love to evacuate their bowels.

“Colonics changed my life,” says Goldman, who has been cleansing her colon for 15 years and administering to others for 5. “I’ve never seen anyone who couldn’t benefit from a colonic.”

The research review is sure to turn some away from colonics, and will help potential colon-irrigators make an educated decision about the therapy. Colonics, however, won’t be flushed away. —Lisa Elaine Held