Cleansing and Poo – Natural Obsessions

I was at the natural health foods store in a mall near where I live (I mentioned it last week) and decided to buy some tea (somewhat to my annoyance, it’s the only place in my area where one can buy a bag of loose tea). After I made my purchase, the check-out person put a few fliers in my bag. One of which was the following:

FIRST TIME CLEANSING?
DON’T WORRY
WE’LL BE GENTLE

[Picture of a pretty lady in a sweater behind a box of First Cleanse.]

Introducing First Cleanse, the only cleansing product specifically designed for the first time cleanser. First cleanse is a 15 day, full body cleanse that effectively eliminates toxins, increases energy, enhances digestion, and improves your overall body function. When people detoxify too quickly or are sensitive to cleansing, it can often cause unpleasant reactions, called ‘cleansing crisis’. These reactions can include headaches, nausea or diarrhea. First Cleanse is strong enough to be effective, yet gentle enough to avoid a ‘cleansing crisis’.

WHY YOU SHOULD CLEANSE:

  • Improves overall health
  • Decreases risk of disease
  • Increases energy
  • Improves digestion
  • Helps control weight

[Contact information.]

It turns out this company sells many cleansing products: CandiGone, LiverDetox, CleanseSmart, DigestMORE, etc. (I guess compound words are fashionable?) Based on the comments below this review of First Cleanse, this over-priced (about $30) box of pills with about two dozen ingredients will just plain make you poop. For comparison, the stool-softener Ex-lax is less than 10 bucks. But the First Cleanse poo pills don’t have the baggage and negativity falsely associated with medically-tested laxatives.

None of the ingredients look harmful (mostly vegetables and herbs), but that’s assuming the product contains only what it says it does. I cite Zicam as the most recent popular example illustrating the real harm that can be done by assuming alt-med products are inherently harmless because they don’t contain “real” medicine. So I looked it up.

First Cleanse doesn’t appear in Health Canada’s Natural Health Products Database. Their website says that their testing procedures are regulated by Health Canada, whatever that means, but I couldn’t find the company or the product at all on the Health Canada website – not that that’s uncommon, it’s just annoying. I have emailed Renew Life and Health Canada for more information. I will write a follow-up if/when I receive responses.

Cleanse products, in general, don’t tend to have objective research to back up the vague “benefits”. Rather, the websites have testimonials (such as this example for First Cleanse). I suppose if the Worried Well want to spend 30$ on a potentially useless bottle of pills, that’s their business, but I would feel better if I could at least find an official safety report on this product. People should at least be spending their money on something safe, if not effective.

TigerBegone
Testimonial:
I don’t see any tigers around here, do you?
10s of people can’t be wrong!

The manufacturers of these kinds of products often present the underlying assumption that “natural” is better and their products are all natural and healthy and wonderful. Curiously, though, these natural products can send you into a physiological crisis? That seems a tad hypocritical – and necessitating some specific safety information.

I’m not saying “cleansing crisis” is a real ailment and I could find no information about such a thing from objective sources – actually I think the term “cleansing crisis” is meant as “withdrawal” but applied to any detoxification, not just drugs, which is a misapplication of that concept – but it does encourage people to ignore the ill feeling that might come with altering the natural flora of your gut. And telling people not to eat and to use enemas (such as this website) while the body is trying to recover itself, is just baffling.

First Cleanse, like many alt-med products, is recommended for regular people with no problems. So it’s not for people with, say, constipation – they specifically say so. Why then is it necessary to fix what ain’t broken, especially at the risk of developing “cleansing crisis”? It’s disturbing that natural health food/products proponents are so mesmerized by the “natural” moniker that symptoms are ignored or passed off as being caused by the very thing that they are getting rid of, despite never having been ill.

Your poo isn’t trying to kill you. In fact, poo has stuff that our bodies need for the immune system and digestion. Gut cleansers don’t discriminate between good and bad gut bacteria – they just wash everything out (if they work at all). It seems silly to take a gut that was just fine on its own, add pills to “cleanse” it, blame the resulting porcelain party on “toxins” and “cleansing crisis”, and then encourage yet more fiddling around in there with enemas, irrigation, and juice.

This is impressive doublethink: Take science-based medicine when sick, get a side-effect – it was the medicine’s fault. Take a natural remedy when healthy, get a side-effect – it’s the toxins coming out.

Anyway as I said, my initial search for information on the safety of this product turned up little, so I await feedback from those I’ve contacted. So please check back for that. In the meantime…

Safety and quality control is something that everyone can have a hand in monitoring. If anyone notices a product that might violate Canadian regulations on advertising, they can and should report it after sufficient investigation. This is not to pick on alt-med practitioners – in fact, safer products should only help their image. So, you’re welcome? More importantly it helps keep people safe.

I am not encouraging that people report all natural health products, regardless of indication. What I do suggest is, if you see a dubious health product/claim in general, do the following things in order:

  1. Be sure that facts are confirmed to avoid false accusations. Write/call stores/companies that sell these products and make inquiries. Visit their websites. Search on PubMed. (This is the stage I’m in now with First Cleanse – I am verifying their statement that their methods are regulated by Health Canada.)
  2. If appropriate, report companies that are making illegal health claims about their products.

First Cleanse may turn out to be legit – good. But I had to check.

*The opinions in this article reflect that of the author only and do not necessarily represent the views of employers, regulatory bodies, or professional associations. The author strives to promote science-based health care in all fields and advocates for a client’s right to honesty.

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  • Kim Hebert

    Kim Hébert is an occupational therapist. She is interested in the promotion of science and reason, particularly regarding therapeutic health interventions. She blogs occasionally about occupational therapy and other health topics at Science-Based Therapy. Her hobbies are art and astronomy. **All views expressed by Kim are her personal views alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of current or former employers, associations, or other affiliations. All information is provided for discussion purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for consultation with a licensed and accredited health professional.