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Can colon cleansing cause more harm than good?

colon cleanse, kim kardashian
Kim Kardashian endorses a line of colon cleansing products, but do they work? Quick Trim International

(CBS) Colon cleansing may be all the rage among celebs, but a new study suggests a dirty truth about the practice: It doesn't work, and it can cause potentially serious health problems.

"There can be serious consequences for those who engage in colon cleansing whether they have the procedure done at a spa or perform it at home," study author, Dr. Ranit Mishori, an assistant professor of family medicine at Georgetown University, said in a written statement. She said colon cleansing products, which come as laxatives, teas, and capsules, "tout benefits that don't exist."

For the study - published in the August issue of The Journal of Family Practice - Mishori and her team looked at 20 colon cleaning studies published over the last 10 years. The studies show little if any health benefits, she said. But a colon cleanse can lead to nasty side effects like bloating, cramping, vomiting, electrolyte imbalance and kidney failure.

Many celebrities extol colon cleansing's benefits for staying healthy and losing weight. Kim Kardashian even endorses a line of products.

"I totally understand where people are coming from in wanting to detoxify," Mishori told Time. "But there is no evidence that [the cleanses] are doing anything, and physiologically it doesn't make sense."

These procedures introduce something in the body that's not supposed to be there, like a fluid-filled tube that enters the rectum, which she says can damage colon tissue. She also says most of these "colon hygienists" have no significant medical training and often require no more than a high school diploma. But even the over-the-counter laxatives and teas cause problems.

Dick Hoenninger, spokesman for the International Association for Colon Hydrotherapy disputed the findings.

"Colon hydrotherapy when performed by a trained therapist using FDA-registered equipment and disposable speculums or rectal nozzles is safe," he told HealthDay.

If a colonic isn't the answer, what should folks do to flush out toxins?

Mishori told Time, "The body has a system for detoxifying itself -it's called pee and poop."

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