I have a friend who is convinced that constipation causes cancer. She uses an enema a couple of times a week, and drinks laxative tea containing senna all the time. Are there any dangers to colon cleansing?
Constipation can be caused by many things, including medications, thyroid problems and diabetes. The best way to prevent problems is to treat the cause. Regular use of laxatives and enemas is not advisable, because the colon may lose its ability to empty normally. Even though it is natural, senna is harsh and can irritate the lower digestive tract. Diarrhea can lead to mineral imbalance.
I would like to take guggul to lower cholesterol, but I heard it decreases the effectiveness of certain medications. I take Diovan for high blood pressure. Would guggul pose a risk?
Guggul, extracted from the resin of a myrrh tree, has been used in ayurvedic medicine for more than 2,000 years to treat inflammation, atherosclerosis and obesity. Animal research and some human studies suggested that it might lower cholesterol, but a well-controlled trial published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. (Aug. 13, 2003) contradicted those results. Guggul did not lower total cholesterol and actually raised LDL, or bad cholesterol, compared with a placebo. Some patients also developed a rash.
Guggul probably would not interact with your Diovan, but given its questionable effectiveness and the risk of a rash, we don't recommend it for lowering cholesterol.
Joe Graedon, a pharmacologist, and Teresa Graedon, an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition, can be reached at People's Pharmacy, King Features Syndicate, 888 7th Ave., New York, NY 10019, or at email@example.com.