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It’s their HEADS that are full of spackle…

I drove up from Scottsdale to my old family place in Flagstaff yesterday. On car trips where I’m driving, I usually listen either to CD’s or the radio—thanks to my husband, I have Sirius radio, and thus can choose from the BBC (love the accents, as well as the different world views you get), any kind of music one can think of, or the Usual Suspects in terms of domestic news. Given the hair-raising state of current affairs, I was mostly listening to the domestic channels. Which have advertising.

Now, I don’t really mind hearing guff about credit-counseling agencies, truck-driving companies, or male-enhancement products (the best was one I heard last week, while driving with my husband: a “lotion-based” enhancement “guaranteed to increase your size as soon as you rub it in!” My husband nearly died laughing). I do, however, draw the line at the ads for colon cleansers.

I don’t know if they’re all the same company under different product names, but they all have the same script. Their product, they assure you, will rid you of, “the ten to twenty-five pounds of UNDIGESTED WASTE that some experts say is stuck to the walls of your colon, like spackle or paste!”

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this quaint theory; I once visited a massage therapist who earnestly showed me a “scientific booklet” showing cross-sectional illustrations of the large intestine, looking like a kitchen drain clogged by ever-increasing grease deposits.

Now, look…

Were y’all not paying attention in Junior High biology, when the gross anatomy and general function of the large intestine were explained? Evidently a lot of people weren’t.

For starters, stand in front of a mirror and open your mouth. You are looking at one end of your digestive system. Do you see food sticking to the back of your throat? I sincerely hope not. OK, do you know why food is not sticking to the back of your throat?

Because it is slippery! Yes, very good. And why is it slippery? Because the back of your throat (and the inside of your nose, just for good measure) is lined with a mucous membrane. That means the tissue there is equipped with a large number of cells that produce….yes, indeedy, mucus! Mucus is exceedingly slippery. Slimy, even. Stuff does not stick to it.

All right. Stop-press news here: your whole, entire intestinal system is lined by this same mucous membrane. If food isn’t sticking at the top of your alimentary canal, it isn’t sticking at the bottom, either. No spackle.

No twenty-five pounds of undigested food, either. Now, even if you take my word for it that “undigested waste” (which is a contradiction in terms; if it hasn’t been digested, it isn’t waste; it’s just chewed-up food. Believe me, you would notice if you were excreting undigested food) is not sticking to the walls of your large intestine, it might be argued that if your colon were especially sluggish, glop might be lollygagging around in there, making you weigh more.

It might be argued, but that isn’t true, either, and it’s pretty dang easy to prove it. You know the colonoscopy that you’re supposed to get when you turn 50, and every so often thereafter? Well, before a doctor goes sticking an endoscope up your rear end, he or she would like to make sure of having an unobstructed view. To this end, the preparation for a colonoscopy involves drinking a solution of a liquid containing magnesium, which is a powerful laxative. You can buy this stuff in any drug store; it’s called Fleet, and it’s utterly revolting. But effective. It will remove everything in your colon within a few hours. And if you—out of a spirit of scientific inquiry—should happen to weigh yourself before and after this process, you will note that you do not—alas—lose ten to twenty-five pounds. You might—temporarily—lose one. If you drink enough water to kill the taste, you’ll probably—temporarily—gain weight.

If you have any doubts, ask the medical personnel who do your colonoscopy if they noticed any spackle-like deposits clinging to the walls of your colon. If they did, I bet they’d mention it.

I haven’t looked at the ingredient list of any of these products—I’ve never even seen one in the flesh—but I’d bet money that magnesium is one of, if not the, main ingredient. Taking two 500 mg magnesium tablets (which will cost you about 6 cents) will do anything one of these colon-cleansers does, I assure you. (I take magnesium tablets for occasional migraines—along with three aspirin and a nice glass of white wine, plus a schmear of Tiger Balm on temples and under nose. Treatment for migraines is highly idiosyncratic; I don’t recommend this for anybody else, but it usually works for me. But that’s how I know about the other effects of magnesium tablets.)

Putting aside the question of their supposed physiological basis, which is utter nonsense, do these colon-cleansers actually work, in terms of weight loss?

Well, yeah, they probably do—if used as directed. My chiropractor (hey, writing for a living is physically destructive; I have major arthritis in my neck, and my spine looks like I’m playing Twister, even while sitting down) once tried one of these “cleanser” regimes, and was so enthused, he was recommending it to all his clients.

“Yeah?” I said. “What do you do?”
“Oh,” he said, “it’s easy! Three days a week, you just drink the cleanser crystals, in juice or water or whatever. I’ve lost ten pounds in a month!”
“Great!” I said. “And you eat normally while you do this?”
“Oh, no,” he said. “You don’t eat on the days you take the cleanser.”


“Jeffrey,” I said, when he had stopped twisting my head, “you are losing weight because you’ve cut your caloric intake in half. You’d get the same effect if you just didn’t eat solid food every other day.”

He didn’t believe me, of course. But I hope you will. Drink water, eat less (but whatever you do eat should have fiber), and save your money, is my advice. And listen to the BBC. It’s soothing to realize that the world is bigger than Wall Street and Washington.

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58 Responses »

  1. Hi Nancy!
    I was there! I was hidden at (and in charge of) the 42nd's food booth, selling Forfar Bridies, Scottish Shortbread, spiced tea and water. My son is a bagpiper in the 42nd Royal Highlanders. He wasn't there this year. He is the youngest member of the group. He is 16 and has been a piper since he was 7 (well, started on the chanter at 7… got pipes at 8). I have only missed Feast twice since I started going in 1981. I have been in charge of the booth 4 yrs. I don't get out much to see the sights. I will next year. I did see Mary, as a lady rode side-saddle past our booth. The next event I will be at is The Grand Encampment at Ft. Massac in southern Illinois. It is Oct. 18 & 19. My family does dress. My younger son is probably going to be a drummer in the group someday. I have a great family picture of us at Ft. Ticonderoga when we were there 3 yrs ago. We are all dressed in it.

    I do work at Purdue in the Horticulture department… I teach lab classes (Intro. to horticulture). I didn't like history at all in high school. The Feast and the history of this area got me excited about it. I think my kids think I am a 'history geek'! Especially now that I am writing a novel that takes place in 1775 and '76 (so far).

  2. Nancy (and others),
    If you Google ‘Taylor Stirm bagpipes’ and then choose the first link, you will see him at 11 y.o. playing at Ft. De Chartres. You can also google the 42nd Royal highlanders lafayette IN. They are also on Youtube. Oh… our tv station had them too. http://www.wlfi.com

    Sorry Diana to hijack your blog! : )

  3. Vicki, are you Piper mom? You and your family sound so extraordinary you put me to shame. But of course you inspire me at the same time. I had no idea of the caliber of people I would encounter when I discovered “Outlander”. Facinating! How you all find the time to do everything you do astounds me!

  4. Yes, that’s me!!! Well, I must admit, a month of stress has finally caught up with me this week… I now have a cold. Grrr! I don’t know where I find the time either (grin)…. Diana is like that too! I don’t mean to put anybody to shame! : ) I am glad I can be an inspiration… even tho I am exhausted at the moment and pushing myself along… 47 yrs old isn’t really old… but I am not 27 anymore either! : )

  5. *sigh*

    I’m a 26 year old trapped in a 50+ year old aching body…I understand!

  6. Why does that rant remind me of a ‘Claire’ moment? I can imagine Jamie and Ian’s reaction to a Claire rant on colon cleansing. Inevitably hysterically funny.

    Your tag on this post reads ‘Diana Gabaldon spackle colon cleanser’. Ahh-ha-ha. Thanks for laugh today!

    (See what you’ve done, Diana! ;) )

  7. I’m so glad someone else mentioned those silly foot pads that I’ve seen advertised. That’s exactly what I was thinking about while reading this rant. *lol* People crack me up.

    Diana -

    They actually have infomercials about colon cleanse stuff as well. If you are ever up at odd hours (I can’t IMAGINE that happening to you…hardy har har), you probably could witness more hilarity. It’s hours of people seriously talking about poop. Granted, you can only bear to watch it for so long and then ask for those minutes of your life back. :P

  8. I'm spending a year in England with my husband at the moment, and have to concur with the 'BBC is soothing' observation. It's true! In fact, I've nearly forgotten to fret about all the financial and political upheaval back home in the U.S. with reports of all the other goings-on in the world. …Yeah. Also, if the BBC -does- happen to mention the current political and financial climate of the United States, at least the delivery is nicely coated with pleasant accents and, as noted, a marked lack of advertisment on-air. Go BBC! & cheers, Diana, for plugging away with your next Outlander installments. *can hardly wait* :D

  9. Vicki,
    I was just wondering where you get the 18th century clothes that you dress up in? Do you make them, or buy them from somewhere? I would love to own a dress from that time. I would also REALLY like to get my husband a kilt :) Any help would be appreciated!

    PS. I am Brittany G from LOL! Nice to see you here!!

  10. Brittany (Nancy and anyone else who wants to get a hold of me),

    Send me an email….

    stirm AT purdue DOT edu

    I think you know what to do to get the addy right!

    Brittany, I will be happy to discuss the clothing thing with you!


  11. Amazing! I have seen these neo-enema infomercials in passing on my satellite TV guide, and intended to rant about it on my blog, but you have beat me to the magnesium punch, so to speak. Now I will simply refer my readers to your magnificent rant.

    While under the effects of the fantabulous drugs they gave me for touring my pink subway tunnel, I commented to the doctor that it looked as new and shiny as a baby’s. He replied that it was a good thing it did, as any other condition could be indicative of very bad things. We didn’t find any spackle and I didn’t lose 25 pounds.

    One of the real dangers of these treatments is addiction. Yes, you can get addicted to enemas and to laxatives. They benignly refer to it as “abuse”. The DEA and Drug Czar should be investigating; it might be more useful than their usual pursuits.

  12. Diana, I love your books, I love your mind and I love your turn of phrase!. I have just had the best medicine, a tummy clutching giggle at your observations on this most bizarre obsession and the lack of people using their brains to thin about whther it could possible be true.
    IN the absence of yoru new books I’ll be wathing yoru blogs.

  13. Oh,thank God someone (besides me) fianlly ranted about this! Go, Diana! I get SO tired of trying to disabuse my clients of these ideas – without actually offending them. I have a friend – an RN, no less – who believes in colloidal silver to cure everything. I thought: Okay, let’s find out. So I took a really nasty culture from a setter with a refractory ear infection and tested it. Colloidal silver does NOTHING. Zero, zip, nada. Lavender oil, OTOH, killed everything on there, even things that the antibiotics didn’t touch – and it made the incubator smell a LOT nicer than usual. :p Hmm, so I guess that’s some nice support for the herbal medicines of Outlander vintage. Some of them, anyway.

    Sigh. Could be worse, though… at least most of you don’t live in a state where the Gov reputedly believes that humans an dinosaurs cohabited the earth….. (yikes).

  14. Hi Diana,

    I believe in a good, general spring clean with herbal supplements. I've lost a pound or so, but that's it. And is not the point, anyway. I feel markedly better after.

    However, I was skeeved right out by this: a colleague gave me a cassette tape and urged me to listen "for a great investment opportunity." She refused to give me more info.

    It was an hour of testimonials for a colon-cleansing regime. The testimonies went into graphic—& I mean GRAPHIC—detail about every single bit of "spackle" that emerged during the regime.

    And apparently, your best sales pitch is to relate the same sort of story to potential clients. That's some dream career.

    My problem was, I couldn't tear myself away from the tape. I am so ashamed.

    I did not invest in the program, and let my colleague know I disapproved of her recruitment tactic.


  15. I'm with Renee…this rant sounded eerily like Claire. No objections there; I'll take my Outlander fix any way it comes.

    There was a funny and fascinating expose' about this subject on Penn & Teller's Bullshit (season 5 episode 4). Gratuitous toplessness though.

  16. Oh, that was great. Thanks, I needed the laugh!

  17. thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!

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