British Advertising Authority Upholds
Complaint against the Body Detox Clinic
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
The British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint against the Body Detox Clinic and ordered the clinic to stop claiming that its colonic irrigation and "detoxification" programs can help people with constipation. diarrhea. bloating. hemorrhoids. irritable bowel syndrome colitis, flatulence, bad breath, body odor, headaches, fatigue, eczema, psoriasis, dandruff, acne, joint pain, premenstrual tension and water retention. The clinic attempted to justify its claims by citing the writings of Bernard Jensen (a deceased American chiropractor noted for his promotion of iridology) and Michael Gershon, another American who it said hadpostulated that the intestine contains a "second brain." However, as noted below, the ASA concluded that except possibly for relief of occasional constipation, the clinic had "provided only anecdotal evidence . . . and had not been able to support those claims with robust clinical evidence."
Advertising Standards Authority Adjudication
The Body Detox Clinic,
17 Ridley Place,
Newcastle upon Tyne,
Tyne and Wear, NE1 8JQ
8 August 2007
Number of complaints: 2
A regional press ad, and an ad in the Metro, for the Body Detox Clinic.
a. The regional press ad claimed " ... We are the largest clinic in the North East specialising in colonic irrigation and detoxification programmes ... ".
b. The Metro ad was similar to ad (b) and featured a testimonial that described a treatment received and, at the bottom of the ad, text stated "Do you suffer from ... ? Constipation. Diarrhoea. Bloating. Haemorrhoids. I.B.S. Colitis. Flatulence. Bad Breath. Body Odour. Headaches. Fatigue. M.E. Eczema. Psoriasis. Dandruff. Acne. Joint Pain. P.M.T. Water Retention".
1. Floataria Ltd challenged the claim "We are the largest clinic in the North East specialising in colonic irrigation and detoxification programmes" in ad (a), because they believed they were the larger in terms of size, turnover, number of employees and number of branches. In relation to ad (b), a member of the public challenged: (2) the implication that colonic irrigation was proven to "detoxify" the body and could improve the bacterial balance in the bowel and (3) the implication that colonic irrigation could relieve symptoms of the listed conditions. The CAP Code: 3.1;7.1;19.1;50.1
1. The Body Detox Clinic (BDC) said the claim was true, because they only offered colonic irrigation at their clinic whereas Floataria offered other treatments such as facials, massage and flotation and so did not "specialise" in colonic irrigation.
2. BDC explained that colonic irrigation was not a medical treatment, but that cleansing the colon promoted the self-healing mechanisms of the body. They explained that the research of Dr Bernard Jenson had shown that a healthy clean colon was vital for good health: they pointed out that one of his books, Tissue Cleansing through Bowel Management, had shown that people suffering severe leg ulcerations and psoriasis had had their health improved by following a seven-day tissue cleansing programme. They said those studies had promoted the naturopathic principle that healing began from within. They said the Association of Colonic Hydrotherapists provided information on their website that suggested the quality of intestinal flora was improved when putrefied material was washed out of the large intestine, because the material was removed along with the accompanying harmful bacteria and therefore created a better environment for good gut flora to reproduce quickly.
3. BDC said that the work of Dr Bernard Jenson had shown that colonic hydrotherapy could promote self-healing, particularly when combined with a review of diet and lifestyle. They also provided the text of a New York Times article on the work of Dr Michael Gershon, describing a second brain located in the intestine and how it affected gastrointestinal problems such as IBS. They explained that they followed a strict protocol designed to identify various ailments and treatment paths and that they did not discourage essential treatment. They further explained that they had refused the treatment to people whom they felt to be at risk for complications and that they employed only qualified registered nurses. BDC pointed out that they believed they had supplied enough evidence to justify the inclusion of non-serious ailments in their ads.
Assessment1. Upheld: The ASA noted BDC's argument that they specialised only in colon hydrotherapy and should not be compared to other companies who offered a range of treatments, such as massage or facials, because they believed that showed they were not specialists. However, we considered that BDC had not provided substantiation either to show that they were significantly different from other companies in the North-East that offered colonic hydrotherapy and detoxification programmes within a range of services, or that they were the largest of colon hydrotherapy providers who only offered that particular service. We therefore concluded that the claim was ambiguous, unsupported and could mislead. On this point, ad (a) breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 19.1 (Fair comparison).
2. Upheld: We noted BDC's assertion that bacteria that was bad for the body was removed with the putrefied material that was washed out of the gut, allowing good bacteria to increase. We also noted BDC's comments on the research of Dr Bernard Jenson using colonic hydrotherapy to detoxify patients bodies to enable self-healing. However, because BDC had provided only anecdotal evidence for their claims, both direct and implied, and had not been able to support those claims with robust clinical evidence to show that colonic irrigation could detoxify the body and improve bacterial balance in the bowel apart from anecdotal evidence, we concluded that BDC had not justified the claims. On this point, ad (b) breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 50.1 (Health and beauty products and therapies).
3. Upheld: We acknowledged that BDC employed qualified nurses who had taken postgraduate qualifications in colonic hydrotherapy. We understood that colonic hydrotherapy was similar to an enema and, as such, would evacuate the bowel and relieve constipation: we therefore accepted that colonic hydrotherapy could be used to relieve occasional constipation. We noted the majority of the symptoms listed, apart from M.E., were considered non-serious and not serious, but considered that, because the substantiation supplied was anecdotal in nature, it was not robust enough to support the implication that colonic irrigation could relieve the symptoms of: diarrhoea; bloating; haemorrhoids; I.B.S.; colitis; flatulence; bad breath; body odour; headaches; fatigue; M.E.; eczema; psoriasis; dandruff; acne; joint pain; P.M.T; and water retention. Because of that, we concluded that the ad breached the Code. On this point, ad (b) breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 50.1 (Health and beauty products and therapies).
We told BDC not to repeat the ads and advised them to seek help from the CAP Copy Advice team for future advertising.
Advertising Standards Authority,
Mid City Place, 71 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6QT, United Kingdom
This article was posted on August 8, 2007.