Complementary and alternative medicine Friday Woo Medicine Quackery Skepticism/critical thinking

Your Friday Dose of Woo: Late night ads to make you poop

It’s very bad when I have a week off. Very, very bad.

The reason is that when I have a week off I have this rather unfortunate tendency to stay up late at night, and when I stay up late at night I have an even more unfortunate tendency to check out late night infomercials that show up between the hours of 2 AM and 4 AM. Such was the case the other night when I found myself sitting in bed bathing in the glow of the LCD screen, staring in utter awe at the woo I found until my wife’s annoyed retort told me that I was yelling at the TV screen. Even so, I still wondered whether I should use it for Your Friday Dose of Woo, given that this particular infomercial was covering ground that I had covered before. However, it’s been well over a year and a half, and this particular woo that assaulted me at around 2:30 AM is a bit different, although I’d be lying if I denied that it covered the usual altie obsession with “detoxification.” It does, but the infomercial raised my blood pressure sufficiently to get me to “honor” it by featuring it on our usual Friday exercise.

The product we’re talking about is Dual Action Cleanse, and your host for this late night excursion into woo peddling is this man:


This man is named Klee Irwin, and he sells colon cleansign woo. Joining Klee on this romp through your colon (or a least attempted romp) is “master herbalist” James Chappell:


“Dr.” Chappell calls himself “Doctor” based on these criteria:

In 1980 Dr. Chappell received his Bachelor of Science in Psychology
from Pacific Christian College in Fullerton, California. In 1977 Dr. Chappell
received his Chiropractic Doctorate (D.C.) from the Cleveland Chiropractic
School in Los Angeles, California. Dr. Chappell received his Naturopathic
Doctorate (N.D.), from the Naturopathic College of California in Los Angeles,
California in 1970. He also received his Doctor of Philosophy in Holistic
Nutrition (Ph.D.), from the Naturopathic College of California in Los Angeles,
California in 1970. Prior to that Dr. Chappell received his Master Herbalist
Medical Degree, (M.H.), from Dominican Herbal College in Quebec, Canada in 1969,
and attended Ventura Junior College in Ventura, California from 1967 to 1968.

Would you buy some Super Colon Blow from men like this?

Sadly (or fortunately, depending upon your point of view), I missed the first few minutes of the infomercial. When I joined the action, Irwin and Chappell were holding an obviously highly scripted discussion in which I wondered if colon cleansing removes one’s ability to read cue cards properly. Maybe it affects the eyesight, too. Or maybe it causes that faux chipper affect that so annoys me when I see it in late night infomercials of this type. Whatever the case, while sitting there, the rest of there, the rest of the world asleep, becoming increasingly agitated by a woo attack to the point where I wanted to ask: “Who ya gonna call?”

Woobusters, of course.

Wait! I’m the woobuster. Oh, well, back to work, even as the level of gross (both size and in terms of the level of disgust) lies being thrown at me started to make me think that maybe I should have accepted that prescription for propranolol offered to me a while back by my doctor to keep my heart rate and blood pressure down. As I tried to shake the increasing impression that Klee Irwin bears an uncanny resemblance to a younger John Waters, I wondered if in fact John Waters was somehow responsible for the travesty that is this infomercial. Probably not, I concluded. At least John Waters knows how to be so over-the-top that he can be funny and entertaining.


If you were wondering if the “professional” input of “Dr.” James Chappell might make this infomercial somewhat more convincing than the usual infomercial of woo, you’ll be in for a big disappointment. One thing that he said that stuck in my mind came during the usual, predictable altie lament about how today we in modern society bathe in pollution, eat processed food, and use all sorts of vile chemicals, unlike the “golden era” they seem to pine for, when we supposedly lived at one with nature and were not subjected to any sorts of dangers like this at all, which, I suppose, is why the average life expectancy at birth now in industrialized countries is in the mid- to high 70s while centuries or millennia ago it was somewhere around 30 years. I suppose all that cleanliness didn’t protect us from huge rates of infant mortality due to diseases. Of course, pathogenic bacteria and viruses are all natural; so to alties they must be all good. In any case, get a load of this quote:

The human body was created to live off of a diet similar to how Americans ate 50 years ago.

Because everyone ate so much healthier and the environment had so many fewer pollutants in 1958, I suppose.

I won’t go into too much detail about many of the claims that also appeared on the infomercial, given that one of my earliest installments of YFDoW dealt with colon cleansing idiocy. Suffice it to say that Irwin and Chappell, as Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dumber (TD&TD), vied valiantly to out-dumb each other as the show went on. After intoning the usual colon cleansing mantra “death begins in the colon,” they kept repeating misinformation that fecal matter somehow builds up in our colons so that by the time we are adults, particularly older adults, there is something like 20-30 pounds of impacted fecal matter lining the walls of our colons and releasing its “toxins” into the bloodstream. It’s all nonsense of course, as any gastroenterologist who does colonoscopies or surgeon who operates on the colon knows. Fecal matter does not cake up on the walls of the colon in general, and it takes a pretty significant colon obstruction or decrease in colon motility to result in autointoxication from the translocation of bacteria across the lining of the colon into the bloodstream. The run-of-the-mill granny who’s feeling a little constipated is incredibly unlikely to get into such problems. Of course, if you believe TD&TD, you’ll come to think that pretty much every vague symptom you ever have is due to not being sufficiently “clean” internally. That’s right: Fatigue, little aches and pains, you name it, it’s all caused by that horrible, toxic buildup of poo in your colon, of which you must purge yourself forthwith or risk horrific consequences!

Another thing that really stood out as primo grade A woo was the argument not just from antiquity but from ancient anecdote. TD&TD mentioned an Englishman named Thomas Parr, who, they had to point out, is buried in Westminster Abbey alongside kings and other English luminaries. What’s so amazing about Parr, according to TD&TD, is that he was born in 1483 and supposedly lived 152 years. Even more amazing, he supposedly married for the first time at age 80, the second time at age 122, and didn’t have his first child until age 130. Reports claim that he attributed his extreme longevity to a vegetarian diet and moral temperance. It’s not entirely clear whether his records were confused with those of his grandfather Thomas Parr, although it is fairly clear that he did live to be quite old, possibly even a centenarian. From this historical figure, who may or may not have lived 152 years but clearly did live a long time, TD&TD go off the rails, describing how famous surgeon William Harvey (who discovered the basics of the circulatory system) did an autopsy at the instruction of King Charles to find out why Parr lived so long. According to TD&TD, the autopsy showed that Parr’s organs were in “perfect condition” and that his colon was “as clean and healthy as that of a child.” Dr. Chappell, not surprisingly (this is an infomercial, after all) concludes, “The moral of this true story is: Keep your colon clean and you may have a very long and healthy life.”

Or it may be: Given the proscription against dissections of human bodies and the lack of knowledge about human physiology and anatomy, the conclusion of a surgeon of the early 1600s should be taken with a huge grain of salt, even if the surgeon is one as renowned as William Harvey. Or it may be: Have good genes and be lucky enough not to catch a serious infectious disease or to develop cancer, and you may have a very long and healthy life.

So what is this “Dual Action Cleanse” that TD&TD are trying to sell you? Basically, it consists of two products. One is called the “Total Body Purifier.” “Purifier”? Wow. Normally, I associate “purification” with religion, the perceived need to purify oneself of one’s sins, which make one “impure,” not medicine. Of course, colon cleansing is more like a religion or cult than anything else, in which, as in many religions, humans are viewed as a veritable cesspit of filth (original sin, anyone?) and require the “purification” that only the religion or cult can bring to be “clean” again. (Either that, or they’ve been watching Doctor Strangelove: Or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb, specifically Gen. Jack D. Ripper, who had a rather unhealthy fascination with maintaining the purity of his “precious bodily fluids.” In any case, this “total body purifier” is nothing more than a mixture of all sorts of herbs listed with the usual vague claims that they “help boost the immune system,” “support the kidneys and respiratory system,” etc., all without any evidence that they do, in fact, boost the immune system or anything else.

The second part of the “Dual Action Cleanse” is the Colon Clear Formula. It, too, is a mixture of various herbs and concoctions that, it is claimed, clean out your colon to make it just as shiny and empty as that of a baby or that of Thomas Parr. Of course, what it appears to be is little more than a standard psyllium-based laxative chock full of woo-ful herbs and thus probably is nothing more than a very expensive version of Metamucil. With that as a background, it’s incredibly funny that TD&TD couldn’t resist a smackdown of a competitor’s product. That product is, even more hilariously, a colon cleans product hawked by a fundamentalist evangelical Christian. That product? Almighty Cleanse. I’m telling you, you can’t make stuff like this up. I always thought that making deceptive claims made baby Jesus cry, but apparently Almighty Cleanse makes Him poop happily and want you to poop happily too.

TD&TD didn’t like it one bit that the hawker of Almighty Cleanse claims that the product can clean out the colons of believers in a mere seven days (cleaning out their wallets takes even less time). Indeed, Infomercial Hell provided a clip that shows the two administering their righteous slapdown, pointing out how Dual Action Cleanse must be much better because it contains over 60 herbs and Almighty Cleanse only contains around 20 and ranting about how ridiculous it is to think that you can clean out “decades of accumulated waste” from your colon in a mere seven days:

Actually, it’s no more ridiculous than thinking that so many diseases are due to the “toxins” released from an “accumulation” of feces in our colons that actually doesn’t happen.

I can’t resist concluding by mentioning that there are few things as entertaining as watching a smackdown between woo peddlers. Personally, I can’t wait for the response from Almighty Cleanse. Will Danny Vierra retort that, the power of God, given that Almighty Cleanse is supposedly based on colon cleansing recipes included in the Bible, compels you to…poop! (Actually, I’ve been unable to find any instructions on how to cleanse one’s colon in the Bible, but I will confess that I haven’t done a truly exhaustive search.) Will he call the wrath of the Almighty down upon TD&TD for having the gall to challenge–nay, and even diss–His Almighty Cleansing Formula? Will Vierra resort to the ultimate insult in this land of the hyper-religious and call TD&TD atheists for challenging His Almighty herbs and laxatives?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Of course, something that would be even more amusing were it not so despicable is that apparently TD&TD have not been good boys. Apparently the Los Angeles Better Business Bureau has received lots of complaints over their business practices. Maybe TD&TD do need a healthy dose of the Wrath of the Almighty to fall down upon them.

And maybe I need to get to bed earlier, even on weeks when I’m not working.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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