When my daughter hears the words “fart” or “poop” she will explode into uncontrolled laughter, which is the number one (or number two) reason why her twin brother sprinkles his jokes with these words. He long ago learned that in his sister he had a ready audience. Since I am not a sixth grader, I do not find colon-referenced jokes to be particularly funny, although my daughter's laugh is infectious.

We need a gut filled with good bacteria for our overall health and gas production and evacuation is just part of it. No joke.

Colon health, what do you know? T or F?

1. Colon bacteria assist in immune health.

2. About 125 types of bacteria inhabit the colon.

3. Probiotics are proven to aid colon health.

The colon, about 5 feet long, absorbs fluid and stores and moves waste down the path to daylight. Through the action of bacteria, it also absorbs vitamins, electrolytes and nutrients. The colon houses billions of bacteria that generally co-exist in a delicate balance. This forms the gut flora. Some “good” bacteria such as Lactobacillus, can have anti-inflammatory effects and other bacteria are thought to enhance immunity and protect against diabetes and other diseases. When balance is disrupted we can suffer with pain, cramping, bloating, bleeding and diarrhea. Viruses, foods (safe or contaminated), antibiotics and some diseases can alter this balance.

Probiotics are microorganisms, usually bacteria, that are the same or very similar to those found naturally in the gut. Some use probiotics with the intent of helping good bacteria proliferate. They can be found in foods such as yogurt and sauerkraut and in manufactured dietary products such as tablets, creams, suppositories. Pasteurization is a high heat process that kills bacteria, i.e. probiotics. If you seek foods containing probiotics like yogurt, make sure the label states, “live and active” cultures.

There are many claims that probiotics enhance health and prevent cancer but the FDA has not endorsed any of them. Some recent studies indicate that up to 6O percent of products do not contain the amounts of probiotics listed on the label. For more information about the probiotic products that you use access consumerlabs.com.

A friend of mine asked me the other day what I thought about “colonics.” She went for a massage and it was suggested she consider “cleansing” her gut by undergoing a process that would evacuate the colon of “toxins.” She has no history of colon disorder. I said, “Why on earth would you pay someone to give you stuff to make you have diarrhea?!” “What toxins do you have?” Silence.

There is no scientific evidence to support “cleansing “ of the colon, which can adversely affect the harmony of normal gut flora and lead to dehydration and electrolyte loss. This falls into that life category of just-because-you-can-doesn't-mean-you-should.

In 2010, a colon-cleansing product Colopure, was removed from the market due to deceptive advertising claims that it prevented colon cancer. Yes, Virginia, there may be a Santa Claus but there are no “colonics” that prevent colon cancer.

Diet certainly affects the gut flora. Bacteria graze on nutrients stored in fiber. Refined carbohydrate products such as white pasta and flour are a treat for the sugar-loving bacteria that proliferate and produce excessive gas causing bloating and well, you know.

When our hard-working colonic bacteria are breaking down fiber, providing our cells with nutrients, aiding our immune system and enhancing digestion we really shouldn't be making fart and poop jokes. It seems unappreciative. I think I hear my daughter's effervescent laugh.

Answer 1. T; 2. F; 3. F;

Dr. Lori Boyajian-O’Neill can be contacted at lori.boyajian-oneill@hcahealthcare.com.