Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Mucoid Plaque - a dubious idea

Have you ever expelled something that looked like this?

Well, you haven't, unless you have been using bowel cleansing products. It's called mucoid plaque, and it's only found in users of bowel cleansing products, not in normal people.

More pictures can be found here: Image Gallery

The following blog entry may be confusing to those not familiar with this subject. It isn't an ordinary article, but is a collection of thoughts and references, starting with a post (and my off-list reply) from a bowel cleansing discussion list. I also provide some information about the creator of this dubious idea.

A member of the list posted these extremely simple - but rarely asked - questions:

> Why then do we only see the same set of pictures from
> the same book.....Are ther no other examples of mucoid
> plaque from autopsies etc??
> J****

My (off-list) reply:


J****, you have just expressed a heresy that could get you banned from the group. Maybe you'll become the Martin Luther of bowel cleansing....;-)

A Bogus Diagnosis

"Mucoid plaque" is a bogus "diagnosis" made up by the creator and producer of Arise & Shine, Richard Anderson, ND. What goes in must come out, but the true believers don't accept that explanation. Instead they believe his sales pitch.

The very term "mucoid plaque" is his invention. (That itself is a pretty strong clue to the source of the so-called "problem". He has coined a term for something that **HE** created and found.):

"I coined the term mucoid plaque, meaning a film of mucus, to describe the unhealthy accumulation of abnormal mucous matter on the walls of the intestines. Conventional medicine knows this as a layering of mucin or glycoproteins (made up of 20 amino acids and 50% carbohydrates) which are naturally and appropriately secreted by intestines as protection from acids and toxins."
-- from "What is Mucoid Plaque?", by Richard Anderson

In this short article he uses confidence-building buzz words like "conventional medicine knows", "medical research indicates", and "Evidence indicates". The problem is that this is untrue. Modern medicine and science know nothing of this "problem", since it doesn't exist, except in his world of bowel cleansing.

The spread of his false idea is evident from this search:

We're talking about thousands of sufferers being fooled, and lots of salesmen making millions of dollars, not the least of whom is Anderson himself.

He has created a cleansing product that produces what the product is claimed to cleanse. I'm tempted to call it a brilliant scam, but I'll leave that decision up to the courts, in case (hopefully) he ever gets sued by those who decide to do so. He's earned millions by marketing this false idea, and the spreading of false ideas should be punished.

Here's how this possible scam works:

Sell people a product that creates a condition, then claim that the product is curing the condition, without any proof that the condition was there before taking the product.
(Mucus only becomes "plaque" *after* using his product.)

It's a total package, built around a false idea:

Idea man:
-- Richard Anderson, N.D., N.M.D.
Dubious idea:
-- mucoid plaque
Complete system:
-- "Cleanse Thyself" program.
-- Cleanse and Purify Thyself, books 1 & 2
-- books and literature
Affiliate program:
Discussion lists & forums: (not necessarily started by himself)
-- (company site)
-- (his official personal site)
-- (lots of sites)
-- from clients
-- from clients, sellers, websites and discussion lists
-- back to his books instead of clinical trials and real research

Oddly enough, no one who doesn't take the product has the condition. Food for thought......

It's quite convenient (for him) that "Dr. Anderson seems to be semi-retired and has become inaccessible over the last few years."

One could be tempted to say that he has gone into hiding.....

He's making a killing off of the product, and may well be counting his money on some tropical beach, far from the reach of skeptics, fooled buyers, and lawyers.....;-)

No real professionals in the field of medicine (such as gastroenterologists, pathologists, and medical students) find this stuff during operations, autopsies, or when studying cadavers. In fact, none of them use the term at all, since it is unknown in medical science. Of course Anderson and his salesmen, and those whom they have convinced, claim that all the medical people and all scientists are too dumb to find it. That's a totally off the wall idea. No one with an IQ above 60 would really believe that weird claim.

Here's what he actually says:

Q. Why do doctors say that they do not see any plaque with sigmoidoscope - that goes from top to bottom, i.e. pink intestinal skin. Does a cleanse create plaque?

A. No, a cleanse does not create plaque, it removes it. Doctors do not know what they are looking for when they say they can’t see it.

Now that's quite the claim. What about all the professionals who have read his claims and then searched? They still haven't found any evidence for his claim. This isn't rocket science. The intestines are far from microscopic, and are very easy to examine. His claim is still has false as when he first made it.

Anyone who wants to call him a deceiver is relatively safe. He knows that if he sues them for libel, they are not alone, the matter will become widely publicized, and he will be forced to disclose the workings of his company, his financial holdings, and his lack of evidence. He will also be forced to pay for all costs, as well as losing the case big time. His victims could easily launch a class action lawsuit to recoup their losses.

Why eat clay?

If any of this occurred in the small intestine, there might be a danger of nutrient absorbtion resulting in malnutrition, but my understanding is that this stuff is alleged to be found only, or mainly, in the colon, and so it's beyond the region (small intestine) where absorption of most nutrients takes place. It may not affect absorption enough to cause any problems in that sense, but I still believe that it makes no sense to eat clay, of all things!

If one uses too much, it can become hardened and cause serious problems. Imagine clay filling the colon. Not only could it cause painful constipation, it could also cause the colon to lose its tone, making the use of laxatives and enemas a necessity. That would of course suit many bowel cleansing list members just fine, since they sell the products and/or are colon therapists themselves. This is a big business, so these lists serve as a big sales pitch, creating patients and customers for them.

Many people on bowel cleansing lists are addicted to laxatives, enemas, and other means to cause bowel movements. Some even admit to having eating disorders (which have been converted/transferred to the other end....;-). This fascination with bowel cleansing is actually part of their eating disorder problem, and visitors to these lists can get "infected" with their problem by listening to them and their "advice". They actually get training in how to act like someone with eating disorders, but starting with the other end.

Sensible advice

A healthy colon should be able to take care of things on its own, without outside help, but this constant manipulation of the body's normal processes can interfere with natural functions. Such measures shouldn't be a lifestyle, but only resorted to in very rare medical emergencies. In such cases an enema or cleanse might be a good idea, but it shouldn't be repeated again and again.

This site has excellent advice:

If we treat our digestive system sensibly, it will work just fine. It doesn't normally need to be tampered with.

Be Skeptical

A basic rule of science and logic is that the burden of proof is on the claimant. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. The burden of proof is on Anderson and the sellers of his products.

Since these claims (the existence of mucoid plaque in practically all people, including those who don't use bowel cleansing products) are certainly extraordinary, the producers and marketers of the products must produce this evidence before we should believe them or use their products. They must point us to the experts and scientific literature that testifies to the common finding of this purported substance. Pointing to other naturopaths, chiropractors, colon therapists, and bowel cleansers doesn't count.

We can't use this kind of "proof":

"Well, I have "proof" but it is from my
own personal experience, or expiriment..."
-- jdk****

Believe it or not, this inane statement was actually provided as evidence in the thread under discussion. The quotation marks around the word "proof" are original and an unconscious and involuntarily pathetic admission of the lack of real proof, and a confirmation of the invalidness of personal anecdotes as real proof.

"Anecdotes are useless precisely because they may point to idiosyncratic responses."
Pediatric Allergy/Immunology - a peer-reviewed journal
1999 Nov;10(4) 226-234

Until proven to be otherwise, we must consider mucoid plaque as something that is only found in those who use these bowel cleansing products. If it is ever found in someone other than them, such a person would be an example of the "exception that proves the rule", which is that mucoid plaque is NOT found in all or a majority of people, as claimed by Anderson.

This applies especially to those products containing psyllium and bentonite, which in combination make a soft, rubbery, "cast" of the intestines. Bentonite is normally used in the making of ceramic pottery, which of course starts out by making what amounts to a cast. Then one must fire the pottery in a kiln.

"Bentonite may be added to a clay to improve its workability on the wheel. Bentonite swells and forms a gel when wet, and the presence of a small amount of it in a clay body will greatly increase plasticity. If more than about two percent of bentonite is used, however, the clay may become excessively sticky and be difficult to wedge. Too much bentonite also may cause drying problems."

Some interesting links mentioning bentonite:
Great ground with kitten litter

Skeptics can expect opposition

J****, you can expect to get a lot of opposition, since you are threatening the livlihood of many list members. (Yes, many of the testimonies are poorly disguised sales pitches from sellers who disguise themselves as sufferers. It's a common problem on these discussion lists.)

Your doubts also threaten the cherished beliefs of many users. Their reaction will determine if they are "true seekers" for truth, or are "true believers" who have stopped searching:

True Believer Syndrome:

"The true-believer syndrome merits study by science. What is it that compels a person, past all reason, to believe the unbelievable. How can an otherwise sane individual become so enamored of a fantasy, an imposture, that even after it's exposed in the bright light of day he still clings to it--indeed, clings to it all the harder?"
-- M. Lamar Keene < True Believer Syndrome >

Here is more I have earlier written to someone who questioned me about this subject:

Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. The evidence needs to come from professional medical scientists, not chiropractors ("Dr." Bernard Jensen) or naturopaths (Richard Anderson, ND, NMD). It needs to be in the form of well-documented research and standard medical anatomy and pathology text books. I don't doubt that you have passed this junk from your intestines, but there is most likely another explanation than the one you believe in. The results of cleanses is often determined by the stuff used, for example, psyllium produces lots of mucus-like material, etc. What goes in must come out. Here are a few posts on the subject that pretty much echo my sentiments:

"Mucoid Plaque"
Edward Thuman, M.D.


I am looking for information about something called "mucoid plaque", which is alleged by some health information sources to be a thick mucus-like substance that builds up on the intestinal walls as the body attempts to protect itself from various toxic substances.


This concept is promoted used by some advocates of "detoxification" and "intestinal cleansing." I have seen several thousand intestinal biopsies and have never seen any "mucoid plaque." This is a complete fabrication with no anatomic basis. The small and large intestines normally secrete mucus for lubrication, but it does not form into any type of "plaque."

Dr. Thuman, a practicing pathologist, is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Pathology at the University of Texas School of Medicine.


From: Patrick M (
Subject: Herbal cleanses: beneficial or bunk?
Date: June 10, 2001 at 5:05 pm PST

I usually try to steer clear from supplements but lately I have to admit I'm a bit intrigued by the hype surrounding colon cleansing and have looked into a product line called "Arise and Shine" (a _very expensive_ product line, I might add). This regime has appeared in several books and articles on nutrition I have read, all with very positive reviews. My internal voice tells me that the whole principle behind cleansing seems fishy and that it is actually the herbs that are irritating the bowel and giving a false appearance that they are actually cleaning house. What are some opinions on colon cleansing? Do they do what claim to, are they even necessary, particularly for strict vegetarians? I find it hard to believe that there are vegetarians or even omni's walking around with several pounds of putrid/rancid food cling to their GI mucosa in the form of "mucoid plaque". I've taken undergraduate classes in anatomy and physiology and don't recall any mention of this.


The following is a reply by a chiropractor,, so I'm not using him as an authority, just throwing it in to prove that even some chiropractors can be logical!

From: Dr. Doug Graham (
Subject: Re: Question For Dr Doug/cleansing
Date: March 19, 2001 at 2:37 pm PST

In Reply to: Question For Dr Doug/cleansing posted by anon on March 18, 2001 at 3:09 pm:

If you have any abdominal, digestive, intestinal or colon problems, DO NOT take any cleanses. This can and very likely will aggravate your problem. Irritants, stimulants, and other toxic methods of 'cleansing' only line the pockets of the people who sell them to you. Why would you want to clean out all that is good in your intestines just to possibly eliminate that which is not good? The lining of your intestine is made of the same cells as the lining of your mouth. Do you see the food you have eaten for the last few years building up on the inside lining of your mouth? The whole concept is silly. Eat raw and live healthfully and your insides will know exactly what to do.
Dr. Doug


From: Dr. Doug Graham (
Subject: Re: If the whole concept is Silly, How do you explain this?
Date: March 20, 2001 at 2:45 pm PST

In Reply to: If the whole concept is Silly, How do you explain this?
posted by jaybee on March 20, 2001 at 8:31 am:

The lining of the colon is of the same material as the lining of the mouth and the anus. You don't see a buildup of material on the lining of the mouth or of the anus, do you? Sure, people have waste material in their colon. It is on its way out of the body, and the colon is the route it must take. Teaching people that they don't have to eat raw to have a healthy colon, that all they have to do is take a cleanse of some sort encourages them to continue eating unhealthfully. I have spoken with several colon surgeons all of whom refute the info that was mentioned above. They say that when they cut into the sickest of colons there is no build up on the inside walls. A simple understanding of anatomy will make it clear that this buildup cannot occur as the inside lining of the colon is sloughed off literally every day. What would the debris hold on to when the mucus membrane comes off? The waste material must continue on 'down the chute'. Is there outpocketing in an unhealthy colon? Very likely. Do they twist and otherwise change shape and size? Certainly. Will cleanses remove the cause(s) of these problems? No way. There is no substitute for healthful living,
Dr. D


Here is more information from that supreme source of dubious information, CureZone:

Bowel Cleanse FAQ
170 messages, 14 topics, 10 topics per page, 170 messages per page [average], 1 pages;
Frequently Asked Questions
Bowel Cleanse Homepage
Image Gallery
Forum Archives: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


Here is an article by Anderson: Mucoid Plaque

In the article he reveals his (typical for a naturopath) gross misunderstanding of medical knowledge with this statement:

"The medical terms that most adequately describe mucoid plaque are mucoviscidosis, intestinal mucin, and surface mucin. The medical definition of mucoviscidosis5 describes an advanced condition that, in my opinion, adequately supports my explanations of mucoid plaque."

The reference (5) is to this:

5 Mucoviscidosis or cystic fibrosis: A congenital metabolic disorder, inherited as an autosomal trait, in which secretions of exocrine glands are abnormal; excessively viscid mucus causes obstruction of passageways (including pancreatic and bile ducts, intestines, and bronchi).

He claims that mucoid plaque is cystic fibrosis (or even similar to it)???????

Anderson needs to retire -- YESTERDAY!!

He also presents very questionable information, revealing his real intent, in spite of any disclaimers he might use:

Q. What precautions should be taken while detoxifying and deep cleansing? The person may have a condition of diabetes, multiple sclerosis or lung conditions.

A. People with health problems should work with a qualified practitioner while cleansing. Diabetes, multiple sclerosis and lung conditions are serious conditions. DO NOT TRY TO PLAY DOCTOR! It is a shame that we have to keep saying these things to protect you and ourselves. The truth is there are very few good doctors out there and we only know a few we think we can trust. I have never heard of a medical doctor treating diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or lung problems effectively. I absolutely do not agree with what they do and as far as I am concerned, they should not be doctors. If they were auto mechanics, they would be much more beneficial to their patients. I believe that I know what to do, but I have to be so careful talking about it that I prefer not to. We live in a country that has lost its freedom of speech and freedom to choose regarding who we select to give us medical treatment. The best that I have been able to do is write my theories in Cleanse & Purify Thyself, Book 1. If you really study this, you should be able to pick up everything you need to treat yourself. There is a tremendous amount information there.

First he says not to play doctor, and then he tells people to do just that, using his advice!

I hope this discussion and information will shed some light on this matter.



(This blog entry is based on a revised version of the original off-list email.)


mucoid plaque is so gross!!!