Have you ever tried a colon cleanse? It was a pretty big fad for many years in modern times but became less popular as time went on due to lack of scientific support. Right now, many are in the dark about whether or not this practice is beneficial to the body at all.
The colon is essentially a part of the large intestine. The large intestine as a whole is responsible for water and fluid absorption through food products that pass through it. The colon both reabsorbs them and helps the body to process waste so that waste material can be expelled from the body when you go to the bathroom.
Since the colon performs such an important function, it makes sense that it needs some rejuvenation every now and then. But is this something you really need to do? Is it as important as some make it out to be? Or is it as dangerous as how some make it out to be? Here’s how science explains what happens to your body when you try a colon cleanse.
Science Explains What Happens To Your Body During A Colon Cleanse
1. What Is Colon Cleansing?
A colon cleanse is something done in order to rid the large intestine of toxins. Essentially, the colon is flushed out with fluids in such a way that excess waste is removed from its contents. It’s an age-old practice that has been around for centuries, and it became popular in America during the 1920s.
Originally, colon cleansing was a strictly medical procedure, typically performed before a procedure that has something to do with the rectum – such as a colonoscopy. However, since then, some medical professionals have begun offering procedures like this for cleansing purposes, or for detoxification.
Medical colon cleansing, done by professionals, involves a large amount of water being passed through the anus and into the intestines. Essentially, it is like an enema, but with a lot more liquid, often adding up to a whopping 60 gallons. But this isn’t the kind of colon cleansing we’re referring to.
Natural colon cleansing is a completely different story. It involves ways that you can consume liquids, foods, or components that will flush the toxins out of your colon. It is believed to have some positive effects on the digestive system, making it healthier and stronger while removing potentially dangerous materials clogging it up.
2. How Does Colon Cleansing Work?
The idea behind a colon cleanse lies in a very old belief. This theory is known as the theory of autointoxication. Essentially, this belief involves the idea that food that goes undigested can lead to a buildup of mucus within the colon. Thus, toxins start to collect in the body, and some manage to make their way into the bloodstream. This results in symptoms such as:
- Weight gain
- Lack of energy
- Exhaustion or fatigue
- Decreased positive thinking
Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of scientific research regarding the legitimacy of these claims. Some studies have stated that colon cleansing has some benefits, while others have stated they don’t do much. More research is needed before this theory can be proven for good.
3. Is Colon Cleansing Safe?
Most main concerns regarding colon cleansing have to do with safety. It’s a good concern to have, and very important to keep in mind as there is a lot of incorrect information out there about this practice.
Simply put, there are many risks to a traditional colon cleanse – the kind involving irrigation and what is essentially a large-scale enema. These risks include:
- Imbalance of bacteria
- Perforation of bowels
- Imbalance of electrolytes
Some pharmacies and stores sell self-irrigation kits, but keep in mind that these are much more risky to use than natural methods and we do not recommend using them. If you plan to go for professional colon cleansing, you should discuss it with your doctor first.
What about natural colon cleansing? Is it nearly as dangerous? Not at all. Natural methods of colon cleansing, if done alone, are harmless for most people. However, if you combine them with other methods, such as fasting, or if you do them too often, risks may arise. If you have a pre-existing health condition, speak to a doctor before attempting them.
Some side effects you may experience are:
- Imbalance of minerals
4. How Can You Try A Colon Cleanse Naturally?
There are lots of ways to perform colon cleanses. Here are many of the natural ways to do so.
The easiest and most common kind of natural colon cleanse is with water. Being properly hydrated has countless positive effects on the body, after all. All you have to do to perform this cleanse is drink between six and eight glasses of water daily – lukewarm temperatures work best.
You can also continue this water flush by eating foods that have a lot of water in them. High water content foods include celery, watermelon, lettuce, tomatoes, and many other kinds of vegetables and fruits.
b) Smoothies and/or Juices
You’ve probably heard plenty of things about juice cleanses, and smoothie cleanses too. These “fasts” aren’t particularly research-supported, and some have found there can be risks to using them to cleanse your colon.
With that being said, there is some evidence that shows that drinking smoothies or juice in moderation can be good for you. In fact, studies show that vitamin C may have positive effects on the colon, effectively cleansing it – and fruits and veggies have loads of that nutrient.
Smoothies are a better option than juices as they typically contain more fiber from skins and pulp, so opt for those for best results. Also, note that you do not need to do a smoothie or juice “fast” in order for this to work – just up your intake.
c) Herbal Teas
Herbal teas are well known for their fantastic benefits for the colon, and for the digestive system overall. There is a wide variety that you can try, but remember to exercise caution.
Here are some herbs with laxative effects that can help cleanse the colon by flushing it. For best results, drink only one cup of these herbal teas daily. (Do note you must speak to a doctor before using them and must never exceed suggested doses.)
- Marshmallow root
- Slippery elm
- Aloe vera
Here are some herbs that have antimicrobial phytochemicals in them, which are able to fend off bad bacteria to cleanse the colon. For best results, drink a cup of these herbal teas daily, for up to three cups a day.
- Cayenne pepper
d) High Fiber Foods and Drinks
Fiber is necessary to help reduce clogging in the intestines. They work by bulking waste up so it is easy to expel, and they’re great for preventing constipation. This macronutrient also has plenty of good bacteria boosting abilities, so eating fiber is just good for colon health in general, even when you’re not on a cleanse.
Fiber is fairly abundant in lots of foods, especially nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables, grains, and other plant-based foods.
e) Resistant Starch
These components function similarly to fiber. Resistant starches boost the number of good microflora in the digestive system, and research has discovered that it can greatly mitigate the risk of developing colon cancer. So it’s no surprise resistant starch is a great idea for your body when you try a colon cleanse!
You can find resistant starch in a lot of plant-based foods. Rice, grains, potatoes, legumes, and even green bananas have plenty of them. Do note, though, that too much resistant starch can increase blood glucose levels, so eat them in moderation.
Drinking salt water isn’t a great option for people with high blood pressure or bad heart health. But for a colon cleanse, it’s a great idea – especially if you’re also doing some yoga!
Saltwater flushes are also good for those who deal with constipation, and it’s fairly simple to do. First thing every morning, before you eat, get some lukewarm water and mix in two teaspoons of salt. Drink it quickly, then wait for a short while. You will feel the urge to use the bathroom.
Do this twice every day, first thing in the morning and shortly before bed. Do note that you may need to use the bathroom a number of times after this. Don’t stray too far from a toilet in the meantime!
What salt should you use? Your best bets lie in Himalayan salt and sea salt, but in a pinch, you can try other options, too.
Probiotics have many positive benefits on health, but gut health especially. They are packed full of good bacteria and are great for reducing inflammation while regulating bowel movements.
You can take probiotic supplements if you desire, but there are plenty of natural ways to get probiotics, too. Fermented foods are rich in them. Some great options are pickles, yogurt, apple cider, and even kimchi.
5. What Are The Effects Of A Colon Cleanse?
A colon cleanse may have varying effects depending on what types you go for. However, these are the possible benefits that you may enjoy.