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The Great Truth About Colon Cleanses (pros and cons to know)

Colon cleanses are purported to clean out the buildup of waste and toxins that get trapped in your digestive tract. Over time, it is common for this type of buildup to occur. And like a pipe in your house, it could be harmful to your overall health. While cleansing and detoxification are an important part of maintaining optimum health, there is plenty of information on the internet today that claims colon cleansing is unsafe – even in the most natural of forms.

So, what’s the real deal? Is colon cleansing good or bad? Well … it’s not quite that black and white, so let’s first take a look at why most people consider colon cleanses in the first place.

People who are overweight or obese also tend to follow what’s known as the Standard American Diet, or SAD. This includes almost exclusively highly-refined carbohydrates, processed snacks, and fast food – all foods that are almost completely void of nutrition. They also typically contain loads of added sugars, artificial ingredients, and other known toxins. Because of the low quality of the Standard American Diet, many people (even those who are not overweight) may benefit from a regular colon cleansing therapy.

According to recent research, the Standard American Diet has been linked to these health problems:

  • Excess weight gain
  • Lower back pain
  • Difficulty passing stool
  • Inflamed bowels
  • Loss of proper blood vessel function
  • Dangerous levels of free radical molecules and oxidation
  • More absorption of endotoxins
  • Higher levels of “bad” cholesterol
  • Thicker carotid arteries
  • Muscle loss
  • Acne and other skin problems
  • Loss of proper kidney function
  • Toxins in breast milk1

The obesity epidemic affects nearly 1.9 billion adults, and 41 million children under the age of 5.2 This staggering statistic is not exclusive to the United States, as the fact itself comes from the World Health Organization. This makes it even more alarming, especially when you consider that the SAD isn’t fully to blame. Again, though, colon cleansing may help clear many of these toxins out of your system.

Getting to Know Your Colon

The colon, or large intestine, is a complex part of your digestive system that makes up the final piece of your GI tract. Responsible for the formation and elimination of metabolic waste, the colon contains billions of living (and dying) microbacteria. Paleolithic humans didn’t experience the myriad of health issues with the colon that we face today. Ranging from chronic inflammation, all the way to colon bleeding, and even intestinal leakage, the development of processed foods can really impact gut bacteria diversity. However, colon cleansing may help.

Benefits of Colon Cleanses

1. Regular Digestion.

Many digestive problems can stem from a buildup of waste and toxins in the intestinal tract. Colon cleanses may be able to create more space in the large intestine. This can significantly increase the flow of waste and debris through the GI tract, ultimately reducing bowel transit time. Colon cleansing may also have a profound impact on the efficiency of your digestive system, improving regularity and easing any difficulty passing stool.

2. Improved Nutrient Absorption.

The cleaner your colon is, the more clear your intestinal walls become. In doing that, your digestive system becomes better able to absorb critical vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and other nutrients. This makes getting those nutrients into your bloodstream easier, so they can be delivered to all body systems.

3. Overall Health & Vitality.

Once your digestive system has been cleansed, you may also notice higher energy levels. This is partially due to the fact that there is simply less lingering waste in your GI tract, so you feel lighter. However, it is also due to the amount of nutrients that are being absorbed into your body – more than before. Thus, doing a regular colon cleanse may help to boost your feelings of overall health and vitality.

Maintaining a healthy diet and a regular colon cleansing schedule also helps to regulate your body’s enzymatic activity, which impacts the way the rest of your body’s systems communicate. For this reason, common aches and pains like headaches and fatigue are often greatly reduced after colon cleansing.

Now that you have been introduced to your long, lovely digestive system, here are…

7 Ways That Help Cleanse Your Colon

1. Natural Fiber.

Many people who follow the Standard American Diet are deficient in fiber. This essential nutrient is needed to keep the digestive system regular, and it also aids in speeding up transit time for bowel movements. For this reason, fiber makes a great natural colon cleanser.

You can purchase fiber as a dietary supplement in pill or capsule form. Additionally, fibrous bulking agents such as psyllium husk powder, made from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant’s seeds, are available. These bulking agents are known to increase the density and size of stools, resulting in less painful bowel movements. Alternatively, you may want to consume more of these high-fiber foods: peas, lentils, black beans, lima beans, artichokes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, flax, and chia seeds.

People who do not want to go to extremes by visiting a professional colon hydrotherapist may prefer fiber as an at-home option for colon cleanses. With no long-term risks involved, increasing your fiber intake is a nutritious, sustainable way to cleanse your colon.

2. Over-the-Counter Medication (OTC).

There are many different types of OTC medications that make effective colon cleansers. Laxatives are one of the most popular, as they work to bring more fluid into the intestines to move waste and lingering toxic matter out of your body faster. There are also small medicine-filled packs known as suppositories which have the same effect. Often fortified with bisacodyl, or glycerin, these stimulant laxatives dissolve in the colon to help ease backed-up bowels.

Alternatively, you can opt for an OTC stool softener. These work in a different way to help ease digestive problems with the colon. These medications actually soften the stool, so it can pass through your GI tract more easily. This may make OTC stool softeners helpful for use along with an OTC laxative.

While you can obtain laxative medications without a prescription, they are still very powerful substances able to hinder your body’s natural digestive process, and they can be habit forming, too. So, always use them with caution.

3. Probiotics.

Did you know that there are an estimated 100 trillion microbacteria living in your gastrointestinal tract?3 And some of those bacteria are not-so-friendly. That’s why probiotic bacteria (the friendly kind of gut bugs) are so important. When added into the digestive system in large amounts, probiotics are known to aid the digestive process, which ultimately assists in colon cleansing.

You can purchase probiotics as a supplement in pill, capsule, or powder form to be taken with water. Alternatively, you may want to add more of these probiotic foods to your diet: yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, dark chocolate, microalgae, miso soup, pickles, and tempeh.

4. Juice Fasting.

Flooding the body with nutrients is a great way to boost your overall health, and it’s also an effective way to do a colon cleanse. In order to get the amounts necessary for a full cleanse, you’ll need to get a high-quality juicer, because today, most of the bottled juices on grocery store shelves are highly processed – meaning that they are almost completely void of nutrients.

Making juice fresh at home allows you to gain all of the cleansing benefits provided by nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, including the fibrous pulp, while simultaneously cutting off the body’s supply of solid food. This is an extremely effective way to shed large amounts of dried up metabolic waste matter that could be lingering in your colon. A juice fast can last for just 24 hours, or up to three days.

5. Water Flushing.

Also known as intermittent fasting, water flushing is one way to give your hard-working digestive system a break. This method should only be performed under the care of your doctor, as this type of fast is one that eliminates solid food as well as liquid nutrients from your diet. With that being said, a water flush is still one of the quickest colon cleanses to do at home.

There are a few ways to do intermittent fasting or water flushing. Here are three examples:

  • The 16/8 Method. This method includes skipping the first meal of the day, and then restricting your intake of foods, and nutrients to only eight hours of your day.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat. This method includes a 24-hour fasting period, 1-2 times a week, then regular eating for the rest of the week.
  • The 5:2 Diet. This is a method that includes fasting on two non-consecutive days of the week. Then, on the days that you do eat whole foods, only eating 500-600 calories a day.

Note: When you are water flushing (fasting), you only drink water. So, consult your healthcare provider before starting an intermittent fast, as it could be dangerous if you have prior health concerns.

6. Magnesium Citrate.

This vital nutrient is an abundant mineral that is needed for many functions in the body, including balanced blood pressure, strong bones, and a steady heart rhythm. However, there are many different types of magnesium, including magnesium citrate. This form can be found in pill, capsule, and liquid varieties for use in colon cleansing. Derived from the magnesium salt of citric acid, this type of colon cleanser has a high level of bioavailability to help induce a bowel movement. As one of the most popular and effective low-cost ways to do colon cleanses, magnesium citrate has also been used for cleansing of the kidneys as well.

Studies have shown that a single dose of magnesium citrate is an effective way to eliminate waste from the bowels.4

7. Colon Hydrotherapy.

Perhaps the most comprehensive way to do colon cleanses is at the colonic therapists’ office. There, you can get a clean colon in the hands of a licensed professional. While lying on your back, calm and relaxed, the hydrotherapist will insert a tube rectally that will be filled up with probiotic-rich water. Once the colon is full, the water is briskly removed from the body, taking any waste matter from the colon walls with it. The 45-minute session allows patients to see the waste being removed from the colon through a clear tube, which isn’t for everyone. So, be prepared if you are interested in this colon cleansing technique.

If done correctly, colon cleansing can significantly increase your body’s health, and feeling of vitality – not to mention digestive force. However, choosing the right way to do colon cleanses for your body is perhaps the most important step to take towards better colon health. So, try any of these seven ways to cleanse your colon, and always be sure to trust your gut. That way, you can get the approach to digestive health that works best for you.

And remember: If you are considering colon cleansing, always check with your doctor to ensure that the technique you choose will work safely for your needs.

1. Standard American Diet.
2. Obesity and Overweight. World Health Organization. Fact Sheet. June 2016.
3. Luke K Ursell, Jessica L Metcalf. Defining the Human Microbiome. Nutr Rev. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2013 Feb 1.
4. Yong Sung Choi, Jung Pil Suh. Magnesium citrate with a single dose of sodium phosphate for colonoscopy bowel preparation. World J Gastroenterol. 2011 Jan 14; 17(2): 242–248.