What is the colon? Do I need a colon cleanse?
Digestive health is integral to feeling happy, healthy, and well.
One important organ in the digestive system is the colon, also called the large intestine. Colon health is a significant part of digestive health.
Some people claim the colon should be cleansed for optimal digestive wellness. However, research proving the effectiveness of cleanses is scant and low in quality.
Still, certain aspects of colon cleansing may be beneficial. It may help issues such as constipation or irregular bowel movements, and there is some evidence that they can also reduce colon cancer risk.
Other colon cleanse claims, such as removal of toxins and parasites, are questionable.
There are a few ways to colon cleanse. You can purchase a colon-cleansing product, or you can even get a colonic irrigation or enema.
Otherwise, you can do simple things to boost or “cleanse” colon health naturally at home.
The following natural colon cleanses can be done cheaply, and they’re also quite safe if done correctly.
Reminder: You don’t need to do colon cleanses every day or even every so often to be healthy, though they may have health benefits when done sporadically.
Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated is a great way to regulate digestion. People who support a water flush for colon cleansing recommend drinking six to eight glasses of lukewarm water per day.
Also try eating plenty of foods high in water content. This includes fruits and vegetables like watermelons, tomatoes, lettuce, and celery.
In fact, there are lots of foods that help cleanse the colon naturally through diet.
You can also try a saltwater flush. This is especially recommended for people experiencing constipation and irregularity.
A 2010 study showed saltwater could possibly clear the colon when paired with certain yoga poses.
Before eating in the morning, mix 2 teaspoons salt with lukewarm water. Sea salt or Himalayan salt is recommended.
Drink water quickly on an empty stomach, and in a few minutes, you’ll probably feel an urge to go to the bathroom.
Do this in the morning and in the evening, and make sure to stay home near the bathroom for a while after the cleanse. You may need to go to the bathroom multiple times.
Fiber is an essential macronutrient often overlooked in the diet. It’s found in whole, healthy plant foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and more.
Plants contain cellulose and fibers that help “bulk” up excess matter in the colon. They also regulate constipation and overactive bowels, while boosting helpful bacteria as a prebiotic.
Make sure to eat plenty of high-fiber foods, which help a healthy colon. They can also be great for gut bacteria, too.
Juices and smoothies
Juices are popular colon cleansers. These include fruit and vegetable juice fasts and cleanses, like master cleanses.
There isn’t enough research on these for the colon, however. In fact, some research points out risks.
Even so, moderate intake of juices and juicing can be good for you. Juice blends contain some fiber and nutrients that benefit digestion. They also hold water to help hydrate and keep up regularity.
What’s more, a study in 2015 found that vitamin C may help cleanse the colon. Vitamin C is found in lots of fruits and vegetables added to juice blends.
Popular juices in juice fasts and cleanses include apple juice, lemon juice, and vegetable juices. However, some dietitians may recommend smoothies over juices for colon and overall health.
Since pulp and skins are removed when juicing, juices contain less fiber. Fiber is great for the colon, and smoothies hold a lot more fiber.
You don’t need to fast and drink only juices and smoothies to get any benefit. Just try including more in your diet, such as with a daily juice or smoothie.
More resistant starches
Resistant starches are similar to fiber. They’re also found in plant foods like potatoes, rice, legumes, green bananas, and grains.
These promote a healthy colon by boosting gut microflora. A 2013 review on resistant starches also found they reduce colon cancer risk.
There is a downside, though. Resistant starches are found in carbohydrates. Still, low-carb dieters can choose options that cause fewer blood sugar spikes. These include rice and waxy potatoes.
Including these in the diet, like fiber, can be great for cleansing the colon.
Adding probiotics to the diet is another way to cleanse the colon. This also boosts overall health in many other ways.
You can get more probiotics by taking probiotic supplements. Also, eat lots of probiotic-rich foods, like yogurt, kimchi, pickles, and other fermented foods.
Probiotics introduce good bacteria to the gut with the help of fiber and resistant starches. These curb inflammation and promote regularity — two elements of digestive health related to the colon.
Apple cider vinegar is also considered probiotic and is included in colon cleanses. The enzymes and acids that apple cider vinegar contains supposedly suppress bad bacteria. Currently, there are no studies on this.
Trying some herbal teas may assist digestive health via the colon.
Laxative herbs like psyllium, aloe vera, marshmallow root, and slippery elm may help with constipation. Make sure to talk to your doctor and follow directions closely before using these herbs. Also use them sparingly; otherwise, they can be harmful.
Other herbs like ginger, garlic, and cayenne pepper contain antimicrobial phytochemicals. These are thought to suppress bad bacteria. For this reason, they’re included in lots of cleanses, though studies are needed.
Try a cup of one of these herbal teas up to three times a day. Only drink tea once per day for laxative herbal teas.
Interested in one of the above natural colon cleanses? Doing one in a gentle fashion at home is usually safe.
Combining these with fasting, or increasing the frequency of their use, can have risks. If you have high blood pressure and must keep your sodium intake low, avoid saltwater flushes.
Side effects of intense cleanses include:
- electrolyte imbalances
If any of these symptoms occur, stop your cleanse immediately and see your doctor. These symptoms have the risk of leading to heart failure and digestive damage if the cleanse is continued. An enema or colon cleanse used occasionally poses little risk for a healthy individual. But overuse can quickly lead to chronic constipation or even bowel injury.
Also talk to your doctor before making major changes to your diet for colon health. This includes eating significantly more fiber, resistant starches, juices, and smoothies.
Make sure to also be careful when using herbal teas for a colon cleanse. Some herbs can impede or affect certain medications. Laxative herbs can also be harmful if overdone. Overuse of laxatives reduces the body’s ability to move stool and can result in chronic constipation.
If you have a chronic illness, talk to your doctor before doing a natural colon cleanse at home. Colon cleanses aren’t right for everybody.