Are Colon Cleanses Good for Gut Health? Potential Dangers & Benefits

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Colon cleanses may be good for your gut health by helping with constipation, preparing for a successful colonoscopy, and clearing out toxins. However, scientific evidence doesn’t support many of colon cleansing’s purported benefits.

Repeated or unnecessary colon cleanses may actually be damaging to your colon health and IBS symptoms. There are safer, more effective treatment methods for gut health problems.

Talk to your doctor about the best way to support your gut health, such as probiotics and lifestyle and dietary changes.

What Is a Colon Cleanse?

Generally speaking, a colon cleanse is when waste and toxins are removed from your large intestine. The most common cleanse is colon hydrotherapy, which uses water to flush out your colon, but there are also herbal preparations with purported health benefits.

100 years ago, colon cleansing gained a lot of popularity for general well-being. Since then, more reliable wellness techniques have arisen.

A colon cleanse usually refers to one of 3 things:

  • Colonic irrigation — To prepare for a colonoscopy, a doctor-supervised colon cleanse may be necessary by irrigating your colon with water. In rare cases, colonic irrigation may be administered to help with constipation. This type of colon cleansing, also known as a “colonic,” is offered at some wellness centers.
  • Supplement-based colon cleansing — Certain supplements may help you increase the frequency of your bowel movements. Herbal preparations may directly flush toxins and fecal waste out of your colon, which is a more natural colon cleanse.
  • Gut cleanse diet — You can make dietary changes to naturally clear out your bowels. High fiber consumption, for instance, can improve constipation and cleanse your colon of dangerous toxins and excess waste.

What is the fastest way to flush your colon?

The fastest ways to flush your colon are colon irrigation, an enema, or laxatives.

What comes out during a colon cleanse?

Toxins and waste come out of your rectum during a colon cleanse. In one study of healthy volunteers, an average of 2.65 pounds of waste (1.2 kg) was excreted during colonic irrigation.

How much does a colon cleanse cost?

The cost of an elective colon hydrotherapy treatment is about $100. The cost of a colon cleanse before a colonoscopy is around $55-$95 but depends greatly on your location and insurance coverage.

Does insurance cover colon cleansing?

Most insurance carriers cover colon cleansing as part of a prescribed colonoscopy procedure. Elective colon hydrotherapy is generally not covered by insurance, but rare exceptions can be made in the case of a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider.

Benefits of a Colon Cleanse

What are the benefits of colon cleansing? The benefits of supervised colon cleanses may include:

Detoxification is a vague term that’s hard to measure, but certain individuals may need to clear out their colon to get rid of specific toxins, such as heavy metals or pathogens.

Colon cleanses are not recommended for weight loss, allergy relief, or regular detox. The FDA does not regulate colon cleanses, so they don’t recommend them for treating any disease.

How often should a person do a colon cleanse? Due to the dangers of repeated cleanses, avoid getting colon cleanses more than 1-2 times a year. On the other hand, multiple smaller-dose colon cleanses may be safer and more effective than large-dose hydrotherapies.

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Dangers of Unnecessary Colon Cleansing

It is not dangerous to have a colon cleanse right before a colonoscopy screening. However, there are dangers to unnecessary colon cleanses, especially on a frequent basis or for any procedure not overseen by your healthcare provider.

Side effects of colon cleanses may include:

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Infection
  • Inflammation in the colon or large intestine
  • Dysregulation of normal colon function
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Dehydration

In rare cases, a colon cleanse can result in these dangers:

  • Colon perforation
  • Sepsis
  • Fluid imbalance — particularly dangerous if you’re on dialysis
  • Heart disease
  • Chronic constipation

Avoid trying fad colon cleanses that instruct you to take pharmaceutical laxatives or enemas, or that make broad promises about “miracle” benefits. These are red flags of a potentially dangerous product or advice that’s more likely to cause side effects than offer any health benefits.

What to Expect During a Colon Cleanse

Most colon hydrotherapy sessions are pretty similar. Here are the steps you can expect during a colon cleanse session:

  • You lie on the treatment table.
  • The colon hydrotherapist gently inserts a tube into the rectum.
  • Warm water is pushed through the tube to flush the colon of waste buildup.
  • The hydrotherapist may send repeated streams of warm water into the colon.
  • The water and waste escape the colon through the tube.

Integrative hydrotherapists may massage the abdomen to facilitate movement of waste through the colon, as long as you agree beforehand.

Incorporating yoga into a saline colon cleanse seems to improve colonoscopy outcomes.

If you are going through an herbal cleanse instead of just hydrotherapy, the process is similar, but the warm water will be infused with enzymes, supplements, or other colon cleansing products.

How to Naturally Keep Your Colon Clean

Here are a few ways to naturally maintain a healthy, clean colon:

  • Eat more fiber. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables should provide enough fiber. Fiber supplements are also an option.
  • Supplement probiotics. You can get probiotics (beneficial bacteria) through diet or supplementation. Probiotics are good for your gut microbiome.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water, and keep those electrolytes high. Among other benefits, hydration ensures your bowels can function properly.
  • Try a saltwater flush. Drinking lukewarm water with 2 teaspoons of salt (usually sea salt or Himalayan salt) on an empty stomach first thing in the morning or right before bed might make you need to go to the bathroom. There’s limited scientific evidence for the benefits of a saltwater flush, but proponents claim it “works for them.”
  • Reduce potential toxins. Limit red meat and added sugar. Avoid tobacco and alcohol. For certain individuals, these toxins may build up in the large intestine — particularly in cases of constipation and leaky gut.
  • Try natural laxatives. Prunes, psyllium, aloe vera, senna herbal tea, and even leafy greens can act as all-natural laxative agents.
  • Visit a gut health expert. Integrative and holistic doctors tend to focus more on gut health management. PrimeHealth clinicians have helped hundreds of patients like you take control of their gut health.
  • Reduce stress. Chronic stress contributes to a long list of diseases, including gut dysbiosis, leaky gut, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Avoid stress to prevent health problems.

Who should get a colon cleanse?

The only people who should get a colon cleanse are those who have talked with their healthcare provider about the medical procedure.

If you’re about to get a colonoscopy, your doctor may supervise a colon cleanse to allow for a safe, effective colon and rectum exam.

You should not get a colon cleanse if…

  • …you have heart disease.
  • …you have kidney problems.
  • …you’re on dialysis.
  • …you have inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis).
  • …you went through a prior colon surgery.
  • …your digestive tract is structurally abnormal.

Is a colon cleanse the same thing as an enema?

No, a colon cleanse is not the same as an enema, although both may be dangerous to your gastrointestinal and digestive health. In many cases, colon cleanses are extra-powerful enemas.

Coffee enemas are popular colon cleansers. Proponents claim they boost your liver function, rectal health, and immune system. However, scientific evidence is similarly sparse for an enema’s benefits.

Better Gut Health = Better Overall Health

Most everybody could benefit from better gut health, but a colon cleanse is probably not the panacea you’re looking for. Although a cleanse may help with constipation or detoxification, unnecessary colon cleanses can cause dehydration, infection, and even bowel perforation.

Our experts have helped hundreds of people like you with their gut health. We craft a personalized treatment plan that works for your unique situation, including lifestyle changes, supplements, and group visits. Schedule an appointment with PrimeHealth in Denver, Colorado.


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