Colon Cleanse: Benefits, Methods, and Side Effects

With more and more people seeking alternative remedies to their health concerns, detoxification and cleanses have become incredibly popular in the last few years. A colon cleanse is just one of the many methods people are using to rid their bodies of harmful toxins and alleviate some of their health conditions. There are a variety of ways you can do a colon cleanse to reap the benefits, but there are also side effects you should be wary of.

What Is a Colon Cleanse?

Also known as a colonic or colonic irrigation, a colon cleanse seeks to flush out toxins from the colon in an attempt to prevent diseases and symptoms associated with a sick colon. In the medical sphere, this is done by pushing water through the colon. A colon cleanse is not uncommon, but is typically reserved as a preparatory process for patients who are going to undergo a colonoscopy.

Proponents of colon cleansing believe that the cleanses are one of the best ways to detoxify your body. Because the colon, which is a part of the body’s large intestine, is in charge of handling food waste, many believe that the colon can be overwhelmed by chemicals and toxins from non-organic, processed foods, as well as environmental pollutants. This, they believe, can lead to unwanted colon issues.

Colon Cleanse Benefits

Advocates of colon cleansing argue that the process, which dates back to 1500 B.C., can be an important prevention method for disease, and is a safer way of treating gastrointestinal issues like constipation. Some of the benefits a colon cleanse is believed to provide are:

  • Help prevent bowel cancer
  • Reduce discomfort from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), chronic constipation, and chronic diarrhea
  • Lower the risk of developing hemorrhoids
  • Reduce gas
  • Better absorption of water and nutrients in the gastrointestinal tract
  • A lighter and more comfortable feeling in the abdomen

Colon Cleanse Methods

A colon cleanse can be conducted several different ways. Some require the assistance of a skilled professional, while others can be done without any tools or instruments.

1. Colonic, Colonic Irrigation, or Colon Hydrotherapy

In this method, a tube is inserted into the rectum to propel fluid into the colon and flush out harmful organisms. The fluid can be made up of water, coffee, or sometimes herbs. This method is much like a deep enema and requires the assistance of a medical professional.

2. Home Enema

Similar to a colonic done at a medical office, a home enema seeks to flush out the colon by inserting liquid in the colon through a tube. Home enemas typically come in a packaged kit and don’t use as much liquid as a professionally-administered colonic.

3. Oxygen Cleanse

In this method, an oxygen-based cleanser is used to clean out the colon. These cleansers are typically made up of different oxygen-based chemicals and come in capsule form. Once these capsules are ingested, a chemical reaction occurs in the body that causes the release of oxygen into the GI tract. The oxygen breaks down stubborn fecal matter in the colon to be expelled from the body.

4. Bentonite Clay

Naturally occurring clays, like bentonite clay, are said to be very beneficial in absorbing toxins and expelling them out of the body. Bentonite clay that can be used internally will be marked such and is often mixed with water for consumption.

5. Diets and Fasting

Some colon cleanses rely on remodification of the diet for a brief period of time to rid the colon of toxins. Detoxifying diet plans can include juice cleanses, fruit-only meal plans, or restrictive regimens that eliminate certain foods from the diet. While these can technically be done without a professional, it is usually best to partake in a dietary cleanse with the help of a dietician or professional nutritional guidance.

6. Fiber Cleanse

Because fiber takes such an active role in the natural functioning of the colon, specifically in stool formation, a high-fiber diet is one of the approaches taken to cleanse the colon. A mix of insoluble and soluble fiber, which are both important for the colon to do its job, is consumed either through a curated collection of foods that deliver this necessary fiber or through supplements sold at health stores.

Colon Cleanse Side Effects

Many doctors and health professionals argue that colon cleansing can actually be detrimental to your health, as the health benefits that are claimed are not based on any substantial evidence. Instead, they argue that colon cleansing can actually worsen, rather than help, conditions like hemorrhoids. They argue that a colon cleanse can also cause infection or damage the colon and rectum.

Some of the negative side effects associated with a colon cleanse include:

  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Electrolyte (salt) imbalances
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Harm to friendly bacteria in the gut
  • Heart problems
  • Dietary deficiencies (in the case of diets and fasting)
  • Increased risk of infection (in the case of nonsterile equipment)
  • Bowel perforations (from inadequately trained use of equipment)
  • Coma or Death

Because performing a colon cleanse can be as detrimental as causing death, which has been the case with some coffee enemas, it’s important that you discuss the cleanse with your doctor first. There are also certain health conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, kidney disease, heart disease, and others that make colon cleanses especially dangerous.


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Born and raised in Southern California, Beeta has embraced a healthy lifestyle focused on farm-to-table cooking, natural products, and wellness routines. When she's not writing up recipes or discussing the latest natural living trends, Beeta enjoys spending time trying new restaurants, traveling with family and friends, and relaxing at home with her furry companion.