What Does a Colon Cleanse Do?


The Basics

The colon is another word for the bottom portion of the large intestine leading to the rectum. By the time food reaches the large intestine, the stomach and small intestines have already digested it. The colon stores waste, absorbs water and helps maintain a healthy electrolyte and water balance.

Proponents of colon cleanses believe that many common ailments—such as acne or constipation—can be traced back to toxins in the colon. They argue that poor diet, poor lifestyle choices and environmental pollutants all lead to toxic buildup in the colon. Because the colon must be functioning properly for the liver to function properly, and because the liver must function properly for the kidneys to function properly, the colon can be implicated in setting off a “chain reaction” that affects the health of the whole body. Cleansing the colon of these toxins reportedly leads to better overall health.

How It's Done

Fasting is sometimes recommended for a day or so prior to cleansing, but it’s not necessary. Those who fast should continue to take in water and salt and/or fresh fruit and vegetable juices. Cleansers should discontinue all medications that are not necessary and stop consuming “junk food,” identified as caffeine, chocolate, sweets and processed foods. Once the cleanse has begun, individuals drink psyllium husk powder and activated charcoal mixed in water throughout the regimen, which often lasts two to four weeks. Cleansers should drink lots of water and/or fresh fruit or vegetable juice, as cleanses dehydrate the body. At the end of the day, an enema is recommended to prevent toxins that have not been completely eliminated from entering the body again. Alternately, one may use a saltwater flush, which entails drinking two quarts of salt water first thing in the morning. For a simpler cleanse, commercial products such as Colonix are available.

Do Colon Cleanses Work?

Little scientific evidence exists to support or refute claims about the benefits of colon cleanses. However, Dr. Michael Picco of the Mayo Clinic suggests that, while colon cleanses may be beneficial before medical procedures, they are not necessary for routine detoxification. He claims that the colon already adequately detoxifies itself naturally. In addition, colon cleanses may be dangerous for some individuals, including those with kidney or heart disease. If you’re considering doing a colon cleanse, first discuss its implications for your health with your doctor.

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