Colon Cleanse: History, Regulation, Benefits, Efficacy, Risks, Different Types and Tips

Oral cleansing regimens use dietary fiber, herbs, supplements, or laxatives.

Colon cleansing (also known as colon therapy ) encompasses a number of alternative medical therapies that claim to remove nonspecific toxins from the colon and intestinal tract by removing any accumulation of stool. Colon cleansing can be marked colon hydrotherapy or colonic irrigation.

Colon cleansing can be done in a medical setting or at home. A professional colon cleanse is often done before a colonoscopy .

A colonoscopy is a medical procedure performed by your doctor to examine your colon and rectum, particularly for cancer. Professional colon cleansing is also done for constipation , abdominal discomfort , or for general well-being.

Some forms of colon hydrotherapy use tubes to inject water, the water is moved through the colon, cleaning up any excess waste, sometimes the water is mixed with herbs or other liquids, into the colon through the rectum with equipment special.

An enema is a colon cleansing procedure that can be done at home or in a doctor’s office. Enemas also involve the insertion of water or saline solution through the rectum.

The difference between an enema and a colonic is that less water is used. Enema kits are available without a prescription at most drug stores. Supplements are another way to cleanse your colon at home.

These can be taken orally as a pill, powder, in tea, or anally as a suppository. Common ingredients for colon cleansing supplements include psyllium husk, bentonite clay, flax seeds, cascara sagrada, and pinworm seed.

Colon cleansers believe that accumulations of putrefying stool line the walls of the large intestine and that these accumulations harbor parasites or pathogenic intestinal flora, causing nonspecific symptoms and general poor health.

Frequent colon cleansing can lead to dependence on enemas for defecation, and some herbs may reduce the effectiveness or increase the risks associated with the use of prescription medications.

Increasingly, there are colon cleansing “centers” that are not necessarily part of a hospital or doctor’s office, but offer the service simply to help eliminate waste.


The concept of “self-intoxication,” the idea that food enters the intestine and spoils, provides a foundation for colon cleansing. The ancient Greeks adopted and expanded the idea, applying their belief in the four humors.

In the 19th century, studies in biochemistry and microbiology seemed to support the autointoxication hypothesis, and mainstream physicians promoted the idea.

Historically, “purging was one of the few procedures that a physician could perform with visible, often impressive results and without immediate or obvious dangers.”

Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov (1845-1916) became the strongest defender of the idea of ​​colon cleansing; he thought toxins could shorten life span.

Over time, the concept expanded to “self-poisoning,” which assumes that the body cannot completely rid itself of its waste products and toxins, which then accumulate in the intestine. In some cases, the concept led to radical surgeries to remove the colon for unrelated symptoms.

Autointoxication enjoyed some favor in the medical community in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but clinicians dismissed it because advances in science did not support its claims.

A 1919 article entitled “Origin of the so-called self-poisoning symptom” in the Journal of the American Medical Association marked the beginning of the rejection of the self-poisoning hypothesis by the medical community.

Despite the lack of scientific support, “self-intoxication” persists in the public imagination.


In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the production of equipment used in colon hydrotherapy in the United States.

But it does not regulate their use, or the supplements used in oral colon cleansing regimens, and the manufacturers do not require verification or supporting evidence. The content of the products is neither verified nor verified.

The United States Food and Drug Administration has published several letters warning manufacturers and suppliers of colon hydrotherapy equipment about making false claims of effectiveness, safety concerns, and quality control violations.

Colon cleansing benefits

The main objective is to cleanse the colon of large amounts of stagnant and supposedly toxic waste embedded in the walls of the colon. Doing so, they claim, will improve the vitality of the body.

Helps with constipation

When food moves very slowly through the digestive tract, stool can become hard. This causes the discomfort of constipation. People who experience constipation generally have fewer than three bowel movements per week.

Cleaning your colon can remove stool that has become too difficult to pass, and help the waste move through your intestines.

Colonic transit time is the time it takes for food to travel through your digestive tract. People with constipation have a much slower rate of colonic transit than people who are not constipated.

A study from Amsterdam in 2002 showed that colon cleansing improved colonic transit time for study volunteers.

Get rid of retained fecal residue

Chronic constipation can cause intestinal impaction, a condition where your body cannot pass stool on its own. This can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and serious health problems if the impaction does not resolve.

Colon cleansing can help remove the fecal waste that is causing intestinal impaction. Research has shown that colon cleansing effectively removes retained fecal waste.


There is little medical evidence that colon cleanse can help with weight loss, but many people have had positive results using a colon cleanse to help meet weight loss goals.

Initial weight loss comes from water and stool, but having a clean colon can help you lose weight by moving food through your digestive tract faster. Eating high-fiber foods can also help you lose weight and keep your colon clean.

Efficacy and risks

Some people should not perform a colon cleanse, including people with Crohn’s disease , diverticulitis, kidney disease, heart disease, ulcerative colitis, or ischemic colitis.

Those who have had colon surgery in the past should also avoid a colon cleanse. If you have any other medical conditions, see your doctor.

Colon cleansing can cause some side effects, such as abdominal cramps, bloating, and nausea. See your doctor if side effects become severe. After any type of colon cleanse, it is important to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

Symptoms that are attributed to self-intoxication (headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, and irritability) may be caused by mechanical distention within the gut, such as irritable bowel syndrome, rather than toxins from spoiling food .

The benefits anecdotally attributed to colon cleansing are vague and claims made by manufacturers and professionals are based on a misunderstanding of the body.

There is little evidence of the actual benefit of the procedure, and there is no evidence that it can alleviate symptoms that are attributed to colon cleansing theories.

Since the colon normally expels waste, colon cleansing is generally not necessary. Colonic irrigation can disrupt the normal flora of the intestine and, if done frequently, can lead to electrolyte depletion with dehydration.

Rare but serious adverse effects have been rectal perforation, as well as amoebic infection, from poorly sterilized equipment. Others claim that colon cleansing can prevent the shedding of dead cells from the colon.

Overuse of enemas has also been associated with heart problems, such as heart failure, as well as heart attacks related to electrolyte imbalances when performed as a coffee enema.

Frequent enemas or other colon cleansing tools can lead to dependency and the inability to defecate without assistance, as well as possible withdrawal symptoms. Herbs taken by mouth can modulate the absorption or activity of prescription drugs.

The list of potential risks associated with colon cleansing is much longer than the list of benefits.


While some of the weight loss associated with colon cleansing is due to the elimination of waste, it also results in the elimination of fluids. Dehydration can lead to kidney failure in extreme cases.

Electrolyte imbalance

Colon cleansing can upset the balance of electrolytes like potassium and sodium in your body. These chemicals carry electrical signals through cells, and an imbalance can lead to loss of consciousness as well as kidney damage.

Bacterial imbalance and infection

Colon cleansing can potentially invite unhealthy bacteria into the lower digestive system with the instruments and fluids used. They also kill the healthy bacteria that can fight that infection.

Intestinal perforation

Intestinal perforation occurs when there is a break in the wall of the large intestine. It is considered a medical emergency. Although symptoms begin with fever, pain, chills, and nausea, they can progress and even be fatal.

Tips for a safe colon cleanse

If you know the risks and are still interested in colon cleansing, there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of a bad health effect.

Talk to your doctor first. Some people may be at higher risk for complications. Drink much liquid. Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration before and after your cleanse.

Choose your therapist wisely. There are no licensing requirements for colon hygienists, but some belong to professional organizations that require training in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Talk to other people who have used specific therapists before completing your appointment.

Make sure only new disposable equipment and protective gear are used. Make sure your hygienist has a proper disinfection routine and uses disposable equipment whenever possible. Colon cleansing equipment can transmit bacteria if not properly sterilized.

Colon hydrotherapy

Colonic irrigation, also known as colon hydrotherapy, colonic hydrotherapy, or “colon,” is a treatment used to “wash out the contents of the large intestine by copious enemas using water or other medication.”

During an enema, water is held in the colon for about 15 minutes. During a colon, water is introduced into the colon and then rinsed and this is repeated until the entire colon is removed.

Colonic irrigation has been described as a “reckless” procedure, as it carries the risk of serious harm and has not shown any benefit.

Supplement effectiveness

Consumer advocacy news program Marketplace conducted a consumer test with three women on the effectiveness of two colon supplements versus fiber.

The results showed that the supplements did not help with weight loss and did not provide any additional benefit over a basic fiber supplement.

According to the American Cancer Society, “The available scientific evidence does not support claims that colon therapy is effective in treating cancer or any other disease.”

What else can you do to improve colon health?

What you eat, not what you flush through your colon, can have the greatest impact on colon health, reducing your risk of colon cancer and improving your overall health.

Increasing soluble and insoluble fiber can help with a wide range of gastrointestinal problems, including constipation, diverticular disease, and colorectal cancer.

The typical American consumes about 15 grams per day, but needs closer to 25 grams to 30 grams. If there are no gluten problems, add sources of insoluble fiber, such as cereals and whole grains, and soluble fiber, such as bran, some fruits, some vegetables, and oats.

Also, drink plenty of fluids, but drink alcohol in moderation. Avoid tobacco and limit red meat. And, of course, get colon cancer screenings starting at age 50 or earlier, if your doctor advises.

How to do a natural colon cleanse at home

There are a few ways to cleanse the colon at home. You can do simple things to boost or “cleanse” your colon health naturally at home. The following natural colon cleanses can be done inexpensively, and they are also quite safe if done correctly.

Water discharge

Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated is a great way to regulate digestion. People who support a water wash for colon cleansing recommend drinking six to eight glasses of warm water per day.

Also try to eat lots of foods that are high in water content. This includes fruits and vegetables like watermelons, tomatoes, lettuce, and celery. In fact, there are many foods that help to cleanse the colon naturally through diet.


You can also try a salt water flush. This is especially recommended for people who suffer from constipation and irregularities. A 2010 study showed that salt water could clear the colon when combined with certain yoga poses.

Before eating in the morning, mix 2 teaspoons of salt with warm water. Sea or Himalayan salt is recommended. Drink water quickly on an empty stomach, and in a few minutes, you will probably feel the urge to go to the bathroom.

Do this in the morning and in the afternoon, and be sure to stay home near the bathroom for a while after cleaning. You may need to go to the bathroom several times.

High fiber diet

Fiber is an essential macronutrient that is often overlooked in the diet. It is found in whole, healthy plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and more.

Plants contain cellulose and fibers that help “build up” excess matter in the colon. They also regulate constipation and overactive intestines, while stimulating useful bacteria as a prebiotic.

Make sure to eat plenty of high-fiber foods, which help support a healthy colon. They can also be great for your gut bacteria.

Juices and smoothies

Juices are popular colon cleansers. These include fasts and fruit and vegetable juice cleanses, such as master cleanses. However, there is not enough research on these for the colon. In fact, some research points to the risks.

Still, moderate intake of juices and juices can be good for you. Juice mixes contain fiber and nutrients that aid digestion. They also contain water to help hydrate and maintain regularity.

Also, a study in 2015 found that vitamin C can help cleanse the colon. Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables added to juice mixes.

Popular juices in fasting and juice cleansing include apple juice, lemon juice, and vegetable juices. However, some dietitians may recommend smoothies over juices for your colon and general health.

Because the pulp and skins are removed during juicing, the juices contain less fiber. Fiber is great for the colon, and the shakes contain much 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 are also found in plant foods such as potatoes, rice, legumes, green bananas, and grains.

These promote a healthy colon by increasing the intestinal microflora. A 2013 review on resistant starches also found that they reduce the risk of colon cancer.

However, there is a downside. Resistant starches are found in carbohydrates. Still, low-carb dieters can choose options that cause fewer spikes in blood sugar. These include rice and waxy potatoes.


Adding probiotics to the diet is another way to cleanse the colon. This also increases overall health in many other ways.

You can get more probiotics by taking probiotic supplements. Also, eat plenty of probiotic-rich foods, such as yogurt, kimchi, pickles, and other fermented foods.

Probiotics introduce good bacteria into the gut with the help of fiber and resistant starches. These control inflammation and promote regularity – two elements of digestive health related to the colon.

Apple cider vinegar is also considered a probiotic and is included in colon cleanses. The enzymes and acids it contains are supposed to suppress bad bacteria. Currently, there are no studies on this.

Herbs tea

Trying some herbal teas can aid digestive health through the colon. Laxative herbs like psyllium, aloe vera, marshmallow root, and slippery elm can help with constipation.

Be sure to speak with 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 believed to suppress bad bacteria. For this reason, they are included in many cleanings, although studies are needed.

Try a cup of one of these infusions up to three times a day. Only drink tea once a day for laxative herbal teas.