Colon cleanse: ways to detox

If you experience digestive health problems like constipation, diarrhea, gas, or heartburn, you might consider colon cleansing. But be sure to get the facts before you sign up for the procedure so you can decide whether the benefits really outweigh the risks.

The bottom line is that you don’t have to undergo colon cleansing to improve your health.

What’s involved?

The theory behind colon cleansing goes something like this: Poisonous toxins get into the body from the foods that you eat, the water you drink, and the environment you live and work in. Some people believe that removing those toxins, as well as normal bacteria and stool via the colon, can help you feel better and function better.

Colon cleansing is also called colonic irrigation or colonic hydrotherapy, and it is sometimes referred to as a “high colonic.” As many as 20 gallons of fluids are pumped into the colon through a tube that’s inserted into the rectum. Probiotics, herbs, enzymes, and other additives can be used in the solution, and the whole procedure takes about an hour.

Colon cleansing is nothing new: The ancient civilizations are rumored to have used it, and 19th-century European spas made it a popular health remedy thousands of years later.

Francisco J. Marrero, MD, a gastroenterologist with the Digestive Disease Institute at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, notes that colon cleansing isn’t the true complete cleansing that many people may think it is because the procedure only flushes out the colon, not the small bowel. “The only way to clean out the small bowel is eating a healthy diet of fruits and veggies,” says Marrero. “If you don’t toxify, you don’t need to detoxify.”

Here are a few recommended ways to start cleaning your colon:


Ginger has antiseptic properties and is beneficial as it stimulates digestion. It can be added to any juice or can be eaten directly. Add one teaspoon of ginger juice and honey, mix it in one cup warm water. This mixture can be consumed twice a day. You can also make a smoothie using:

1 tablespoon of ginger (peeled)
1 apple (sliced)
A cup of spinach
1 carrot (sliced)

Blend all these ingredients with 1 cup water and your smoothie is ready. Drink it once a day to ensure proper functioning of the intestinal tract.

Apple and lemon

Apples and lemons are both rich in nutrients that improve the digestive action such as vitamins C and A, antioxidants and fiber. You can make delicious juices from these fruits:

Take ½ cup apple juice, add 2 tablespoons lemon juice and a teaspoon of ginger juice. Mix it in ½ cup of warm water. You can drink this mixture once a day to help detoxify the colon and encourage proper digestion.

Apple cider vinegar

Unfiltered apple cider vinegar helps flush out waste from our body while retaining the useful bacteria. It can be taken along with honey to cleanse the colon and restore the digestive system.

Mix raw apple cider vinegar and honey in equal quantities (2 tablespoons). Mix it in one cup of water and drink it once daily. It will not only remove the toxins but has tons of other benefits such as preventing diabetes and lowering bad cholesterol.

Green vegetables

Leafy greens are nutrient powerhouses; spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, collard greens, leeks, peas are all rich in chlorophyll, which helps cleanse the intestinal tract and, as a result, soothes the colon. They also help detoxify the liver and protect the body from the toxins in the environment. You can boil or steam the veggies, add them in soups or slightly sauté with a little butter or olive oil

Factor the risks

Marrero says there can be complications when instilling a large volume of water into the colon, including worsening any existing hemorrhoids or creating a puncture wound in the rectum.

This excessive amount of fluids could potentially lead to:

  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Electrolyte (salt) imbalances
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Heart problems, including abnormal heart rhythms and death
  • Coma
Another big concern is that many colon cleansing practices aren’t regulated or monitored and not all practitioners are knowledgeable or well trained, which may increase risks. Unless all equipment is clean and sterile, colonic irrigation could introduce infection into the body.

Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, do not undergo colon cleansing if you have:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Severe or internal hemorrhoids
  • Diverticulitis
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Colon or rectal tumors
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
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