During digestion, food is broken down in the mouth, stomach, and intestines. Many nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine into the circulation, while undigested food particles and waste are passed on to the large intestine (colon) for elimination. People normally pass stools once or twice a day, but some people may do this less frequently. The colon, therefore, also serves as storage of wastes until bowel movement occurs.
Intestinal cleansing or colon cleansing has been practiced for over 100 years, based on an ancient belief that undigested food particles, including meat, can build up in the colon, which contains millions of bacteria. The build-up also causes the production of mucus and toxins, which can be reabsorbed into the circulation, causing poisoning. Possible symptoms that are associated with toxin buildup in the colon include fatigue, low energy, headache, and weight gain. Colon cleansing is believed to relieve constipation and fecal incontinence. It is traditionally done by irrigating the colon with large volumes of fluids, which clears the colon of stagnant, toxic waste stuck on the intestinal walls. The effect, it is believed, is that it will enhance vitality, improve one’s mental outlook, enhance immune system function, help you lose weight, and reduce your risk of colon cancer.
Is Colon Cleansing Necessary?
The colon has millions of natural bacteria that can detoxify wastes from food. In addition, the liver also neutralizes toxins in the circulation. The colon has mucus membranes that prevent reabsorption of unwanted substances into the blood and tissues. It also sheds old cells every few days, thus preventing the buildup of toxins. Although people normally move their bowels and eliminate waste daily, some people may have less frequent bowel movements.
Some people believe that colon cleansing can help improve their health. However, there may be some potential side effects, such as:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramps
- Mineral imbalance
- Bowel perforation
- Depletion of normal bowel flora (good bacteria)
- Allergic reaction
Colon irrigations must be avoided if you have certain medical conditions, such as :
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Severe hemorrhoids
- Tumors in the colon or rectum
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Recent bowel surgery
Other Methods of Intestinal Cleansing
Intestinal cleansing can also be done through other means, including a change in diet. Various health experts and authors recommend different strategies to cleanse the colon. For instance, Dr. M. Oz, popular surgeon and TV personality, recommends a 48-Hour Weekend Cleanse, which involves eating Quinoa with Prunes for breakfast, a fruit smoothie for lunch and a vegetable broth soup for dinner. The plan also includes taking detox drinks consisting of kale, pineapple, and ginger, or a blend of pineapple, lemon and pomegranate, which could be exchanged or alternated with a veggie snack.
Another author, Stanley Burroughs published a book, The Master Cleanser, which popularized the Lemonade Diet, or Master Cleanse, a liquid diet consisting only of a lemonade beverage, a salt-water drink, and an herbal laxative tea. The strict diet plan is done in ten days, which is expected to cleanse the colon, reduce excess weight, and curb one’s cravings for unhealthy food.
The Fruit Flush diet, on the other hand, developed by a clinical nutritionist named Jay Robb, is believed to give the digestive system a break from processed foods, allows low-calorie, but fiber-rich fruits and vegetables to cleanse the system, and promotes fat-burning. This 3-day diet plan consists of taking a protein shake every two hours at daytime, eating raw salad for dinner, along with a small serving of lean protein or egg whites on the first day. This is followed by two days of eating fruits every two hours at daytime and eating salad or avocado with one protein shake for dinner.
Most experts agree, however, that it is what you eat that has the greatest impact on the colon’s health. A healthy diet that is low in fat and sugar, but high in nutrients and fiber can lower the risk of colon cancer and promote overall health. Doctors recommend eating foods with high amounts of soluble and insoluble fibers, which can prevent constipation, diverticulitis, and colorectal cancer. Although the average American consumes ten to 15 grams of fiber a day, health experts advise increasing this amount up to 35 grams daily. People who have no gluten sensitivity can also add cereals, whole grains, bran, oatmeal, fruit, and vegetables.
It is also important to remember that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential to colon health, as well as overall wellbeing. This includes taking plenty of fluids, drinking alcohol in moderation, avoiding tobacco, and limiting red meat consumption. Furthermore, screening for colon cancer is now being encouraged, especially for people who are 50 years old and above, or earlier, if one is considered to be at risk of developing the disease.
This information should not take the place of medical advice. We encourage you to talk to your health care providers (doctor, registered dietitian, pharmacist, etc.) about your interest in, questions about, or use of dietary supplements and what may be best for your overall health.
WebMD. The Truth About Detox Diets. http://www.webmd.com/diet/detox-diets
The Dr. Oz Show. Dr. Oz’s 48-Hour Weekend Cleanse. http://www.doctoroz.com/article/48-hour-weekend-cleanse
WebMD. Natural Colon Cleansing: Is It Necessary? http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/natural-colon-cleansing-is-it-necessary
WebMD. The Lemonade Diet/ Master Cleanse. http://www.webmd.com/diet/lemonade-master-cleanse-diet
WebMD. The Fruit Flush Diet. http://www.webmd.com/diet/fruit-flush-diet