Feeling slightly out of sorts? Want to feel fresher, more free, and relaxed? Looking to detox? For many people, a colon cleanse can help achieve all of these goals. Periodic colon cleanses are thought to remove toxins and restore the body’s natural elimination processes.
A colon cleanse is sometimes recommended by natural health advocates as part of a total body cleanse. A total body cleanse is a more extreme type of cleanse, known as a high colonic or colon hydrotherapy, where water (sometimes infused with herbs) is introduced to the colon (the lower part of the large intestine) via a sterile hose, similar to an enema. The colon is “irrigated” and its lining cleaned, according to proponents of this procedure.
This type of cleanse isn’t for everybody: it’s pricey, it should be administered by an experienced professional, and its potential risks can be a turn-off. Colon cleanse systems, however, can be used for an occasional cleanse without the need for irrigation, special diets, or fasts.
Colon cleanse systems are made up of capsules, tablets, or powders used over a one- to two-week period. They are sometimes used in conjunction with other supplements and an optional cleansing diet. Users should commit to the entire program to achieve the best results.
Advocates of colon cleanses claim that a cleanse can help ease problems like allergies, skin problems, headaches, PMS, irritable bowel syndrome, and more. However, results are variable; some users get big benefits from a cleanse while others see no change in their health.
- Dehydration: The high fiber content of a colon cleanse system causes the body to divert more water to the bowel. This fiber absorbs a lot of water, and the combination helps the intestines move the cleansing fiber through more easily. This can cause the rest of the body to become dehydrated and may cause symptoms like excessive thirst, confusion, dizziness, tiredness, and more, especially if your electrolyte balance is upset. Drink plenty of water — as much as the system’s instructions recommend, and probably a little more — to prevent dehydration.
- Gas: All that extra fiber can cause gas, which can lead to stomach or intestinal discomfort and bloating.
- Cramping: Gas, as well as the fiber moving through the digestive system, can cause abdominal cramps.
- Nausea: Some users experience mild to moderate nausea from colon cleanse systems. This can be in response to the high amount of fiber moving through the gut, the herbs used to cleanse or detoxify the digestive system, or other ingredients.
- Constipation or diarrhea: Neither condition is pleasant. Users may experience one or both of these during the course of the cleanse.
- Depletion of gut flora: The ingredients in a multi-day cleanse may change or deplete the colon of beneficial gut flora. Colon cleanse systems often include probiotics to help rebuild gut flora.