The act of flushing out your large intestine is called a colon cleanse. Recently, colon cleansing has become more of a norm.
More and more products have come out claiming to be effective colon cleansers or detoxifiers. Products like; teas, enzymes, even supplements.
Colon cleansing is typically used as preparation before medical procedures, like a colonoscopy. However, it’s recently been picked up as a method of detoxification.
Currently, there isn’t a lot of scientific research on whether or not colon cleansing is good for weight loss.
While there are benefits, there’s also some level of risk involved.
Getting to know the colon
It’s our digestive systems’ job to break down and absorb the food you intake to fuel your body with the energy it requires.
This also includes separating the waste from the nutrients that you consume through the food, drinks, and medication that you intake.
This process starts at the mouth, down your esophagus, into your stomach, and then through your small and large intestines, which are collectively called the colon.
The waste separation process, otherwise known as the “excretion process,” goes through your colon and ends in the rectum.
The average large intestine, or colon, is roughly six feet long. Inside your colon, trillions of bacteria perform a ton of essential functions. These bacteria form what’s called the microbiome.
Breaking down the food you consume is one of the primary functions of these bacteria. Water, electrolytes, and some vitamins, such as vitamin K and other fat-soluble vitamins, are also absorbed through your colon.
The digested food then continues to move through the colon until it reaches the rectum. The stretch receptors in your rectum let you know that it’s time to undergo a bowel movement.
The gut microbiome plays an important role in food digestion and nutrient extraction, as well as in modulating your immune system, protecting against infection, drug metabolism, and influencing how your body responds to your current diet.
There are other factors, like stress and what you eat, that can influence your microbiome and your general digestive health.
What even is colon cleansing?
Colon cleansing can be done in two ways: You can either buy detox products or visit a doctor for colonic irrigation.
During colonic irrigation, large amounts of water, possibly up to 16 gallons, and potentially additional things, like herbs or coffee, are flushed down the colon. A tube is placed into the rectum to accomplish this. There are also some cases where smaller amounts of water are utilized and are left in the colon for a brief period before being eliminated.
Most people that experience constipation believe that a colon cleanse is the way to go. Constipation is when you don’t go to the bathroom as often, which would be around three times or fewer in a week. Particularly, when stools become harder to pass.
Because the colon absorbs water, the longer the waste sits in the colon, the more water is absorbed. And because the colon absorbs more water, there is less water in the stool, which makes it difficult to pass. Constipation usually happens due to some changes in your diet or daily routine, as well as not consuming enough fiber.
There are also cases where people that have used laxatives for a long time have had their colons slow down because they had gotten used to relying on laxatives.
Preparation is a must before undergoing a colonoscopy. This prep includes the use of special laxatives to rid the colon of any waste. Many do note that after this prep of colon cleansing, they felt positively lighter.
Is it effective?
According to proponents of colon cleansing, toxins from your gastrointestinal tract cause several health concerns, including arthritis and high blood pressure, will get flushed out and will ultimately lead to better health by helping with allergies, depression, fatigue, skin conditions, and weight loss, just to name a few.
After all, weight loss is the most common reason people begin colon cleansing. However, there’s little scientific evidence that can support these claims.
One of the two ways to do a colon cleanse is through an oral cleanse. Oral cleanses include juice cleanses, laxatives, and weight loss/ detox herbal teas. Juice cleanses can help you lose weight, but it’s probably because of a calorie deficit from the lack of solid food.
While it is recommended to include fruits and vegetables in your diet to stay healthy, healthcare professionals don’t recommend juice cleanses for weight loss, due to it not being sustainable. Individuals with kidney conditions should not do juice cleanses.
Next are laxatives. It is not very effective to use laxatives to lose weight because most laxatives target your colon or large intestine, but your small intestine primarily absorbs calories.
This makes laxatives ineffective in reducing your calorie intake. Not only this but there are also large negative effects for people who regularly use laxatives.
Frequently using laxatives can cause chronic diarrhea, which leads to an imbalance in your body by lowering your potassium and electrolyte levels. It can also cause the user to feel exhausted and dehydrated.
The second way to do a colon cleanse would be through rectal cleanses. This includes colonic irrigation, which we mentioned earlier. Just like laxatives, this can also cause electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. When undergoing colonic irrigation, or colonic hydrotherapy, bowel perforation is the most significant risk; this occurs when the colonic hydrotherapy tubes tear a hole in the gut. Pain, fever, chills, and nausea are all signs of colon perforation. Perforation of the bowel is a medical emergency that can cause death.
Colon cleanse with caution!
Colon cleansing fans firmly believe that it proves your health by ridding your body of harmful toxins, emptying your bowels, helping with digestion, and weight loss. But colon cleansing often comes with harmful side effects. For instance, coffee enemas, which are used in colon cleansing, are linked to several deaths.
Other potential concerns can include cramping, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, infection, and a bowel perforation. It can also be harmful to people who suffer from any kind of digestive disorder.
Ultimately, colon cleansing has very little scientific evidence that can back it up. There are better and more sustainable ways to achieve weight loss. Including more fruits and vegetables in your diet, drinking more water, getting enough hours of sleep at night, and exercising regularly will improve your lifestyle and encourage a healthier digestive system.