The truth about colon cleanses

June 8, 2022

Here is the deal. You don’t need a colon cleanse, colonic or colon hydrotherapy for optimal health even if it seems logical to clean the dirtiest part of our bodies.

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Do I need a colon cleanse?

I get this question a lot.

It sounds reasonable right? It seems logical that you would need to “clean” the dirtiest part of your body, the large intestine aka colon. But what I want to share with you is that it’s not necessary.  Your colon is a naturally cleansing organ!

Here is the deal. You don’t need a colon cleanse, colonic or colon hydrotherapy for health.  And if you don’t even know what I’m talking about, but are exploring the idea, I hope that after reading this, you will be convinced that it’s not only NOT necessary, it’s also a waste of money and could potentially cause harm.  

Here are some FALSE claims regarding these kinds of cleanses that are out there: 

  • Relief From Digestive or Intestinal Conditions and Disorders
  • An Optimal and Quick Means of Internal Cleansing and Detoxification
  • Jumpstart a New Healthy Lifestyle and Weight Loss Program
  • Recovery From a Period of High Stress, Lifestyle Change 
  • An Adjunct to a Healthy or Beauty, Fitness, Anti-Aging, and Longevity Regimen

I mean, who doesn’t want all those things?! It’s great marketing. None of which are based in science. Period. 

So what kinds of cleanses am I talking about?

  1. Colon hydrotherapy, Colonic irrigation or Colonic – This would involve someone inserting a tube inside of your rectum and essentially power washing your large intestine to wash away solid stool. This service can range anywhere from $70 to $120 per session. There are often membership pricing models with many places which then gets you tied into a very pricey commitment. 
  1. Colon Cleanse – This is often a matter of drinking a large volume of liquid that is going to make you have tons of diarrhea for a few hours. There are even teas or pills marketed to cleanse the gut. The active ingredients can vary but I have seen it all from coffee, aloe vera, senna, polyethylene glycol, and other ingredients with cleansing/laxative action. And none of these pills or teas are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which of course is not good. This essentially means if you wanted to develop your own concoction cleansing action, you could do it without any oversight or regulation. 

The downside

You may actually feel better after getting a bunch of poop out of you. Of course you do. We all feel amazing after having a good bowel movement. It’s quite literally an act of cleansing because it eliminates waste, makes you feel less gassy and bloated, and you may even feel lighter on your feet. But it can also be risky, especially in the case of colon hydrotherapy because you are often getting a non-medical person delivering care putting you at risk for electrolyte (potassium and sodium) imbalances in your blood, gut microbiome imbalance possibly leaving you even gassier and more bloated than when you started, and can put you at risk for a bowel perforation or injury to your colon that could require surgery. 

So what are some better alternatives?

  • Eat fiber-containing foods more regularly so you can have good bowel movements on the regular.  Then you won’t feel like you need a “cleanse”. 
  • But if you feel like you need a good poop, a smoothie can often do the trick. A good smoothie jam packed with fiber such as fruit, coconut water, chia seeds and other ingredients can not only deliver a similar colon cleansing effect, but offer you more nutritional value with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that you would not otherwise get with just a tea or colonic. 
  • Go out for a run! Getting out and exercising is one sure way to begin stimulating a good bowel movement. When your body moves, your gut moves. There are no shortcuts in this but the obvious benefits of getting a good poop all while having all the other health benefits of exercise. 

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I'm Dr. Leybelis

Mommy to 2 girls, wife to former NFL player, Latina, and practicing Gastroenterologist and I can't wait to meet you!

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