At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
A colon cleanse and detox is a regimen designed to flush toxins out of a person's large intestine, leading to an improvement in his overall health and well-being. There are several methods of colon cleanse and detox, including following a special diet for a short period of time, taking laxatives and supplements, or visiting a therapist to have the colon irrigated. While many claim that cleansing their digestive system is effective and makes them feel more alert and energized, many doctors and medical specialists believe colon cleansing and detoxification can actually do more harm than good.
Colon cleanse and detox has been practiced by people for thousands of years. Some people believe toxins, bacteria and parasites build up on the walls of the colon and are then absorbed into the body, causing problems with the immune system, headaches and tiredness, and weight gain. There have not been many studies done on colon cleanse and detox to determine whether it is actually effective.
The argument against colon cleanse and detox is that the body has its own natural defenses against harmful toxins and bacteria. For instance, a person's liver is usually effective at filtering toxins from the body. The colon of a relatively healthy person should also have enough beneficial bacteria in it to protect against harmful bacteria or food waste. Mucous membranes in the colon should also prevent any toxins from seeping into the bloodstream and other organ systems.
Taking laxatives or supplements is one way to cleanse the colon. Many people also stick to a limited diet when doing a cleanse and either drink only specially prepared beverages such as juice or a special herbal tea or eat only raw vegetables and fruits. Most laxative- and supplement-based cleanses last about a week.
Another colon cleanse and detox method involves flushing the large intestine with water. This method is known as colonic irrigation and usually requires a visit to a special therapist. The therapist inserts a tube into a person's rectum and pumps gallons of water into the intestine. After massaging the stomach area, the therapist will flush the water out through another tube. The therapist may sometimes add special enzymes or beneficial bacteria to the water to make the cleanse more effective.
Before beginning a colon clean and detox, a person should check with a doctor to discuss the risks involved. An extremely limited diet can lead to dizziness, dehydration and fatigue. Some people may be allergic to the enzymes or herbs used in the supplements. Some herbs can make certain medications less effective. Colonic irrigation also carries the risk of infection and could puncture the bowel.