What is Intestinal Detoxification?

Erin J. Hill

Intestinal detoxification is the cleansing of the digestive tract of toxins, waste materials, and other harmful substances. This usually involves cleaning out the colon, although the stomach and small intestines can also be cleansed. Common plans for doing this can include juice fasts, colon cleanse products, laxatives, or simply eating a healthier diet. Some of these options are safer and more effective than others.

An intestinal detoxification usually includes a cleansing of the colon.
An intestinal detoxification usually includes a cleansing of the colon.

There are a wide variety of intestinal detoxification products on the market. Most of them are aimed at the colon and often work by inducing more frequent bowel movements. While compacted fecal matter is harmful for the body because toxins can be reabsorbed, studies have not shown most of these products to be helpful. True constipation will typically cause abdominal pain and cramping, and can usually be remedied by dietary changes and drinking more water.

Juice fasts can detoxify the intestinal system.
Juice fasts can detoxify the intestinal system.

Some spas and wellness centers may offer intestinal detoxification in the form of a colon irrigation or flush. This is usually done by inserting a liquid into the colon to loosen any compacted waste materials. While many of these treatments are really just a high priced version of a simple enema, they are usually not harmful when done only occasionally by a trained professional. The use of enemas and laxatives is not recommended for long-term use.

Sometimes a medicinal intestinal detoxification may be needed, such as when a patient has a parasitic infection. Medications can be given to kill the parasites, which are then usually passed in the patient's stools. Severe cases may require more than one treatment.

Other methods used for intestinal detoxification are fasts and the use of certain supplements. Some dietary supplements are useful and may help provide health benefits, especially when they contain antioxidants and fiber to help the digestive system move more smoothly. Juicing can be beneficial, as it fresh juices contain high levels of many vitamins, but fasting for more than a couple of days is not generally recommended for detoxification.

Some intestinal detoxification products do work for some consumers. These can include certain vitamin, tea, or supplement blends which allow cells to clean the body of waste more effectively. Consumers should not take these in higher amounts than advised, while pregnant, or while breastfeeding. Toxins being released too rapidly could result in harmful substances being removed from cells more quickly than the body can remove them.

The most beneficial way to perform an intestinal detoxification is to eat a healthy diet full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and low in processed foods which can lead to a sluggish colon. Drinking plenty of water also helps digestion to move more quickly and keeps stools soft and easy to pass. If constipation or slow digestion seems to be causing a problem, a health care provider should be notified.

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