Mayo Clinic Health Library

Question

Colon cleansing: Is it helpful or harmful?

Is colon cleansing a good way to eliminate toxins from your body?

Updated: 05-19-2012

Answer

Although doctors prescribe colon cleansing as preparation for medical procedures such as colonoscopy, most don't recommend colon cleansing for detoxification. Their reasoning is simple: Your digestive system and bowel naturally eliminate waste material and bacteria — your body doesn't need colon cleansing to do this.

Proponents of colon cleansing, on the other hand, believe that toxins from your gastrointestinal tract can cause a variety of health problems, such as arthritis, allergies and asthma. They believe that colon cleansing — also called a colonic or a colonic irrigation — improves health by removing toxins, promoting healthy intestinal bacteria, boosting your energy and enhancing your immune system. However, there's little evidence that colon cleansing produces these effects.

In fact, colon cleansing can sometimes be harmful. Colon cleansing can cause side effects, such as cramping, bloating, nausea and vomiting. More serious concerns with colon cleansing are that it can:

  • Increase your risk of dehydration
  • Lead to bowel perforations
  • Increase the risk of infection
  • Cause changes in your electrolytes, which can be dangerous if you have kidney disease or other health problems

If you choose to try colon cleansing, take these precautions:

  • Check with your conventional medical providers first, especially if you take any medications or have any health problems.
  • Make sure your colon-cleansing practitioner uses disposable equipment that hasn't been previously used.
  • Get a list of specific herbal ingredients and amounts in any colon-cleansing products you use — some herbal supplements can cause health problems.
  • Stay well hydrated by drinking lots of fluids while undergoing colon cleansing to prevent dehydration.

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