13 Best Foods to Cleanse Your Colon
Not only will these foods help protect your gut—they all happen to be delicious and nutritious additions to your diet. Check out these wonderful foods that cleanse your colon.
What does your colon do, anyway?
Though your small intestine does the heavy lifting when it comes to digesting food, the colon’s function is to suck all the moisture out of that food, says Michael A. Valente, DO, a colorectal surgeon at Cleveland Clinic. “Your colon draws the water back into your system to hydrate you,” he adds. And yes, it also stores and helps eliminate waste—a good reason to seek out these foods to cleanse your colon.
Your diet matters
Just like your food choices impact your heart, brain, and muscles, they also affect your colon. “In order for your colon to be healthy, you need to put the right foods in,” says Dr. Valente. (Read up on the lifestyle habits that can help prevent colon cancer.)
Here’s why your colon needs care
Colon cancer is on the rise in young people—for the first time ever, notes the American Cancer Society. While experts aren’t exactly sure why, “we think the environment, including a worsening diet, is playing a role in this increase,” says Dr. Valente. Check out the foods that GI doctors avoid.
Load up on quinoa and brown rice
Your focus should be on whole foods as close to the state in which Mother Nature made them as possible. Minimally processed whole grains like brown rice, oats, and quinoa, are a great place to start, says Dr. Valente. These are packed with fiber, which is why they’re among the top foods that cleanse your colon; eating three servings daily lowers colorectal cancer risk by 17 percent, per a 2017 report from the Harvard T Chan School of Public Health. (Here’s what experts want you to know about quinoa vs. rice.)
Add beans and lentils
Legumes like beans and lentils are also loaded with fiber. People who eat the most fiber from vegetable sources like legumes are 35 percent less likely to have colon polyps—a small clump of cells in the lining of the colon that can develop into cancer—compared to those who eat the least. These legumes may also contain cancer-protective phytochemicals, researchers say. Find out the best foods for your belly.
Supplement with chia
Eating just 2 tablespoons chia seeds will give you a whopping 10 grams of fiber, as much as 40 percent of your daily needs. (Aim for 25 to 35 grams daily, advises Dr. Valente.) There’s a reason why you want to hit this mark: “Fiber moves stool through your colon and brings toxic chemicals and other substances like cholesterol out of your system,” he explains. Nutrients within fiber may also affect the colon on a cellular level to guard against disease.
Load up on broccoli, cauliflower, and kale
Talk about foods that cleanse your colon: Some of the best sources of fiber come in veggie form. One study found that eating a serving of cooked green veggies lowered colon cancer risk by 24 percent compared to those who ate less than that. Since it’s not always practical to track fiber grams, and easier method is to make sure two-thirds of your plate comes from fiber-rich veggie sources like broccoli, cauliflower, and kale, says Dr. Valente.
Fill up on salmon, sardines, and trout
For people who have colorectal cancer, those who increased their intake of omega 3s from fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and trout had a lower risk of mortality compared to those who avoiding fish, finds research published in the journal Gut. Omega 3 fats may stop cancer cell growth and even promote the death of colon cancer cells. Don’t miss these detox foods to cleanse your body naturally.
Eat more walnuts
Not only do walnuts supply a couple grams of fiber per ounce (14 halves), but they also contain omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha-linolenic acid, which is why Dr. Valente recommends them among the foods that cleanse your colon. Animal research suggests that walnut consumption breeds a healthier gut environment and may reduce the development of cancerous colon tumors. There are also plenty of other health benefits of walnuts you’ll get from eating them.
Dish up yogurt
Fermented dairy products like yogurt pack gut-healthy probiotics. Eating plenty of yogurt may cut your risk of colorectal cancer by as much as 38 percent, suggests research published in the International Journal of Cancer. Bonus: The probiotics—healthy bacteria—can also help decrease some of the gas associated with eating beans and cruciferous veggies, says Dr. Valente. If you can’t eat dairy, try these probiotic-rich food picks instead.
Avoid these foods
The things you cut from your diet will help protect your colon as well: Avoid processed meat (like bacon and hot dogs)—the World Health Organization has classified it as a carcinogen. Also, limit red meat; if you want animal protein, stick to poultry and fish. And cut back on alcohol—stick to a drink a day, recommends Dr. Valente.
It’s OK to supplement
Don’t expect a fiber supplement to make up for a lousy diet, but the truth is that doctors know how tough it can be to maximize your fiber intake from food alone. Dr. Valente says that it’s OK to take a fiber supplement—just check in with your doctor and make sure you’re also eating vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. (Check out 30 ways to get more fiber into your diet without even trying.)
If you’ve decided to eat more fiber, add it to your diet gradually, warns Dr. Valente. “The breakdown of food in your colon produces bacteria that release gas,” he says. That can translate to uncomfortable gas and bloating and frequent bowel movements. The experience can be so unpleasant that some people give up on their healthy choices altogether. Start by adding a high-fiber serving of, say, veggies a day for a week; then go up to two a day. Note that you’ll also need to drink more water as you eat more fiber, warns the Cleveland Clinic. If you’re adding a fiber supplement, start with one teaspoon daily; after two weeks, take two teaspoons daily; after a month, you can take the entire suggested serving. Your gut will thank you. Next, find out the health secrets your gut is trying to tell you.