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Natural Colon Cleanse: 4 Strategies to Try at Home

Before you Google that colonic, a gastroenterologist shares the best ways to cleanse your colon and keep your digestive tract healthy and clear.

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Having a hard time going to the bathroom? If you find yourself not having a regular bowel movement and you’re on the hunt for ways to cleanse your digestive tract and get things moving, there are certain solutions that can help get things going for you. That starts with colon health.

According to Dr. Shana T. Rakowsky, MD, a gastroenterologist with Gastro Health in Framingham, MA: “The function of the colon is to receive the leftover food from the digestive system and extract water and electrolytes to form stool—the colon and its bacteria, or microbiome, act as a natural detoxification system, removing excess waste from the body.”

What is a colon cleanse?

The Mayo Clinic explains what happens during a colon cleanse, sometimes referred to as a “colonic,” which some people undergo because they “believe that colon cleansing improves health by removing toxins, boosting your energy and enhancing your immune system”:

During a colon cleanse, large amounts of water—sometimes up to 16 gallons (about 60 liters)—and possibly other substances, such as herbs or coffee, are flushed through the colon … using a tube that’s inserted into the rectum. 

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Is a colon cleanse safe?

While the idea of a natural colon cleanse may seem health-driven, Dr. Rakowsky points out the side effects that can occur. “While the theory of colon cleanses has been around for a long time, there is no current scientific evidence that colon cleanses are necessary or beneficial to your health,” Dr. Rakowsky explains. “In fact, there are many possible negative side effects of colon cleanses including nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, cramping, electrolyte imbalances, disruption of the natural microbiome, and dehydration. As such, full colon cleanses should only be used as a part of the preparation for a colonoscopy as directed by your physician.”

The Mayo Clinic’s blog echoes Dr. Rakowsky’s point, saying “there is no evidence” that there’s any benefit from colon cleanses.

So before you go full-throttle by scheduling a colonic, here are Dr. Rakowsky’s ideas for totally natural (and less invasive) ways you can keep your digestive system healthy and clear.

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How to do a natural colon cleanse

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Use a colonoscopy preparation solution

According to Dr. Rakowsky, the fastest way to flush your colon is with the use of a colonoscopy preparation solution.

“These use osmotic laxatives or medications that contain materials that cannot be absorbed by your colon, to bring extra water into the colon and help move stool through,” she explains. “The most common use formulations are polyethylene glycol 3350 (PEG)-based or sodium phosphate-based. In combination with fluids, these preparations more rapidly remove stool from the colon, allowing better visualization of the lining of the colon during procedures such as a colonoscopy.”

While it may not seem totally all-natural, Dr. Rakowsky says that it works well if you find yourself struggling with constipation and irregular bowel movements. “You may be considering a colon cleanse to help your symptoms. Focusing on ways to treat constipation by regulating your bowel movements, including improving frequency and consistency, can help improve your symptoms.”

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Eat foods that cleanse your colon and support regular bowel movements

While food doesn’t outright cleanse your colon in the same way a colonoscopy solution would, there are certain laxative-supporting foods that help with making it easier to go to the bathroom throughout the day.

“There are many foods that can help support more regular bowel movements,” says Dr. Rakowsky. “Some foods are thought to work by stimulating colon muscles to squeeze—these include coffee and citrus fruits like lemon. Combining fiber-containing foods into smoothies, which contain high-fiber portions of fruits such as the skin and pulp, can be beneficial. Drinking certain herbal teas containing senna, psyllium, or magnesium can help with constipation through their laxative effects.”

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Get adequate daily fiber in your diet

Because fiber passes through your body relatively intact, it benefits the digestive tract by forming stool and helping you to go to the bathroom. This is why Dr. Rakowsky recommends getting the adequate amount of fiber your body needs into your regular diet for a natural colon cleanse.

“Ensuring adequate dietary fiber is also critical to regulating your bowels by bringing additional water into the stool—foods like apples, pears, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens are all good sources of fiber which can help meet the daily recommended intake of 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day for women and 30 to 38 grams for men,” she explains. “Other great sources of fiber include oatmeal, chia seeds, and flax seeds. Prunes are one of the fastest-acting foods for constipation; they contain both fiber and sorbitol, which help stimulate bowel movements. Psyllium and kiwi have also been studied for constipation and resulted in significant increases in bowel movements.”

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Drink lots of water

If you are eating more fiber, Dr. Rakowsky also points out the importance of also increasing your fluid intake as well for a natural colon cleanse. According to Cleveland Clinic, too much fiber and not enough water can cause cramping, bloating, and constipation—which is why you should get at least 8 cups (or 64 ounces) of liquids in a day.

“Incorporating high-fiber foods and adequate hydration are the best ways to help support your natural colon function,” she says.

While there are certain hydrating beverages you can turn to, Dr. Rakowsky says that warmer liquids—like coffee or tea—can help speed up your digestion.

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Kiersten Hickman
Kiersten Hickman is a journalist and content strategist with a main focus on nutrition, health, and wellness coverage. She holds an MA in Journalism from DePaul University and a Nutrition Science certificate from Stanford Medicine. Her work has been featured in publications including Taste of Home, Reader's Digest, Bustle, Buzzfeed, INSIDER, MSN, Eat This, Not That!, and more.