Gut Cleansing, Friend Or Foe?
Mar 31, 2023
We all know how important it is to look after our gut health. A good diet is a simple and most effective way to make sure our gut microbiome is balanced, but what do you do when your gut is out of sync and you are experiencing uncomfortable symptoms and need immediate relief?
For those who have tried JUVIA already, the answer is pretty simple. But we like to cover all areas of science and diets in our health hub to offer insight as well as break myths and debunk viral trends.
Have you ever heard of a gut detox? It’s also known as a colon detox, but is it truly beneficial to your health?
In this blog, we explain what a gut detox is, the different methods people use, and whether science gives it the thumbs up or down-frown.
Our immediate advice is not to jump on the cleanse bandwagon before reading this article and to make sure that you seek the advice of a medical professional before carrying out any kind of home procedure, otherwise, you risk injury, or worse, your overall health.
What is a gut cleanse?
A gut cleanse is defined by two broad categories: a colon cleanse, also known as colon irrigation, or performing an enema, and an oral cleanse.
A colon cleanse is something that is sometimes done before a medical procedure called a colonoscopy, which involves inserting a camera into the rectum to see whether there are any abnormalities. It stands to reason that the cleaner the colon is during the procedure, the easier it will be to detect any abnormalities that might be present.
To clean the colon, medical professionals will sometimes prescribe medicines called laxatives that stimulate the muscles in your gut to bring about an urgent need to use the toilet. They are also used for people suffering from severe constipation.
Other times, they may perform colon irrigation, which involves inserting a tube approximately 1.5 inches into your rectum. The tube is attached to a controlled pump that slowly forces water into your large intestine. Sometimes up to 60 litres will pass through, dislodging and flushing out any waste, leaving your gut sparkling clean. A gravity-based water solution called an enema is sometimes practised at home, which achieves the same thing, albeit less effectively.
What does science say about colon irrigation?
Well, it has its uses prior to a medical procedure like a colonoscopy, but there is very little evidence to suggest that it is beneficial to your overall health outside of those circumstances. It can even cause harm.
Your body is actually very effective at cleaning itself in that region, so it is not necessary. There is no denying that some people claim to benefit from a colon cleanse this way, but this normally leans more toward relief from immediate symptoms of discomfort, rather than any improvement to the underlying issue that caused the discomfort, or one’s overall health.
For example, one study found that of 507 people suffering from chronic constipation, that agreed to perform a colon irrigation every month for 12 months, only 43% of the people continued the program and reported an improvement in their bowel movements, while 34% discontinued because they found no benefit, and the remaining 23% dropped out without giving a reason. It is assumed that they also dropped out because they did not find any benefit.
Either way, this method was only prescribed to these patients because they had a chronic condition and it was not effective for the vast majority. While further studies need to be carried out, colon irrigation is not a method we recommend for reasonably healthy people trying to maintain or improve their overall health because of the risks involved.
Risks associated with colon irrigation (CI)
You simply cannot perform CI without disturbing your gut microbiome. You will inevitably flush out much of the good bacteria, as well as the bad. Worse, you may even introduce new bacteria that can cause havoc in your gastrointestinal tract and cause more acute health problems than the one that you are trying to solve.
You also risk perforation of your large intestine, which will let toxins freely flow into your bloodstream. If this happens you face untreatable sepsis and potentially death.
Some people even experience an increase in symptoms like diarrhoea, bloating and gas, but most commonly, bruising or tears in the rectum.
Conclusion on colon irrigation
Unless you have a chronic complaint like constipation and need immediate relief, or you are preparing for a medical procedure like a colonoscopy, and you have been advised by a medical professional, we do not recommend CI as a method to improve gut health or indeed overall health.
Even if you do receive some kind of short-term benefit, it will not help you overcome the underlying issue that gives rise to the symptoms in the first place, so it is not worth the risk unless the procedure is being performed by a medical professional.
Oral gut cleanse
An oral gut cleanse is defined as eating or drinking something with the intention of ‘cleansing your gut’.
In some instances, it involves not eating or drinking for a period before undergoing an oral gut cleanse, or reducing the types of food and drink you eat for a while. This is known as fasting.
Aside from laxatives, there are supplements that are believed to be beneficial to the gut and other vital processes that are thought to eliminate toxins from the body, which is one of the motivations for performing a gut cleanse.
These include milk thistle and activated charcoal. Milk Thistle is believed to help the liver to neutralise and remove toxins. There is evidence that the liver benefits from the chemical compounds found in milk thistle and it supports the liver in its function, but research provides mixed results on its effectiveness to treat specific conditions that affect the liver or rely upon the liver’s ability to remove toxins from the body.
Activated charcoal is used to absorb unfriendly molecules and remove them when you pass your stools. It has proven to be very effective and is approved for use in emergency rooms to treat overdoses and poisoning.
Neither of these can reliably be said to provide a gut cleanse, however, which is a crucial point to make.
Diet and an oral cleanse
It is common to increase fibre and water intake when trying to perform a gut cleanse and many people opt for vegetable and fruit smoothies. This is because it is believed that doing so increases the positive bacteria in your gut while giving your gastrointestinal tract a break from solid foods to help flush out waste that has built up over long periods of time.
There are a number of foods that are recommended for your gut health, some of which support the liver to function by feeding it with the minerals and nutrients it needs. These include, but are not limited to the following.
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Cabbage (red and green)
- Chinese cabbage
- Daikon radish
- Collard greens
Conclusion on oral gut cleansing
Your liver is the agent responsible for neutralising and removing toxins from your body, while your colon is responsible for excreting waste and cleaning itself. Both of these perform their functions very well in healthy individuals.
Of course, eating a diet rich in nutritious fruit and vegetables is beneficial to your body, but only to the extent that it helps your body do what it is already doing. In other words, it is not initiating a cleansing process because your body is doing this anyway.
Milk thistle may help the liver to perform, but again this is not a cleanse. The point here is that there are many websites and magazines that promote ‘gut cleanses’, but in reality, they are not promoting anything more than a healthy diet.
It is important to take care of your health and your gut is a great place to start. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation, some of which presents a serious risk of harm with very little to be gained. Professor John Hunter, a leading expert on gastrointestinal health, and co-founder of JUVIA warns against self-prescribed colon cleanses for this reason.
If you are serious about your gut health, then try JUVIA for a few weeks. It is scientifically proven to break down carbohydrates before they reach your gut, which starves the unfriendly bacteria in your gut of its vital food source. This helps the beneficial bacteria to form bigger colonies, which improves your gut health.