Colon cleansing diet, whole body and liver cleanse - what are the benefits and side effects? by Ray Sahelian, M.D. Review of liver, parasite, internal, and candida cleansing programs.
April 17 2016

What do the terms "Colon cleansing " "Cleanse," and "Detox" mean?

Colon cleansing refers to methods intended to remove feces and toxins from the colon and intestinal tract. Claims are made that this can be done through colonic irrigation or oral cleansing regimens such as dietary supplements, fibers, herbs, or laxatives. Certain types of colon hydrotherapy use enemas to insert water, sometimes mixed with herbs or with other liquids, into the colon via the rectum. Promoters claim that accumulations of aged feces line the walls of the large intestine and that these accumulations contain toxins, parasites or other bad germs, causing harm to the body.  In certain health food stores you can find a variety of such products and such programs as dead sea milk cleansing, edom milk, etc. But is there a need for the body to go through such a regimen? Is bowel or intestinal cleansing necessary?

My opinion on colonics
Perhaps it is possible to remove some fecal matter or unwanted material stuck in the colonic mucosa by doing an enema, but I have not seen any studies that this has resulted in improved health. Even if they are removed, would they quickly come back? There is the possibility that electrolyte imbalances could occur, the enema fluid may penetrate through the colonic mucosa, or the colonic may lead to loss of some of the good bacteria that have colonized the intestinal system. Rare cases of perforations have occurred from tube insertion. At this point I don't have a strong opinion on the benefits and risks of enema cleansing or the various colon cleansing kits that are sold, but my suspicion is that these methods are not of benefit to the majority of people who undertake them.
   I would rather prefer people do a low calorie diet for a week or so, for instance 1200 to 1400 calories, with a high fiber intake (with the addition of psyllium, flax seeds, chia seeds, glucomannan, etc), organic foods, fresh produce and vegetable juices, and plenty of filtered water and clean fluids, rather than doing a total fast or undergoing colonics. A few ounces of prune juice can be drank if constipation is present.
   I remember in my late teens I visited a naturopathic doctor in Philadelphia for my acne condition. He told me that it was due to fecal toxins that had accumulated and suggested weekly colonics as a treatment. I visited his office weekly for 2 months but at the end of the treatments my skin was not any better. I am not basing my viewpoint on colonics just on my experience, but I just wanted to relay to you this anecdote.

My opinion on total body cleanses
I am not convinced that people have to do a drastic "cleansing" program or fast in order to improve health. I prefer a slower, gentler approach that would reduce caloric intake, and not to the point where muscle tissue is being broken down because not enough protein is being consumed. There is no doubt that we are exposed to countless unhealthy substances in our environment - hormones, pollutants, pesticides, drugs, oxidants, toxins, heavy metals, and even excess supplements - that are potentially harmful. We are exposed to these toxins through food, water, air, and skin. And in many cases it is relatively easy to point the blame to these harmful substances in causing or aggravating certain diseases. For instance, it is clear that many inhaled pollutants can aggravate asthma symptoms. But many people are eager to blame their symptoms to toxins, when there is no proof that they are the cause. For instance, toxins are certainly not the cause for the majority of cases of fatigue, yet some people who are tired all the time are ready to blame toxins for their condition. And then they undertake drastic steps - for instance a water or juice fast - which can make them feel even worse. And while they are feeling worse they incorrectly think the reason is because toxins are being removed from their body. Most likely the reason is low caloric intake, low protein intake, muscle atrophy, low glycogen stores in the liver, low blood sugar, etc.
   We all have toxins accumulated in our system. And what is the best way to deal with them? I believe undertaking several long term measures are a better approach than drastic short term steps. For instance, rather than fasting for a few days, I prefer reducing caloric intake over a few weeks. I am not convinced that any of the so called "detox diets" that recommend a strict regimen of lemon juice, olive oil, cayenne, etc, etc, are beneficial. Rather, eating a very healthy diet, low in calories, is a better approach. Eat more fresh and organic fruits and vegetables, reduce dairy intake, reduce meat products, eat more whole grains, drink fresh vegetables juice, add more culinary herbs to your food, avoid or dramatically reduce sugar and baked goods along with reducing caffeine intake, no smoking, and limited alcohol consumption.
What are we trying to detoxify? Pollutants? Excess hormones? Unnecessary molecular residues left over from metabolism? There are certain toxins that are present in our body in amounts that could cause problems. These include lead, radon, second hand smoke chemicals, and trihalomethanes. See body toxins for more information.

A body cleansing diet - Internal body cleansing
What do people mean when they talk about a body cleansing diet? Do they mean eating a full day's caloric intake of healthy food of all the food groups? Do they mean just eating raw foods? Or do they mean eating a limited caloric diet, for instance less than 1,000 calories? Some people may actually mean just going on a juice fast, or even a water fast. Others think drinking tea only for a few days is the right choice.

Liver cleansing
Most people who talk about doing a liver cleanse probably don't know what they mean or attempting to do, and possibly may not realize that they already have a healthy, functioning liver. They may attribute some of their symptoms to a weak liver whereas the problem may lie elsewhere.

Cleansing side effects
Attempting to go on a drastic cleansing program is not harmless. Side effects that could occur include nausea, vomiting, malaise, mood changes, irritability, fatigue, dehydration, sleep pattern changes, potential stress on the heart, muscle tissue breakdown, etc. Does fasting lead to cleansing or does a fast make things actually worse?

FDA Alert Issued for Oral Sodium Phosphate Products
2006 - The FDA has notified healthcare professionals and consumers of reports of acute phosphate nephropathy, a type of acute renal failure, that is a rare—but serious—adverse event associated with the use of oral sodium phosphates (OSP) for bowel cleansing. Documented cases of acute phosphate nephropathy include 21 patients who used an OSP solution (such as Fleet Phospho-soda or Fleet Accu-Prep) and one patient who used OSP tablets (Visicol). Individuals at increased risk of acute phosphate nephropathy include: those of advanced age, those with kidney disease or decreased intravascular volume, and those using medicines that affect renal perfusion or function (diuretics, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, and possibly nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Recommendations were offered for providers and patients when choosing and using a bowel cleanser.

Q. My wife and I love your site and info. We would like your opinion about something. We just read a book by Stanley Burroughs called "The Master Cleanser." In it, he discusses his philosophy which is basically getting everything out of nature nutritionally, keeping it "raw" as much as possible. He also mentions his now famous Master Cleanser diet which is:

2 Tbsp. lemon or lime juice (organic)
2 Tbsp. genuine, pure, organic maple syrup Grade B
1/10 tsp. cayenne pepper
10-12 oz. purified water

When juicing the lemon, it is recommended to include some of the skin and pulp. The properties of the lemon skin furthers cleansing and acts as a hemostatic. The Grade B syrup contains a large variety of minerals and vitamins. The cayenne pepper breaks up mucus and increases warmth by building the blood for an additional lift as well as adding many of the B and C vitamins. The book states the Master Cleanser helps purify the liver and:

helps dissolve and eliminate toxins and congestion.
helps cleanse the kidneys and digestive system.
helps purify the glands and cells
helps eliminate unusable waste and hardened material in the joints and muscles.
helps build a healthy blood stream
helps relieve pressure and irritation in the nerves, arteries and blood vessels.

You should stay on it for a minimum of 10 days or more (no food, supplements, etc.). The book states the diet has all the nutrition needed during this time. He instructs to drink an organic laxative tea each night before. And each morning, he instructs to do the same or to do an internal salt water bath. You prepare a full quart of luke-warm water and add 2 level teaspoons of uniodized sea salt. You drink the entire quart first thing in the morning. This is suppose to "wash" the entire digestive system. My wife and I tried it for a few days and both of us had irritable stomachs. Also, the drink isn't the best tasting with the cayenne pepper. Have you heard of the Master Cleanser diet and what is your opinion of it's claims? What do you recommend for a total cleanse that isn't as harsh (at least, we think it's harsh?

   A. I have expanded my thoughts on this topic near the top of this article.

I am a reporter and have questions about the Master Cleanse program. Why are the ingredients so specific or would other things serve the same purpose? Is the detox truly beneficial? Is it really going to prevent a person from cancer or cure an illness?
   Why the particular ingredients in the Master Cleanse program were chosen is something they would have to answer since I see no scientific basis for it. I am not convinced that it is necessary nor healthy to go on such a cleanse or detox program. It is not likely to cure a person from cancer or other illnesses. I would prefer someone go on a less drastic caloric reduction program, such as 1000 to 1200 calories a day of totally healthy and organic fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, and other healthy foods. I know many people who have gone on drastic programs and only a few have mentioned much of a benefit. The majority quit the detox programs due to side effects, fatigue, worsening of their condition, and lack of will power to maintain the rigid programs.

I was watching TV today and they were talking about "Dual Action Cleansing" to clean your colon. It said you can lose 10 lbs. overnight if you do this cleansing. It is suppose to be all different herbs mixed together. There is also a follow-up of herbs to clean all the walls of your intestines and your colon.
   This is a marketing gimmick and I would not be surprised if the FDA or FTC send a warning letter regarding the claims made about Dual Action Cleansing. The use of psyllium, glucomannan, and many other herbs provide excellent benefits.

Since IP6 is a chelator and will be removing heavy metals from my body, should I do a colon cleansing program ( and/or liver cleansing ) prior to starting a regimen of IP6?
   We don't see the need for a colon cleansing before taking I-P6.

Q. Nubodi Colon Cure: I ordered a free trial of the colon cure product and green tea supplement. I had a 14 day trial period. It has not been 14 days yet, and my account has already been charged $89.31. I want to cancel the colon cure product and I want my money back. Nubodi Colon Cure 5348 Vegas Drive Las Vegas, Nevada, 89108. Phone: 801-208-7485.
   A. We are not sure what you are referring to since we don't sell such colon cure products. Are you perhaps confusing us with another website?
      Q. Sorry for the misunderstanding. Colon Cure is using your website and email as a clinical study reference for their product. I have been trying to reach them because they took money out of my account before the trial offer ended. I am furious, plus, the colon cure product doesn't seem to be working. They don't answer the phone. I thought you should know that they are using you in their colon cure product information. Seems like false advertisement, and false endorsement to me.
         A. Thanks for letting us know about Nubodi Colon Cure, it appears to be a scam.

I am wondering if you could help me answer some questions about Himalayan Rock Salt and Sea Salt Cleanse. The recommendation for me was to take a saturated solution (16-32 oz) of Himalayan Rock Salt every morning. I had tried "The Master Cleanse" before, using 1 tsp of Natural Sea Salt (without iodine) in 2 pints of filtered water every morning for 10 days as part of "The Master Cleanse." The effects for me led to cleared sinuses, bowel elimination (almost to the point of diarrhea), and a dissipation of morning stiffness (muscle and some joint), less muscle soreness and achyness, as well as increased energy. Can you answer why the salt water would lead to less stiffness and achyness? Also, when combined with fluids the rest of the day, are there any risks you are aware of in doing this over time? I read somewhere that the salt water raises your lithium levels.
   I have not studied the topic of rock salt cleanses enough to have a good understanding on its benefits or dangers.

I am writing a story on the Master Cleanse for a magazine which is based in San Francisco. Part of my story was to actually try the cleanse myself, though I failed. One day into it I was forced to quit. I was irritable and nauseous and vomited by the end of the first day. I was wondering if you had any insight for the story. I want to know briefly what it is really doing to your body. From my experience, my body was telling me to stop and I eventually did. And what would make me throw up?
   I am not convinced a cleanse a healthy way to restore one's body, I prefer a person eats fewer calories, but not go on an extremely low calorie diet.

I would like if you could look into 'Isagenix Cleanse' and see if it is a potentially detrimental product for people or helpful --- it seems to me that Isagenix Cleanse has a combination of herbs that not necessarily should be just promoted to everyone as it seems is being done. Thank you so much. G-d bless you to continue doing good work.
    There are tens of thousands of products that are sold, I prefer to focus on the benefits of the ones I formulate since I do not have time to focus on all the ones that are out there.


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