Colon cleanse products are used to help patients remedy their digestive and constipation problems.
The colon, also known as the large intestine, is inevitably an important part of the digestive tract. It reabsorbs fluids, and helps excrete waste from the body.
Yet, when the colon absorbs too much water during this final stage, constipation may occur – making it difficult to pass stool.
Some experts claim that colon cleansing may help relieve troublesome digestive issues. However, anti-constipation remedies, such as laxatives, have also proven to help with regular bowel movements. Further, colon cleanses and anti-constipation methods may help reduce cancer, IBS symptoms, constipation, and improve bowel movement frequency, stool softening, and more.
In addition, both are associated with varying side effects. Colon cleanses and anti-constipation remedies, their benefits, and side effects are explored in more detail below.
1Colon cleanses may improve symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A 2016 study observed the use of the Ashong colonic irrigation apparatus (ACIA) and its efficiency for IBS patients. Researchers measured the efficiency based on bowel movement frequency, stool consistency, abdominal pain, patient satisfaction, and discomfort/distress.
Abdominal pain, satisfaction, and discomfort/distress measurements all had significant improvements. Researchers concluded by saying that the ACIA could potentially provide a way to alleviate IBS symptoms. Yet, they suggested that long-term studies could provide more extensive knowledge on the topic (1).
2Probiotic colon cleanses may decrease the risk of colorectal cancer. Statistics show that colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer. And researchers have found significant reason to believe that colon cleanses may act as a preventative measure against this type of cancer. Specifically, probiotic formulations – such as fermented foods – help balance out the microbiome and reduce oxidative stress in the digestive tract. In fact, probiotics may even reduce tumor progression and contribute to the overall immune response (2).
3Budesonide and probiotics enemas may reduce colitis, also known as inflammation of the inner lining of the colon. One study performed on rats investigated the response of the colon and inflammation when budesonide and probiotic enemas were conducted. Researchers found that inflammation did decrease. However, the rats did lose weight. And human trials evidently need to be done (3).
4A saltwater flush combined with yoga poses may prove an effective colon cleanse. A 2010 study used lukewarm saline solution combined with 5 yoga poses to cleanse the bowel. 54 healthy adults participated in the study. The participants performed the yoga poses, and at regular intervals, they would consume 480 milliliters of the lukewarm saline solution, which consisted of 9 grams of sodium chloride per liter of lukewarm water. Researchers concluded that it was an effective colon cleanse to prepare the participants for a colonoscopy (4).
5Vitamin C may contribute to an optimal colon cleanse, also preparing participants for a colonoscopy. This method was used in a 2015 study, and may explain why many choose to use vegetables and fruits for colon cleanses (5).
However, many experts and doctors recommend that for optimal colon health, including vegetables and fruits in your diet is essential for adequate fiber intake.
6Resistant starches in colon cleanses may also reduce the risk of colon cancer. These resistant starches are found in many foods, including potatoes, bananas, and rice. Research suggests that including these in your diet may improve colon and digestive health. In fact, it may help prevent and control common diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and obesity. It does this through its impact on the gut microbiome (6).
7Psyllium provides relief from chronic constipation. In an older 1998 study, researchers compared psyllium to docusate sodium for anti constipation. Psyllium was found to be superior to docusate sodium in stool water content, stool water weight, total stool output, and bowel movement frequency. It significantly improved the symptoms in participants suffering from chronic constipation (7).
Another study combined psyllium with aloe vera. It was found to be effective, and it produced softer stools and more frequent bowel movements. Yet, researchers noted that abdominal pain had not decreased in participants (8).
A 2010 study also looked into psyllium use for gastrointestinal issues. This study indicated the psyllium had gut-stimulating effects, and caused laxative effects. In turn, researchers claimed it may help in gastrointestinal problems (9).
8Dried prunes may prove a superior source for anti constipation remedies than psyllium. A 2011 study put dried prunes and psyllium up against each other. The study showed that prunes had a more significant effect in measures, including spontaneous bowel movements per week and stool consistency scores. Researchers inferred that prunes were then a safe and well-tolerated anti constipation remedy (10).
9Increased fiber intake may improve stool frequency for individuals with constipation. A 2012 review looked over 1322 articles relating to fiber intake and anti constipation. Articles showed varying degrees of positive results. Yet, fiber did not improve stool consistency or pain associated with any conditions (11).
Another review concluded that fiber was ‘moderately’ effective, but that it had some side effects (12).
For a good form of fiber, many experts recommend chia seeds (13). However, fiber can be found in a variety of other foods, including fruits, vegetables, and potatoes.
10Docusate sodium is a traditional stool softener used in a variety of products and brands for anti constipation benefits. A study published in 2013 explored the use of oral docusate in managing constipation in hospice patients. The study was conducted over the course of 10 days. The study suggested that docusate does not necessarily work for everyone, and cautioned using it on an individual case basis only (14).
11Methylcellulose may provide anti constipation effects. However, it should generally be used as a laxative and not a preventative method.
One study observed the use of methylcellulose on 50 chronically constipated individuals. It was given at a dosage of 4 grams per day. During this phase of the study, researchers observed a increase in fecal frequency and water in stool. The next phase involved 59 chronically constipated individuals.
In this phase, individuals were given 1 gram, 2 grams, or 4 grams of methylcellulose, or 3.4 grams of psyllium. They noticed improvements in all participants, and concluded that methylcellulose is effective at a dosage of 1 gram per day to decrease constipation symptoms (15).
Another study looked at methylcellulose in 538 patients with constipation. In the majority of these patients (61%), bowel movement frequency, bowel movement consistency, and ease of passage returned to normal. Researchers suggested that methylcellulose was useful in acute and chronic constipation cases (16).
12Senna, lactulose, sorbitol, and oral bisacodyl are all effective constipation treatments. One study compared senna and lactulose in the elderly. Researchers concluded that both these treatments were well-tolerated by the patients – but senna combined with fiber had increased effectiveness when compared to lactulose (17).
Senna tablets further helped individuals post-partum with constipation issues. It was noted that there was a 93% success rate with the senna tablets (18).
Further, a 2011 study explored the effect of oral bisacodyl when it came to anti constipation effects. This method is often used as a stimulant laxative. The study was conducted over the course of 4 weeks. Patients were given 10 milligrams of bisacodyl per day. It was shown to improve constipation, bowel function, and even, quality of life (19).
A 2007 study had similar findings. Over another 4-week period, it was found that bisacodyl was effective and well-tolerated by participants (20).
In addition, sorbitol has been shown to decrease constipation in the elderly. One study found it to be a cost-effective treatment method when compared to lactulose (21).
13Milk of magnesia may aid children with constipation relief. In one study, 63% of the children responded well to milk of magnesia treatments. However, with discontinued treatment, the children’s digestive and bowel movements returned back to their constipated state (22).
14Polyethylene glycol (PEG) may aid in gut or colon cleansing, as well as constipation. Researchers examined 115 patients with chronic constipation. Yet, only 99 of these patients completed the entire trial. They found that low doses of PEG aided the majority of the remaining patients in solving their gut health and constipation issues (23).
15Kefir, a fermented milk product, adds bulk and moisture to the stool. It may boost digestive health and is used by some to help aid regular digestion. A 2014 study explored the use of a kefir supplement when it comes to anti constipation and promoting good digestion. Participants experienced a decrease reliance on laxatives and improvements in stool consistencies and frequency (24).
Castor oil has been used for decades as a natural laxative. A 2011 study showed that it decreased symptoms of constipation. Measures to determine this included decreased straining during a bowel movement, softening stool, and improving on feelings of completion of evacuation (25).
16Apples promote good digestion and good gut bacteria. Apples contain pectin and pectin may have laxative effects. A 2014 study even noted that pectin increased colon transit time and decreased constipation symptoms (26).
17Olive oil is another natural colon cleanse mechanisms that may encourage good digestive health. A 2009 study even found a polyethylene glycol-electrolyte lavage solution to be more effective when olive oil was added into the equation (27).
Certain herbal teas, containing ginger or cayenne, may help alleviate digestive problems and provide anti constipation effects. Some individuals also do colon cleanses using these herbal teas. However, more studies are needed to define and refine their exact effects and uses.
18Aloe vera is a natural and potent laxative to treat chronic constipation. While Aloe vera is well-known for treating burns, it is also a natural laxative. In a study of 28 healthy adults, the laxative effects of Aloe vera were stronger than those of a popular stimulant laxative (phenolphthalein) (28).
Another study on 38 patients with chronic constipation reported that Aloe vera worked as a laxative when combined with two other natural supplements (celandin and psyllium) (29).
19Flax seeds help act as bulk laxative. Flaxseeds are small, brown seeds that are increasingly popular in America for their high-fiber, low-carb, superfood qualities. They are also an effective natural laxative. In a study of 26 young adults, subjects were given flax fiber supplements (9g/day), which acted as a bulk laxative and helped relieve constipation issues (30).
20Coffee causes muscle contractions in the intestines, acting as stimulant laxative. One review reported that coffee affects the colon like a 1,000 calorie meal due to its effect on a hormone called gastrin. Gastrin stimulates cells that secrete acid, thus stimulating digestion and causing intestinal movement (31).
Although caffeine plays a role in causing intestinal muscle contractions, it isn’t the main laxative substance in coffee. One study of 12 healthy subjects found that while caffeinated coffee was 60% stronger in laxative action than hot water, decaffeinated coffee was 37% stronger, which accounts for most of the difference.
1Psyllium may not have any anti constipation effect for some individuals (32).
2A higher fiber intake is associated with increased flatulence (33).
3Dehydration is a serious and very plausible side effect associated with colon cleanses and anti constipation remedies. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids and discuss your options with your doctor before starting any cleanse.
4A colon cleanse or laxative may further cause electrolyte imbalances. If these imbalances become severe, it may lead to kidney problems. Again, discussions with your doctor or dietitian are encouraged.
5Clearing out the colon or bowel may result in an infection in some cases. It may get rid of the good bacteria – protecting your gut and body from harm. As a result, your body may become more susceptible to illness and bad bacteria.
Current USA RDA for Vitamin C is 75 mg/day for women and 90 mg/day for men. Amounts up to 125 mg/day are recommended for pregnant or lactating women, and an additional 35 mg per day to account for increased oxidative stress and vitamin C turnover in smokers. The ‘tolerable upper intake level’ is stated to be 2 g/day for adults but many people are fine taking larger doses.
Psyllium has a few different doses depending on the goal. For constipation: 2.5 to 30 g/day in divided doses (In children age 6 to 11 years old: 1.25 to 15 g/day in divided doses). For reduction of coronary heart disease: At least 10.2 g/day (translates to at least 7g soluble fiber/day). For adjunctive therapy of type 2 diabetes: 6.8 to 13.6 g/day split between 2 doses. For irritable bowel syndrome: 10 g/day over 1 or 2 doses.
Clinical studies in constipated adult patients have shown that a 17 – or 34-g daily dose of polyethylene glycol (PEG) 3350 (MiraLax) is safe.
Docusate sodium (DSS) is generally prescribed between 50-300mg per day either once or divided into doses.
A dose of 1-2 tablespoon per day of aloe vera provides optimal laxative benefits. Higher doses could cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea.
While all fiber is healthy and a good way to prevent constipation, if you are already constipated a diet high in soluble fiber eases symptoms better than insoluble fiber. To avoid side-effects like bloating and gas, start at a low dosage and increase over several weeks to 20-30 g per day
What is a safe laxative to use daily? Psyllium (Metamucil), polycarbophil (FiberCon), and methylcellulose (Citrucel). It is important to drink plenty of fluids with a bulk laxative.
Are there any natural laxatives? Yes, there are 6 main natural laxatives. They are chia seeds, figs, coffee, leafy greens, probiotics and kombucha.
What is the fastest acting laxative? According to MedHelp the fastest active laxative is the drug bisacodyl when administered as a rectal suppository. The over-the-counter version is Dulcolax. You can purchase Dulcolax in tablet form. However for a super fast acting laxative that will work in minutes, not hours you should try Dulcolax as a suppository.
How do you get rid of impacted stool? Treatment for the condition starts with removal of the impacted stool. After that, steps are taken to prevent future fecal impactions. A warm mineral oil enema is often used to soften and lubricate the stool. However, enemas alone are not enough to remove a large, hardened impaction in most cases.
What happens if you don’t poop for a week? Once constipation (no bowel movement) has gone on for some time, the result can be what is known as an impacted bowel (sometimes called fecal impaction). Essentially, this means that a large lump of dry, hard stool is stuck inside your rectum.
Can you still poop with impacted feces? When a stool doesn’t pass through the intestinal system, it can become dry and hard and lodge in the colon. Once fecal impaction occurs, your colon won’t be able to remove the feces from the body using its normal contraction process.
How long can a child go without pooping? While it may be normal for many children to go two to three days without a bowel movement, going four or more days can be considered constipation, even though this may cause no pain in some children and even be normal for a few children.
Can you throw up poop? No you can’t throw up your own poop. While, fecal vomiting is a genuine condition, rarely occurring in cases of severe constipation in which the colon is completely full of feces. The vomit, however, doesn’t actually contain what we recognize as poop, which comes from the colon.
What does it mean when your poop comes out in little balls? Stool that comes out in small pieces rather than long and smooth is sometimes called pebble or pellet stool. Fiber forms a gel in the intestines when it is fermented by bacteria in the colon and combined with water. If there is a lack of fiber holding stool together, it may be shaped like small pebbles.
Can you die from not pooping? While the answer is technically no, you can certainly die from the many complications that would arise from not pooping regularly.
There are a variety of colon cleanses and anti constipation methods and entities. Some are backed by science, while some others need more research behind them to prove their valuability.
As aforementioned, booking an appointment with your doctor or another healthcare professional is highly recommended before taking any laxatives, colon cleanses, or anti constipation medication. It’s further important to make sure you drink plenty of water if you choose to do so. In addition, if any equipment is used during your colon cleanse, such as during an enema, make sure it is clean and sterile for use.
Many of the above remedies further may aid in prevention against colon cancer, constipation, or other gastrointestinal deficiencies. But again, these effects vary from person to person.