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Intestinal cleansing: does it make sense?

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 383 views

Intestinal cleansing is intended to bring the microorganisms in the intestine into balance. If they are not, various bodily functions such as digestion or the immune system go into a tailspin. Find out here how intestinal cleansing works and whether it makes sense.

Intestinal cleansing: what is it?

The term “sanitation” is derived from the Latin word “sanare”, which means “to heal”. By means of an intestinal cleansing, the intestine should be healed. This is done by strengthening or rebuilding the existing intestinal flora.

In this way, supporters of intestinal cleansing want to become healthier, strengthen their immune system, purify the intestines and sometimes even lose weight. Some also want to get intolerance under control with intestinal cleansing, for example a histamine intolerance. Histamine is a protein and messenger substance that is found in red wine, smoked sausage or cheese that has matured for a long time.

According to the current status, however, there is no scientific study that confirms the effectiveness of intestinal cleansing. On the contrary: Colonic irrigation, which is usually the first step in colon cleansing, damages the intestinal flora in some cases due to the mechanical irritation.

It has also not been proven that intestinal cleansing helps against acne , allergies and obesity, as supporters believe. If an effect occurs, it is more likely that sugar, alcohol and co. are omitted for a while.

You can also get rid of nausea or a feeling of fullness more gently with turmeric and ginger than with an intestinal cleansing. Brewed as a tea, they have a digestive effect.

How to do a colon cleanse: instructions

There are various reasons why people do intestinal cleansing: For example, they want to lose weight, purify or detoxify the intestines.

There is a process for the “natural” intestinal cleansing, more precisely, the classic do-it-yourself intestinal cleansing is divided into three steps.

This “gut clean-up plan” is intended for illustrative and informational purposes. You should not do any colon cleansing at home alone, especially without a doctor.

colon cleansing

A laxative such as Glauber’s salt or castor oil removes the feces from the intestine. An enema would also be conceivable as a first step. Warm water is passed through the anus into the intestine using a tube or squeeze bag (also: enema).

After that, psyllium husks are used for intestinal cleansing, usually in powder form. They are designed to loosen deposits such as toxins or bad bacteria.

The difference between a colon cleanse and a colon cleanse is that the former is just one part of the overall cleansing process. The enema for colon cleansing should also not be confused with colonic irrigation, in which liquid is flushed into the intestines until it comes out clear.

“breed” bacteria

In the second step, you take healing earth during your intestinal cleansing. It is available under the designation bentonite or zeolite. The goal: it should bind the dissolved toxins and unwanted bacteria and transport them to the outside via the stool.

In order to create a good environment for the existing and new good intestinal bacteria to be cultivated, eat prebiotic foods in this phase of intestinal rehabilitation.

Prebiotics are indigestible components of food. They stimulate the growth of beneficial intestinal dwellers.

Learn more about prebiotics here .

At this point, foods like chicory, artichokes , onions, or bananas are on the list for a colon cleanse. Sugar and carbohydrates are generally not allowed. In addition, sausage, meat, caffeine and alcohol are taboo, as these taste the “wrong” bacteria.

Rebuild intestinal flora

The last step is to build up a healthy intestinal flora. This happens during intestinal rehabilitation using probiotics , i.e. preparations that contain viable microorganisms. This includes certain foods, but they are also available in drug form, as capsules or drops, for intestinal cleansing.

There is also a nutrition plan for this phase of intestinal rehabilitation. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, yoghurt and kombucha are suitable for building a healthy intestinal flora, as well as apple cider vinegar.

However, taking probiotics safely can backfire: Studies have shown that they sometimes cause fungal infections in people with weakened immune systems . Especially with Saccharomyces bolardii, a yeast, this danger is probably high. Seriously ill people can even die from it. And if you have a gastrointestinal condition, you should talk to your doctor first before taking probiotics.

Learn more about probiotics here .

For this level of intestinal cleansing, naturopaths sometimes also recommend homeopathy . However, the effect of such agents (not only) for intestinal rehabilitation has not been scientifically proven.

Intestinal rehabilitation at the doctor or naturopath

Especially practices for alternative healing methods often offer a supervised intestinal cleansing. Their effect has not been proven either, but at least there is someone who knows the process and has done it a few times.

What does an intestinal cleansing bring?

Basically, an intestinal cleansing should bring the microbiome, i.e. the bacterial population in the intestine, back into a healthy balance. After all, trillions of bacteria live in this organ.

It is certain that without a healthy microbiome, digestion no longer works properly. In addition, certain intestinal bacteria “defuse” toxic substances, which they can no longer do if there is an imbalance.

An imbalance has unpleasant consequences such as:

  • (chronic) digestive problems
  • overweight
  • Skin disorders (e.g. acne)
  • inflammatory bowel diseases (e.g. Crohn’s disease)

The bacteria of the intestinal flora are also necessary to activate certain medications such as certain antibiotics and anti-inflammatory agents. They also produce vitamins such as B2, B12 or folic acid and are important for the immune system.

The study situation is thin

The fact that the microbial balance in the intestine is disturbed is shown on the one hand by clear symptoms such as flatulence, constipation or diarrhea, but on the other hand also more subtly by susceptibility to infections, exhaustion or a craving for sweets.

However – and this is the big but: There is no scientific evidence that intestinal cleansing has a positive effect on health. On the contrary, a healthy gut is quite capable of cleaning and healing itself.

Anything that he cannot use, he transports back outside. So there are no toxins or waste products that would have to be removed by intestinal cleansing. The thought of bringing a disturbed intestinal flora back into balance with such a cure is understandable – but not proven.

Healthy nutrition instead of intestinal cleansing

Better – and backed by studies: Help the intestines with nutrition instead of with intestinal rehabilitation. A high-fiber, plant-based diet is considered gut-friendly.

Read more about healthy foods here .

When is intestinal cleansing useful?

Due to the lack of a scientific basis, intestinal cleansing does not make sense from a medical point of view. After taking antibiotics, after diarrhea and fungal diseases, the intestinal flora actually has to recover. Normally, however, she can do this without intestinal cleansing.

The German Society for Gastroenterology, Digestive and Metabolic Diseases advises against having stool samples examined to determine whether the intestinal flora is in order and to derive nutritional and action recommendations from this. They are “expensive and pointless”.

You can give your child the best intestinal cleansing while breastfeeding: Breast milk promotes a healthy intestinal flora.

Intestinal cleansing: possible side effects

Colon cleansing is not without side effects. Colon cleansing in particular sometimes causes side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain and even circulatory problems and kidney failure. Especially if you only flush but don’t drink enough.

If you clean the colon with an enema and do it improperly, you can damage the colon wall and, in the worst case, risk liver damage or abdominal infections.


There is a lot to be said for taking care of your gut health. However, there is no scientific evidence that speaks for intestinal cleansing. Better eat gut-friendly and get regular exercise — doing the gut microbiome a bigger favor than enemas, laxatives, and powders.

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