5 Colon Cleanse Side Effects You Should Know About

More and more respected figures in the medical field are agreeing that there are upwards of 10 to 30 pounds of undigested waste sitting in the colon and digestive tract of the average person, and that a colon cleanse or detoxifier is a much-needed purge.

However, if you don’t take care to select the right colon cleanser with the right ingredients, and if you don’t follow instructions properly, you could be putting yourself in danger of any number of unpleasant side effects.

Here’s a look at five common side effects associated with colon cleanses, and what you can do to prevent them.

1. Electrolyte Imbalance

According to the Mayo Clinic, certain poorly developed colon cleansers can put you in danger of electrolyte imbalance. If a cleanse contains sodium phosphates, it can raise electrolyte levels and make you extremely sick, usually in the form of nausea or vomiting.

However, if you already have conditions like diabetes, kidney problems, or hypertension, you are especially at risk for dangerous side effects.

What to Do: Pay careful attention to the ingredient label of your prospective colon cleanser to ensure you’re getting a product free of sodium phosphate. Some forms of these salts go by the names sodium dihydrogen phosphate, disodium hydrogen phosphate, trisodium phosphate, or sodium aluminum phosphate.

2. Dehydration and Dry Mouth

Dr. Michael Picco of the Mayo Clinic has found in research that dehydration is a common side effect of all colon cleansers, regardless of ingredients or brand. This is because laxatives by their very nature drain the body of waste, which includes excess water.

If you don’t treat dehydration, it can lead to unpleasant side effects like headaches, irritability, and bad eyesight.

What to Do: Make sure to stay well hydrated by drinking lots of fluids, especially water.

3. Fatigue and Exhaustion

Somewhat associated with dehydration, fatigue is another common side effect linked with using colon cleanses. Because colon cleansers expel a great deal of waste in the body, you’re parting with a lot more vitamins and nutrients than you would otherwise. This can lead to exhaustion very quickly, as your body has to work double-time to try to balance levels of nutrients, bacteria, and germs.

What to Do: Consider taking a multivitamin while you’re on your colon cleanse. This will help replenish the vitamins and minerals that get flushed away as your colon contracts more frequently.

4. Diarrhea

Diarrhea is one of the most common side effects associated with poor colon cleansers. If you choose a cheap colon cleanser, or do not follow instructions properly, you may lose control of your bowels and experience diarrhea and runny stools. These kinds of colon cleansers often include ingredients that are too stimulating, such as osmotic and saline laxatives.

However, proper colon cleansers should actually work to stop diarrhea by detoxifying the digestive tract and pulling mucus and other waste from your insides.

What to Do: Look for colon cleansers that use more mild laxatives with a history of preventing, rather than causing, diarrhea. These include psyllium husk or seed, slippery elm, wheat dextrin, or acidophilus.

5. Rectal Itching

Of course, colon cleanses can also cause some embarrassing side effects like rectal itching. The skin around the anus easily becomes irritated and inflamed, and if you’re using a colon cleanser that doesn’t have gentle ingredients, this will happen often. The itch is made worse by heat, and can often come alongside burning and soreness.

Most of the time, rectal itching is brought about by using too many laxatives. This is why it’s important to only use the recommended dosage of your colon cleanser.

What to Do: Don’t scratch. This actually worsens the problem by removing layers of skin. Instead, try cleansing more gently and drying the area thoroughly by patting it with toilet paper. Also make sure to look for colon cleansers that contain natural, gentle ingredients that have anti-inflammatory properties.

Choose the Right Colon Cleanser

Of course, the trick to avoiding most of these side effects is simply to choose the right product. Colon cleansers can be remarkably helpful and many are made with attention and care, but some opt for fast-acting and cheap ingredients that put your health at risk.

Be a smart consumer and check the nutrition label before you purchase a colon cleanser. Also be sure to peruse customer reviews so you know what you’re getting into. Remember—the majority of colon cleanse side effects are positive. You just have to do a little extra work to avoid the negative ones.

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