A colon cleanse is a supplemental routine or procedure that is intended to increase your body’s ability to excrete solid waste from your colon.
If your diet isn’t exactly what it should be, you might be afraid that you’re accumulating toxins or waste products in your gastrointestinal tract, and this is why people turn to colon cleanses.
Some people advocate a mechanical colon cleanse that involves irrigation with an enema kit, but these are fraught with risks.
A less harmful approach is to use a supplement with a mild laxative, dietary fiber, or herbal supplements associated with good colon health. Here are our rankings of the most effective colon cleansing supplements available.
1. VitaBalance Colon Detox Plus
“All disease begins in the gut.”
Hippocrates famously said it, and science is finally understanding how true it is…
Especially if you take a lot of medicines like antibiotics, birth control, antacids… are chronically stressed… are exposed to environmental toxins (and who isn’t these days?)… or struggle with poor overall health. All these things stress the colon, so it isn’t able to fully digest your foods and keep you healthy.
That’s why we love VitaBalance Colon Detox Plus. Not only does it flush toxins and waste from your body, it balances the “bugs” in your gut, so your digestive system gets a fresh start.
Why is that necessary?
Because bloating and excess weight are actually symptoms of a toxic gut. Clean it regularly, and you can lose weight, enjoy more energy, and clear out the brain fog.
Colon Detox Plus gives you a powerful blend of the best-known and most trusted ingredients for a healthy colon: psyllium, Lactobacillus acidophilus, rhubarb, gentian, aloe vera, Cascara sagrada, buckthorn, and alfalfa leaf.
Non-GMO. Gluten-free. Vegan. Manufactured in an FDA-registered facility that follows GMP guidelines.
The all-around colon cleanse winner of 2020.
2. Dr. Tobias Colon Cleanse
The colon cleanse regimen from Dr. Tobias is based around a combination of natural laxative power from senna leaf, oil-based salves for colon health (both aloe vera gel and medium chain triglycerides), and fiber to improve your stool production.
It’s also got probiotics to help repopulate your gut bacteria. Because it covers all the bases when it comes to colon health, it’s a smart choice to safely and effectively clean your colon.
3. Kleen IQ Colon Detox & Cleanse
Kleen IQ makes a well-balanced colon cleanse supplement that includes senna leaf for laxative strength, medium chain triglyceride oil and aloe vera gel to soothe the lining of the colon, lactobacillus acidophilus probiotics, and both psyllium and flaxseed fiber. A well-rounded colon cleanser like this without any extraneous ingredients is always a solid choice.
4. Super Colon Cleanse
Super Colon Cleanse goes heavy on the herbal supplements, combining the laxative power of senna leaf with a wide array of herbal extracts, from celery seed to rose hips.
These herbal extracts are supposed to support a wide range of factors related to digestive health, but evidence for their efficacy is lacking. The fiber content is pretty good, though, and it’s got acidophilus probiotics too.
5. BioSchwartz Colon Detox & Cleanser
BioSchwartz’s 15 day program goes all in on herbal supplements. The inclusion of aloe vera gel is a nice touch, and like many other colon cleanses it uses senna as its laxative base, but the fact that the ingredients are hidden in a “proprietary blend” makes it tough to analyze in detail how effective it will be.
On the other hand, it does have two different kinds of probiotic bacteria, versus just one in most other competitors.
6. K Cleanse & Detox
K Cleanse & Detox takes an alternative approach to the colon cleanse. Its formulation is based around acai fruit, juniper berry, and dandelion extract as opposed to the typical herbal extracts seen in its competitors.
It still includes senna for laxative purposes, but it’s very different from the competition in most other regards. It might be worth a shot if other colon cleanses have failed you.
7. Sculpt n’ Cleanse
Sculpt n’ Cleanse, despite the name, doesn’t actually include much in the way of weight loss supplements; it’s mostly a laxative with some herbal ingredients for colon health.
Senna leaf provides the main laxative power, alongside buckthorn extract for additional laxative effects and a host of other herbal remedies. There is some aloe vera gel, but not much else in the way of oils, nor are there any probiotic ingredients.
8. QFL Inner Clean Capsules
QFL Inner Clean Capsules have some great ingredients, but it’s impossible to tell whether they’ll be effective, because the proprietary blend hides the amount of each ingredient in the blend. Yes, there is senna, flax, oat bran, and aloe vera, but is there enough to be efficacious?
9. NutraTech Ultra Cleanse
NutraTech has some quality ingredients, but unfortunately they’re all at the bottom of the list of their “proprietary blend” ingredients. Senna, prune juice, and flaxseed oil are all great, but they are among the least prevalent ingredients in the blend.
Plus, we don’t know the absolute amount of these ingredients. This calls the efficacy of this supplement into question, even though there aren’t any issues with the ingredients themselves.
10. Health Plus Prime Natural Detox Cleanse
Natural Detox Cleanse is mostly a laxative, and is fairly weak on the other parts of a colon cleanse. There isn’t much in the way of agents to soothe the gastrointestinal tract, and while it includes fructooligosaccarides as “prebiotics” to encourage your natural gut flora to grow and proliferate, there aren’t any actual probiotic bacteria in this supplement, nor is there any fiber.
11. Colon Clenz
Colon Clenz includes senna, buckthorn, and aloe vera, but the other ingredients are pretty forgettable obscure herbal extracts. The absolute amount of herbal extracts included is pretty small, too, so the likelihood that this will be effective is diminished because of this.
Who should buy a colon cleanse?
Colon cleanses are popular among people who have gastrointestinal complains and would like to improve the regularity and quality of their bowel movements.
While a colon cleanse won’t quite “remove toxins” overnight like some products and manufacturers might like to believe, the right combination of fiber and herbal extracts can boost the speed of your digestive tract, helping to move food through your intestines more rapidly and with more regularity.
If you need to shock your system back into regular bowel movements and kick start a healthier diet and supplementation routine for your gastrointestinal system, taking a colon cleanse supplement could be a good way to get started.
Colon cleanse supplements are also a much safer and preferable alternative to a mechanical colon cleanse, also sometimes referred to as a colon irrigation.
In this procedure, your colon is flushed with a liquid solution. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, such procedures are very risky, and have been associated with stomach pain, diarrhea, and damage to the rectum (1). They can also significantly alter your body’s electrolyte balance, which can spell trouble for people with heart or kidney disease.
While colon cleanse supplements are also not without potential side effects, the severity of these side effects is thought to be far lower and less frequent than the side effects associated with mechanical colon cleansing. If you are thinking of a colon cleanse, opting for a supplemental product is probably a safer bet than a mechanical procedure.
How we ranked
As noted above, because of the risks associated with mechanical methods of colon irrigation, we excluded any enema-based mechanical colon cleanse. This rapidly narrowed the field of products eligible for our rankings to only herbal and fiber-based supplements. We dropped anything that contained only fiber.
While fiber supplements can be great for your gastrointestinal tract, we had different criteria in mind when ranking fiber-only supplements in our top-rated fiber article. Fiber content was an important (but not mandatory) criteria for our colon cleanse rankings, however.
Next up, we looked to see which of the remaining colon cleanse supplements contained safe and high-quality herbal ingredients like senna, which have a laxative effect but have a low risk of side effects or dependency.
All else equal, it’s far better to rely on a tried and tested ingredient like senna, versus less well-understood laxative herbs. The risk with these other kinds of ingredients is that they may not work, or they may work too well and make your body reliant on them to have a bowel movement.
We penalized products that obscured the purity and dosage of their active ingredients using a proprietary blend, and likewise penalized products that used too many artificial flavors, colors, or binding agents in their formulations. The last thing you want when you’re trying to clean out your digestive tract is to have unnecessary extras in the supplement you are taking.
A colon cleanse is great, but how do you ensure your gastrointestinal tract stays healthy after the immediate effects of the cleanse have worn off. The products that wound up high in the rankings were those that included probiotic strains and/or prebiotic nutrients to help the healthy bacteria in your gut flourish.
We didn’t employ the same rigid requirements on CFU dosage that we used in our probiotic rankings, but providing some healthy bacteria to repopulate your colon and intestines after inducing a laxative effect was still highly desirable among our colon cleanse products.
A colon cleanse may help increase the health of your GI tract. A colon cleanse, when done with a natural supplement, involves a dose of an herbal extract with laxative abilities, plus typically other ingredients to soothe the inside of the colon, increase the frequency and quantity of your bowel movements, and repopulate your gastrointestinal tract with healthy probiotic bacteria.
Broadly, the goal is to flush out your system, then renew it with healthy bacteria. Colon cleanses are popular among people with constipation, poor diets, or gastrointestinal problems.
Research on their efficacy is limited, but there may be benefits associated with the specific goals of a colon cleanse; namely, increasing your bowel movement frequency, flushing out your system with more fiber, and repopulating your gut with healthy bacteria.
Supplemental colon cleanses appear to be safer than mechanical colon irrigation. The first benefit of a supplement based colon cleanse is simply that it is safer than mechanical colon cleanses. Several medical case reports caution against using mechanical colon cleanses, which involve enemas of herbal solutions to irrigate the colon.
A report by Dr. Ranit Mishouri and other medical doctors at the Georgetown University School of Medicine presented several cases of patients who had serious adverse health effects from mechanical colon cleansing (2).
In these cases, the injection of large volumes of herbal solutions into the colon via an enema bag upset the body’s natural balance and caused issues ranging from diarrhea to cramping and nausea.
Dr. Ruben Acosta and Dr. Brook Cash also caution against the use of mechanical colon cleansing in a 2009 review article in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. The benefits are minimal, and risks have been identified (3).
In contrast, using a supplement-based colon cleanse with natural remedies from herbal extracts may present a safer alternative. These don’t involve injecting large volumes of solution into the colon, and thus pose less of a health risk.
One key ingredient in a colon cleanse is a laxative. Ideally, this would come from an herbal or natural source, like senna leaf. Constipation is not just uncomfortable; it’s decidedly unhealthy.
A major epidemiological study published in 2003 examined constipation and laxative use in a large population in North Carolina (4).
In this study, “constipation” was defined as fewer than three bowel movements per week. Among people with constipation, there was a substantial increase in risk for colon cancer. Crucially, this risk dropped among the people who used laxatives to treat their constipation.
This lends credence to the theory that toxic waste products sitting around in your colon are actively harmful. This doesn’t necessarily mean they accumulate over time in healthy individuals, but it does mean that stuff your body wants to get out–solid waste in your colon–should not be sitting around for days at a time.
Other colon cleanse ingredients have the potential to soothe the lining of the inside of your colon. Aloe vera gel is one good example.
Research published in 2004 found that aloe vera gel acts as an anti-inflammatory in the kinds of cells that line the colon (5). Additionally, a review published in 1999 in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology by T. Reynolds and A.C. Dweck even hypothesizes that the external healing properties of aloe vera gel (as used to treat sunburn, for example) may apply to internal use as well (6). If this is true, aloe vera gel may be able to not just soothe the colon, but heal it too.
Fiber content is also helpful in a colon cleanse, because it’s well-known that increased fiber content in your diet helps improve gastrointestinal health. According to Joanne Slavin at the University of Minnesota, fiber can also help probiotic bacteria grow and flourish (7).
Adding back probiotic bacteria can help your colon health. This brings us to the final point where a colon cleanse can help your gastrointestinal health, which is the reintroduction of probiotic bacteria.
These are the “good bacteria” that help your body digest food and regulate the health of your gastrointestinal system. Probiotics are a front of active research, and we still don’t fully understand their potential, but one thing we do know is that supplementing with certain strains, like lactobacillus acidophilus, can treat gastrointestinal problems.
A review article published in the International Journal of Antimicrobacterial Agents described how probiotic supplements are known to treat gastrointestinal problems associated with contaminated water (traveler’s diarrhea) and antibiotic treatments, which wipe out the good bacteria in your body (8).
The specific effects of a colon cleanse that include probiotics hasn’t been studied yet, but from what we know so far, it seems reasonable to assume that it would add a substantial benefit to your colon health.
The use of probiotics also makes sense in the context of the overall goal of a colon cleanse. You are trying to flush out your system and remove the “bad stuff” in your colon, but what are you going to replace it with? Probiotic bacteria can help repopulate your colon during a cleanse.
A colon cleanse with probiotic bacteria could help improve your gastrointestinal health in the long-term. One of the biggest things to consider when doing a colon cleanse routine is how you’ll ensure good gastrointestinal health going forward.
Even the world’s greatest colon cleanse isn’t’ going to be very helpful if you revert right back to the same lifestyle and diet that caused your gastrointestinal problems in the first place. One of the most exciting potential ways to achieve better colon health in the long term is to add probiotics to your colon cleanse.
Resetting your gastrointestinal tract is one thing, but scientific research indicates that you can substantially improve gastrointestinal symptoms like constipation by including probiotic bacteria as a part of your daily routine.
A systematic review of probiotic supplementation protocols published in 2010 indicated promising results (9), and high-quality research showing the advantages of probiotics for symptoms like constipation and other gastrointestinal problems. As probiotic research is one of the hottest areas in science right now, many of our top rated colon cleanse supplements include probiotic bacteria.
A colon cleanse supplement that uses an herbal laxative like senna can work more quickly than one that uses osmotic laxatives. The most common laxatives use the principle of osmolarity to induce a bowel movement, which can bring about a colon cleanse.
Solutions like magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) draw water into your gastrointestinal tract, which can induce a bowel movement, but according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, these “osmotic laxatives” can take several days to actually work (10).
An herbal compound, in contrast, like senna, can work more rapidly, helping to flush out your gastrointestinal tract faster and potentially more effectively.
Using a colon cleanse, even an herbal supplement-based one, is not without its risks. The biggest one is that you’ll become reliant on the laxative effects for your bowel movements, and will get constipation as soon as you stop using your colon cleanse supplement.
The best way to fight this risk is to only use the colon cleanse for a short period of time, then cycle off it. A “cleanse,” after all, is supposed to be a relatively short and intensive intervention, not a regular habit that you do every day.
Another risk is an adverse gastrointestinal reaction to the herbal supplements included in a colon cleanse. A lot of supplements use obscure, untested herbal remedies that you may not react to well, especially if you already have a sensitive gastrointestinal tract.
Unfortunately, this is going to be a highly individual topic, so you’ll have to test the supplement you are using and see how you react to it. If you have had problems with this in the past, look for a supplement without lots of obscure herbal supplements and stick to something simple.
The primary dosing concern in colon cleansing is the quantity of the laxative ingredients. For senna-based colon cleanses, a typical dose is between 20 and 40 mg total per day (11).
Maximum dose should never exceed 69 mg per day. For other herbal ingredients, dosages are harder to establish because of a lack of research.
The good news is that the other beneficial ingredients in colon cleanse supplements, like aloe vera gel and fiber, aren’t harmful at high doses, so the laxative ingredient–plus any other herbal ingredients of unknown effect–are the only dosage related concerns for colon cleanse supplements.
Q: What is a colon cleanse?
A: A colon cleanse is a supplemental or mechanical procedure that is supposed to flush out your gastrointestinal tract and improve GI problems like constipation or indigestion.
Colon cleanses come in two forms: supplement-based cleanses and mechanical cleanses, which use an enema of some type of liquid to mechanically irrigate the colon. While mechanical irrigation of the colon has become quite popular, it’s also not without risks.
Several medical case reports indicate that this mechanical irrigation can cause stomach cramping, diarrhea, and colon perforation—definitely not things you want from something that’s supposed to improve your gastrointestinal health. Supplemental colon cleanses use a combination of ingredients to induce bowel movements and also aim to improve the health of your gastrointestinal tract.
These supplements include compounds such as psyllium husk or other sources of fiber, plus herbal laxatives like senna and potentially probiotic bacteria or prebiotic nutrients. These supplement based colon cleanses appear to be safer, though are also not without side effects.
Q: Can you lose weight with a colon cleanse?
A: You might lose weight in the immediate aftermath of a colon cleanse, but the weight you lose is going to be mostly water weight.
Much like taking a diuretic, when you do a colon cleanse and drop a few pounds, you aren’t losing the kind of weight you want to lose—in order to actually burn off fat, you’ll need to change your diet, increase your physical activity levels, and possibly consider supplements for weight loss.
On the other hand, when you flip the equation around, there does seem to be a connection with being overweight or obese and having poor gastrointestinal health. Children who are obese, for example, are much more likely to have constipation compared to children who have a healthy weight (12).
Q: Does a colon cleanse hurt?
A: A colon cleanse shouldn’t hurt, at least when it’s done with a supplement that is safe. Mechanical colon cleansing can be painful, both during the procedure and afterwards—case studies point to stomach pain and cramping, as well as damage to the tissue of the colon, as potential side effects of mechanical colon irrigation.
These kinds of side effects are why we included only supplemental colon cleanses in our rankings. Even with a supplement-based cleanse, there is a risk of dependency if you take colon cleanse supplements too often.
If your body becomes reliant on a laxative supplement in a colon cleanse to have bowel movements, you can have painful bowel movements if you get constipated. The best way to avoid this it to only take a colon cleanse supplement as it’s intended—for a relatively brief amount of time.
Q: How can you naturally cleanse your colon?
A: Natural ways to cleanse your colon include increasing the fiber in your diet with more fruits and vegetables (or a fiber supplement), drinking more water, or taking a natural herb-based colon cleanse that uses a compound like senna, and possibly natural fiber sources like psyllium husk, to cleanse your colon.
Even better, opt for a supplement that has some probiotic bacteria and prebiotic nutrients so you can repopulate your gastrointestinal tract with a good gut microbiome.
The effect is not so much to “flush out toxins” as it is to overcome constipation, get back in a routine of regular bowel movements, and re-establish a healthy equilibrium in your gastrointestinal tract (including your colon).
Q: Can you cleanse your colon with a drink?
A: Some people do juice cleanses as a way to cleanse out their colon, but a juice cleanse isn’t that helpful for cleaning out your colon and improving your gastrointestinal tract because juices have little to no fiber, and a lot of sugar. Both of those things spell bad news for constipation and colon health.
Adding a fiber source like psyllium to a drink can help with colon health, as can limiting high-sugar drinks like juices and soda. While natural juices or green superfood drinks can be useful for health in other ways, if you want to cleanse your colon, you’ll probably need a more integrated approach that includes things like fiber, probiotics, and possibly herbal compounds as well.
Q: Will a colon cleanse detox your body?
A: The concept of “detoxifying” your body is an unfortunate one, since the science of gastrointestinal health is a lot more sophisticated than simply trying to eliminate unspecified toxins.
The idea of “toxins” has some basis in truth; early research indicated that having large and regular bowel movements may help reduce the risk of colon cancer, by diluting the bile acids that accumulate from your intestines (13).
However, this effect is a lifelong consequence of regular bowel movements, which are more about a healthy diet, physical activity, the presence of healthy gut bacteria, and high fiber intake.
A colon cleanse might be able to nudge you in this direction by jump-starting your body, but to maintain a healthy gastrointestinal tract, you need to establish regular health habits that contribute to a healthy colon.
Q: How does a colon cleanse work?
A: To the extent that a colon cleanse actually “works” (in that it can jump-start your body’s gastrointestinal tract, helping you restart regular bowel movements and tamp down on gastrointestinal problems like constipation and bloating), current theories are as follows.
A colon cleanse supplement first helps your body have a bowel movement, likely through the inclusion of a natural laxative such as senna, and often also thanks to the inclusion of a source of fiber like psyllium husk.
In addition, a good colon cleanse supplement will help re-establish healthy gastrointestinal function by repopulating your gastrointestinal tract with probiotic bacteria, and potentially also including prebiotic nutrients to help these probiotic bacteria flourish.
From here, it’s up to you: after a colon cleanse, maintaining a healthy colon depends on a good diet, physical activities, and useful extras like a good source of probiotic bacteria and high-quality fiber.
Using a colon cleansing supplement can help improve your gastrointestinal health on several fronts. The laxative effect in colon cleansing supplements can treat constipation, helping to prevent toxins from sitting around in your colon and causing damage.
Soothing agents like aloe vera gel can fight inflammation and may even be able to stimulate healing in your colon tissue, and fibers from psyllium or flax can improve the frequency and quality of your bowel movements.
To repopulate the healthy gut bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract, look for a colon cleanse that has probiotics, or take a separate probiotic supplement.
For BodyNutrition‘s #1 colon cleanse recommendation, click here.