Colon Cleanse Myth–Do You Have 5 to 20 lbs of Toxic Poop?
Many natural health experts have shared misinformation about "toxic poop" in the colon. According to colon cleanse providers (colonic hygienists), an adult can have between 5 and 20 pounds of residual stool in their large intestine (colon), leading to health problems such as excess weight gain, fatigue, and brain fog.
But scientific evidence doesn't support this myth.
Do you have 5 to 20 pounds of toxic poop in your colon?
A colon cleanse is a type of medicine or procedure used to clean out the large intestine. Those who promote colon cleanses often warn the public about the serious adverse effects of toxic poop; many even describe a common problem of having 5 to 20 pounds of stool backed up in the colon.
The truth is that people do not commonly have 5 to 20 pounds of poop in their colons. In fact, on average, most people eliminate approximately 14 to 16 ounces of poop per day—and the accumulation of feces in the intestines wouldn't come close to 20 pounds.
Even if you have long-term constipation and a very poor diet, it's still highly unlikely you'd have that much stool in your colon.
What is toxic poop?
Toxic poop is a term associated with fecal waste that has accumulated over time. Sometimes this occurs over months, or even years.
Although it's uncommon for healthy people to accumulate 5 to 20 pounds of waste inside the colon walls, some people suffer from inflammatory conditions of the intestines that can cause toxicity from a malfunctioning gastrointestinal tract. In these cases detoxification is beneficial.
Is toxic poop fact or fiction, and if it exists, how do you get rid of toxic waste in the colon? Is it beneficial to undergo a colon cleansing procedure?
Though the term "toxic poop" is more fictitious than factual, certain circumstances can create an unhealthy environment in the digestive system. These factors include certain drugs and chemicals, a poor diet, and certain health conditions, including kidney failure, inflammatory bowel disease, and toxic megacolon.
What is toxic megacolon?
Toxic poop is often associated with a medical condition called toxic megacolon. This condition happens when the large intestine is extremely inflamed and distended.
In some cases, the large intestine can become completely blocked, creating a dangerous buildup of gas and feces. This can lead to a life-threatening colon rupture.
Toxic megacolon is most often caused by inflammatory bowel diseases—through colon cancer can also be a factor.
Esophageal and intestinal blockages can also cause toxic megacolon, but more commonly, infections (like inflammatory colitis) are the culprit. This type of toxicity can cause tachycardia (fast heart rate), low blood pressure, and changes in mental status.
You should never use extreme methods of colon cleansing, including colonics if you suspect you have toxic megacolon.
Toxic megacolon risk factors and symptoms
Risk factors associated with toxic megacolon include:
Colon infection (most often C. difficile)
Colon ischemia (low blood flow to the colon)
Colon cancer (rarely)
A recent irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) diagnosis can also increase your risk of toxic megacolon. IBS involves abnormally strong intestinal contractions that cause gas and bloating and bouts of constipation and diarrhea.
The following signs can indicate you have a toxic digestive tract:
Severe colon inflammation
Painful abdominal region
Abdominal distension (swollen with trapped gas and feces)
Rapid heart rate
Altered mental status
Potential life-threatening complications of toxic megacolon include:
Are colon cleanses healthy?
Harsh colon cleansing—like colonics and extreme dietary cleanses—can flush out important gut bacteria, causing a disruption in healthy digestion and compromising immune system function.
It's important to understand the dangers of colonic irrigation and other colon cleansing products on your digestive and gut health. In most cases, colonics are not recommended for detoxification. In fact, if done incorrectly, they can cause severe complications, including infection, anal fissures, electrolyte imbalance, and dehydration.
If you must do a colon cleanse, replenish your friendly gut microbes with quality probiotics and prebiotics.
How gut microbes affect digestion
What are gut microbes, and how do they impact the digestive system? Gut microbes are required for normal digestion and other important body functions, such as immune system function. They even help the body fight infectious diseases.
Friendly microbes help perform many important functions in the body, including:
Breaking down food
Assisting the body's ability to use food as nutrients
Controlling the overgrowth of harmful, unfriendly microbes
Helping prevent gas and bloating by maintaining a healthy balance of friendly microbes
Supporting immune system function
Your gut microbiome consists of trillions of fungi, bacteria, and other microbes. The right balance of these microbes is required for a healthy digestive system. Studies have found that colon cleansing results in an immediate, substantial disruption in your intestinal flora.
Factors that influence gut microbes
Factors that increase the diversity of microbes in the gut include:
Eating a variety of vegetable fibers
Fasting (strengthens and develops microbes)
Ingesting polyphenols (such as nuts and berries)
Consuming fermented vegetables
Factors that decrease the diversity of gut microbes include:
Eating too often
Eating GMO foods
Consuming artificial sweeteners
Having high stress levels
How to cleanse your colon naturally
Eating a healthy diet and employing beneficial lifestyle choices should be the first defense against most problems that colon cleansing products are used for.
Some colon cleanses not only deplete healthy gut microbes but also decrease electrolytes. Electrolytes and friendly gut flora must be replaced to prevent further digestive issues.
If diet and lifestyle changes are ineffective, a colon cleanse can be used—but it's not a healthy long-term solution to digestive issues and constipation.
Constipation is when you eliminate fewer than three times per week. Optimally, you should be going at least once daily and preferably a couple of times per day.
The most effective way to keep the bowels regular is with proper nutrition. Vegetable fiber, adequate hydration, and reducing stress can help keep your elimination pattern regular.
If drinking more water and increasing your fiber doesn't help with constipation, you can try an herbal laxative.
Other possible remedies, depending on the underlying cause of constipation, may include:
It's important to note that you should always consult your healthcare provider before taking any type of medicine (including laxatives)—especially if your symptoms are severe or chronic.
Nine ways to cleanse your colon
There are excellent home remedies that are extremely effective to help gut health. A healthy keto diet, intermittent fasting and home remedies for parasites are the best solutions for a toxic colon.
Probiotics are usually taken for diarrhea, not for constipation, but there are two types of probiotics that can help with constipation: lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. Try adding more foods to your diet that are rich in probiotics, including kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and kombucha.
Prebiotics support the growth of gut bacteria. They are indigestible carbs (fiber) that act as a source of food for microbes. Prebiotics in vegetables, pistachios, almonds, and berries can encourage the growth of healthy bacteria, including bifidobacteria.
Many digestive disorders, including IBS, are stress induced. Stress management can help with these conditions. Depression and stress also promote the growth of pathogenic gut bacteria and weaken the gut barrier.
The Healthy Keto diet is key to maintaining a healthy digestive system and colon. Keto replaces high-sugar foods that are bad for the digestive system with nutrient-rich foods that promote colon health.
When you have frequent meals and snacks, your digestive tract is never able to completely eliminate its content. Your body was not designed to eat constantly, so frequent snacks and meals can overwhelm your digestive system, causing malabsorption and incomplete digestion. Intermittent fasting is the best way to combat these issues.
Natural laxatives are often more gentle and can promote healthy bowel function. Senna, cascara sagrada, black psyllium, castor oil, and magnesium are excellent natural laxatives.
Dehydration and overhydration can affect your digestion and regularity. Inadequate hydration can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and constipation. Overhydration can flush out electrolytes that are vital for colon function. The key to adequate hydration is to drink when you're thirsty. Don't force yourself to drink more than you need.
Purified bile salts
Bile is made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Normal bile levels are crucial for lubricating your colon to allow food to properly move through your digestive tract. It also helps keep your microbial balance in check. You can increase your bile by taking purified bile salts. Keep in mind that too much bile can cause diarrhea, so avoid taking bile salts if you have diarrhea.
Exercise improves your gut flora by supporting the diversity and balance of friendly gut microbes. Just six weeks of regular exercise can cause a significant improvement in your overall gut microbiota. Try going for a long walk each day or spend some time doing some enjoyable and relaxing physical work, like gardening.
Toxic poop is believed to be a buildup of toxins and fecal waste that has accumulated in your colon over time, which can adversely impact your health. But it's important to differentiate facts from fiction when it comes to colon health and colon cleansing.
It's a myth that people commonly have 5 to 20 pounds of toxic stool accumulation. The only exception is a very rare inflammatory condition called toxic megacolon, which causes a toxic environment in the colon.
Colon cleansing and other methods of flushing fecal matter from the colon can cause more harm than good. In fact, colonics can flush out crucial microorganisms and cause dehydration.
For most people, colonics are entirely unnecessary to eliminate toxins or cleanse the colon. The feces that are flushed out during these procedures would've been eliminated anyways during your next bowel movement.
Eating right, staying hydrated, keeping stress at bay, and getting plenty of exercise are the best ways to promote healthy digestion and a clean colon.
1. Can poop poison you?
In almost all cases, the poop that is moving through your large intestine is not toxic and will not poison you while it's in your colon. In rare cases, a condition called toxic megacolon will require immediate medical attention. However, feces are toxic to ingest, and food contamination can result in food poisoning.
2. How do I do a colon cleanse?
The best way to cleanse your colon is with healthy diet and lifestyle choices. In most cases, colonics are not beneficial. There are many popular over-the-counter colon cleanser products, including capsules and powder for self-colon cleansing. However, these don't provide long-term benefits.
3. Are your bowels ever completely empty?
No. Even after bouts of diarrhea, the colon is never completely empty. Feces are continuously formed, and colon cleansing does not empty the entire colon.
4. How much toxic poop is in your body?
It's a myth that you have toxic poop that needs to be flushed out of your body. Except for in extremely rare cases, there is no toxic poop stuck in your body. Poop is natural, and your gastrointestinal tract will eliminate it as needed. Even occasional constipation is not a sign you have 5 to 20 pounds of toxic poop stuck in your colon.
5. How do I get rid of toxic poop?
Since the term "toxic poop" is a myth, you don't need to do any type of colon cleansing procedure to flush out your stool. Maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, and avoiding dehydration will naturally support regularity. Colon cleansing and colonic irrigation procedures are not necessary.
6. What does toxic (megacolon) poop look like?
Depending on the underlying cause of toxic megacolon, your stool can vary in color and texture. It may become a greenish color instead of brown—and in severe cases, toxicity of the colon may result in the formation of hard fecal masses called fecalomas.
7. What is a colonic?
A colonic hygienist performs colon cleansing in a clinic setting by inserting a tube into the rectum and introducing a large amount of water into the colon. Water, along with feces, is flushed out of the large intestine (colon), in the same way you pass bowel movements. You don't need a colonic to maintain a healthy and clean colon.