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Issue 201: What's in Your Cleanse?

What's in Your Cleanse?

The body has its own amazing natural digestive and internal detoxification systems, including the colon, liver and kidneys. That's why it makes good sense to choose a cleanse that works in concert with these organs by nourishing them with the proper nutrients while cleansing. Cleanses come in all shapes and sizes and with an array of ingredients, too, but not all cleanses are created equal. And since many people like to start off the New Year with a cleanse, here’s a look at what goes into many cleanses.

First off are laxatives. Many cleansing formulas include one or more laxatives, including stimulant laxatives, which can contain toxic and harsh herbs and chemicals. Stimulant laxatives cause the intestinal muscles to spasm and contract, but they can also result in dehydration, gas pains, dependence upon them for bowel movements as well as long-term damage to the intestinal lining.

Some common stimulant laxatives found in cleanses include senna and cascara sagrada. Senna, for example, works by increasing bowel movements. The National Institutes of Health says that using it too much can make you dependent upon it. The possible side effects are unhealthy, too: yellow-brown urine, nausea, vomiting, cramping and diarrhea. 

Likewise, cascara sagrada, made from the bark of the Cascara sagrada plant, can cause a drop in potassium and sodium levels. Additionally, the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center says it can cause liver problems and electrolyte imbalances. The United States Food and Drug Administration says it’s not safe to use as a laxative, even though it’s used in many laxatives and colon cleanses. Under no circumstances should it be taken by pregnant or breastfeeding women.

The bottom line? All stimulant laxatives’ potential side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and cramping, so avoid them.

Then there’s aloe. Many colon-cleansing formulas also use aloe, which, when taken internally, is a laxative. Interestingly, the University of Maryland Medical Center does not recommend aloe’s use. Its potential side effects also include cramping and diarrhea—and pregnant women should never use oral aloe due to uterine cramping and possible miscarriage.

And don’t forget about psyllium. With high fiber content, psyllium is basically seed husks. It’s frequently added to colon-cleansing products because it boosts the number of bowel movements and decreases intestinal transit time. It does, however, carry allergy risks and should be avoided by those with problematic digestive tracts. Unfortunately, psyllium can irritate the intestines and the villi, which line the intestine and are important in nutrient absorption. In fact, psyllium husks can damage the villi, interfere with proper absorption of nutrients and even remove valuable nutrients when it’s used.

Adding to the mix is bentonite clay. Derived from volcanic ash deposits, bentonite clay can also cause the body to lose beneficial nutrients if used too often. Additionally, bentonite clay has small amounts of aluminum in it, so anyone who doesn’t want to ingest aluminum, or has an aluminum allergy or sensitivity, should avoid it.

Those are just a few of ingredients you’ll find in many cleanses on the market—ingredients you don’t want because of their unhealthy results. Instead, seek out allergy-free, gentle, healthy, unadulterated ingredients that will work with your natural digestive and detoxification systems. Choose and use a cleanse that will truly cleanse, capture and remove toxins from the body and optimize your cells, tissues and organ function. Look for ingredients—in their purest states—such as:

  • those that are gluten free and free from other potential allergens, such as nuts, soy, eggs and milk.
  • a combination of healthy oral and intestinal probiotics.
  • those with antioxidants, enzymes and amino acids, including milk thistle, glutathione, cysteine, glycine, glutamic acid, vitamin U and superoxide dismutase (SOD).
  • flaxseeds, chia seeds, coconut fiber and chelated magnesium.

So, what’s in your cleanse?

Find out and make sure it’s what will help—not hinder—your body. 



This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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