Cholesterol treatment guideline

The new Cholesterol guideline was published in November and is the result of a joint task force of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. The report was published in the journal Circulation.

Cholesterol moleculeFirst, a couple of caveats: Dietary supplements by law cannot claim to treat or prevent any illness. So to some degree, it makes sense that clinicians would not turn to them first to help patients who already have high cholesterol. Also, it should be noted that the guideline would be aimed first and foremost at specialists, who likely would be consulted only after a patient has been referred with a treatable condition.

Paucity of information on Cholesterol prevention

Nevertheless, it is telling that so little effort is spent in the guideline on discussing how to help patients to keep from crossing over the line into the treatment category, rather than spending page after page on how to fix the boat after it has sprung a leak. In the 120-page document, which includes 69 pages of actual text, only two short sections were devoted to lifestyle factors in the prevention of development of hyperlipidemia.

“Patients should consume a dietary pattern that emphasizes intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, healthy protein sources (low-fat dairy products, low-fat poultry (without the skin), fish/seafood, and nuts), and nontropical vegetable oils; and limits intake of sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meats,” the guideline states.

One other section of the guideline addresses prevention specifically.

“Primary prevention of ASCVD over the life span requires attention to prevention or management of ASCVD risk factors beginning early in life,” the guideline states. It then refers the reader to a table that includes one statement about encouraging a healthy lifestyle and then devotes the rest of the information on statin therapy, starting as early as age 8.

Lipid ingredients, polyphenols shown to have effects

A number of dietary ingredients have been researched for their positive effects on blood lipid profiles including lipid ingredients and many plants and fruit extracts rich in phytochemicals.

Omega-3s, for example, have been shown to have positive effects on high triglyceride levels, but the effects on LDL cholesterol specifically are less clear-cut. Levels can actually increase slightly, but the size of the LDL particles changes as well, which is a good thing. And HDL (the “good” cholesterol) goes up, too, indicating a generally positive overall trend.

Extra virgin olive oil, which is rich is some polyphenolic compounds such as hydroxytyrosol, has been suggested to benefit blood lipid profiles via a multifaceted action that includes both anti-inflammatory aspects and the promotion of cholesterol efflux. Olive is, of course, one of the main components of the Mediterranean diet, which is frequently recommended for heart health.

Drug hits one target –  supplements hit many

But this multifactorial approach doesn’t fit neatly into the mostly drug-focused paradigm of the new guideline, said James Kennedy, Ph.D. president of ingredient supplier Polyphenolics, which has a line of grape seed extracts which are among the more comprehensively researched polyphenol-based ingredients on the market.

“There is no question that statins can dramatically reduce your blood cholesterol levels,” Kennedy told NutraIngredients-USA. “They absolutely can reduce cholesterol much further than any polyphenol from a fruit or vegetable.”

“But for me it’s about lifestyle first. It just struck me as odd that here is a group concerned about our heart health and they were pretty much exclusively recommending drugs,” he said.

Kennedy said that cardiovascular disease is a multifaceted condition. Statins target one aspect of this situation and hits that nail squarely on the head. But natural ingredients, perhaps especially when offered in combination, take a more comprehensive approach to the problem.

Polyphenolics offers a line of grape seed extracts that includes MegaNatural BP, which has been researched for its effect on supporting blood pressure in the healthy range. That effect takes into account the healthy flow dynamics of the circulatory system, something that a myopic focus on cholesterol numbers glosses over.

Evidence backing many polyphenols

Grape seed extracts are just one of many polyphenol-based ingredients on the market that have been researched for their benefits in ameliorating the risk factors of CVD.

grapes are recommended in low cholesterol diets

“If you look at cardiovascular disease as a whole, a lot of polyphenols – and grape seed extract in particular – address the various areas including blood pressure and blood glucose as well as hypercholesteremia. Our industry offers a food-first approach which makes sense to consumers. They look at supplementation as a complement to everything else they are doing to address all aspects of heart disease, not just one piece of it” Kennedy said.

The entourage effect implied by the research backing polyphenols (they all appear to do slightly different things) is now starting to be borne out by research. A recent study in the journal Nutrients showed that just two weeks on a polyphenol-poor diet could alter vascular biomarkers in a group of healthy men.

And a recent review article in the journal Molecules had this to say: “Consumption of polyphenols from plant extracts and fruits increases antioxidant levels in plasma which protect vasculature and improve anti-inflammatory and lipid profiles, blood pressure, HDL-C, and vascular function.”  The review focuses on a number of polyphenols and other naturally occurring compounds, including gallic acid and punicalagin from pomegranate.

Combo products increasing in popularity

Kennedy said there is increasing interest among supplement product formulators in taking advantage of the evidence supporting the multifactorial effects of polyphenols.

“We do come into contact with customers who say they want to put together a heart health formula and want to know what they can combine our grape seed extract with,” he said.

“Recently we had a customer who wanted to combine our grape seed extract with a blueberry extract and a bergamot extract. When you go into the store you frequently see our extract in formulation with other ingredients,” Kennedy said.

The beauty of the natural approach to heart health is these ingredients can be combined with virtually no concern about antagonistic interactions, Kennedy said. Polyphenolics has continually worked on its GRAS dossier, with higher and higher dosages proven to be safe, he said.

“For the most part these are natural products and they are not known to have any cross indications. With statins, you have to dial the dose in and the patient has to be monitored very carefully.”

 

Military diet alternative

The military diet requires people to follow a low-calorie diet for 3 days and then return to regular eating for 4 days. Across the first 3 days, the diet restricts daily calorie intake to 1,400, 1,200, and 1,100 calories.

The diet is high in protein and low in fat, carbohydrate, and calories. It also includes specific food combinations to try to boost metabolism and burn fat. Despite its name, this diet does not relate to how people in the military eat.

Information about the military diet suggests that people could lose up to 10 pounds (lb) in 1 week and as many as 30 lbs in 1 month if they continue to follow the diet.

In this article, we take a look at whether this diet works, its potential problems and benefits, and what to eat to follow the plan.

Is the military diet effective?

Woman with a shopping list for the military diet
The military diet is high in protein and low in fat.

A review article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examines very-low-calorie diets (VLCDs) and suggests that they can be effective in helping people lose weight in the short term.

A VLCD allows a maximum of 800 calories per day. People with obesity may need to adopt a VLCD to achieve rapid weight loss before bariatric surgery.

Low-calorie diets are those that allow fewer than 1,000 calories per day.

It is impossible to predict how much weight an individual will lose on a restrictive 1-week diet as everyone is different.

However, people often experience rapid weight gain after stopping one of these short-term diets unless they have put a plan in place to maintain the weight loss.

Meal plan and shopping list

Below is a 3-day meal plan that features on a website supporting the military diet. There is also a comprehensive shopping list for people looking to follow this diet.

People can drink water throughout the day, as well as 1–2 cups of black coffee or tea.

Day 1

Breakfast

  • half a grapefruit
  • one slice of toast
  • 2 tablespoons (tbsp) of peanut butter, ideally a salt-free and sugar-free brand
  • 1 cup of caffeinated coffee or tea

Lunch

  • half a cup of tuna
  • one slice of toast
  • 1 cup of caffeinated coffee or tea

Dinner

  • 3 ounces of any meat
  • 1 cup of green beans
  • half a banana
  • one small apple
  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream

Day 2

Breakfast

  • one egg
  • one slice of toast
  • half a banana

Lunch

  • one hard-boiled egg
  • 1 cup of cottage cheese
  • five saltine crackers

Dinner

  • two hot dogs without the buns
  • 1 cup of broccoli
  • half a cup of carrots
  • half a banana
  • half a cup of vanilla ice cream

Day 3

Breakfast

  • five saltine crackers
  • one slice of cheddar cheese
  • one small apple

Lunch

  • one hard-boiled egg
  • one slice of toast

Dinner

  • 1 cup of tuna
  • half a banana
  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream

Vegetarian meal plan

A vegetarian and vegan meal plan is also available:

Day 1

Breakfast

  • half a grapefruit
  • one slice of toast
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 cup of caffeinated coffee or tea

Lunch

  • half an avocado
  • 2 tbsp hummus
  • one slice of whole-wheat toast
  • 1 cup of caffeinated coffee or tea

Dinner

  • tofu (up to 300 calories)
  • 1 cup of green beans
  • half a banana
  • one small apple
  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream (vegans can use dairy-free ice cream)

Day 2

Breakfast

  • half a cup of baked beans
  • one slice of whole-wheat toast
  • half a banana

Lunch

  • 1 cup of unsweetened soy, hemp, or almond milk
  • half an avocado
  • 2 tbsp hummus
  • five saltine crackers

Dinner

  • two veggie hot dogs without the buns
  • 1 cup of broccoli
  • half a cup of carrots
  • half a banana
  • half a cup of vanilla ice cream (can be dairy-free)

Day 3

Breakfast

  • one slice of cheddar cheese (for vegans, about 15–20 almonds)
  • five saltine crackers or half a cup of couscous or quinoa
  • one small apple

Lunch

  • half an avocado
  • 1 tbsp hummus
  • one slice of whole-wheat bread

Dinner

  • half a cup of canned chickpeas
  • half a banana
  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream (or dairy-free ice cream)

Shopping list

Peanut butter in a jar and whole wheat bread
The military diet shopping list should include peanut butter and whole-wheat bread.

The following list contains the items of food that people will need to buy for the first 3 days of a week on the military diet:

  • caffeinated coffee or tea
  • one grapefruit
  • two bananas
  • two apples
  • whole-wheat bread
  • peanut butter
  • eggs
  • three cans of tuna
  • hot dogs
  • a small piece of meat
  • green beans (fresh, frozen, or canned)
  • small head of broccoli
  • carrots
  • saltine crackers
  • cottage cheese
  • a small amount of cheddar cheese
  • vanilla ice cream

Disadvantages

Following a 3-day military diet plan can cause several potential problems.

Some of the issues below relate specifically to the suggested meal plans.

Limited nutrient intake

The poor variety on the diet days means that people will struggle to eat enough fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients are essential for good health, energy production, detoxification, and efficient metabolism.

High in added salt, sugar, and saturated fat

Between the saltine crackers, peanut butter, bread, hot dogs, and cheese, the diet is quite high in processed foods that contain salt.

People should check nutrition labels to make sure that they are not eating more sodium than the recommended 2,300 milligrams a day limit. Where possible, it is best to buy food brands that are low in sodium or contain no added salt.

The hot dogs that the diet recommends eating consist of processed meat. They contain high levels of saturated fat and sodium.

Each day’s meal plan also includes vanilla ice cream, which can be high in added sugar. People could substitute the ice cream for 300 calories of healthful fruit, vegetables, or whole grains, which the plan currently lacks.

A diet that emphasizes high-calorie, dense foods may not feel very satisfying because portion sizes must remain small to keep meals within the daily calorie budget. This approach may not be sustainable.

Calories too low to exercise?

Senior man tired from running
Some people may find exercise challenging on diet days.

Eating fewer than 1,400 calories on diet days may make it challenging to do exercise, especially any high-intensity activities.

Eating enough calories on the 4 days off will allow people to exercise more easily. However, proponents of the diet recommend sticking to fewer than 1,500 calories on these days too.

One small study looking at alternate day calorie restriction (ADCR), also called intermittent fasting, found that combining ADCR with exercise led to greater weight changes than either dieting or exercise alone.

Following a VLCD can prevent people from exercising at all.

Confusing science

The military diet suggests that people who dislike or cannot eat grapefruit swap it for a glass of water with baking soda in it to continue to promote an alkaline environment.

It is true that foods can change pH from acid to alkaline. However, this primarily affects the acidity or alkalinity of a person’s urine. The pH of foods in the diet does not affect a person’s blood or metabolism enough to significantly influence weight gain or loss, although it may affect other aspects of health.

All fruit produces alkaline byproducts in the body. As a result, swapping one fruit with another fruit should be fine.

The high-protein aspect of the diet will make urine more acidic. As a result, it is not suitable for someone experiencing kidney problems or gout.

Advantages

In the short term, the military diet could be beneficial for weight loss.

It is easy to follow because it includes limited foods with simple measurements and cooking methods.

The recommended meal plan for the 4 days off allows for a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, and it also includes whole grains, legumes, and different meal choices.

The plan provides the calorie targets for each food and suggests substitutions for people with food intolerance and other dietary considerations.

The diet focuses on protein, which increases the feeling of fullness, maintains muscle mass, and provides energy for day-to-day activities. It is important to maintain muscle tissue as it contributes directly to a person’s metabolism.

A small 2018 study looked at the effects of following a diet with calorie restrictions on alternate days. The researchers compared the results of the diet with those of exercise in obese and overweight people.

In the participants who were both following the diet and exercising, body weight, waist circumference, and body fat percentage all decreased.

A 2016 review compared a VLCD with an alternate-day-fasting (ADF) diet. The researchers found that ADF was more effective for fat loss and preserving fat-free mass, including muscle.

Due to the military diet’s recommended daily calorie intake of 1,000 to 1,400 calories on the first 3 days, it is not possible to classify it as either a VLCD or an ADF program. Research on VLCD and ADF regimens only looks at diets providing fewer than 800 calories per day.

Although calorie intake on the military diet is too high to count as fasting, the approach of eating normally on the 4 days off mimics the practice of intermittent fasting. Therefore, people may achieve better long-term results by following this diet rather than a low-calorie diet.

Further research is necessary to confirm any specific benefits of the military diet.

Conclusion

The military diet involves restricting calorie consumption on 3 days and then eating a regular diet for the next 4 days. To optimize their weight loss, people may wish to try reducing calories on the 4 rest days too.

Following the military diet may be effective and harmless in the short term, but long-term adherence has associated risks. These include regaining the lost weight afterward, especially if people are reducing their calorie intake on all days of the week.

The diet is very limited in choice and includes some foods that are high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar. It also promotes eating unhealthful processed meats and under emphasizes vegetable consumption.

Adopting healthy eating habits every day is a more sustainable approach to losing weight and maintaining weight loss.

Q:

What is the safest way to lose weight quickly?

A:

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss. However, overconsuming carbohydrates in the form of sugar is one of the main culprits of weight gain, particularly if a person’s exercise regimen does not match their carbohydrate intake. One cup of sugar provides 774 calories. A person could eat 12 cups of grapes for the same calories, and these have a lot more nutrients and provide more satiety.

To lose weight safely, remove all added sugars from your diet. Scan the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer and remove or avoid products containing any form of added sugar on the ingredient list. These products will include sodas, sweet beverages, cereals, most yogurts, baked goods, and more.

Although it may significantly narrow down a person’s food choices, removing added sugar (and most packaged and processed items in the process) will lower their calorie intake and give them a better understanding of what constitutes real, nourishing food.

IIFYM diet technique

IIFYM stands for “if it fits your macros,”. This dieting technique involves counting the number of macronutrients, rather than calories, that a person is consuming.

Unlike diets that involve food restriction, proponents describe IIFYM as a flexible diet that can help people lose weight without drastically changing their eating habits.

Little research has investigated the diet, so its effectiveness has not been scientifically established.

In general, many people can lose weight by eating smaller portions, choosing less energy-dense foods, and increasing their physical activity. This does not have to occur as part of a dietary fad.

In this article, we describe how to follow the IIFYM diet and include potential benefits and risks.

What is the IIFYM diet?

Person writing down macronutrients for iifym diet
People following the IIFYM diet keep track of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

The IIFYM diet hinges on the idea that eating fewer calories than the body requires — while still consuming enough protein, carbs, and fats — results in weight loss at a steady and predictable rate.

People following the IIFYM diet keep track of these three macronutrients:

The diet groups fiber with carbohydrates.

A person can consume these macronutrients in varying combinations, as long as the amounts do not exceed the body’s macronutrient needs for the day. This means that, if the calculation balances out, a person can eat any type of food, while still meeting their health or weight loss goals.

How to start with the IIFYM diet

Following the IIFYM diet involves:

  • calculating how many calories you need to maintain your current weight
  • determining how many calories to cut for the desired weight loss
  • grouping these calories by macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats

The targets and figures vary, based on factors such as age, sex, weight, height, and activity levels.

Start by using the calculator on the IIFYM website or by following the steps below:

Step 1: Calculate current calorie needs

A person’s basal metabolic rate (BMR), or resting metabolic rate, is the amount of energy, in calories, that their body needs at rest for 24 hours. This energy goes toward essential functions, such as breathing, circulation, and body temperature.

A person can determine their BMR with an online calculator that uses the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation.

To manually calculate BMR:

  • for men, BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) + 5
  • for women, BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) – 161

Step 2: Adjust calorie needs for activity level

The next step involves factoring in the average physical activity level, as this affects the number of calories that the body uses. This measurement is called total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).

A person can calculate their TDEE using an online calculator, which automatically factors in their BMR. The IIFYM website also provides a TDEE calculator.

Step 3: Adjust calorie needs for desired weight

Subtract 15–20 percent of the TDEE to find out, according to the IIFYM website, how many calories a person should eat per day to achieve their weight loss goals.

Step 4: Determine macro needs per day

The final step is to divide the resulting value into what the website calls “adjusted macros.” This will determine how many macros a person needs, based on their current body weight:

  • protein: calculate this intake at around 0.7–1.0 grams (g) per pound (lb) of body weight
  • fat: calculate at about 0.25–0.4 g per lb of body weight
  • carbohydrates: this value comprises the remaining calories from the adjusted macros score

Sticking to IIFYM in the long term

To follow the IIFYM diet, a person must determine how many macros they are consuming at each meal and track their daily intake to ensure that it is close to their adjusted goal.

For more accurate results, a person may consider using a digital scale to weigh food.

Many macro-friendly recipes are available online. The IIFYM website provides a range of meal plans, including breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and desserts.

Benefits of IIFYM

The possible benefits of the IIFYM diet include:

Flexibility

Man and woman eating lunch together outside
The IIFYM diet aims to make meals enjoyable and stress-free.

The IIFYM website promises “no more dieting” and “no more restrictions.” It is advertised as a more flexible dieting stylebecause it incorporates more foods than many other diets.

It encourages people to eat diverse foods, as long as they do not exceed their macro targets.

The aim of the IIFYM diet is to make meals more enjoyable, and meal planning less stressful, which may increase the likelihood of sticking to the diet.

Losing weight

A person usually loses weight if they burn more calories than they take in. This often involves cutting around 500–750 calories each day. People may achieve this by following the IIFYM diet.

Similarly, increasing calorie consumption leads to weight gain. People looking to gain weight may also be able to meet their goals with IIFYM.

May benefit those unable to exercise

Because IIFYM takes physical activity levels into account when calculating macros, a person who gets limited or no exercise may find the diet useful.

Negatives of IIFYM

The IIFYM diet may have the following drawbacks:

No focus on micronutrients

Micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, are as important as macronutrients for health and development, but the IIFYM diet does not account for their intake.

The body does not produce micronutrients, so a person must obtain them from their diet. A person following the IIFYM diet may not be getting enough of these vital nutrients.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2 billion people worldwide have micronutrient deficiencies.

Macro calculations are not flexible

People may have difficulties adjusting their macro requirements to account for changes such as illness, recovering from injury, and breastfeeding.

For instance, research indicates that following an illness, the body needs more calories and protein, namely 1.5–2.0 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, to make up for the loss of lean body mass and to promote recovery.

Takeaway

Proponents advertise the IIFYM diet as a flexible method of weight loss. It involves counting macronutrients — proteins, carbohydrates, and fats — instead of calories.

However, little scientific research has looked into its effectiveness.

People following the diet must be sure to consume enough micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals.

If a person uses more calories than they consume, they are likely to lose weight. An individual can do this by following a healthful diet, reducing portion sizes, and getting more physical activity.

For best results, and to ensure that their dieting plan is healthful, a person may wish to consult a healthcare professional.

Natural colon cleansing

This post explores the concept of natural colon cleansing. A colon cleanse is a popular alternative remedy that some people claim removes waste and toxins from the colon. However, there is little scientific evidence to support the use of natural colon cleansing routines, except for those that doctors prescribe.

Most of what researchers know about safe colon cleansing comes from studies that aim to find ways to improve the colonoscopy procedure rather than to boost energy levels or treat intestinal problems.

People may refer to colon cleansing methods by different names, including:

  • bowel cleanses
  • detoxes
  • flushes
  • juice diets

Most colon cleansing products supposedly help detox the colon or remove harmful substances, such as mucus and dry stool. Some people also use colon cleanses to help relieve constipation.

In this article, we discuss some popular colon cleansing methods and the science behind them. We also consider their potential benefits and risks.

Water

Woman drinking water as part of natural colon cleanseDrinking water regularly can naturally cleanse the colon.

Using water is one of the easiest and safest natural colon cleansing available, and the easiest way to cleanse the colon naturally. Water moistens stool and gives it bulk, facilitating its passage through the colon.

A person who is dehydrated will have fewer bowel movements because their body is trying to retain water. It will reabsorb water from the bowel, which results in the stool becoming dry, hard, and difficult to pass.

Everyone’s daily hydration needs are different, but it is vital to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Other beverages, including caffeinated ones, contribute toward a person’s daily water intake, but plain water is the best option as it does not contain any calories.

In a 2013 study, researchers in Jordan found that drinking more than four cups of water daily decreased the risk of colorectal cancer, but the results were not statistically significant.

The same study identified constipation as a significant risk factor for colorectal cancer. Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day can help prevent constipation, and it offers many other health benefits too.

Fruit and vegetable juice

Raw fruit and vegetable juices contain many elements that may help cleanse the colon, including fiber, phytochemicals (beneficial plant chemicals), and natural sugars that act as laxatives, such as sorbitol and fructose.

Proponents of juice cleanses recommend the following types of juice:

  • apple, including the peel
  • prune
  • pear
  • banana
  • kiwi
  • grape
  • plum
  • persimmon
  • lemon

Some colon cleanse plans recommend consuming only fluids for a few days at a time to help cleanse the colon and digestive tract.

Most health authorities recommend against juice cleanses. Raw fruit juices can contain compounds that are hard on the kidneys and liver. Without any treatment to kill harmful bacteria and viruses, these juices can also make people ill. They may pose significant dangers for those with medical conditions, such as diabetes.

It is best to consume fruit and vegetable juices in the form of smoothies to keep all the fiber, water, and nutrients intact.

Fiber

Natural colon cleansing found in fiber adds bulk to stool, which reduces the time it spends sitting in the colon and increases the number of bowel movements that a person has. Many natural, whole foods are rich in fiber, including:

  • nuts
  • beans
  • seeds
  • berries
  • whole grains and cereals

People who find it difficult to get enough fiber through their diet can try taking fiber supplements. Popular fiber supplements include:

  • psyllium (Metamucil)
  • polycarbophil tablets (FiberCon)
  • methylcellulose

Fermented foods aid natural colon cleansing

Baked tempeh on tray
Tempeh is a fermented food that may benefit gut health.

Fermented foods often contain high levels of probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that contribute to gut health.

These bacteria help the bowels move stool out of the colon regularly and reduce the risk of gas, bloating, constipation, and infection.

Common fermented foods that contain probiotics include:

  • yogurt and Greek yogurt
  • apple cider vinegar
  • kefir
  • skyr
  • kimchi
  • sauerkraut
  • pickles
  • miso
  • tempeh
  • kombucha
  • beer and cider
  • some types of cheese

Research suggests that probiotics may help prevent and possibly treat colon cancer, but researchers agree that more studies are necessary to understand these effects. A healthy gut biome offers numerous other benefits for overall health and immune function.

Resistant starches

Some foods contain resistant starches, which are types of sugar that are difficult for the body to break down. These starches remain mostly undigested and become bulk in the stool.

The more bulk there is in the stool, the sooner the bowel is stimulated into action, possibly helping cleanse the colon.

Foods high in resistant starches include:

  • potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams
  • sugar beets
  • sugar cane
  • sweet corn
  • green bananas
  • beer and cider
  • vegetable stems, tubers, and roots
  • rice
  • buckwheat and millet
  • al dente pasta
  • white bread
  • cornflakes and muesli

Unlike other starches, digesting resistant starches produces compounds that research shows may help:

  • prevent colon cancer
  • improve macronutrient regulation
  • alter hormone levels, potentially improving mental and physical health
  • prevent or control diabetes
  • prevent or control obesity

Lemon juice

Regularly drinking lemon juice can have a positive effect on digestive health and help natural colon cleansing. It seems that people experience the most benefit when they drink it on an empty stomach, which allows the compounds in the lemon to interact more easily with the gut mucosa.

Having a clean colon is crucial for certain screening tests, such as colonoscopies. Most people receiving colonoscopies have to consume a colon cleansing preparation the night before the procedure.

In a 2015 study on colonoscopies, one group of participants received a preparation of ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, in addition to the standard fluid mixture of polyethylene glycol (PEG). The participants who took vitamin C had better bowel preparation than those in the other groups.

Lemon juice is very high in vitamin C so it may be an effective natural colon cleanser.

Herbal teas

Some herbal teas used in natural colon cleansing may be beneficial for digestive health.

Australian research from 2014 found an association between herbal tea consumption and a lower risk of colon cancer.

Other natural teas, such as ginger or lemon tea, may also help digestion.

Possible benefits of colon cleanses

Senior couple smiling outdoors jogging.
People who support colon cleanses claim they can improve energy levels, though there is no scientific evidence to prove this.

There are currently no proven benefits of colon cleanses, natural or otherwise. However, people who promote colon cleanses claim that they provide major health benefits, including:

  • increasing energy
  • removing toxins
  • improving liver function
  • boosting the immune system
  • aiding weight loss
  • relieving bloating, cramps, and gas
  • reducing the risk of colon cancer
  • improving mood

Safety and risks

Some of the potential risks of colon cleansing include:

  • weakness
  • irritability
  • electrolyte imbalance and dehydration
  • vomiting and nausea
  • abdominal cramps
  • dizziness and fainting
  • loss of healthful gut microflora and increased risk of infection
  • diarrhea
  • bowel ulcerations, which are open cuts and sores
  • bowel infection
  • kidney damage and failure

People with preexisting bowel conditions should avoid bowel cleansing methods unless a doctor performs or prescribes them.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate natural colon cleanse products. The FDA have also taken legal action against companies who were using unproven medical claims to promote cleanse products, stating that they could reduce the risk of cancer or treat serious medical conditions.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health also point out several possible risks of cleanses, including:

  • diarrhea, which could lead to dehydration
  • bacterial infection from unpasteurized juice
  • lack of nutrients
  • headaches
  • weakness and fainting

People with kidney conditions should avoid drinking large quantities of juice because it can contain too much oxalate, which can cause kidney problems.

People with diabetes and other metabolic conditions should also avoid detoxes or extreme diets and instead follow a healthful, doctor-recommended diet.

Severely restricting calorie intake, which is often part of colon cleanses, can also be damaging to a person’s overall health. It rarely contributes to long-term weight loss or well-being.