How To Clean Out Bowels Quickly: 3 Natural Ways & Tips 2023

Paige Anderson, CRDH
Victor Nguyen, PharmD
Wondering how to clean out bowels quickly? Be sure to consider how colon cleanses can affect your gut health and microbe balance.
How To Clean Out Bowels Quickly
Discover safe and effective ways to clean out your bowels quickly. Photo: Shutterstock & Team Design

Maintaining a healthy colon[1] boosts your immune system, helps you avoid cancer, and may even decrease your risks for dementia.[2] Routine diagnostics like colonoscopy can help ensure your colon stays healthy and give your doctor a chance to treat problems as early as possible.

Colon cleansing is a common way to prepare for colonoscopy. However, colon cleanses have also become popular as a way to “detox” the body.

An entire industry exists around the concept of cleansing the body by removing harmful toxins. However, there is very little compelling evidence to suggest that colon cleanses benefit your health.

In fact, they’ve been shown to disrupt the healthy balance of gut microbes, and can even cause life-threatening injuries.[3]

If you’re considering how to clean out bowels quickly naturally, carefully consider the risks and talk to your doctor before you start.

How To Clean Out Bowels Quickly?

Do you have a colonoscopy or other medical procedure coming up and need to know how to clean out bowels quickly? Wondering how to do it naturally? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • If you have normal digestive health, you should only do a colon cleanse if recommended by your doctor or required for certain medical procedures.
  • Detoxes, colon cleanses, fasting, and colon irrigations can carry severe risks and there is very little evidence of health benefits.
  • Natural colon cleansing remedies may involve strong laxatives that may make digestive issues worse.

How To Clean Out Bowels Quickly

For people with normal digestive health, your intestines do a great job keeping themselves clean. The normal action of the muscles in your digestive tract (called peristalsis) moves food and waste products efficiently along, absorbing specific key nutrients in each area.

Your gastrointestinal tract contains a complex microbiome (network of beneficial bacteria) which help digest your food and some of which even produce nutrients[4] like vitamin K.

Even though most nutrients have been absorbed by the time waste reaches the end of your digestive tract, the colon plays a major role in keeping a healthy balance of fluids in your body.

Although alternative medicine practitioners claim that colon cleansing improves health, there is very little compelling evidence to support those claims.

In fact, colon cleanses–whether in preparation for certain medical procedures or in an attempt to improve digestive health–can disrupt the balance of microbes[5] in your gut.

However, if you’re wondering how to clean out bowels quickly at home or how to clean out bowels quickly for colonoscopy, emptying your digestive system means getting food at all stages of digestion out of your system.

Let’s look at three key ways to do that.

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Stop Putting Food Into The Digestive Tract

An empty stomach is the first step to an empty bowel. That’s why most colonoscopy and endoscopy procedures require fasting as part of the prep for your procedure.

Fasting in various forms is frequently a key component of many colon cleanses. For example, juice cleanses do not include solid foods that take significant time to digest and will generally pass through your system quickly.

However, fasting can be risky for some people and should not be attempted without guidance from your doctor. Frequent or prolonged fasting can have serious effects on your overall health and disrupt your gut microbiome.

Many colon cleansing products and preps involve cutting out high-fiber foods that will sit in the digestive system for a longer time, but high fiber foods and resistant starches are among the best foods to support gut health, so this should not be undertaken frequently or long-term.

Move Waste Out Of The Digestive Tract

To truly clean out your colon, it needs to be clear of waste. That means speeding up your bowel movements, which can disrupt the normal digestive process. In short, it means intentionally inducing diarrhea.

Preparing for a medical procedure such as colonoscopy usually involves ingesting prescribed laxatives to clear as much waste as possible from your colon, large intestine, and small intestine, coupled with fasting to prevent more waste from being produced.

Regular laxative use outside of a doctor’s recommendation can lead to laxative dependency and the inability to produce bowel movements normally without laxatives. Even natural laxatives like senna can cause dependency and bowel problems if overused.

Laxative abuse,[6] specifically of natural laxatives like aloe, may even cause colorectal cancer.

Lavage – Colonic Irrigation For Residual Waste Removal

The final method for cleansing the colon is to actually wash it out.

Lavage has been consistently shown to alter microbial profiles[7] and should be approached with caution, as it could significantly impact your long-term gut health.

Colonic hydrotherapy can help with specific diseases such as nerve problems that affect the normal functioning of the bowels. 

At-home colonic irrigation has caused severe, life-threatening injuries such as bowel perforations. While some products may claim to curb inflammation, there are many cases of at-home colonic irrigation actually causing colitis,[8] a form of severe colon inflammation.

Why Do A Colon Cleanse?

There are very few reasons to do a colon cleanse without the express recommendation and supervision of your physician.

Most of the time, colon cleanses are recommended as a way to prepare for imaging and diagnostics.

Colon cleansing with a physician’s oversight can also be used to treat chronic constipation from neurogenic bowel disease.[9] 

Some people also choose to go through this process as a way to purge supposedly harmful toxins from their body or to aid in weight loss or give themselves a flat belly for an event such as a photo shoot.

Because of the risks involved, such as causing injury to the intestines, electrolyte imbalance, and dehydration, colon cleanses should not be considered part of a regular wellness routine.

Health Benefits Of Natural Colon Cleanses

The main health benefit of doing a colon cleanse is to ensure good diagnostic information from a colonoscopy. 

If you’re looking for a natural alternative to the normal colonoscopy prep options, your doctor may have options available like magnesium citrate,[10] which is a low-volume prep alternative that is also sometimes taken as a health supplement. Senna[11] is another natural laxative that can sometimes be used as a colon prep.

If you are considering a natural colon cleanse as a remedy for constipation, there are many effective natural remedies you can try before resorting to laxatives, fasting, or colonic irrigation.

First and foremost, be sure you’re drinking enough water. Dehydration can be a major cause of constipation. Psyllium husk[12] and similar bulking foods can also help while supporting health gut flora.

Some people recommend apple cider vinegar as a way to detoxify the body. There is very little compelling evidence that the body needs or benefits from cleanses of this kind, but research does indicate that apple cider vinegar can help balance[13] lipid profiles and blood glucose levels.

Side Effects

Side effects[14] of colon cleanses can range from nausea and vomiting to persistent diarrhea and dehydration. Prolonged fasting and laxative use can cause electrolyte imbalance, lightheadedness, fainting, laxative dependence, and even cause bowel inflammation. 

If you have digestive disease, chronic inflammation, kidney disease, or other concerns, many of the products and foods recommended for cleansing the colon can cause severe health problems.

As mentioned above, all approaches to colon cleansing have been shown to affect your gut bacteria, which can have lasting negative effects until your microbiome is able to return to its healthy, balanced state.

Tips To Improve Colon Health

How To Clean Out Bowels Quickly
Some tips can clean out your bowels. Photo: Shutterstock

The American Cancer Society recommends eating a balanced diet with plenty of soluble and insoluble fiber and resistant starches to support gut health and prevent colon cancer. 

Incorporate whole grains, oats, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and plant-based proteins. Try to avoid overeating highly processed foods or drinking excessive alcohol. Smoking[15] can also cause colorectal cancers and other serious bowel problems.

One great way to ensure good colon health is to feed your good bacteria with prebiotic and probiotic rich foods. Fermented foods can be a great source of both probiotic and prebiotic nutrients.

Increasing fiber and resistant starches can also help you feel full longer, which can help you achieve your wellness goals if you’re trying to eat less.

If you’re struggling with frequent constipation because of bowel problems like irritable bowel syndrome, a low-FODMAP[16] diet is a better approach with more evidentiary support than doing colon cleanses.


Although colon cleanses are an essential part of prepping for certain medical procedures, they should not be considered a normal part of your wellness routine.

There is no compelling evidence that a colon cleanse is effective in detoxifying the body. In fact, colon cleanses have been shown to disrupt the healthy balance of beneficial gut microbes that help keep you healthy and remove harmful compounds from the body.

To maintain good colon health, be sure to eat a balanced diet with plenty of soluble and insoluble fiber and resistant starches. Incorporating probiotic and prebiotic foods is also a great way to support your gut microbiome and maintain good colon health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is colon cleansing necessary for good colon health?

No. You can maintain a healthy digestive system by eating a diet high in fiber, resistant starches, and healthy plant foods that will support the good bacteria in your intestines.

Are natural colon cleanses a way to treat colon cancer?

No. Colon cleanses may be part of preparing for your diagnostic tests as part of your cancer treatment, but there is no evidence that colon cleanses can treat or decrease your risks for colon cancer.

Can natural colon cleanses improve bowel diseases like IBS?

Colon cleanse disrupt your gut microbiome, and could make IBS worse. A low-FODMAP diet is currently the best natural approach to treating IBS.

Is colon irrigation a good way to relieve constipation?

Colon irrigation in a medical setting can help with certain, specific causes of chronic constipation. Irrigation at home can be very risky and even cause life-threatening injuries, and is generally not recommended. Talk to your doctor before considering at-home colon lavage.


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