You’re likely familiar with a colon cleanse, even if you’ve never done one. But did you know a salt water flush is a simple, safe and effective way to detox the body and cleanse the colon from the comfort of your own home? It’s true.
By drinking a beneficial mixture of real sea salt dissolved in water (sometimes along with a little lemon juice), you’re able to push waste through the body, release toxins and improve digestion.
Sound a bit crazy? This method of colon and stomach cleansing has actually been used for many years, and it appears to be a lot safer than many commercial colon-cleansing drugs, laxative teas or diuretics. Below, we explore why this is and how to perform a salt water flush.
What Is a Salt Water Flush?
A salt water flush, also sometimes referred to as a “salt water cleanse” or a “master cleanse,” is designed to help you cleanse your colon and digestive system by bringing on a forced bowel movement.
Salt itself is needed for many biochemical processes, including (but not limited to): adrenal gland/thyroid gland function, cell wall stability, muscle contractions, nutrient absorption, nerve stimulation, pH, and water balance regulation.
The official salt water flush has become more popular over the past decade as a “hack” to facilitate digestion and cleansing as part of a kick-start when doing a “master cleanse” program. The idea is that drinking a salt mixture ignites the body’s own mechanism of natural detoxification and waste elimination, helping to get your digestive system back on track and in the process making you feel lighter, less sluggish and less weighed-down.
Maybe you’re wondering if it’s really necessary to cleanse your colon and detox with salt. The fact is that for many people — especially those eating poor diets — toxins, heavy metals and waste build up in the colon over time due to insufficient and infrequent bowel movements. This leads to digestive issues and can contribute to inflammation, low energy and possibly even disease development.
Nearly 20 percent of the adult American population reports suffering from very frequent constipation. While taking an herbal laxative such as slippery elm from time-to-time can help to produce a bowel movement, a saltwater flush is a safe, simple and effective way to clear things out entirely now and then. (1)
Why Do a Salt Water Colon Cleanse?
While they’ve existed forever, salt water flushes have gained notoriety as more people have started to do “detoxes.” Not familiar with the master cleanse? The master cleanse (also called the “lemonade diet”) has been in the media over the past few years, since supposedly some celebrities turn to this “hack” to quickly lose weight for upcoming roles.
The master cleanse is a liquid-only juice fast, which means it’s extremely low in calories and also lacks any dietary fiber, which is necessary for healthy digestion. When you only consume liquids for a certain amount of time and don’t actually eat any foods with fiber — vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds or beans, for example — you’re likely to have a lot of trouble going to the bathroom.
During the master cleanse, people have a daily detox drink — only a concoction of water, fresh lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper.
The result? For many people, this kind of juice fast can cause constipation, low energy and bloated stomach (not to mention other complications from consuming too little nutrients/calories). Fiber is partially responsible for igniting the process of peristalsis, which is the series of muscle contractions in our digestive tracts that allow us to poop — exactly the reason that people with low-fiber, highly processed diets often suffer from constipation.
Unfortunately, this is pretty much the opposite of what most people hope to accomplish when they sign up for a “detox.” This is where the salt water flush comes in. It basically forces your digestive system to release stored waste in the toxins, however little (or a lot) there might be.
Salt can also help clear up fluid retention, despite what most people think. Real sea salt (not the processed kind that’s stripped of minerals) helps you lose extra fluid weight by properly balancing out electrolyte/mineral levels in the body, releasing retained water your cells hold onto.
What Does Sea Salt Do to Your Body?
Sodium and salt often get a bad name, but real sea salt is loaded with dozens of minerals and is definitely part of a healthy diet. Keep in mind there’s a big difference between regular table salt, which is iodinated, and pure sea salt. The processed salts in sodium foods, especially in processed, packaged or fast foods, along with the sodium usually contribute too much salt to people’s diets and pose the most health risks (like high blood pressure).
It’s necessary and natural to have some real salt in your diet, so there’s nothing to worry about when it comes to ingesting some salt. Of course, if you did nothing but drink salt water, you would become extremely dehydrated. In fact, you would die because your kidneys and bladder would cause you to lose more water than you’re taking in. But as long as you do a sea salt flush or use pure sea salt in moderation along with an otherwise healthy diet, you shouldn’t suffer any negative consequences.
Salt water has many uses and benefits, including helping to ease sore throats, cleansing wounds, lowering pain in inflamed muscles (which is why salt is used in many detox bath recipes) and providing trace minerals (not to mention making your food taste better). A little known benefit of sea salt is that it affects muscle and nerves functions. It helps contract muscles in the digestive tract that push waste out through the colon. This forces out toxins that have been trapped inside your system and are contributing to sluggishness and constipation.
Real sea salt does have lots of sodium, but it’s balanced out with other minerals like magnesium, calcium, potassium and more than 60 other trace minerals. Salt activates enzymes needed for proper digestive processes and is required by the parietal cells of the stomach wall to make hydrochloric acid.
Salt also helps balance hormones, facilitates with metabolic processes and establishes an optimal pH level in the body. That’s because your stomach acid is naturally very acidic, but salt (sodium chloride) counteracts some of the effects of acids. Salt supports “hyperosmolarity” of extracellular fluids, which has positive effects on your metabolism because it helps with the breakdown of proteins and glucose. Plus, a diet that’s very low in salt causes more aldosterone to be synthesized, which can have effects like lowering potassium and magnesium levels in the body — the opposite of what most people need.
Is a Sea Salt Cleanse Dangerous?
It’s possible that salt water flushes can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting or weakness in some people, but most of the time heavy metal detoxes and cleanses using salt water are safe. If you have a history of serious digestive issues or high blood pressure, you might want to talk to your doctor before doing a salt flush (not because real salt will raise blood pressure on its own, but just to be on the safe side).
While very low-calorie, juice-only detoxes like the master cleanse can be harmful in some situations and aren’t recommended for everybody, you can safely use the same practice of a sea salt flush if you suffer from occasional constipation but aren’t dieting. If you do a salt water flush as part of a juicing or cleansing program, make sure you pay attention to your body’s feedback and give yourself enough rest/nutrients in the process.
Many people safely use a warm salt water cleanse to help clear up problematic digestive issues like constipation, bloating and gas. And sea salt colon cleanse is much less likely to cause side effects that are common when using laxative teas or cleansing pills — like slowly forming a dependency on them or experiencing electrolyte imbalances, water retention afterward and having trouble eating normally.
Many detox programs, including the master cleanse, promote the use of both sea salt water flushes and also potentially dangerous laxative teas, without warning people about complications that can occur. If you have a hard time going to the bathroom for whatever reason, sea salt flushes are a much better option and more gentle on your system longterm. For example, the master cleanse’s own website states that “laxative tea is like a deep down purge scrubbing, digging into corners, where the salt water flush is more like power car wash blasting away surface grit and grime.”
When properly performing a sea salt flush, you use warm water and real sea salt that have been fully blended together, so your body easily absorbs the salt’s minerals. When it’s properly prepared you won’t see any granules of sea salt, just a cloudy mixture that’s uniform in terms of color and texture.
This is important because when the sea salt fully dissolves into the water it helps your digestive organs process the mixture most effectively and safely. Your kidneys won’t pull out the water and leave behind only salt, while high amounts of salt won’t end up in your bloodstream, which can raise blood pressure.
When it comes to safety, salt water flushes appear to be both safe and effective — working just as well as other types of “colon cleansing” products, even the kinds that are prescribed by doctors for patients prior to undergoing a colonoscopy.
Certain studies examining the effects of salt water on cleansing the digestive tract have found that oral sodium mixtures are well-tolerated and even more effective than certain colon-cleansing blends, such as Picoprep. One study done by the Department of Colorectal Surgery at Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia found that salt mixtures seem to cause similar side effects as other colon cleansers (like cramps, some nausea, etc.), but 91 percent of people who used the oral sodium mixture reported that it worked and they would use it again. (2)
How to Cleanse Your Colon with a Salt Water Flush
The salt water flush is most effective if you perform it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. If you do it later in the day, just make sure you haven’t eaten anything in the past one to two hours. Ideally, perform the flush before you eat breakfast, but be careful if you plan to leave the house or exercise in the morning — you’ll have a strong desire to go to the bathroom shortly after and might have a queasy stomach after the flush.
Give yourself enough time to use the bathroom several times after the flush before leaving the house, and keep in mind that you will likely want to shower afterward. Plan for most likely at least about a one-to-two-hour duration (possibly longer) from the time you drink the flush until you’ve completed emptying your bowels.
Some people recommend doing the flush around 7 a.m., but this depends when you wake up and what your schedule is like. The key here is to drink the mixture (check out my homemade salt water flush recipe, which only takes about five minutes to prepare) when there’s not much else in your system. This way you absorb the solution as much as possible and get the most “cleansing” effects.
How often should you perform a salt cleanse? You can do an initial period of several flushes in a row if you’d like — but not every day. Occasionally doing a salt flush can be a safe and therapeutic way to cleanse your system, but doing it too often will result in problems balancing electrolytes and side effects that can be dangerous (dehydration, dizziness, blood pressure changes, muscle weakness, fatigue, etc.). Every few weeks seems to be best, which gives your body enough time to recalibrate and repopulate your microbiome with good bacteria afterward. Check with your health care provider first if you have any health conditions or if you are taking medications.
Trouble-Shooting a Sea Salt Flush
Did you perform a salt colon cleanse and found that it didn’t work well for you? Here’s a few reasons that might be the case, plus how to perform a more effective flush next time:
- Adjust when you perform the flush: Make sure your system is pretty empty and try doing it the morning if you didn’t the first time.
- Adjust how much salt you used: If you use too much or too little salt, it might not work well or might cause side effects.
- Make sure you use pure salt (not iodinated): It’s possible to use the wrong kind of salt without realizing, which will effect how it’s absorbed. Recheck that you use un-iodized organic sea salt. Look for pink Himalayan salt or grayish-colored Celtic sea salt, not the white type that is cheap and sold in most grocery stores.
Salt Water Flush Takeaways
- By drinking a beneficial mixture of real sea salt dissolved in water, you’re able to push waste through the body, release toxins and improve digestion.
- A salt water flush is designed to help you cleanse your colon and digestive system by bringing on a forced bowel movement.
- Nearly 20 percent of the adult American population reports suffering from very frequent constipation.
- The master cleanse is a liquid-only juice fast and can cause constipation.
- A saltwater flush forces your digestive system to release stored waste in the toxins.
- Real sea salt helps you lose extra fluid weight by properly balancing out electrolytes/minerals levels in the body.
- Salt water has many uses and benefits, including helping to ease sore throats, cleansing wounds, lowering pain in inflamed muscles and providing trace minerals.
- Salt helps balance hormones, facilitates with metabolic processes and establishes an optimal pH level in the body.
- A sea salt colon cleanse is much less likely to cause side effects that are common when using laxative teas or cleansing pills.