Does colon cleansing strengthen the immune system?


Colon cleansing is said to detoxify the body and restore the gut flora. This not only helps with intestinal problems, but strengthens the immune system too. But how does it actually work?

Bacteria in the colon

There are 100 trillion bacteria in our intestines. They form the intestinal flora that is so important for our immune system. Most of these bacteria live in the intestinal mucosa, where they aid di­ges­tion, fight off unwanted germs, help produce vitamins and neutralise toxins. If the equilibrium of these bacteria is disturbed, the natural gut flora is affected.

When is colon cleansing worthwhile?

Even if the effects of colon cleansing have not been scientifically proven, many people are convinced of its benefit to their well-being. Colon cleansing is said to restore the symbiosis of the in­testi­nal bacteria and rebuild the gut flora. Alternative medicine practitioners not only recommend colon cleansing for people who are already sick, but also as a precautionary measure to strengthen the immune system.

What disturbs the bal­ance of the intestinal flora?

The more diverse the composition of the bacterial species in the intestinal flora, the more the intestinal flora benefits our health. Eating a balanced diet makes a huge difference to maintaining the equilibrium. Excessive amounts of sugar or protein, as well as too many empty carbohydrates, such as white bread, pasta and sweets, can have a negative impact on the intestinal flora. As a result, the bacteria cannot produce enough beneficial nutrients. Stress has a similar effect.

Caution with medication

However, the biggest killers of bacteria are antibiotics. They not only kill the bad bacteria, but also partially destroy the good bacteria, making us more sus­cep­ti­ble to disease. That is why it is even more important to eat nutritious food and take care of your gut flora when taking medication.

Indications of an imbalance in the intestinal flora:

  • diarrhoea
  • constipation
  • flatulence
  • stomach ache
  • allergies or food intolerances
  • chronic fatigue
  • irritable bowel syndrome

Colon cleansing: Restoring the intestinal flora

For many people, colon cleansing starts with emptying the colon. However, experts doubt the benefit of this process. «The intestinal flora renews itself every 7 days anyway. The important thing is what we eat. If we eat a plant-based diet rich in fibre, the colon regenerates itself after a few days automatically». Ac­cord­ing to Dr Sarah Schwitalla, a ‘crash cleansing’ doesn’t achieve much.

What are probiotics and prebiotics?

Probiotics are micro-organisms that are beneficial to our health, such as lactic acid bacteria. These are what we could call «good» bacteria. Prebiotics are fibres that help these «good» bacteria multiply. Inulin, a plant substance, is one of them. Experts like Dr Sarah Schwitalla emphasise: «Every plant-based food is probiotic». Indeed, the substances contained in probiotics and prebiotics are highly acclaimed and can be bought at great expense in pharmacies as supplements in the form of capsules or powder.

However, the best way to restore the intestinal flora is to eat a healthy and balanced diet.

The effects are controversial

However, the effects of these products are disputed. According to Gesund­heits­tipp magazine, the effectiveness of these products has never been clearly proven. To start with, more probiotic and prebiotic foods should be consumed. In a normal case, this would be for about 1-2 weeks; however, since a full restora­tion of the intestinal flora depends on the individual, it’s not possible to indicate a specific period of time. The duration depends strongly on the condition of the intestinal flora. For this reason, you should listen to your body and continue the treatment until you feel better.

Foods with prebiotic

  • chicory
  • topanimbur
  • leek
  • onions
  • garlic
  • black salsify
  • artichokes
  • apples
  • bananas, mango, papaya
  • flaxseed and psyllium husks

Foods with probiotics

  • yoghurt
  • kefir
  • sauerkraut
  • miso soup
  • kombucha (fermented tea)
  • cheese
  • apple cider vinegar
  • tempeh
  • kimchi (fermented cabbage)

In summary: prioritise plant-based foods

In order to keep the colon in balance, plant-based and fibre-rich foods should feature highly in our diet. With a healthy colon, we feel fitter, have more energy and protect ourselves from diseases.

Pain-free flatulence? Flatulence is normal after changing to a high-fibre diet and indicate healthy intestinal activity. It's important to make the change gradually – your gut needs time to adjust.

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