What are saltwater flushes for?

A saltwater flush is used to cleanse your colon, treat chronic constipation, and help detox your body. It became a popular trend as part of the Master Cleanse detox and fasting program.

A saltwater flush involves drinking a mixture of warm water and non-iodized salt. Drinking salt and warm water has a laxative effect. It usually causes urgent bowel movements within 30 minutes to an hour, although it may take longer.

Advocates of this process believe the procedure helps remove toxins, old waste material, and parasites that may be lurking inside the colon. But before jumping on the saltwater flush bandwagon there are several things you should keep in mind.

What the research says

There’s little doubt that, in most cases, a saltwater flush is effective in the short-term at cleansing the colon by causing bowel movements. Still, there’s no scientific evidence that a saltwater flush detoxes the body or removes so-called waste buildup and parasites from your digestive tract.

Anecdotal evidence is plentiful, however. The internet is full of salt flush testimonies — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Although these may be interesting reads, specific success rates are difficult to come by.

A 2010 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that alternating drinking lukewarm salt water and doing specific yoga postures effectively cleansed the bowel in preparation for colonoscopy. It’s unclear if drinking lukewarm salt water alone would have the same results.

Who should consider a saltwater flush?

Try a saltwater flush if:

  • you’re chronically constipated
  • you’re experiencing irregular bowel movements

There aren’t any official medical guidelines about who is a candidate for a saltwater flush. Supporters recommend the procedure for people who are chronically constipated or who are experiencing irregular bowel movements. The flush may also be recommended as part of a detox diet or juice fast.

Check out: The Master Cleanse Diet (Lemon Detox Diet) »

How to do a saltwater flush

The unofficial standard procedure for a saltwater flush is to:

  1. Dissolve two teaspoons of non-iodized sea salt (such as Pink Himalayan sea salt) in one quart (four cups) of warm water.
  2. Add lemon juice to improve the taste, if desired.
  3. Drink the mixture as quickly as possible on an empty stomach.

You should feel the urge to have a bowel movement shortly after drinking the saltwater mixture.

A saltwater flush is typically done first thing in the morning, upon waking. It may also be performed in the evening, a few hours after your last meal. It doesn’t matter what time of day you do the flush as long as it’s done on an empty stomach.

Don’t plan on running errands or exercising for a few hours after drinking the salt water. You’re likely to have multiple, urgent bowel movements. So, you shouldn’t venture too far from a toilet.

Risks and warnings

Risks:

  • Drinking salt water on an empty stomach may cause nausea and vomiting.
  • A saltwater flush may increase your risk of sodium overload.
  • Sodium overload may lead to high blood pressure.

Drinking salt water on an empty stomach may cause nausea and vomiting. You may also experience cramping, bloating, and dehydration. Colon cleansing in general may cause an electrolyte imbalance due to the rapid loss of sodium and fluids.

This may lead to:

  • muscle spasms
  • weakness
  • confusion
  • irregular heartbeat
  • seizures
  • blood pressure problems

Although most people experience bowel movements after a saltwater flush, some people don’t. A saltwater flush may increase your risk of sodium overload. This may lead to high blood pressure.

Don’t do a saltwater flush if you have:

  • heart problems
  • diabetes
  • edema
  • kidney problems
  • high blood pressure
  • gastrointestinal issues, such as ulcers or inflammatory bowel disease

It’s unclear how a saltwater flush impacts your microbiome, the community of microbes that includes the good and bad bacteria that live in your gut. There’s no scientific evidence that a saltwater flush helps or harms your microbiome. In theory, it may alter its balance.

According to research in Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease, an unhealthy microbiome may lead to an increased risk of intestinal disorders. Taking a probiotic for several days after doing a saltwater flush may help keep your microbiome in balance.

Are there alternatives to a saltwater flush?

Juice fasts, detox teas, and laxative pills are alternative ways to purge the colon. They may cause urgent bowel movements, but there’s no scientific evidence that they remove toxins or help manage constipation over the long term. They may be dangerous for some people.

The best way to cleanse your colon and detox your body is to support your body’s natural detoxifying organs: the liver and kidneys. They filter out toxins from your blood so your body can eliminate them through your bowels or kidneys. You can show your liver and kidneys some TLC by:

  • drinking plenty of water
  • taking prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications as prescribed
  • eating a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • curbing your consumption of alcohol
  • limiting your exposure to toxic substances in cleaning products, pesticides, insecticides, and personal care products
  • not smoking
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • managing your blood pressure
  • exercising regularly

Increasing your intake of soluble and insoluble fiber helps keep your bowels running smoothly. Eating more fiber probably won’t give you the immediate results that you’ll get from a saltwater flush, but it may help you better manage chronic constipation.

The bottom line

A saltwater flush will probably cause urgent bowel movements and cleanse your colon. Unless you have a serious medical condition or you’re pregnant, a single flush is unlikely to do serious harm, although you may feel lousy for a while. You shouldn’t do saltwater flushes regularly.

Because a saltwater flush and other types of colon cleanses are unpredictable and may be dangerous, don’t fall for the hype. Instead, do all you can to support your body’s natural cleansing systems and rely on them to keep toxins at bay. If you want to try a saltwater cleanse, talk to your doctor first to determine if it’s a safe option for you.