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Colon Cleansers: Your Options

Which colon cleansers are right for you? Discovering the answer requires some research. The risks of natural colon cleansers vary significantly depending on the one in question.  Some conventional colon cleansers have been removed from the market because of safety concerns. Review colon cleansers with a reliable healthcare provider before starting a colon cleansing regiment.

Natural or Complementary Colon Cleansers
The three main categories of natural colon cleansers are colonic hydrotherapy, herbal colon cleansing enemas, and oral colon cleansing supplements. Colonic hydrotherapy uses large volumes of water sent directly into the colon to clean it of waste. An herbal colon cleansing enema is much gentler than colonic hydrotherapy. It uses small volumes of water and low pressure. Oral colon cleansing supplements are the easier to take, because they are taken through the mouth. Even though these methods are natural, you may wish to consult a healthcare provider before trying them.

Synethic Colon Cleansers
Conventional colon cleansers are typically synthetic compounds that can be taken by mouth or as enemas. They have been researched extensively by medical experts. Polyethylene glycol, magnesium citrate, and bisacodyl are three conventional colon cleansers.


Synethic Colon Cleanser

Possible Side Effects

Polyethylene Glycol

Dependency, bloating, cramps, gas, nausea

Magnesium Citrate

Nausea, abdominal discomfort, dependency, gas


Cramps, diarrhea, faintness, intestinal and stomach irritation, upset stomach, dependency

Polyethylene glycol is a long chain molecule with a backbone of carbon and oxygen. It is an osmotic laxative, which means it draws water from the surrounding tissues into the colon. MedlinePlus reports that polyethylene may be habit forming and that it can cause nausea, bloating, gas, and cramps. In rare cases, polyethylene may lead to diarrhea and/or hives.

Magnesium citrate is a simple carbohydrate bonded to a magnesium ion. Some experts  believe that magnesium citrate works by increasing fluid levels in the small intestine. If used too often, magnesium citrate may lead to dependency.  Potentially, it could make it difficult to have a bowel movement without assistance. The problems associated with magnesium citrate may include gas, nausea, and abdominal discomfort. In rare cases, changes in heartbeat, mental status, or mood may result from magnesium citrate use. Muscle weakness, persistent diarrhea, and dehydration are also believed to be rare risks of a magnesium citrate regimen. An allergic reaction to magnesium citrate is also possible.

Bisacodyl is a complex carbohydrate with three rings and two side branches. Bisacodyl can be taken by mouth, as a suppository, or as an enema. Like polyethylene glycol and magnesium citrate, bisacodyl can make a person dependent on laxatives. Bisacodyl may cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, upset stomach, stomach and intestinal irritation, and faintness.

Different colon cleansers carry different risks and benefits. Even consumers taking natural colon cleansers should consider consulting a healthcare provider about them. Conventional colon cleansers can cause dependency and other side effects. Read up on polyethylene glycol, magnesium citrate, and bisacodyl before taking any of these synethic colon cleansers.


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4. Polyethylene Glycol 3350. MedlinePlus

5. Magnesium Citrate Oral. WebMD

6. Bisacodyl. MedlinePlus

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National Cancer Institute

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