The digestive system converts food into nourishment and energy by breaking down food into a useable format so it can be absorbed through the walls of the intestines into the body. The remaining waste products remain in the colon until we have a bowel movement.

Good health relies on a smoothly functioning digestive system and daily elimination. You can keep your colon in good working order by making wise dietary choices. Consume plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and incorporate these four foods believed to help cleanse the colon.

Fermented Foods

The human body is teeming with life-sustaining bacteria. However, the standard American diet, and our pre-occupation with all things antibacterial, has eliminated many of our healthy digestive bacteria.

Fermented foods introduce beneficial bacteria into the gut and help restore the balance of intestinal flora. According to Mark Sisson, author of Mark's Daily Apple blog, humans in post-agricultural societies have traditionally incorporated some form of fermented foods in their diets. Sisson says it's critical to choose foods fermented naturally since commercially fermented foods are generally preserved in vinegar instead of a bacteria-rich solution.

The best fermented foods include:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Full-fat greek-style yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Aged cheeses
  • Fermented fish sauces
  • Kombucha (fermented sweet tea)

Other good fermented foods include:

  • Natta (soy)
  • Kimchi (cabbage)
  • Pickles
  • Torshi (mixed vegetables)
  • Rakfish
  • Dark chocolate (yes, chocolate!)

Fresh Seasonal Fruit and Vegetables

Fresh (preferably local or organic) fruit supports the body's natural toxin elimination cycle and ensures the intestinal tract remains well hydrated and nourished. Apples, melons, and papayas are good choices.

Freshly-squeezed organic lemon juice removes impurities from the intestinal tract, reduces harmful bacteria in the bowel, and helps the bowels eliminate toxins more efficiently.

Top-rated colon cleansing vegetables include:

  • Zucchini
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Squash
  • Beets
  • Bamboo shoots

All of these foods have a high concentration of water, which also helps the bowels function properly.

Raw (not pasteurized), organic apple cider vinegar is one of the best all-around detoxifiers, says Edward F. Group III, D.C., N.D., of Global Healing Center. It contains the "father of vinegar," which includes the live nutrients and bacteria that give apple cider vinegar a cloudy appearance. Drinking a diluted vinegar drink may help improve bowel irregularity, thereby removing toxins from the body at a faster rate.

Wheatgrass is a nutrient-rich type of young grass. Advocates say it kills harmful gut bacteria, rids the body of waste, and boosts immunity. There are few scientific research studies supporting the benefits of wheatgrass; however, it's generally considered safe except for pregnant or nursing women.

A word about cleansing: they're controversial. "Many respected natural medicine doctors do not believe in cleansing, and that you should eat fresh, healthy food all the time," says Amber Taylor, M.D., Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. He adds that none of the foods above are harmful and can be part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Amber Taylor, MD, reviewed this article.


Amber Taylor, MD.

Brent A. Bauer, M.D., "What is Wheatgrass, and Should I be Adding it to My Smoothies for Better Health?" Mayo Clinic, October 15, 2010.

Dr. Edward F. Group III, "The Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar," last updated on August 22, 2013

Dr. Edward F. Group III, "6-Day Advanced Oxygen Colon Cleanse," accessed September 4, 2013.

Mark's Daily, "The Definitive Guide to Fermented Foods," accessed September 4, 2013.

Dr. Ben Kim, "Full Body Cleanse: Diet," accessed September 4, 2013.

Dr. Edward F. Group III, "The Body Cleansing Diet," accessed September 4, 2013.