During your pregnancy, your prenatal care provider likely warned you to avoid toxins, such as pesticides and paint fumes, while your baby was developing. After your pregnancy, you may be concerned that a lifetime of living in a polluted world and eating processed foods is leaching toxins into your breast milk. The CDC reports that you must have unusually high levels of toxins in your blood, enough to make you sick, to affect your baby. Colon cleansing as a means to eliminate toxins from your body or to prevent illness is both ineffective and dangerous for nursing women.
Colon cleanse manufacturers claim that their products or services help improve your health or prevent diseases. According to the American Cancer Society, "scientific evidence does not support claims that colon therapy is effective in treating cancer or any other disease." It goes on to say "colon therapy can be dangerous and can cause infection or death." It's true that toxins can build up in your body, but the best way to cleanse them is to take good care of your body's waste removal systems.
Dangers to Your Body
Pregnancy causes a dip in your immune function. After the baby is born, improved immune function becomes part of the overall healing process. Pregnancy also takes a toll on your body's vitamin and mineral stores. Those factors together make colon cleanses potentially more dangerous for women who have recently given birth. If you suffered tearing or perforation that extended to your bowels, some colon cleanses can make these problems worse. Colon cleanses can also cause internal bowel perforations, according to MayoClinic.com. Cleanses also throw your body's electrolyte balance out of whack, which puts a strain on your kidneys and heart.
Threats to Your Milk Supply
One of the most common negative side effects of colon cleansing is dehydration. Your breast milk is made up of 88 percent water, according to the HealthyChildren website. Dehydration directly affects your milk supply by reducing the amount of milk you produce. If you become severely or remain slightly dehydrated for an extended period of time, you may have trouble producing enough milk to meet your baby's needs. This may lead to dehydration in your baby, which can be fatal. In addition, herbal colon cleanses and over-the-counter cleansing supplements can contain ingredients unsafe for newborn babies.
Best Way to Detox
Luckily, the types of healthy foods that help a new mother heal her body and create an abundant milk supply also help naturally cleanse the body. Drinking fluids, such as milk or water, helps flush toxins out of your body. HealthyChildren recommends 2 liters per day. A diet full of fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes also helps sweep toxins and waste out of your colon. If you experience constipation, see your doctor about safe remedies for emptying your colon before attempting any type of cleanse.
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Exposure to Environmental Toxins
- HealthyChildren: Breast-Feeding Questions
- American Cancer Society; Colon Therapy; November 2008
- MayoClinic.com; Colon cleansing: Is it helpful or harmful?; Michael Picco, M.D.; March 2011
- BabyCenter; Diet for a healthy breastfeeding mom; April 2010