Cleansing or doing a cleanse is a popular health and wellness practice that aims to remove toxins and promote better digestion. During a cleanse, you typically consume only fruits, vegetables, smoothies, juices, water and/or cleansing supplements. This stimulates the body’s natural detoxification systems and can lead to increased bowel movements and changes in stool color and consistency.
What is Normal Poop?
Before discussing what stool changes to expect when cleansing, it’s helpful to understand what is considered normal poop. According to the Bristol Stool Chart, ideal and healthy poop is type 3 or 4 on the scale:
Bristol Stool Chart
|Separate hard lumps, like nuts
|Sausage-like but lumpy
|Like a sausage but with cracks on the surface
|Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft
|Soft blobs with clear cut edges
|Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, mushy
|Watery, no solid pieces
Type 3 is considered ideal – stools hold their shape but are soft and pass easily. Type 4 stools are also healthy. Types 1 and 2 indicate constipation, while 5-7 signal diarrhea or urgency.
Normal poop is also generally brown in color, which comes from bile released during digestion. The exact shade can range from light brown to almost black.
Expected Stool Changes When Cleansing
When you start a cleanse, you can expect to see some changes in your bowel movements and stool:
More Frequent Bowel Movements
One of the main goals of cleansing is to increase the number of bowel movements you have to flush out more waste and toxins. It’s common to go 2-3 times more often when cleansing. Some cleanses or detox programs even claim you may have 5 or more bowel movements per day.
Softer Stool Consistency
In addition to greater frequency, you can expect much softer stool, often with a mushy or liquid consistency. This is due to the fiber, fluids and change in diet during a cleanse.
Your stools may lose their normal shape and look more like types 5, 6 or 7 on the Bristol chart.
Different Stool Colors
Some of the most obvious changes are in poop color, which can vary dramatically during a cleanse. Common colors include:
- Green: Green stools are primarily the result of increased bile output. Bile is green in color, so increased fat intake and rapid transit time can cause green poop.
- Yellow/Pale Brown: A brighter yellow or paler brown shade can indicate a reduction in bile salts. This is common when not eating or when avoiding meat and dairy, which stimulate bile production.
- Dark Brown: Very dark or blackish brown stools can occur due to constipation and slower transit time, allowing more time for bile to break down and create a darker color.
- Orange: Bright orange stools are often due to high supplemental beta carotene intake from foods like carrots, sweet potatoes and squash.
Changes in Stool Odor
Cleansing can also lead to poop that smells worse, due to changes in your diet and fluid intake. Foul-smelling stools may occur due to:
- Increased bacteria from cleansing supplements
- Fat malabsorption from low-fat diet
- Changes in gut transit time
When to Be Concerned
While the stool changes above are normal during a cleanse, there are some signs that may indicate a potential health issue:
Diarrhea that lasts more than 3-4 days without improvement may signal an imbalance in gut bacteria or infection. Be sure to stay hydrated and stop the cleanse if it persists.
Visible Blood or Mucus
Bright red blood or dark tarry stools, as well as excessive mucus, could indicate inflammation, irritation or damage in the GI tract. See a doctor if these last more than 1-2 bowel movements.
Severe Pain or Cramps
Gas, bloating and mild discomfort are common during a cleanse, but severe abdominal pain or cramping that doesn’t improve could be a sign of a blocked intestine or bowel obstruction, which requires medical attention.
Light Colored or Clay-Like Stool
Very pale gray, white or clay-colored stool can be a result of a blocked bile duct. Seek medical care if this does not resolve within 24 hours of stopping the cleanse.
Oily or Greasy Stools
Fatty, foul-smelling stools that float or stick to the toilet bowl may be a sign of fat malabsorption. Check with your doctor if this persists.
Tips for a Safe and Effective Cleanse
To get the health benefits of cleansing without causing harm, here are some tips:
- Drink plenty of fluids like water, herbal tea and fresh juices.
- Include soluble fiber like grains, legumes, fruit, veggies and psyllium husk.
- Avoid overusing laxatives, which can irritate the gut.
- Introduce cleansing foods gradually a few days before starting.
- Follow cleanse directions and don’t overdo duration.
- Stop if you experience persisting issues like pain, diarrhea or bleeding.
When to See a Doctor
Check with your physician before attempting a cleanse, especially if you have any medical conditions or take medications. Be sure to seek medical attention if you experience:
- Blood or mucus in stool
- Severe cramping, pain or bloating
- Persistent diarrhea or greasy, foul stools
- Nausea, vomiting or fever
- Dizziness, fatigue or weakness
Monitoring your stools during a cleanse can provide insight into how your digestive system is responding. While some changes are normal, be alert for any signs of complications and see your doctor if you have ongoing concerns.
Cleansing and detoxification can provide beneficial effects, but also often leads to changes in bowel movements and stool consistency. More frequent, softer and differently colored stools are common. However, persistent issues like diarrhea, bleeding or pain should be evaluated promptly by a doctor. Being aware of normal vs concerning changes in poop color and appearance can help ensure a safe and healthy cleanse experience.