The Salt Water Flush: Why It's Not Safe

On social media, health trends spread fast, and the salt water flush is one of the latest to grab attention on TikTok. With promises of gut cleansing and detoxification — claims it can 'flush out the sludge' from the digestive system — it aligns with a popular belief that our bodies need additional detoxing. A wider interest in gut health and the gut microbiome has many of us looking for quick and easy ways to improve digestion and optimize our health, but what is the reality behind this trend? Let’s dive into the science and find out if the salt water flush works, plus why experts say it may be not safe.

What is a salt water flush?

A salt water flush involves drinking a large amount of water with a large amount of dissolved salt in it. Instructions on TikTok videos tell viewers to put two teaspoons of salt — more than the overall recommended daily allowance of sodium — into one liter of lukewarm water and drink it quickly on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. After that, users are instructed to lie down and wait to start feeling the effects.

@thefastingmd Salt water flush! Good for you or just another dangerous trend? #saltflush #constipation #bloating #flush #detox #fyp #nutrition #foodismedicine ♬ original sound - Dr. Amy Shah

Fans of the salt water flush say that it can 'detoxify' the body, relieve constipation, and even help with weight loss. They even claim it can remove toxins and digestive residue from the gut. There is no clear scientific evidence to support these potential health claims.

Where did the salt water flush come from?

The salt water flush became popular after The Master Cleanser was published by Stanley Burroughs in 1941. Burroughs' regimen is a liquid cleanse diet, and part of this involves a salt water flush to potentially stimulate bowel movements and 'clean out' the body.

Since then, the salt water cleanse has reappeared on TikTok, with celebrities and influencers touting supposed benefits and promise of a quick, natural way to cleanse the body, improve gut health, and lose weight.

It’s important to approach these health trends with caution and to be aware of the potential risks and pitfalls to your health.

The risks of the salt water flush

Despite the proposed health claims, such as improved gut health, reduced bloating, and weight loss, healthcare professionals have warned against the dangers of the salt water cleanse due to potential side effects, health risks, and a lack of scientific research to support its safety or effectiveness.


Common side effects of a salt water cleanse

Salt water cleanses haven’t been extensively studied, however, according to one small study, the possible side effects are likely to include:

  • Nausea and vomiting. Drinking saltwater on an empty stomach may cause nausea and vomiting, leading to fluid loss and making the experience uncomfortable.
  • Abdominal cramps. The rapid intake of saltwater may lead to abdominal cramps, causing pain and discomfort.
  • Dizziness. Some individuals may experience dizziness due to the sudden loss of fluids and electrolytes.
  • Blood pressure changes. Research has found that a high sodium intake can cause blood pressure changes, leading to light-headedness and fainting.
  • Sweating. Increased sweating may occur as the body reacts to the saltwater mixture, potentially leading to dehydration.

It's important to note that in the above study, salt water was taken alongside yoga as part of colonoscopy prep and not as a bowel cleanse. The purpose of colonoscopy prep isn't to cleanse the bowels but to allow doctors to remove any residual stool that might block their view of the lining of the gut. This allows them to better detect polyps, signs of cancer, and other subtle problems.

Serious risks of a salt water flush

A salt water flush may overload the body with sodium, cause fluid losses, and lead to more serious and potentially life-threatening complications. These can include:

  • Electrolyte imbalance. Salt water use may lead to electrolyte imbalance, causing muscle cramps, weakness, and potentially more serious complications. Maintaining a normal electrolyte balance is crucial for muscle and nerve function.
  • Dehydration. By attracting water into the intestines and inducing bowel movements, a salt water flush may cause dehydration alongside other symptoms such as tiredness, dizziness, a dry mouth, and changes in blood pressure levels.
  • Heart problems. In rare cases, the electrolyte imbalances due to excessive sodium intake may increase the risk of cardiovascular problems, such as arrhythmias, especially in those with diagnosed cardiovascular conditions.
  • Kidney issues. Our bodies regulate sodium levels by releasing excess sodium in the urine or holding onto water. A high sodium intake can place strain on the kidneys and, for those with a pre-existing kidney condition, may lead to increased blood pressure, fluid retention, and electrolyte imbalances.

It’s important to state that there is no robust scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness and safety of the salt water flush for colon cleansing or detoxification. Instead of relying on trends with potential side effects, it's better to stick to science-based practices for supporting gut health.

If you’ve taken a salt flush and are experiencing or are worried about any of these potential complications, contact your healthcare provider urgently.

Who shouldn’t try a salt water flush?


There is no scientific evidence supporting the use of a salt water flush, and certain groups should avoid this practice due to potential health complications. Research suggests that excessive sodium intake may be harmful to individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, such as:

If you have any of the above medical conditions and you are concerned about sodium intake, it's advisable to consult with your healthcare provider.

How our bodies naturally detoxify

Our bodies have evolved sophisticated and natural ways to detoxify. The liver, kidneys, and gut are all designed to filter and clear waste products, and there is no evidence that detox diets or cleansing practices boost their ability to detoxify the body.

The liver

The liver is a vital organ with several key functions, including assistance to metabolism, immune function, and detoxification. The liver detoxifies substances through a series of chemical reactions that make them easier to excrete through the bile, urine, or stool. Then, they can be eliminated during the body's waste removal.

The kidneys

The kidneys act as a specialized filter, with microscopic structures (nephrons) designed to remove waste products, excess water, and toxins. Any waste products in the blood are filtered into the urine and eliminated via the bladder. The kidneys also regulate electrolyte levels such as sodium, potassium, and calcium.

The gut


The gut works alongside the liver and kidneys to eliminate digestion waste products through the process of defecation. The gut lining also has epithelial cells designed to metabolize and remove toxins, which are eliminated from the body through feces.

Why the body doesn’t need external help to detox

While trends like the salt water flush claim to detoxify the body, they may even have the opposite effect and disrupt the natural balance of detox processes in the liver, kidneys, and gut. Instead, we can make simple lifestyle changes to support our natural detox processes. These include:

  • Balanced diet. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats provides the fiber and nutrients necessary for optimal organ function.
  • Hydration. Drinking an adequate amount of water aids in kidney and bowel function and helps them continue flushing out toxins.
  • Regular exercise. Physical activity supports overall health, including the circulatory system, which plays a role in the removal of waste products and detoxification.
  • Adequate sleep. Restorative sleep is crucial for our natural recovery and detox processes.
  • Avoiding harmful substances. Alcohol, high-sugar intake, and highly processed foods may affect liver and kidney function by increasing the risk of diseases such as diabetes and fatty liver disease.

When to seek professional help

If you’re curious about the salt water flush because you’ve been experiencing persistent digestive issues, be mindful that these symptoms could indicate an underlying health condition.

Persistent digestive symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal discomfort can be linked to conditions such as hypothyroidism, IBS, and dietary intolerances.

If you have been experiencing unintentional weight loss, blood in your stool, abdominal pain, pain on going to the toilet, or persistent changes in your bowel movement habits, seek advice from a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

While social media is a good place to find out about what’s new in the world, it’s best to avoid relying on influencers for health advice unless they are a verified, qualified healthcare professional.

Before trying any new trend, consult your healthcare provider for evidence-based advice and safe treatments tailored to your healthcare needs. Professional advice is always the best way to ensure proper management of your digestive health.


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