There’s a new health trend in TikTok – but experts say it could be harmful.
Saltwater flushes are the latest gut health trend making its way across the platform, with the hashtag #saltwaterflush garnering over 11.3 million views.
Flush is supposed to “clean and expel” the “sludge” from your gut and is used for quick weight loss.
As TikToker @mitch.asser says, the salt water flow will “go from top to bottom and out straight out the back and flush out the entire digestive system.”
Another TikToker under the username @liv.ingwell says “The goal of the saline flush is to remove sludge from the small intestine.”
Olivia, who says she is a practitioner of functional nutritional therapy, makes sure to tell her followers to do the research themselves and trust their bodies before getting involved in the trend.
But some experts respond to videos of the trend with horror.
Abby Sharp, a registered dietitian, responded to Olivia’s video in her TikTok calling the practice “unethical,” with the caption: “No healthcare professional should be giving lessons on saltwater flushing – even if it’s a presenter.” Do your search “Disclaimer. The video now has 56000 views.
Sharp explains that a saltwater influx can be “very dangerous to the masses.” She says that the “sludge” that TikTokers is referring to is actually just feces and water, and that the “recommended” amount of salt that is listed in the tutorial videos is your total salt needs for the day.
“It’s literally napalm for your gut,” she replied.
The dietitian acknowledges that this method has been used as an alternative to colonoscopy preparation, but it can also be “as dangerous as fk.”
She goes on to explain that rapid losses of sodium and fluids will increase the risk of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance — and that it’s definitely something people with existing medical conditions should steer clear of.
Sharp advises against experimenting with a saltwater flush because it is not known how it might alter the composition or balance of the gut microbiome. According to research published in Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease, a poor microbiome can increase the risk of developing intestinal disorders.
TikTok users commented on Sharp’s TikTok video in agreement with her.
One of them pointed out, “It’s like sea water that I thought the whole world didn’t know it shouldn’t drink.”
Another said, “The words ‘flush’ and ‘purify’ are always red flags for me.”
One joked, “Why are people so obsessed with giving themselves diarrhea?”
Others took to OIivia’s video tutorial to summon it.
One user advised “Please, people don’t do this”.
Another commented: “Thinking the sludge might actually be just saltwater squeaking diarrhea.”
One user said “This is literally prep for an lmao colonoscopy”.
While researchers believe it is possible to use a saltwater flush to treat constipation, they often advise against its use, saying it poses many health risks.
A medically reviewed article in Medical News Today says that “the body is able to cleanse itself without the aid of a siphon or washing.”
While advocates of saltwater flushing point out that there are few risks, Medical News Today writes that common side effects include nausea, vomiting, and weakness. The dehydration and electrolyte imbalance that flow can cause may lead to a host of other symptoms as well, including muscle cramps, tingling, numbness, confusion, feeling lethargic, cramps, wheezing, and heart problems such as changes in blood pressure and heartbeat.
It has been emphasized that flushing salt water can be dangerous for people with existing medical conditions including those with high blood pressure, digestive issues, kidney or heart disease. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid this method.
The article also notes that “there is limited, if any, scientific evidence to support the use of saltwater flushing,” and that more research is needed to support documented first person experiences online.
The article acknowledges that “in most cases, saltwater flow appears to be relatively safe, but this is not true for everyone.”
Aside from being dangerous, there is no scientific evidence to support claims that a saltwater flush would flush toxins from the body and remove buildup, according to Healthline.
Although the flow is unlikely to cause serious damage, the researchers advise against “getting into a bang.”
“Because salt water flushes and other types of colon cleansing are unpredictable and potentially dangerous, don’t fall into the hype,” the researchers wrote. “Instead, do everything you can to support and rely on your body’s natural cleansing systems to keep toxins out.”
Experts advise speaking with a doctor before trying salt water rinses or other detoxification methods.