The explosive truth behind ‘salt water flushes’ promising short-term weight loss

By Malavika Pradeep

Published Oct 30, 2022 at 09:00 AM

Reading time: 4 minutes

If you ask anyone to describe gen Zers in three words off the top of their head, chances are that you’d end up with the video-sharing app TikTok being one of them. Ever since its conception in 2016, the platform has become synonymous with dynamic—and often questionable—trends, majorly fronted by its unhinged and loyal gen Z user base. To date, we’ve seen people vabbing their way into romantic attractions, taping their mouth shut for “enhanced” nap time, and even razor-brushing their teeth for the love of gore.

With concerning reports of TikTok becoming a major news source for American audiences comes a brand new ‘wellness’ trend that involves drinking a concoction, which can only be described as incredibly sus, to “clean and flush” the “sludge” out of one’s gut in exchange for short-term weight loss. Welcome to the explosive little world of salt water flushes.

What is a salt water flush?

A salt water flush allegedly cleanses your colon, treats chronic constipation, and helps detox your body. As noted by Healthline, the practice involves drinking a mixture of warm water and non-iodised salt—which, in turn, has a laxative effect and results in urgent bowel movement within the next 30 minutes to an hour. “Advocates of this process believe the procedure helps remove toxins, old waste material, and parasites that may be lurking inside the colon,” the health information site explained.

Salt water flushes are typically done first thing in the morning after waking up. Alternatively, it can also be performed in the evening, a few hours after your last meal. “It doesn’t matter what time of day you do the flush as long as it’s done on an empty stomach,” Healthline continued. “Don’t plan on running errands or exercising for a few hours after drinking the salt water. You’re likely to have multiple, urgent bowel movements. So, you shouldn’t venture too far from a toilet.”

Although a salt water flush is effective at cleansing the colon by causing bowel movements in the short run, it should be noted that there’s no scientific evidence whatsoever regarding claims that the process actually detoxes the body or removes the so-called waste buildup and parasites from your digestive tract. Anecdotal evidence, on the other hand, is plentiful.

Enter TikTok in all its DIY instructional glory. With 14.6 million views and counting on #saltwaterflush, the gen Z-first platform is swamped with tutorials and testimonies from enthusiasts who have tried flushing the heck out of their guts at home. Here, users are seen reporting at length about how to spice up the otherwise-unpleasant mixture with lemons, how much weight they’ve presumably lost, and even the exact amount of time they’ve spent absolutely destroying their toilet bowls in the process.

“Salt water flush: 32 ounces of lukewarm water, a teaspoon or two of good sea salt,” explained Olivia Hedlund, a creator who claims to be a “Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner,” on TikTok. “You wake up, you chug it, you lay down for 30 minutes, and then you have to go to the bathroom. You feel yourself going to the bathroom, that’s how you flush your system.”

@liv.ingwell

The best way to get parasites out when on a parasite protocol!!! #parasitecleanse #parasites #guthealthtok

♬ original sound - Olivia Hedlund

In the video, which first hit the platform on 12 September 2022 and has garnered over 3.6 million views since, Hedlund highlighted that the ultimate goal of salt water flushes “is to really get the sludge out of your small intestine.” Another TikToker @mitch.asser explained that the procedure will “go from top to bottom and straight out the back and flush out the entire digestive system.”

On 14 September, actress Amanda Jones also documented herself trying a salt water flush. “It worked—fully, it worked,” she claimed. Meanwhile, a second TikToker alleged that they lost four pounds immediately after their salt water-induced bowel movements.

@mandyvjones

Replying to @keturahjosephine I want to redo it tomorrow with her exact measurements but here’s todays results #saltwaterflush

♬ original sound - Amanda Jones

The good, the bad, and the ugly

As much as I hate to admit, salt water flushes as a wellness trend is still in its infant era on TikTok at the moment—meaning it has both the potential of being regulated at this phase or blowing up even more over time.

With the former goal in mind, several experts have already responded to the trend in horror. Registered dietitian Abbey Sharp first stitched Hedlund’s video and called the practice “unethical,” with the caption: “No health care professional should be giving a salt water flush tutorial—even if they preface it with a ‘do your research’ disclaimer.” In the clip, Sharp told viewers that a salt water flush is “literally napalm for your bowels,” later labelling it “very dangerous for the masses.”

“The ‘sludge’ that Olivia [Hedlund] is referring to is actually straight-up stool and water,” the expert said, adding: “If you’re struggling with constipation or poor elimination, it absolutely will clear you out. This is literally being used as an alternative to colonoscopy prep.” Sharp went on to explain that the rapid loss of sodium and fluids will increase risks of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance—and that it’s definitely something people with existing medical conditions should stay away from.

@abbeyskitchen

No health care professional should be giving a Salt water flush tutorial - even if they preface it with a token “do your research” disclaimer. Salt water detoxes can be dangerous and should NOT be relied upon for constipation, especially without professional individual support. #saltwaterflush

♬ original sound - Abbey Sharp

In terms of the risks associated with the so-called wellness trend, Healthline further noted that the consumption of salt water on an empty stomach may cause nausea and vomiting. You may also experience cramping, bloating, and dehydration. What’s worse is that, even though some TikTokers have mentioned their concerning bouts with vomiting shortly after trying the trend, they stated that they would still update their followers if they “lost weight or not.”

“I’ll be doing the salt water trend in a while so um yeah, I hope I don’t die,” reads a video on the platform with the caption: “Wish me luck!”

Adding onto Sharp’s insights about electrolyte imbalance, Healthline mentioned that the rapid loss of sodium and fluids can lead to muscle spasms, weakness, confusion, irregular heartbeat, seizures, and blood pressure problems. “Although most people experience bowel movements after a salt water flush, some people don’t. A salt water flush may increase your risk of sodium overload. This may lead to high blood pressure,” the publication continued.

A medically-reviewed article from Medical News Today further mentioned that our bodies are perfectly able to cleanse themselves without help from flushes or washes. “Salt water flushes are not a good option for everyone, and speaking to a doctor before starting a salt water flush is essential,” the article noted. “Again, it is worth remembering that the body can cleanse and flush itself without additional help.”

Let’s be honest here. After hours of routine mindless scrolling through TikTok, the platform’s algorithm is bound to initiate you into some bizarre unchecked trends to keep you engaged. It’s ultimately up to you to decide if you want to jump on these said trends without a second thought or be wiser and continue your bottomless eye-roll and scroll sesh. I recommend the latter and, if at all possible, try to avoid spiralling into a cycle of self-diagnoses in the middle of the night.

@beomgyukcals

couldn't even finish a glass cause I knew I would vomit and I didn't want to wake anyone up #foryou #saltwaterflush #weightloss #kpopfyp #61kgctiktok #beomgyukcals

♬ original sound - Phoebe
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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