You may have heard about flushing using vitamin C. Is it effective or even safe? Understanding the pros and cons can help you make an informed decision about whether this type of practice is right for you.
Flushing Using Vitamin C
This type of flush involves drinking very high doses of liquid vitamin C to produce watery stool (diarrhea) to "flush" out your gastrointestinal system. It essentially works like an enema. Supporters of the practice say it helps with:
- Cold and flu prevention and treatment
- Detoxifying your body
- Boosting your immune system
- Determining individualized vitamin C dosing requirements
- Flushing bowels to get rid of intestinal bacterial overgrowth
How to Do a Flush at Home
To do this at home, take the following steps:
- Before doing the flush, be sure you're at home or somewhere with a bathroom nearby.
- Drink ½ teaspoon (2,000 milligrams) of buffered vitamin C powder mixed with 2 ounces water every 15 minutes until your stool is watery (you get diarrhea) and keep track of how much vitamin C powder it takes to produce diarrhea.
- Cut this dosage in half to determine your maintenance dose (the vitamin C dose you should take daily until you feel better). You shouldn't have diarrhea during this phase.
- Continue until your symptoms go away, and then stop taking the buffered vitamin C or return to a typical vitamin C dose that is in line with recommended dietary guidelines.
There's no official guideline for how often you can or should do this type of flush, but some supporters of the concept recommend doing it as often as once weekly for a period of up to six months.
Is It Backed by Research?
Research is needed to determine if a flush is safe and effective because noted potential benefits only come from anecdotal reports. If you're feeling constipated, flushing with vitamin C can help clean out your system. However, because it causes diarrhea, it's important to chat with your doctor about possible pros and cons before attempting it at home.
Taking very high doses of vitamin C regularly without a doctor's supervision can be dangerous as having watery diarrhea-like stool can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and nutrient deficiencies. Likewise, too much vitamin C may increase your risk for kidney stones, says Linus Pauling Institute. Large doses of vitamin C can also interact with medications (such as anticoagulants), making them less effective. Because of these potential safety concerns, it's best to avoid performing a flush unless your doctor gives you the okay.
Is High-Dose Vitamin C Beneficial?
Taking high doses of vitamin C may be beneficial for people with cancer, but more research is needed in this realm, according to the National Cancer Institute. High-dose vitamin C may help boost immunity if vitamin C levels in your body are low. Linus Pauling Institute says the vitamin C tolerable upper intake level of 2,000 milligrams daily was set to prevent side effects like diarrhea and other gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances, but GI problems are generally not a serious health condition. Nonetheless, get your doctor's okay before exceeding 2,000 milligrams of vitamin C daily.
Vitamin C Recommendations
The best advice for vitamin C is to avoid vitamin C flushes unless your doctor gives you the okay. You don't have to give yourself diarrhea to get in a daily boost and reap vitamin C's health benefits. Adults should aim to get at least 75 to 90 milligrams daily by eating a variety of fruits and veggies and taking a multivitamin supplement containing vitamin C. Linus Pauling Institute recommends taking 250-milligram vitamin C supplements twice daily to optimize health.