The latest health trend to take over social media is swallowing salt water to release ‘toxins’, but experts say the fad is questionable at best and could even be dangerous.
Proponents of the “salt water hunt” have flooded social media with stories of the bloat and weight loss. Olivia Hedlund, who calls herself a “Functional Nutrition Therapy Practitioner” (FNTP) on TikTok, posted a tutorial aimed at sending people to the bathroom more often.
“Salt water rinse: 32 ounces of warm water, a teaspoon or two of good sea salt,” Hedlund explained. “You wake up, you drink, you lie 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.”
Actress Amanda Jones documented herself trying the toilet flush in a TikTok video with 2.8 million views.
“It worked – fully, it worked,” Jones said.
Another TikToker said she lost four pounds immediately after her salt water induced bowel movement.
Abbey Sharp, a registered dietitian who uses her TikTok platform to bust “wellness culture” myths, said Newsweek this type of cleaning has traditionally been used as an alternative to colonoscopy preparation.
“I think that’s probably where it came from – people knew it was going to literally ‘take you out,'” Sharp said. “People these days are pretty obsessed with the idea of gut health, obsessed with anti-bloating, with ultimately losing weight quickly.”
But although the flush will send you to the toilet, Sharp said it doesn’t release any toxins. The average person doesn’t need to remove toxins by increasing bowel movements, and if someone has a legitimate blockage, they need the help of a medical provider, not a hunt. ‘salt water.
“When you add all that salt in your intestines it pulls the water into the intestines and then you also drink a liter of water with it. It’s going to blow it all out the other end. I say it’s like the napalm for your intestines,” Sharp said. “It’s not going to feel good.”
Although your system will be cleaned, there are many dangers, Sharp said. The rapid loss of sodium and fluid can increase your risk of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. People who have pre-existing heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes are at even higher risk due to sodium and electrolyte loss.
The healthy general population may also be at long-term risk from repeated use of salt water flushing, according to Sharp.
“If we constantly force the contents of our intestines rapidly, we will change the makeup or balance of our gut microbiome,” Sharp said. “We’re actually putting our gut health at risk because we’re eliminating a lot of the good bacteria in our gut.”
A medically reviewed article in Medical News Today found that there is “limited to no scientific evidence” to support the use of saline rinses, as the body is naturally capable of cleansing itself. Although the researchers said the salt water flush is “relatively safe,” they listed common side effects, including nausea, vomiting, and weakness.
Sharp advised people to think twice before following health advice on TikTok.
“You really need to talk to a healthcare provider, ideally a dietitian who can help with your individual needs,” she said.