Colon Hydrotherapy, also known as colonic irrigation, is the flushing of the colon with warm water to remove fecal matter and mucus. While the practice seems new, it’s been around for thousands of years.
Literature and drawings show references to it from ancient cultures around the world including India, Greece, Rome, and Egypt. In the last couple of decades, colonic flushes have had a resurgence using sophisticated machinery. The question remains, however: are they necessary or even safe?
Cleaning the colon of fecal matter is done before some medical procedures like a colonoscopy. In a colon hydrotherapy treatment, a disposable, sterile speculum and tube are gently inserted into the rectum. Filtered water flows through the speculum and into the colon. The pressure of the water cleans the colon; however, the technician controls the flow and pressure of the water.
The FDA does not regulate the practice, but it does regulate the machines used in the treatment. While there are schools that train and certify colon hydrotherapist, state regulations vary. Florida, for example, allows a certification attachment to a massage license. So, in Florida, you must be a licensed massage therapist to get a certification to perform colonic irrigation.
Organizations like the Association of Registered Colon Hydrotherapist train and register professionals. There are also governing bodies that set and oversee professional standards like the National Board for Colon Hydrotherapy.
Are Colonics Necessary and Safe?
The benefits of colon hydrotherapy are mostly anecdotal. Proponents of colon hydrotherapy say colonics are beneficial because they clean out the impacted fecal matter which allows for better absorption of nutrients. Colon hydrotherapy is also supposed to remove toxins, improve circulation, help with digestion, assist with maintaining a healthy weight, and helps improve the immune system.
However, nutrients are absorbed by the small intestines before they reach the colon. The colon’s job is to absorb water and move stools out of the body. Board certified gastrologist and professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic of College of Medicine, Michael Picco, M.D., says colonics are not necessary because the digestive system and bowel are designed to eliminate waste and bacteria from the body.
Andrew Weil, M.D. a pioneer in integrative medicine who embraces many alternative therapies says the colon’s lining sloughs off and regenerates every day. He recommends eating a healthy diet, exercising, and staying hydrated to keep the colon clean and functioning well.
While many people have had colonic flushes without incident, there have been cases of harm especially with those that contain herbs or coffee. The Mayo Clinic reports that several deaths were linked to coffee enemas.
Some people have reported side effects such as cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and nausea. Medical experts say that colonic cleanse may cause dehydration, upset the balance of bacteria in the colon, perforate the colon, and create an imbalance in electrolytes. In rare cases, Dr. Robynne Chutkan says over-absorption of water could cause heart failure.
One of the reasons many people are enthusiastic about colonic hydrotherapy is because of the feeling of lightness and well-being afterward. While colonics do empty the colon, health care practitioners say a healthy diet that includes plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit along with exercise and staying hydrated is the better way to keep the colon healthy and functioning optimally.
This information is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended to diagnose, treat, or recommend any therapy or medical treatment.
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