A colonic involves using large amounts of water to flush waste out of the colon, the longest part of the large intestine. The procedure is also known as colonic irrigation, colon hydrotherapy, or a colon cleanse.
Some believe that a colonic can help prevent disease and improve overall health, the evidence supporting this is weak. Some health experts even suggest that a colonic can be dangerous to your health.
We will discuss what a colonic is, whether it works, and what to expect from the procedure. It also explains how to manage potential complications that can arise from irrigating the colon.
How a Colonic Is Done
A colonic is a procedure performed by a certified, non-medical professional called a hydro therapist. A typical session lasts 35 to 45 minutes to one hour on very rear cases.
Prior to the procedure, you will be asked about your medical history and to sign disclosure documents stating that you understand the risks of the procedure.
For the actual procedure, you will be asked to undress completely, change into a gown, and lie on a treatment table. A colonic is often performed while lying on your side, but some treatment tables allow you to remain on your back.
During the Procedure of a Colonic
Here’s a step-by-step overview of how a colic is performed:
Once you are in the correct position, the therapist inserts a disposable nozzle into your anus. The nozzle is attached to a long disposable plastic hose that is connected to a machine called the hydrotherapy unit closed system.
The hydrotherapy unit pushes some amount of filtered water into the colon with some pressure to expand the colon walls, then apply massage to break down the content. The water is then released back into the tube where it is disposed of to the sewer system line.
- The therapist may observe the contents as they are released back into the clear tubing and comment on the color or consistency of your stools.
- After the session, you will be directed to a toilet to pass any residual water and stool.
- The therapist may lightly massage your belly during the procedure to help encourage water into parts of the colon.
- The procedure may cause abdominal pressure or discomfort but usually no pain. You do not smell anything while undergoing a colonic.
After the Colonic
Because a colonic can cause dehydration and lead to an electrolyte imbalance, avoid caffeine and alcohol for several days until your normal fluid balance is restored.
A low-residue diet is also recommended to give your digestive system a chance to rest.
This includes eating softer foods like applesauce, mashed potatoes, white rice, and chicken and avoiding harder-to-digest foods like raw vegetables, red meat, nuts, and whole grains.
Colon Hydrotherapy: Pros & Cons
Why Do People Get Colonics?
People often get colonics as a means to prevent constipation or remove toxins from the body. Many believe that doing so can improve their overall health.
Proponents of colonics claim that accumulated feces in the colon may negatively affect your health by:
- Promoting constipation
- Blocking the absorption of water and nutrients
- Allowing harmful bacteria and yeast to colonize in the colon
- Enabling the absorption of toxins into the bloodstream
But as of now, there is little scientific evidence to back up these health claims.
While a colonic can certainly help clear hardened stool from the bowel, dietary factors like decreasing your red meat intake and increasing your fiber intake play a substantial role in preventing constipation and other health conditions, including colon cancer.
Colonics vs. Enemas
An enema is an injection of fluid used to empty the bowel, often ahead of a medical procedure. A colonic reaches distant parts of the colon using multiple infusions of water for the purpose of “detoxifying” the body.
Is Colon Hydrotherapy Dangerous?
Potential Side Effects and Risks of Colonics
The following side effects are common. They can occur immediately following a colonic and last for several hours:
- Diarrhea and vomiting are also possible.
Possible Complications from colonics
Serious complications can also sometimes occur, including:
- Electrolyte imbalances, which can be harmful if you have a heart condition or kidney stones
- Rectal injury, including fissures (tears)
- Bowel perforation
There is also evidence that a colonic can strip mucus and naturally-occurring bacteria and yeasts that protect the colon from infection. By clearing these away, you may actually be increasing your risk of a bowel infection.5
Why Your Bowel Movements Seem Weird Lately
Who Should Avoid Colonics?
Colonic hydrotherapy is discouraged in people with certain health conditions. Chief among these are conditions that cause intestinal bleeding or inflammation.
- Avoid colonics if you have:
- Ulcerative colitis
- Diverticular disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Severe hemorrhoids
- Rectal fissure
- Vascular disease
- Heart diseases, including heart failure and atrial fibrillation
- Severe anemia
- Abdominal hernia
- Gastrointestinal cancers
- Recent colon surgery
People who are pregnant should not have a colonic as it may stimulate uterine contractions, but under doctors check may help with the normal constipations to help and reduce the use of laxatives.