Pros and Cons of Colonic Irrigation

While there are several names for the same procedure, colon cleansing, colonic irrigation and colon hydrotherapy, all refer to the same thing. A fluid is introduced into the intestinal tract via the rectum as a way to flush out the colon. Proponents often claim it is one of the healthiest procedures around. Critics however disagree, with a few claiming it is positively unhealthy.

The practice has been studied for many years and the general opinion is that colonics offer few or none of the claimed health benefits. Whether or not it does actual harm is dependent, unsurprisingly, on individual circumstances, which includes the way the procedure is performed.

How is Colon Hydrotherapy Done

In the typical setting, an individual will wear a loose fitting, hospital style gown and lays on a table. The therapist then opens the rectum using a disposable speculum and inserts a plastic tube. Either purified water or water with salts or other compounds, is put gently up through the rectum and into the colon. The resulting mixture then drains out through the same tube and is hygienically discarded.

However, even when best practices are followed, there is very little medical evidence for the claims expressed by some advocates.

Is Colonic Irrigation Good or Bad for You

The colon rarely becomes impacted with fecal material and normal digestive functions perform an excellent job of eliminating waste material. When that process breaks down, it is the result of disease and not due to the impaction nor cured by a colon cleansing.

The fundamental theory on which the practice relies is equally flawed. Scientific studies do not support the belief that 'toxins' are retained by or build-up in the large intestine, which can only be removed by colon hydrotherapy. The human body has several natural mechanisms to prevent that, or curing it if it were to occur.

Obviously, intestinal diseases do happen, including Crohn's disease and colorectal cancer. However, the existence of these conditions disqualifies an individual from being a candidate for colonic irrigation in any case. No reputable therapist would knowingly give such a person a colonic.

Nevertheless, when performed correctly, it is a very low risk process and many folks experience benefits. Those benefits could mainly be psychological, as a consequence of 'feeling clean', but they are no less real for all that. Extreme caution is called for since an incorrectly performed colonic can do harm even if it does not actually rupture anything.

Obviously, the gastrointestinal system has evolved to function normally as a one-way process. Introducing fluids up through the rectum may flush out some material, but it is material that would have come out anyway. Additionally, it is not a proper treatment method for intestinal parasites, as claimed by a few alternative medicine practitioners.

Many folks who undertake the procedure can suffer abdominal discomfort as well as nausea, for several hours afterward. In rare cases, it is possible to cause kidney damage if, for instance, a laxative such as sodium phosphate is used in the irrigating fluid.

As with any therapeutic procedure, it is always preferable to seek advice from your doctor beforehand and be guided by expert medical advice.

Page Updated: November 12, 2016
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