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Is colon hydrotherapy safe?

Colon hydrotherapy is the flushing and detoxification of the colon through liquid administration into the rectum. It is different from an enema, and one of the biggest differences between the two procedures is that colon hydrotherapy uses more liquid.

Colon Hydrotherapy

Colon hydrotherapy, also known as colon irrigation, or a colonic, is an alternative medical therapy, which has grown in popularity over the past decade. Colon hydrotherapy stems from the ancient concept of autointoxication, which suggests that fecal matter can poison the body from the inside.1

So, what is colon hydrotherapy, and what kind of colon hydrotherapy results should you expect? Colon hydrotherapy is the flushing and detoxification of the colon by means of liquid administration into the rectum. Usually half a liter of warm water, along with herbal additives, or coffee, is inserted in small doses and used to dislodge and clean feces from the colon. The reason behind this therapy is to remove the buildup of fecal matter which could be blocking proper nutrient absorption while simultaneously toxifying the colon.1

Colon hydrotherapy reviews are mixed, with many claiming it helps reduce constipation and bloating. Read on to learn more about the possible benefits of colon hydrotherapy, and whether they are scientifically supported.

Who Can Benefit from a Colonic?

Colon hydrotherapy is often prescribed by alternative medical practitioners, rather than traditional physicians. Due to the natural ingredients used in colonic irrigation, it may be more common among individuals who choose natural health practices over medical laxatives.1 Colon hydrotherapy is offered to people for numerous reasons, including weight loss, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and as a method of detoxification or cleansing.

Is Colon Hydrotherapy Safe?

There are many questions associated with colonic irrigation, such as, “how does colon hydrotherapy work?” and “does colon hydrotherapy hurt?” Colon hydrotherapy works by flushing out the fecal matter in the colon and rectum by way of water and other additives. Most reviews by those who have used colon hydrotherapy describe the process as uncomfortable, but not painful. While colon hydrotherapy is prescribed by healthcare practitioners as a safe method of cleaning the bowels, there are side effects to consider.

Some colon hydrotherapy risks include both mild and severe reactions, including bloating, cramping, soreness, nausea, and vomiting. More serious colonic hydrotherapy side effects can include renal (kidney) failure, aplastic anemia, liver failure, or electrolyte imbalances. Severe effects are less common.5

Colon Hydrotherapy: How Often is Too Often?

There is no industry-wide consensus on how often an individual should receive colon hydrotherapy and there are currently no human studies documenting the outcomes of the overuse of colonic irrigation. Research does suggest that the more often hydrotherapy is received, the better the benefit to the gastrointestinal system.6 Some practitioners recommend once a week to begin and then once a month after the first few weeks. Your healthcare practitioner will customize this treatment to your medical needs and body type.

Colon Hydrotherapy Weight Loss

There is no scientific data to confirm colonic hydrotherapy weight loss results. So, the question stands, “can colon hydrotherapy help lose weight?”

Anecdotal evidence supports the use of colon irrigation for weight loss management as one of several cleanse programs. A 2010 scientific review of six colon related health organizations found that each organization suggested therapeutic uses of colon hydrotherapy, including the reduction of inflammation, bloating, and as a weight loss tool.1

One theory behind using colon hydrotherapy for weight loss is that it restores necessary bowel bacteria, which leads to greater nutrient absorption. The idea is that if the body can absorb more nutrition from the food your eating, less food will be needed to meet its nutritional needs.

There are several online reviews with colon hydrotherapy before and after weight loss stories. One such story claimed that immediate results were seen because of the amount of waste removed from the colon. Another of many reviews on colon hydrotherapy explained that a colonic helped to restore necessary bowel bacteria resulting in a greater absorption of vitamins for weight loss management.

Those who support the use of colon hydrotherapy for weight loss suggest using frequent treatments to begin cleaning the colon and removing fecal mass. Following this initial cleanse, fewer treatments are needed, according to colonic hydrotherapy reviews of the process.

Other Colon Hydrotherapy Benefits

There are several reported benefits of colon hydrotherapy aside from weight loss. These include:

Colon Hydrotherapy for Constipation

Colon irrigation flushes out the colon with a water and herbal mixture. This helps loosen stool which may otherwise be difficult to pass. In a 2009 human study, 348 subjects tried colon hydrotherapy to treat constipation and incontinence. The outcome proved that this method of cleansing was effective and safe for treating constipation.2

Colon Hydrotherapy and Candida

Candida, an infectious bacterium known to cause yeast infections, can infect other areas of the body as well. It is normally treated using antibiotics, or antifungal medications, but there is anecdotal evidence which supports the prevention of anal candida bacteria by means of colon hydrotherapy. In a 1963 study, researchers outlined the connection between patients with diarrhea and a candida infection of the colon.3 This data suggests that those who suffer from chronic diarrhea may benefit from using colon hydrotherapy for parasites, or to remove the risk of candida.

Colon Hydrotherapy IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome includes symptoms such as cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and fecal incontinence. In a 2011, a study evaluating 50 patients suffering from fecal incontinence due to IBS and other factors, found that colonic irrigation resolved the issue.4

The answer to the question, “how many colon hydrotherapy sessions do I need”, will be different for every individual, depending on the outcome you are looking for, and your current health requirements.

Finding a Colon Therapist

Colonic hydrotherapy is carried out by a practitioner called a hydrotherapist. Many of these practitioners have a medical background, but this is not a requirement of hydro colon therapy in all countries.6 A colon hydrotherapist might work out of a private office, a spa, or a natural-based health clinic. Colonic irrigation can also be self-administered, and is available in kits from various brand names.5

Colon Hydrotherapy Weight Loss

Colon hydrotherapy is derived from the ancient concept of autointoxication, which suggests that the body is poisoned by fecal matter from the inside.

What Happens During a Colonic?

Upon your visit to a colon cleanse clinic, you will be introduced to a colon hydrotherapy machine. This machine works much like an enema, but delivers a larger amount of fluid into the rectum, which will then be expelled, cleaning the colon.6 Below you will find more information on what to expect before, during, and after the procedure.

Before visiting a clinic, you should consult your insurance company about colon hydrotherapy insurance coverage, as not all providers cover natural treatments.

Colon Hydrotherapy Preparation

A minimal-residue diet is a diet that is low in high-fiber foods. “Residue” is undigested food and makes up stool. A minimum-residue diet will minimize the number and size of bowel movements.

There are different methods of colon hydrotherapy preparation, depending on your hydrotherapist. Some recommend taking laxatives and drinking lots of water the day before the procedure, while others suggest a liquid diet for a number of days prior to treatment. In a 1984 scientific study, researchers reviewed four methods of colonic irrigation preparation, and found that medical practitioners preferred a 1-day minimum residue diet or taking an oral laxative-electrolyte solution, over other preparation methods.7

Colon Hydrotherapy Equipment

Equipment used for colon hydrotherapy is specialized, and differs from common enema equipment. There are different variations of these machines, but most include a slender tip or nozzle for insertion into the rectum, which is attached by tubing to the machine. These machines must be carefully maintained and sterilized to reduce the chance for infection or spreading of bacteria.

There are also options for colon hydrotherapy at home, although this is not recommended by hydrotherapists, as these home-kits are usually untested, and could lead to complications if instructions are not properly followed. Many home kits include herbs, coffee, or sodium phosphate.5

Colon Cleanse Procedure

During the colon cleanse procedure, a large amount of fluid is added to the bowel through the colon hydrotherapy machine. While the amount of liquid used is more than that of a common enema, it is usually added in small doses at a time. To perform the procedure, a hydrotherapist will insert a narrow tube into the rectum. As water is added, the lower bowel dilates, and then empties, cleansing the colon. Each treatment can take up to 45-minutes to complete.6

What to Expect After Colon Hydrotherapy

After a colonic irrigation session, personal reviews reflect immediate feelings of discomfort, abdominal bloating, and slight irritation in or around the rectum. Once these residual effects subside, users have reported fewer cases of constipation, a sensation of gastrointestinal relief, and some weight loss due to the removal of built up fecal matter.

Colon Hydrotherapy Cost

Now that you understand colonic irrigation and its potential benefit, you might be wondering, “how much is a colon hydrotherapy session?” The colonic hydrotherapy cost will be determined by where you go for treatment. Prices vary in different regions, and by provider. The average cost in North America is approximately $80-$100 USD per session.

References:

  1. Ernst, E. (2010) Colonic irrigation: therapeutic claims by professional organisations, a review. The International Journal of Clinical Practice. 64(4), 429-431. DOI: 1111/j.1742-1241.2009.02166.x
  2. Christensen, P., Klaus, K., Steen, B., Fariborz, P. & Soren, L. (2009) Long term outcome and safety of transanal irrigation for constipation and fecal incontinence. Diseases of the Colon and Rectum. 52(2), 286-292. DOI: 1007/DCR.0b013e3181979341
  3. Sappington, T. S., McCarten, W. G. & Hartman, C. L. (1963) Diarrhea and candida albicans infestation of the colon. Medical Annals of the District of Columbia. 32(2), 48-49. Retrieved on November 7, 2017 from https://www.cabdirect.org/cabdirect/abstract/19661302514
  4. Van Der Hagen, S. J., Soeters, P. B., Beaton, C. G. & Van Gemert, W. G. (2011) Conservative treatment of patients with faecal soiling. Techniques in Coloproctology. 15(3), 291-295. Retrieved on November 7, 2017 from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10151-011-0709-1
  5. Mishori, R., Otubu, A. & Jones, A. A. (2011) The dangers of colon cleansing. The Journal of Family Practice. 60(8). Retrieved on November 7, 2017 from http://www.e-lactancia.org/media/papers/ColonLimpieza-FamPrac2011.pdf
  6. Seow-Choen, F. (2009) The physiology of colonic hydrotherapy. Colorectal Disease. 11(7), 686-688. DOI: 1111/j.1463-1318.2009.01837.x
  7. DiPalma, J. A., Brady, C. E., Stewart, D. L., Karlin, D. A., McKinney, M. K., Clement, D. J., Coleman, T. W. & Pierson, W. P. (1984) Comparison of colon cleansing methods in preparation for colonoscopy. 85(5), 856-860. Retrieved on November 7, 2017 from http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/6706069
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