What Is Colon Therapy?

Jillian O Keeffe

Colon therapy, or colonic irrigation, involves the cleansing of the colon portion of the large intestine with water. This is not a medical procedure, although it may be used before procedures like colonoscopies. Outside of the conventional medical profession, some alternative health proponents provide colon therapy services as a type of detox, because it removes fecal matter from inside the colon. Colonic irrigation has only a low risk of side effects, which range from intestinal cramps to very serious bowel perforation.

A human colon.
A human colon.

The digestive tract breaks down food and absorbs the nutrients into the body. By the time the food gets to the large intestine, most of the useful substances have been removed, and all that is left is waste matter and water. The colon is another name for the large intestine, which is the end portion of the entire digestive system. At the end of the colon, the anus allows the waste material out of the body as feces.

Colonic irrigation involves inserting a tube into a person's rectum and sending water through the tube to flush out waste.
Colonic irrigation involves inserting a tube into a person's rectum and sending water through the tube to flush out waste.

Clinics that offer colon therapy as a service typically use a hose and warm water to clean out the large intestine of this fecal matter. Conventional scientific studies, as of 2011, show only minor medical benefit to this process, but the practitioners of the procedure claim that the clearing out of the waste matter is beneficial to health. Some people do experience temporary relief from digestive complaints like constipation, as the warm water can help to soften the stools and increase its rate of movement through the bowel.

To perform a colon therapy procedure, the practitioner must first insert a speculum into the anus. Only a small portion of the speculum usually enters the colon, and two separate tubes are then attached. One of these is the hose with the warm water to be placed into the bowel, and the other is a tube that removes the water and fecal matter going out of the colon. Commonly, the client lies on the side, for the most comfortable insertion position, and the practitioner massages the stomach area to help the warm water mix and soften the stools.

Although colon therapy is considered relatively safe, as of 2011, it does carry risks, some of which can be serious. Mild side effects include intestinal cramping, diarrhea and nausea. More serious risks include a possibility of the tube making a hole in the intestine, and a potentially higher chance of developing infection in that area. Electrolytes, which are salts that the body needs to keep within certain concentration limits, can also be lowered by the procedure, which is especially dangerous for people with organ disease.

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