A colonic is a colon cleansing technique designed to detoxify an individual’s colon by injecting water through the anus and clearing the body of feces and other contents. Colonics should not be confused with traditional bowel prep, which is a required process of emptying the bowels before a colonoscopy. Although colon hydrotherapy as type of alternative medicine is trending rapidly in the United States today, gastroenterologists (GI doctors) usually do not recommend the procedure, as it has no medical benefit and can actually be detrimental to a person’s digestive health, causing hormonal and electrolyte imbalances or heart failure in some reported cases. The procedure itself can be uncomfortable for patients and puts him or her at risk for damage or complication that may arise from improper equipment use. Repeated use of colonic techniques can even lead to a dependency on enemas and other devices in order to regulate bowel movements.
The theory behind colon cleansing therapy is that ridding your body of the feces and other matter that accumulates along the walls of the colon will ultimately rid your body of bacteria and decrease your chances of contracting a disease or parasite. While this mostly vague idea has roots in the ancient medicinal practices of the Egyptians and Greeks, it is not supported by modern scientific evidence. Experts now know that the colon can clean itself naturally without the use of water injections. Matter that accumulates in the colon is not particularly harmful and does not decompose unnaturally in the body to make a person unhealthy or fat, as was popularly thought by Americans in the 1980s.
To perform a colonic, also known as a colonic irrigation in some cases, a technician will pass a rubber tube through an individual’s rectum. The amount of tubing that actually enters the large intestine varies from location to location. Then, warm water is pumped in and out of the colon through the tube, essentially washing out the body. By the end of the procedure, the technician will have pumped between 15 and 25 gallons of water through the individual’s colon. Sometimes the warm water is supplemented with herbs or extracts. The whole process is basically a more intensive enema procedure.
Most medical experts will tell you that receiving colonics on a regular basis is a bad idea. The insertion and prolonged presence of the rubber tube in the colon can be quite uncomfortable, but has no proven medical benefits. There is a significant risk of contamination and infection if the tube is re-used and has not been properly sterilized. In addition, colon hydrotherapy, in general, is a very expensive procedure. For this reason, colonics are a controversial topic among industry professionals, with many opting for a ban on the procedure altogether. If you have any questions about colon hydrotherapy, contact a doctor in our medical directory for informed advice.
Reviewed 12/12/2011 by David M. Nolan, M.D.
Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine, 2011
Currently a Fellow of Gastroenterology, at UCI 2011-2014