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Colonic Irrigation: Benefits, Procedure, and Safety

Susette has a lifelong interest and practice with good physical and mental health, including the environment that sustains us all.

A swollen colon pushes against more organs around it than you'd expect. In this diagram the large intestine (colon)  is green. The organs behind and touching it are kidneys, pancreas, spleen, appendix, adrenals, and bladder.

A swollen colon pushes against more organs around it than you'd expect. In this diagram the large intestine (colon) is green. The organs behind and touching it are kidneys, pancreas, spleen, appendix, adrenals, and bladder.

How to Cleanse Your Colon

An impacted colon has a surprisingly negative affect on one's health. Cleaning your colon is not only an essential first step to increasing the health of your digestive system, but it is also key to the healing of many seemingly unrelated diseases, as you will see.

One way to keep the colon clean is by eating a healthy diet, but if it's already clogged, what do you do? The most effective and gentle way to clean the colon is with water––a hydrocolonic. This practice of cleansing, reading the results, and giving counsel on how to increase the health of your large intestine is known as "colonic hydrotherapy" and is administered by a trained specialist.

Specialists to look for are those with formal training and certification in hydrotherapy, who have the right equipment, and who know how to administer the treatment in a sensitive manner. They may also have herbal supplements that help stimulate the intestinal walls.

Here is a description of how it worked for me, followed by how the colon works, why it's important to keep it clean, and how to find a good hydrotherapist.

Colon Hydrotherapy: The Actual Procedure

So you know what it's like, here is a description of my first hydrocolonic. I really liked the therapist, who was warm, sensitive, and knowledgeable. When I first went into her office I was a little nervous, not knowing what to expect, but she patiently explained everything that was going to happen and answered my questions, while I filled out medical history forms.

The low-lit treatment room was small and comfortably warm; the bed of similar shape and comfort to a massage bed. There was a machine at the foot of the bed with a clear window in it. The therapist went out of the room, while I changed clothes into a hospital-type gown she had provided, and lay down on the bed on my back.

When she came back in, the therapist massaged my stomach a little––both to relax me and to see if were any serious blockages (there weren't). Then she greased a sterile, disposable speculum, attached it to the machine, and had me insert it gently into my rectum an inch or two. She turned the machine on, telling me what she was doing and why, as it slowly filled me with warm, clean water. When I told her I felt full, she switched the machine to slowly drain, then described to me the objects I could see coming out of my colon and passing through the clear window.

She continued to put water in, take it out, put it in, take it out for just over half an hour until nothing substantial was showing anymore. We talked part of the time and I dozed part of the time. Then we were done. I changed clothes and went back into her office, where we talked about future sessions and I paid her. I left feeling lighter in the gut and well pleased.

Function of the Large Intestines and Colon

It's hard to appreciate the power of this kind of treatment without knowing how the digestive system works, especially the latter end of it. Feel free to refer to the diagram above, if it helps, for a stronger visual of the process.

The large intestine is made up of the cecum, colon, rectum, and anus, where the colon forms the second and longest section. The large intestine's main functions are:

  • To receive (cecum) and eliminate toxins collected by the liver.
  • To digest the hardest, last portions of food (colon).
  • To absorb most of the water back into the body (colon).
  • To collect (rectum) and send out of the body (anus) everything that can't be digested.

At the time your still digesting food passes out of the small intestine and into the cecum, it consists mostly of liquid, which it's the colon's job to remove. The colon's walls are like a subtle vacuum that sucks water out as it moves wastes along, absorbing the water through tiny vessels of the bloodstream back into the body for reuse, while sending the wastes on to the rectum.

At the same time, the small intestine has been sending nutrients it just digested over to the liver to take out anything toxic––like artificial chemicals and medications, alcohol, harmful viruses and bacteria. The liver neutralizes those toxins and forwards them down to the large intestine, which sends them out of the body, along with the undigestible food wastes.

If the large intestine is clogged near the point of arrival (at the cecum), it blocks the ability of the liver to release toxins. When toxins are backed up in the liver too long, they end up causing cancers.

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Oncologist Douglas Brodie, M.D. is one of many specialists who has observed that liver cancer, especially, responds well to colon hydrotherapy (Walker, Medical Journalist Report).

By the time waste material has made it through the large intestine to the rectum for elimination, it should be a semi-solid glob that's easy to push out. If it's anything other than that: rock hard, liquidy, or nonexistant, there are problems.

Bowel Blockage and Other Colon Problems

A healthy large intestine helps keep the whole body healthy, whereas an unhealthy one creates problems like those in the chart below. Toxins are recirculated through the body, via water reabsorbed from an unhealthy colon, where they create a general feeling of malaise and weakness. This can lead to active diseases when other factors are added––like an over-acid environment in which harmful bacteria can thrive and multiply.

"Seriously ill patients tend to be chronically constipated which results in generalized toxemia," wrote gastrointestinal surgeon Dr. Leonard Smith, who often refers his patients elsewhere to get a colonic massage and hydrotherapy (Walker, Medical Journalist Report).

Seriously ill patients tend to be chronically constipated which results in generalized toxemia.

— Dr. Leonard Smith, Gastro-Intestinal Surgeon

Common Colon ProblemsEffects

Inner walls lined with sticky matter

Sticky wastes accumulate and start to prevent walls from absorbing water back into the body.

Compacted wastes

Wastes collect and expand the colon, pushing it against organs nearby and disrupting their function.

Lackadaisical muscles that move wastes too slow

Walls absorb too much water and wastes harden (constipation).

Contents too acid

Harmful bacteria multiply, causing disease in the colon.

Wastes compacted, acid, slow

Colon turns into a sewer, with toxins being reabsorbed into the body with the water.

Wastes too liquid

Water leaves the body, instead of being absorbed back in (diarrhea) and body dehydrates.

Wastes too solid

Pushing wastes out hurts and causes ruptures in blood vessels (hemorrhoids).

Benefits of a Good Colon Cleansing

In addition to the light, clean feeling that comes with having a hydrocolonic treatment, there are a number of extended health benefits:

  • Constipation relief––A massage and hydrocolonic opens up blocks in the large intestine. Although the first treatment will not remove all of the wastes that have compacted over the years, it will start the process. You may need more treatments to remove everything, so your bowel walls are clean and flexible again like they're supposed to be. It also does not remove whatever bad habits got you constipated in the first place. You will have to change those with conscious dietary and other choices.
  • Detox––A normally functioning, healthy large intestine does not need to be detoxed, because nothing stays in it long enough to become sewage. But for people who eliminate wastes only once a month or more (I've heard of someone going twice a YEAR), a good hydrocolonic can have a detoxing effect as it washes out that sewage. Your body can stop fighting against the toxins your colon was sucking back into it with the water, and so you'll end up with more energy.
  • Weight loss––Everything you eat carries weight to a degree, as does whatever accumulates in your colon. For most people that's not much, but for those who are really compacted, especially in more than one place, having a colonic can actually help you lose weight. You can tell by how big your abdomen is, as compared with the rest of your body (unless you're pregnant). I have heard of people with big stomachs losing up to 15 pounds in fecal matter alone.
  • Flexibility––When wastes cling to the colon walls for a period of time, they begin to harden. That stops your intestinal walls, which are mostly muscle, from being as flexible as they need to be. What the muscles normally do is expand and contract in a rhythmic motion that moves the wastes along (peristalsis), but in places where they've hardened they stop working. This makes wastes stop when they get there and start piling up. This is why it's important to continue treatments until the walls are clear too, otherwise you just keep getting constipated in that same stiff spot.
  • Flatulence and Bloating––These are caused by discards from parasites that have accumulated in an unhealthy bowel. When the parasites wash out, the flatulence stops as well.
  • Improved organ function––The large intestine touches almost every organ in your abdomen. Whenever matter compacts there and grows, the intestinal wall expands to accommodate it and pushes against whichever organ is near that spot. This causes great pain––which can explain unexpected back pains, since there are major nerves and arteries there that can be pressed against too.

    It can also, over time, cause the neighboring organ to malfunction. If a person is so used to being constipated that they don't realize what's causing the malfunction, they often go to a doctor for treatment of the malfunctioning organ. The doctor gives them drugs. They go home and maybe the bowel blockage goes away, but they're still taking the drugs, which can mess up a person's body long term.

    This happens to a lot of people. If you are one of them, be sure to tell your hydrotherapist which drugs you're taking, before you start treatment. Also tell your regular doctor that you cleaned yourself out. Between them, they can tell you whether to stop the drugs immediately or ease off of them over a period of time.

This video shows two therapists, one simulating a patient, answering questions commonly asked by their patients and describing what the procedure feels like.

Colonic Irrigation Safety Precautions

  • Pregnancy—To treat a pregnancy with the full respect it deserves, it's a good idea to get colon hydrotherapy before getting pregnant, not during. This will make your body healthier during the first crucial trimester. Pregnancy requires a woman's body to keep a delicate balance, since all the nutrients she eats will go to the growing fetus first. It's only after the baby is fed that food goes to the woman. So a sudden change in a woman's health, good or bad, can throw that balance off. If you're already pregnant, talk to your therapist and your gynecologist first to see if colon cleansing is a good idea. Remember that a hydrocolonic is a lot safer than the other kinds of colonics.
  • Cancer—It probably doesn't need to be said, but if you have cancer of the bowel, it's not a good idea to get a hydrocolonic, until you've had whatever surgery is needed. The water movements can help any loose bits of cancer to spread, and so can speculum insertion, if that's where the cancer is. Certain types of herbal cleanses would likely work better. However, once as much has been removed as possible, then colon hydrotherapy can help the bowel heal the rest of the way by removing wastes and creating a much more congenial atmosphere for healing.
  • Hernia, hemorrhoids, recent surgery—These are all good reasons to wait on a having a hydrocolonic until the condition has healed.
  • Does not replace health—Those who are relatively healthy don't need to worry about this item. Those who are often constipated or have regular diarrhea, though, should note that dietary and exercise changes will be necessary in order to maintain and build on the good, fresh way you feel after a hydrocolonic.

Traits of a Good Colon Hydrotherapist

Here are some things to look for when choosing a good therapist. In addition to the recommendations of friends, you can ask questions over the phone before scheduling a session, or see if they are willing to give you an introductory appointment first. Then ask these questions, along with whatever else you want to know:

  • How recent is your training and what kind of certification do you have?
  • Have your premises passed a health inspection test?
  • Do you carry full public liability insurance?
  • How long is a treatment session? (Must take at least 30 minutes to be effective.)
  • Do you use sterilized and disposable speculums and tubing? How do you clean the machine?
  • Do you massage during treatment, and what happens if it's necessary to take a toilet break?
  • Make sure they take a health history first, and also discuss lifestyle and diet.

To find a good therapist anywhere in Great Britain check the 2nd and 3rd links below. To find one in the United States and internationally check the 4th link below.

This video shows instructions for therapists in how to conduct a session. (Be forewarned that there's a little promotion for the center at the end.)

Supplemental Colonic Treatments

Having a once in awhile colonic does not make up for lack of physical care. It can clean out your bowels and make you feel good for a short while, but then it's up to you to keep yourself feeling good long term. This means giving yourself regular treatments of a minor sort - like coffee enemas for liver health, herbal treatments, abdominal massages - with a hydrocolonic two or three times a year, more often if you're prone to constipation.

Most important of all is keeping yourself exercised so all your organs move regularly, drinking enough water, and eating a good balance of foods with lots of fiber - more alkaline than acid (veggies and fruits more than meat, coffee, or alcohol).

For more information:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Susette Horspool (author) from Pasadena CA on February 15, 2014:

Good for you! That's good validation for other people who are thinking of changing to a better diet.

Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on February 14, 2014:

Yes you're right. I like to be healthy and I never eat anything made from white flour. I use whole wheat items that have fiber. As for cheese, I rarely eat cheese for the same reason. And I stay away from processed foods. That's why I usually never have problems. Thanks for asking.

Susette Horspool (author) from Pasadena CA on February 14, 2014:

That must be why so many mystics recommend fasting, Glenn. Do it on a regular basis and it will keep you clean. I'm guessing you don't eat much cheese or white flour though, as compared to fresh vegetables and fruit, am I right? Those are usually what gunks up a person's colon.

Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on February 14, 2014:

You explained the function do the colon very well. While I was reading this I was thinking that people need a better education about the colon and what it does. With that understanding they might focus better on being good to their colon in order to have a healthy body. Your article comes in very handy for that.

I can't imagine that person you mentioned who eliminates only twice a year. How unhealthy that person must be.

That hydrocolonic treatment is interesting. I once became constipated and I just went on a liquid diet for three days. That works just as well, completely cleanses the colon and allows healing.

Susette Horspool (author) from Pasadena CA on August 06, 2012:

That would be cool, thanks!

Emma Kisby from Berkshire, UK on August 06, 2012:

A couple of people did - they were more curious about what it is. I should point them in the direction of this hub!

Susette Horspool (author) from Pasadena CA on August 06, 2012:

Anything related to the colon can be a turnoff for many people, but colon health is so-o-o important! I've seen quotes by doctors who say that the majority of illnesses we have can be directly traced back to an unhealthy colon and stuffed liver (i.e. it's run out of storage space for toxins it can't send to the colon, so they get passed on through the blood). Thanks for your comments.

Emma - did many people respond to your query? Perhaps they would like to read this too.

Emma Kisby from Berkshire, UK on August 06, 2012:

I have to say, I love this hub. The subject is actually something which really interests me! I even posted a question about colonics a couple of months back to see if anyone recommends them. I've always wanted one, but somehow get a bit worried. I guess it's whether it's safe or not - although after reading this, I know what to look for in a good therapist.

Voting this one up and useful :)

CJ Baker from Parts Unknown on August 05, 2012:

Very informative and well presented hub! I have never heard of Colonics before. So I found your hub educational, and learning stuff is good!

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