Colonic therapy may sound like the new trendy treatment in the health community, but the theory behind this treatment has been around for many years and before you try it out, you should know a few things.
First, what is your colon?
The colon is the long, coiled, tubelike organ that removes water from digested food. The remaining material, solid waste called stool, moves through the colon to the rectum and leaves the body through the anus (8). The colon plays a role in your digestive tract as it is part of the large intestine.
Theory behind Colonic Therapy
People who promote colonic therapy (also called colon irrigation or colonic hydrotherapy) typically support the autointoxication theory. This theory states that the body poisons itself by producing toxic substances in general circulation (1). Autointoxication theory took light in the late nineteenth century/early twentieth century because physicians started to look into the role of gut health and mental health (7). Then, autointoxication became less popular due to radical approaches and its broad label that was used to explain symptoms with no identifiable source being called a “catch all diagnosis” (1). Today, this theory is increasing in popularity again to further explore the link between gut health and mental health and create more specific diagnoses. The autointoxication theory is the attraction behind colonic therapy.
What exactly is Colonic therapy?
Colonic therapy is used to clean the colon and intestinal tract of toxins. A qualified practitioner uses a tube to inject water through the patient’s rectum and into their colon. They use a lot of water which is immediately eliminated unlike an enema. Some benefits are possible relieving of digestive troubles and various conditions associated with toxicity such as alcoholism, asthma, and allergies (1). Patients with high risk of colon cancer may benefit from colon cleansing but others are uncertain (2). These benefits relate to relieving the body of its autointoxication.
Warning with Colonic Therapy:
People must be cautioned about the lack of scientific support showing that the therapy results in the benefits. Instead, harmful effects may outweigh the benefits. To explain, colon cleansing can also cause cramping, bloating, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, dehydration, a tear in the rectum (perforation), and an infection (6). If you have a history of gastrointestinal disease or a history of colon surgery, severe hemorrhoids, kidney disease, or heart disease, then these conditions increase the risk of adverse effects (3). Likewise, according to a review in The American Journal of Gastroenterology, investigators concluded that there are no methodologically rigorous controlled trials of colonic cleansing to support the practice for general health promotion and cannot be recommended at this time (5). A more recent Mayo Clinic article from 2018 echoes the high risks of this treatment which shadow the potential benefits (6). Colonic therapy has been described as an “extreme treatment” to rid the body of toxins, and there may be safer alternatives to resort to first (7).
Overall, there are many myths about colonic therapy and lack of data to support the benefits knowing the potential harmful effects (4). Before scheduling this treatment, talk to your physician!