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Colonic Irrigation

Image of colonWhat is Colonic Irrigation?

The notion that we are poisoning ourselves with toxic intestinal waste products from ingested food seems plausible to many lay people and is therefore widespread. It forms the basis for a range of alternative approaches which allegedly free the body of such ‘autointoxication’.

One of them is colonic irrigation, or colon therapy as it is also called, whereby enemas are used to ‘cleanse the body’; sometimes herbs, enzymes or coffee are added to the water (administered via the rectum). The popularity of this treatment can be explained through its apparently logical concept and through its continuous promotion by the popular media and certain celebrities.

A treatment session involves partial undressing, insertion of a tube via the rectum and receiving considerable amounts of fluids via this route. The fluid is later extracted and, on closer inspection, appears to be loaded with ‘waste products’.

This visual impression helps to convince patients that colonic irrigation achieves what it claims, namely the supposed  elimination of toxic residues. Treatment might last for approximately 30 minutes and long-term therapy is sometimes advised, with weekly or twice weekly sessions. Colonic irrigation is promoted as a treatment for gastrointestinal disorders, allergies, obesity, migraine and many other chronic illnesses.

Enemas have an undoubted role in conventional medicine, but the use of colonic irrigation as employed in alternative medicine is an entirely different matter. None of the waste products of our body ‘poison’ us, because they are eliminated through a range of physiological processes (unless we are suffering from severe organ failure).

What is the Evidence?

There is no reliable clinical evidence that colonic irrigation does any good at all and some evidence that it causes serious harm by, for example, perforating the colon or depleting our body of electrolytes.

Colonic irrigation is unpleasant, ineffective and dangerous. In other words, it’s a waste of money and a hazard to our health.

For More Information:

This extract is taken from “Trick or Treatment?” (Transworld), a book that contains a series of 1-page summaries looking at the evidence for and against a range of alternative therapies. The authors of the book are Simon Singh (founder of the Good Thinking Society) and Edzard Ernst (the world’s first professor of complementary medicine