Colonic irrigation (or hydrotherapy) is essentially flushing out your bowel with water. You might have seen claims that having a colon cleanse can magically eliminate toxins, get rid of all your gut issues and even help you lose lots of weight from waste that’s supposedly just sitting there in your colon… But this is just not the case!
There is no scientific evidence to suggest any health benefits of colon cleanses.
While it’s true your body is faced with common toxins every day, rest assured the professionals (aka your liver, kidneys and other organs) are constantly working to keep you healthy.
As these ‘cleanses’ are done in private clinics, they’re not well regulated and could also lead to side effects in some people, such as stomach pain, bloating, and other gut issues – or even more severely, dehydration, infection (it may wash out some of your good bacteria too) and punctured bowel. So be wary of the overinflated claims.
If you want to look after your body so it’s well-equipped for its own detoxification, instead focus on eating a balanced, varied diet rich in fibre and plant-based goodness, and take it easy on the alcohol and other substances. No fancy or expensive procedures or ‘detoxes’ needed! That way, your detoxifying organs can work magic (the science-based kind) of their own.
What if you suffer from constipation?
There’s no doubt colon cleanses can relieve constipation in the short term by flushing you out just like a laxative would. BUT, because it doesn’t treat the cause of constipation, the stats show you’ll be bunged back up in no time and looking for your next ‘fix’.
In severe cases of constipation, self-administered anal irrigation may be recommended, but that’s not only very different to colon cleanses (used to stimulate the bowel vs. flushing you out with litres), but it’s only recommended in very few clinical cases.
If constipation is getting the better of you, check out my book Eat Yourself Healthy & Love Your Gut for strategies with ACTUAL evidence behind them.
Acosta and Cash, The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2009: Clinical Effects of Colonic Cleansing for General Health Promotion: A Systematic Review
Ernst, The International Journal of Clinical Practice, 2010: Colonic irrigation: therapeutic claims by professional organisations, a review
Mishori et al, The Journal of Family Practice, 2011: The dangers of colon cleansing
NHS, Does colonic irrigation have any health benefits and is it available on the NHS?