Colonics or Colon Therapy 

4 mins read

Irrigation of the colon or enemas is usually performed on patients prior to surgery in order to clear the bowels and relieve constipation. Colonics is a part of alternative medicine and is not recommended by practitioners of conventional medicine.1

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg was the most famous practitioner of this modality in the early 20th century. He claimed to have saved almost 40,000 patients using colonics.1

What is colonics? Where did it originate?
Colonics, variously known as colon therapy, colon cleansing, colonic hydrotherapy or colonic irrigation, has been practiced since ancient times. Different theories have been floated since the period of ancient Egypt about the origins of human disease to feces.1

Exponents of colonic hydrotherapy support one of two therapies:

  • Colonics is necessary to offer resistance to “ptosis,” which refers to the phenomenon of an organ moving downward from its original position. This theory is derived from Darwin’s concept of evolution. According to this theory, the abdominal cavity of humans was pulled in the opposite direction by gravity, as they evolved from four-legged creatures to two-legged ones. Thus, the intestines became constricted due to the formation of stress bands. This caused slower movement of food through them. Treatment for ptosis involves massaging the intestine to help the contents move smoothly and the colonic irrigation to lubricate their path.
  • Autointoxication, first proposed by the French physician Charles-Jacques Bouchard, states that if the contents of the colon moved along at a slow pace, microorganisms will have more time to act upon them and cause decomposition. Consequently, toxins will be produced which, when absorbed by the body, will cause poisoning.1

How is colonics beneficial?
Practitioners of colonics claim to be able to treat the following conditions:

  • Parasites
  • Skin disorders
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Alcoholism
  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Arthritis
  • Hypertension1

Studies/research on the efficacy of colonics

  • No scientifically robust studies have been published on the subject of colonics.2
  • However, a study has concluded that lymphocytes may move from the gut into the circulation after colonic cleansing and improve the functioning of the colon and the immune system.2
  • The FDA has classified colonic irrigation devices as Class III devices, which are only to be marketed for colonic cleansing prior to medical procedures such as a radiologic examination.1
  • It is believed that the beneficial effects experienced by some patients is due to the placebo effect.1

How is colonics performed?
Here are the steps in which colonics is performed:

  • A soft tube is inserted into the rectum.
  • Liquid is pushed in and out of the colon using the help of gravity or a pump. A volume of up to 50 liters can be passed through the bowel in this manner.
  • FDA has approved some colonic machines which have filters fitted to remove the bacteria present in the infusion liquid.1

How can you get started with colonics?
Colonics is said to detoxify the body and improve overall health. Enemas are not considered true colonics since they clean only the end of the colon.1

Most colonics products are available as capsules, teas, powders and laxatives. Often, they contain coffee, sodium phosphate, probiotics, enzymes, herbs, fiber preparations and laxatives.2

Brand names such as Nature’s Bounty Colon Cleanser Natural Detox Formula and Health Plus Inc. Colon Cleanse are used to boost the therapy.2

Any precautions, contraindications, or interactions
In 1919, the American Medical Association condemned the practice of colonics and discounted the premise of the theory.2

Some adverse effects have been reported after the use of colonic irrigation:

  • Amoebiasis and other types of colon infections
  • Puncturing of patients’ colons
  • Death (in association with coffee enema)1

Other concerns that have not been proven are:

  • Loss of intestinal muscle tone
  • Loss of normal defecation reflex
  • Electrolyte disturbances
  • Water intoxication1


  1. O’Mathuana D., Larimore W.L. Alternative Medicine. Zondervan; 2006. 510p.
  2. Mishori R, Otubu A, Jones AA. The dangers of colon cleansing. J Fam Pract. 2011 Aug;60(8):454-7. PubMed PMID: 21814639.
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