Irrigating your colon doesn’t sound pleasant, but practitioners claim it can provide numerous health benefits like better digestion and weight loss. However, doing a colon cleanse doesn’t come without risks. Like most lifestyle practices, it should be approached carefully, with sufficient knowledge of the potential dangers.
What Is a Colon Cleanse?
Colon cleansing, also known as colonic irrigation or colonic hydrotherapy, involves flushing the colon with fluids to remove waste. It’s a practice that’s been around since ancient times, and the benefits are based on the premise that digestive waste can be a toxin to the body.
Generally, a professional called a colonic hygienist performs the colon cleanse while the patient rests on a table. It involves sending approximately 60 liters of fluid through a tube into the rectum. Toxins are then expelled through a different tube, and the process is repeated.
You can find at-home colon irrigation products online or in your local drug store.
The ‘Benefits’ of Colon Cleansing
Practitioners of colon cleanses say you can reap numerous benefits by removing the toxins from your digestive system. They say that not only is weight loss possible, but so are improvements in digestion, increased energy, and even clearer thinking.
These claims aren’t only unproven, they’re not scientifically sound and can lead to colon damage. The many risks of colon cleanses are outlined below.
The Risks Are Many
The list of potential risks associated with colon cleansing is much longer.
While some of the weight loss associated with colon cleanses is due to the removal of waste, it also causes the removal of fluids. Dehydration can lead to kidney failure in extreme cases.
Colon cleanses can upset the balance of electrolytes like potassium and sodium in your body. These chemicals carry electrical signals across cells, and an imbalance can lead to a loss of consciousness as well as kidney damage.
Bacterial Imbalance and Infection
Colon cleanses can potentially invite unhealthy bacteria into the lower digestive system with the instruments and fluids used. They also remove the healthy bacteria that can fight that infection.
Bowel perforation happens when a tear occurs in the wall of the lower intestine. It’s considered a medical emergency. Though symptoms begin with fever, pain, chills, and nausea, it can progress and even be fatal.
Tips for Safe Colon Cleansing
If you know the risks and are still interested in colon cleansing, there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood that you’ll suffer any ill health effects.
- Talk to your doctor first. Some people may be at a greater risk for complications.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration both before and after your cleanse.
- Choose your therapist wisely. There are no licensing requirements for colonic hygienists, but some belong to professional organizations that require some training in first aid and CPR. Talk to other people who have used specific therapists before you go through with your appointment.
- Ensure only new, disposable equipment and protective gear is used. The FDA has linked colon cleansing equipment to the transmission of bacteria due to improper sterilization. Make sure your hygienist has a proper disinfection routine and uses disposable equipment whenever possible.
In addition to the traditional irrigation colon cleanse, there are many products on the market that claim to deliver similar benefits through oral supplements. These may come in capsules, powders, or teas, and include plant fibers and natural laxatives. If you opt for supplements, read the package directions carefully and discuss the ingredients with your doctor.