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An enema is a method of clearing out your colon using an injection of fluid — basically, loosening up impacted bowels to help make yourself poop.

Typically, an enema is given to help treat constipation. First, a small bottle or container is filled with a safe fluid, such as soap suds or a saline solution. Then the fluid is gently squired it into the rectum with a clean nozzle. This directs the solution into the bowels to clear hard or impacted poop.

Enemas are typically the last course of action in treatment for constipation because of possible side effects. They can be safe to perform at home as long as you use safe types of fluids and sterilized tools, such as a home enema kit. But most home enema methods are not recommended to be performed at home.

Let’s look into which enemas are safe to use at home, what alternative methods might work for treating constipation, and how to administer an enema yourself.

It’s not difficult to make your own enema at home. All you need is a safe fluid and the right tools.

Warning

Do not attempt to administer your own enema if you’re not sure whether an enema solution is safe or don’t have any clean tools for the enema.

Here’s what to do first before you administer the enema:

  1. Pour about eight cups of hot, distilled water into a clean cup, bowl, or jar. The water temperature should be between 105°F and 110°F.
  2. Put a small amount (no more than eight tablespoons) of Castile soap, iodized salt, mineral oil, or sodium butyrate into the water. Too much soap or salt can irritate your bowels. If possible, ask a doctor how much is safe for you to use.
  3. Get a clean, sterilized enema bag and tubing to safely give the enema to yourself.

If you’re planning to use mineral oil, you just need pure, natural mineral oil.

Home enema kits can be purchased at many stores that sell home health products. These kits contain everything you need to administer your own enema, including the bag, tubing, and cleansing solution. Rather than make an entire enema kit at home, these can be used right out of the box.

You can purchase a kit at any large retailer that sells home healthcare products, or check out these kits available online.

If you use the right enema solution and clean, sterilized tools, an enema is considered safe to make at home.

But enemas and colon cleanses in general can result in symptoms like nausea, dehydration, and throwing off your natural electrolyte balance. Don’t attempt an enema unless you’ve talked to a doctor first.

You need to take certain precautions to prevent possible side effects or complications. Here’s what you need to know before you make an enema at home.

“Natural” enemas like lemon juice or coffee can do more harm than good

There’s not much science to back up the usefulness of these substances for enemas.

The compounds in citrus or coffee can upset your gut bacteria balance and result in complications like rectal burns, bacterial infections, and even death.

Don’t attempt these types of enemas unless you’ve consulted with a doctor first.

Certain chemicals can cause harmful reactions in your colon

A 2017 case report found that two children developed colon inflammation (colitis) and experienced bloody diarrhea and vomiting after receiving a homemade hydrogen peroxide enema. It can take up to eight months to fully recover from this kind of reaction.

Improper or dirty tool use can lead to dangerous complications

Tools that haven’t been sterilized can be covered in bacteria and cause complications like bowel infections. Not using tools properly can damage your anus, rectum, or lower colon.

It’s always recommended to have a doctor administer an enema or use alternative treatments to help loosen stool, treat long-term constipation, or cleanse harmful bacteria from your gut.

Here are a few alternative treatments a doctor might use instead of a traditional enema:

  • Laxatives like bisacodyl can stimulate a bowel movement.
  • Medications like mesalamine (Rowasa) can treat people who have an inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD) or ulcerative colitis.
  • Probiotic enemas can help modify your gut bacteria and prevent or treat digestive issues or disorders.
  • Foley balloon enemas open up the rectum and lower colon to help bowel movements move through the intestine.

Here are step-by-step instructions to safely administering an enema to yourself:

  1. Drink a glass of water or two so that you don’t become dehydrated.
  2. If possible, have a clean, empty bathtub in which you can use the enema. If a tub isn’t available, lay a clean towel on the floor.
  3. Fill an enema bag with the soap or salt solution or with pure mineral oil.
  4. Clamp the bag shut so that there’s no leakage.
  5. Point the hose part down and slightly release the clamp so that excess air is released. This is important because air injected into the colon can cause gas, bloating, and nausea.
  6. Put the bag on the side of the tub where it can drain and you can see how much fluid is left.
  7. Use a safe lubricant to make the tube easier and more comfortable to insert.
  8. Lie down and raise your knees to the level of your chest.
  9. Gently and slowly insert the tube into your rectum, relaxing your muscles and allowing your anus to push out so that it enters more easily. Only insert the tube up to four inches into your rectum.
  10. Give the fluid time to drain into your rectum. Take slow, deep breaths and relax until the bag empties.
  11. Gently take the tube out of your rectum.
  12. Stand up slowly and go to the toilet right away if you feel the need to have a bowel movement.

Talk to a doctor about safe gut cleanses or treatments for constipation before you attempt to try any yourself.

Using unsafe substances or dirty tools can put you at risk for introducing harmful bacteria or causing dangerous reactions in your colon. And improperly giving an enema to yourself or others can injure your anus, rectum, or colon.

Take the proper precautions before doing an enema yourself. Make sure the substance is safe and the tools are fully sterilized, then follow each step to self-administer the enema very carefully.