Colon hydrotherapy, also known as colonic irrigation, is an alternative
medical procedure, sometimes associated with naturopathy. Similar to an
enema, it involves the introduction of discrete amounts of water, sometimes
infused with minerals or other materials, into the colon using medically
approved class II colon hydrotherapy devices with sanitary, disposable speculums
or gravity-fed enema-like systems inserted into the rectum. The fluid is
released after a short period, and the process will be repeated multiple
times during the course of a treatment. A colema is a type of colon hydrotherapy
performed by oneself using a bucket with an attached hose, while lying on
a board positioned over a toilet, into which the contents of enema are released.
Though colon hydrotherapy, colemas and enemas all have features in
common, there are some significant differences between the modalities
in terms of depth of colon cleansing, amount of water used, and the
necessity for a practitioner to be present.
The practice has been known since ancient times for treating constipation
which was believed to have been the root of many diseases and illnesses.
The first recorded reference to colon cleansing date back more than
3000 years to the Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian medical document. This
document outlines bowel and colon cleansing procedures using various
herbal concoctions and water, and has been carbon dated to between
1500 and 1700 B.C. In some cases, colon bypass or a colectomy was done.
Current practitioners recommend it for a variety of ills stemming
from accumulation of fecal matter in the large intestine, a process
referred to as autointoxication. Some alternative medicine practitioners
believe that autointoxication results from increased absorption of
bacterial / fungal toxins as a result of an increased toxic load in
While some hydrotherapists believe colonics lead to better overall
wellness, others claim it helps specific diseases, including chronic
fatigue, arthritis, and sinusitis. It is also claimed to improve muscle
tone in the colon, leading to stronger peristaltic contractions..
There is limited scientific research to support these claims  and
the theory of autointoxication is not recognized by the medical establishment.
In the early 1980s, there were a limited number of cases of amebiasis
spread by a colon therapist in Colorado who failed to maintain sanitary
conditions. It is believed to be the sole documented case of colon
hydrotherapy having caused a fatality. There have been reports of electrolyte
imbalances in children brought on by colonics using softened water.
Such imbalances can also be caused by laxative use or diarrhea.
Colonic irrigation should not be used in people with diverticulitis,
ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, severe or internal hemorrhoids
or tumors in the rectum or colon. It also should not be used soon after
bowel surgery (unless directed by your health care provider). Regular
treatments should be avoided by people with heart disease or kidney
disease (renal insufficiency). Colonics are inappropriate for people
with bowel, rectal or anal pathologies where the pathology contributes
to the risk of bowel perforation. 
The practice is currently only regulated in some states of the United
States. Some practitioners go through a voluntary certification process,
and may be members of one of the colon hydrotherapy associations worldwide,
such as the International Association of Colon HydroTherapy (I-ACT).
Be sure that the equipment used is sterile and that the practitioner
The American College of Gastroenterology takes the position that in
the unusual case of fecal impaction complicating chronic constipation,
a 5 to 10 ounce tap water enema may be of benefit, but does not otherwise
recommend its use. The orthodox medical establishment perceives colon
hydrotherapy to be little more than a bowel rinse, or expensive laxative.
Dr. Leonard Smith, MD, of Gainesville, Florida, an American College
of Surgery board certified general surgeon, with 25 years practicing
as a specialist in gastrointestinal surgery states, “If medical centers,
hospitals, and clinics installed colon hydrotherapy departments, they
would find such departments just as efficacious for patients as their
present treatment are areas which are devoted to physiotherapy.”
TS, Chen PS (1989). "Intestinal autointoxication:
a medical leitmotif". Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology 11
(4): 434-41. PMID 2668399.
2. Smith JL (1982). "Sir William Arbuthnot-Lane, 1st Bt, chronic
intestinal stasis, and autointoxication". Annals of Internal Medicine
96 (3): 365-9. PMID 7036818.
3. Colon Hydrotherapy and its Clinical Applications. The Colon Hydrotherapists
Network. Retrieved on 2005-08-31.
4. Gots RE (1993). "Medical hypothesis and medical practice: autointoxication
and multiple chemical sensitivities". Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology
: RTP 18 (1): 2-12. PMID 8234915.
5. Yerkes EB, Rink RC, King S, Cain MP, Kaefer M, Casale AJ (2001). "Tap
water and the Malone antegrade continence enema: a safe combination?".
Journal of Urology 166 (4): 1476-8. PMID 11547116.
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