Health & Well-Being A-Z

Colonic Irrigation

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Colonic irrigation involves introducing liquid into the colon via the rectum.

Colonic irrigation is used to wash feces out to prevent soiling in people who can't control their bowel movements because of nerve, surgical, or other problems and to remove built up feces in people with severe constipation. Some people also use colonic irrigation to clean the colon in an attempt to clean out toxins that are believed to cause disease, for high blood pressure, asthma, alcohol addiction, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

Is It Effective?

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NatMed Pro rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

Possibly effective
  • Loss of bowel movement control (fecal incontinence). Some people can't control their bowel movements because of nerve problems, like those with birth defects of the brain or spine, people with multiple sclerosis, or problems after surgery. Research in adults and children suggest that colonic irrigation helps to prevent soiling in people that are not able to control their bowel movements. Most people use specific pumps (such as Biotrol Irrimatic pump and Peristeen, Anal Irrigation System) daily or every 2-3 days to help with the irrigation.

There is interest in using colonic irrigation for a number of other purposes, but there isn’t enough reliable information to say whether it might be helpful.

Is it Safe?


Colonic irrigation often consists of introducing large quantities of liquids and other substances into the colon via a tube. In some cases, multiple gallons are pumped into the colon over time.

Some people promote colonic irrigation to remove toxins. They believe that the body accumulates harmful materials (toxins) over time such as metals, pesticides, and other harmful substances. This is referred to as "autointoxication" or "putrefaction of the stools." They suggest that special treatments including liquids, herbals, coffee grounds, or supplements administered rectally can cleanse the intestines and remove these toxins from the body. However, there is no scientifically reliable information to support using colonic irrigation for preventing or treating diseases associated with 'toxins'. There is no reliable evidence that the body is fatigued through normal digestion or that the body retains numerous toxins that are dangerous to health. The kidney and liver are efficient filters, processors, and eliminators of toxins.


Colonic irrigation is POSSIBLY SAFE when warm, clean water is used to help remove feces in people with loss of bowel control or constipation. Colonic irrigation with coffee, also called a coffee enema, is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Coffee enemas may cause swelling (inflammation) of the rectum and colon in some people and have been linked to at least three deaths. These deaths were related to severe chemical imbalance or infections following the procedure. Colonic irrigation with contaminated water is also POSSIBLY UNSAFE. This practice has been linked with at least six deaths.

There isn't enough reliable information to know if other methods of colonic irrigation are safe or what the side effects might be.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if colonic irrigation is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Children:Colonic irrigation is POSSIBLY SAFE when warm water or soap suds are used in children with loss of bowel control or constipation. While rare, colonic irrigation may cause sodium levels in the blood to go too low, which could lead to severe side effects.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): If you have IBS, colonic irrigation might increase the risk of inflammation in the colon (colitis). Speak with a healthcare provider before using colonic irrigation.

Drug interactions

It is not known if this treatment interacts with any medicines. Before using this treatment, talk with your health professional if you take any medications.

Herb interactions

There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.

Food interactions

There are no known interactions with foods.


The appropriate or safe use of colonic irrigation depends on several factors such as the condition being treated or the person administering the treatment. Be sure to seek and follow relevant directions from your physician or other healthcare professional before using this treatment.

Other names

Anal Irrigation, Autointoxication Treatment, Bowel Cleanse, Coffee Enema, Colon Cleanse, Colon Detox, Colon Detoxification, Colon Hydrotherapy, Colon Irrigation, Détoxification du Côlon, Hydrothérapie du Côlon, Irrigación del Colon, Enema Therapy, Irrigation du Côlon, Irrigation Colonique, Retrograde Colonic Irrigation, Retrograde Rectal Irrigation, Transanal Colonic Irrigation, Transanal Irrigation, Transrectal Irrigation, Warm Water Irrigation.


Information on this website is for informational use only and is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. While evidence-based, it is not guaranteed to be error-free and is not intended to meet any particular user’s needs or requirements or to cover all possible uses, safety concerns, interactions, outcomes, or adverse effects. Always check with your doctor or other medical professional before making healthcare decisions (including taking any medication) and do not delay or disregard seeking medical advice or treatment based on any information displayed on this website.

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