Colonics and Colon Hydrotherapy Safety

Before you consider undergoing an invasive procedure like colon hydrotherapy, you certainly would want to know if it is safe. Colonics have made a comeback in popularity, with claims that have survived being discredited by the American Medical Association a century ago. This overview will help you if you are weighing the pros and cons of undergoing this dubiously popular form of colon cleansing.

What to expect during colon hydrotherapy
Illustration by Lisa Fasol, Verywell

What Is Colonic Hydrotherapy?

Also known as high colonics or colonic irrigation, colonic hydrotherapy is used for the purported reason for cleaning out the colon. During the procedure, a tube is inserted into the rectum. Water, sometimes with additives such as vitamins, probiotics, enzymes, or herbs, is pumped through the colon, flushing out its contents. The therapist may massage the client's abdomen. Once the procedure is completed, the client sits on a toilet for several minutes until a full evacuation of the bowel is completed. The entire session generally takes approximately 45 minutes.


Advocates of colonic hydrotherapy put forth the rationale that colonic hydrotherapy is a remedy for a variety of physical ailments, with the explanation that the cleansing flushes out any aged stool, bacteria, and parasites that might be residing in the large intestine.

No scientific evidence supports this theory of colonic "cleansing," or demonstrates evidence of symptom improvement of any kind as a result of colonic hydrotherapy.


There are several published reports of patients experiencing extremely dangerous side effects as a result of colon hydrotherapy. These side effects include potentially fatal electrolyte imbalances and perforations of the colon during the insertion of the colonic tube.

On the other hand, colon hydrotherapy is an internationally popular form of alternative healing. One published study sought to gain information regarding the practice of colonic hydrotherapy in the United Kingdom. Questionnaires were sent out to certified colon hydrotherapy practitioners, who were instructed to give them to 10 consecutive clients. A total of 242 questionnaires were returned. Results indicated that the clients had undergone an average of 35 hydrotherapy treatments and were satisfied with the results. Although the lack of randomness in the study is a design flaw, one might draw a preliminary conclusion that the risk of a complication is low. Nevertheless, the severity of the complications might make you think twice.

Another risk is that colonics are often performed by practitioners who are not licensed by a scientifically based organization. They may be certified and licensed by organizations such as the International Association of Colon Hydrotherapy, but the requirements are often not regulated.

When to Call Your Doctor

If you decide to undergo colonic hydrotherapy and experience any of the following side effects, contact your physician immediately. If you are feeling severely ill and are unable to contact your doctor, it is recommended that you go to an emergency room. Possible signs of serious health problems following colon hydrotherapy include:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dizziness
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
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