Difference Between a High Colonic and Enema

Purposes, procedures, benefits, and risks vary

Colonics and enemas both aim to cleanse the colon by introducing water by way of the rectum. Although the treatments are similar in approach and in their supposed health benefits, there are some key differences between colonics and enemas.

Enemas involve a one-time infusion of water into the colon. By contrast, colonics, also known as colonic hydrotherapy or irrigation, involve multiple infusions. What's more, the main objective of an enema is to evacuate the lower colon, while colonics are meant to cleanse a larger portion of the bowel.

Perhaps the single most important distinction is that a colonic infers the use of specialized equipment administered by a trained hydrotherapist, while an enema can be performed at home with a do-it-yourself kit.

Enema kits are classified by the Food and Drug Administration as class 1 medical devices and can be purchased over the counter.

Colonic irrigation equipment is classified as class II medical devices when the device is intended for medically indicated colon cleansing (for example, before a radiological examination). When intended for other uses, such as colon cleansing for general health improvement, colonic irrigation equipment is classified as class III medical devices.

What a Colonic Involves

Usually lasting 45 minutes to an hour, a typical colonic begins with the client completing a health history form and consulting with the colon hydrotherapist.

After changing into a gown, the client lies face up on a treatment table, where the therapist inserts a disposable speculum into the anus. This speculum is connected to a long disposable plastic hose, which is in turn connected to the colon hydrotherapy unit (a system that enables the pressure, temperature, or flow of water through the nozzle to be controlled.

There may be a console-type toilet and fittings to allow the device to be connected to water and sewer pipes, and an electrical power source to warm the water.)

During a colonic, warm water is released into the colon. The pressure promotes a reflexive contraction of the colon muscles, called peristalsis. This forces waste out of the colon, back through the hose, and into a closed disposal system.

In many cases, the client may experience abdominal discomfort during his/her colonic. In order to facilitate the process, the therapist may apply light massage to the client's abdominal area.

Once the treatment is completed, the client may sit on a toilet to pass any residual water and stools.

What an Enema Involves

Often performed in the bathroom, enemas typically involve lying on your back and inserting the enema kit's nozzle several inches into the anus. This nozzle is connected to a tube that leads to a container holding the fluid for the infusion.

Releasing the tube's clamp initiates the flow of fluid into the rectum and stimulates peristalsis. The next step in an enema is to retain the fluid for several minutes, then sit on the toilet to expel the fluid.

Referred to as "retention enemas," some treatments involve holding liquid in the colon for extended periods of time. There are several different types of retention enemas, including coffee enemas and enemas involving infusions containing red raspberry leaf, probiotics, minerals, and other natural substances.

Benefits and Risks

Colonics and enemas are each said to enhance overall health, promote detoxification, protect against constipation, improve digestion, and support weight loss.

In addition, colonics are said to improve the body's absorption of water and nutrients, as well as fight the growth of harmful bacteria and yeast in the colon. 

Meanwhile, proponents suggest that enemas can help treat or prevent a number of health issues said to arise from the buildup of waste in the colon, including allergies, bad breath, back pain, depression, fatigue, headache, indigestion, sinus problems, and skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Scientific evidence in support of these claims is lacking.

Research published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found no evidence that a colonic can treat any of these conditions. If anything, it is more likely to cause nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, or a bowel injury.

This is not to suggest that enemas are not with their appropriate use. They are commonly used to aid in bowel preparation prior to surgery or a colonoscopy. They can also help relieve severe constipation.

Even if used for these purposes, an enema must be performed safely to prevent harm to bowel tissues.

Contraindications

Colonics and enemas should be avoided by people with conditions such as diverticular disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, severe hemorrhoids, heart disease, severe anemia, abdominal hernia, gastrointestinal cancer, and intestinal tumors.

Pregnant women and people who have recently had colon surgery should also avoid the procedures.

What Are the Risks of an Enema?
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Article Sources
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