By Carlos M. Garcia, M.D.
Let’s look at the numerous myths associated with colonic irrigation. Many mainstream medical websites foster fearmongering as a way of subverting disease prevention. Claims such as the following are touted as “the dangers of colonics”:
- Severe Cramping: “Awful abdominal cramping is one of the most common side effects of a colon hydrotherapy treatment. This occurs due to large amounts of water being flushed through the digestive system. Air bubbles can occur causing painful cramping, abdominal pain, a weighty feeling of fullness and bloating.”
Colonic irrigation is a magnificent way of removing trapped air. I actually had this happen to me once, when I was doubled over with trapped gas. Large bowel distention from whatever reason is extremely painful. Luckily, I was able to find a colon therapist who was able to treat me and in the process facilitate the passing of the trapped gas, since water is heavier than air. The water was able to gently break the air lock and facilitate its release. In my 23 plus years of ordering colonic irrigations, I do not recall any disabling case of post colonic cramping.
- Electrolyte Imbalance: “The colon is like a sponge and oftentimes clients can absorb too much water during a colon hydrotherapy treatment or over repeated treatments. Too much water can cause a severe electrolyte imbalance and side effects—including heart arrhythmia, nausea, vomiting, cramping, fluid on the lungs and even coma.”
The claim that “the colon is a sponge is just utter stupidity”. Just because there is water there does not mean that the colon must absorb the water. The colon is a highly regulated and sophisticated organ with numerous feedback loops and checks and balances. I challenge the author of this article to provide the case study(ies) where a competent colon therapist caused coma, cardiac arrhythmias, severe electrolyte imbalances, pulmonary edema. These claims are just unreal.
I have yet to see any such claim as arrhythmia, pulmonary edema secondary to a colonic, or coma after or during a colonic. If such claims were truthful as you will read below, colonics would have been outlawed in America. Patients are encouraged to eat prior to their therapy and clearly afterwards. Whereas too much water intravenously is harmful, our colons have a regulatory mechanism.
As you will see in the history of colon therapy in Part One of this series, colon therapy was considered at one time, prior to endoscopy and colonoscopy technology, mainstream medicine (4). Due to the level of technology and monitoring back in the 1920’s – 1960’s the incidences of such catastrophes would have been astronomical given the number of therapies done across the USA. It would have been banned, yet it continued until new technology could be monetized.
- Bacterial Infection – “A bacterial infection can occur following a colonics treatment if the equipment used is not properly sanitized. This is why most states demand that any equipment used in colonics hydrotherapy is serialized and disposable so it can be replaced between clients. Contaminated colonics equipment may cause a bacterial infection anywhere along the digestive system. An infection can also result inside the colon if too much healthy bacteria are flushed away during the procedure. “
I think that basic sanitation escaped these authors. What makes these authors think that because we are dealing with the colon, or fecal matter, that sanitary conditions are ignored? Basic sanitation in medicine requires that each practitioner, be it in the operating or colonic suite, assure sanitation. In case these authors forgot, it was not until 1847 when Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis proposed washing hands before surgery. (7) True to human nature, this proposal was initially met with resounding opposition.
The purpose of colonic irrigation is to flush out all bacteria, beneficial and others. What these authors fail to understand is that the colon is best described as a huge parking lot. Bacteria, both friendly and not, colonize the parking slots within our colons. Thus with this therapy, all beneficial and other bacteria are flushed out. This is why we instruct our patients to take probiotics after colonic irrigation and for the next two weeks following in order to recolonize the gut with beneficial bacteria. Once again, the authors of this article appear to have a resounding lack of understanding of colon therapy, its purpose and benefits. However, it also appears that their apparent ignorance has in no way interfered with their attempt to fearmonger.
- Renal Failure – Renal failure (or kidney failure) is a severe risk of colonics that has been linked to certain herbal preparations used over many colonics treatments. Renal failure will occur if the kidneys are unable to filter waste products out of the blood.
What herbal preparation are these hacks referring to? Colonics are to be done with filtered water only. Again, a competent technician knows this. This, once again, is nothing more than fearmongering driven by securing mainstream therapies.
I have referred patients with renal dysfunction for colon therapy. In no way has their renal function been adversely affected. The idea that water infused into a colon results in water entering the blood stream is not what I have observed in my practice. The human bowel is not a mere diffusion membrane. Our bowel is a complex organ with extensive innervation and complex feedback loops.
I can even make the comparison of our bowel to a high sophisticated ecosystem, involving a medley of bacterial, fungi and viruses working to provide assistance in our wellbeing when in harmony or illness when in disharmony.
- Bowel Perforation – Bowel perforation, which actually results from damage to the wall of the bowel, can occur with colon hydrotherapy that is not performed by a professional. This severe perforation is usually caused by flushing the bowel with too much pressure and requires emergency surgery to repair.
Automobiles by themselves do not kill people; inept drivers operating an automobile can do so. Seeking a competent therapist is key to safe colonic irrigation. Ask to see the therapist’s licensure and ask about his/her experience.
As for pressure, if these authors spent as much time understanding current colonic irrigation machines as they do in confabulating fear, they would have stated that modern machines have a pressure monitor. The competent therapist is constantly conversing with the patient and observing the pressures being generated. A competent therapist will release or evacuate the water when a patient feels uncomfortable or the pressure increases.
- Liver Toxicity – The liver is closely related to the colon as both filter waste and toxins out of the body. If an unsafe herbal preparation is used in a colonics treatment, liver toxicity (or aplastic anemia) can occur if toxins remain in the blood.
This comment above truly defines walking brain donor! The author of this statement has no clue as to what he or she is saying. This is just plain ignorance and fearmongering. “Aplastic Anemia” is a condition where the patient fails to form red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. NONE OF WHICH ARE MADE IN THE LIVER!!! Liver failure and aplastic anemia are worlds apart.
There is no way that colonic irrigation in and of itself can result in aplastic anemia. With the number of colonics that I have ordered, witnessed and received myself, I have never seen a case of aplastic anemia presenting as a result of colonic irrigation. In fact, I have treated patients with aplastic anemia and I have recommended they do colon therapy in an attempt to detoxify their body in order to facilitate becoming more alkaline.
- Abscesses – Studies show that abscesses can form after faulty colonic hydrotherapy treatments. An abscess or multiple abscesses can form due to damage to the walls of the colon. If the tissue becomes infected, pus can accumulate in sacs along the colon lining (similar to a condition called colitis).
I challenge that such studies exist in humans. Furthermore, I reiterate that if such were true, colonics would be outlawed and not licensed. If anything, irrigating an infection is a great way to reduce the bacterial load. Perhaps this is why people are instructed to first clean the wound with soap and water or irrigate the wound with water.
Colonics in a non-traumatized colon does not result in abscess formation. I do not see how water will cause the abscesses. Perhaps the author could explain what he or she means by “faulty”.
The pathophysiology associated with diverticulosis, which may evolve into diverticulitis involves the dehydration of feces. Feces are trapped in the colon’s folds; this is normal for us all. The cells within the colon’s folds or invaginations, which are in direct contact with the remnant fecal material, dehydrate the remnants. The dehydration changes the consistency of the fecal matter from hydrated and firm or soft, to dehydrated, sticky and hard.
The change in consistency due to the dehydration stimulates an immune response to that area, since the colonic folds fail to act naturally. Think of it as mud dehydrating. As the water consistency decreases the mud becomes harder. This is what happens with the remnant fecal material. As the feces dehydrates, it acts more like cement interfering with the normal movement and function of the colon, resulting in an inflammatory response or diverticulitis.
As this sticky, hardened fecal material comes in contact with water during colon therapy, it softens, making it easier for its evacuation with normal bowel motion. When the irritating, dehydrated, sticky feces is gone the inflammation decreases. With frequent colonic irrigation, diverticulosis and diverticulitis should not recur.
- Exacerbate Existing Health Issues – A client should never undergo colon hydrotherapy treatments if they have existing health conditions—such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, internal hemorrhoids, rectal or intestinal tumors, heart disease, kidney disease, and diverticulitis. Also, any patient who recently underwent any type of surgery should avoid colonics altogether.
It is clear to me that the author(s) of this article is/are novices when it comes to colon health. I have ordered colonic treatments for conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, internal hemorrhoids, intestinal cancers, diverticulosis and diverticulitis with great benefit to patients.
I had this case where a man, diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, was scheduled for a total colectomy, total surgical removal of the large colon. His father, my patient, referred his son to me for evaluation. He was an assistant administrator for a hospital. His diet had been severely restricted, since certain foods exacerbated his symptoms. Even with a severely restricted diet, the patient had significant abdominal discomfort. In short his life stunk.
He was hesitant to do colonic irrigation. I finally convinced him to try one after explaining the quality of his life without a colon and the fact that he was willing to defecate his colon away. In short, what did he have to lose? He agreed and after his first colonic, he felt a bit different. He could not put his finger on it but his daily cramps were diminished. He agreed to a second and felt even better with more energy, his bowel movements became more regular and less painful. He requested more treatments. By the end of six weeks, his diet was augmented to almost anything he wanted, including roughage. He cancelled his surgery. His departing comment to me was: I want to thank you for helping me. I only wish I could tell others, but if I did I would be fired. Welcome to the realities of our sick care system.
Contraindications for colon hydrotherapy include the following:
I do not recommend colonics if one has:
Ostomy bag (person who empties fecal matter into an external bag)
The main issue here is that it makes a total mess and does not clean much
GI Hemorrhage/Perforation – for obvious common sense reasons
These conditions depend on the particulars which will be addressed by a physician:
Cancer of the Rectum or Colon – depending on proximity to anus/rectum
Congestive Heart Failure
Fissures or Fistulas
Kidney Disease (decreased kidney function) – depends on creatinine levels
Recent Rectal or Colon Surgery – less than 7 weeks
Uncontrolled Hypertension (more to do with arteriosclerosis vs hydrotherapy)
Contraindications are on an individual basis, not on generic arbitrary dogma. Medicine is an art because we are all unique, thus what applies to one does not necessarily apply to another. Our uniqueness is the fun aspect of medicine and also its frustration.
- Carlos Garcia MD Clinical Practice and Observations
- Modern Medicine, Vol. XVI, No. 6, June 1907, P122.