Blog Post

Colonics: Not Worth the Pain

intestinal tractCR asks: "Are colonics a New Age practice? I was thinking of starting to do this but wanted to ask first."

I have good news and bad news about colonics.

The good news is that it's not New Age. The bad news is that it doesn't work.

For those of you who have never heard of it, a colonic is an infusion of water into the rectum by a colon therapist to cleanse and flush the colon. A very uncomfortable procedure, it flushes stool into a plastic tube through which the therapist can then view it and observe its color and other qualities. The procedure differs from an enema in that a colonic flushes the entire colon with a series of infusions rather than a single infusion into the lower part of the colon which is typical of enemas.

According to, the founder of the Kellogg cereal company, John Harvey Kellogg, MD, was one of the earliest proponents of colonics. He frequently lectured on colonics and recommended it for conditions such as depression and arthristis. It was Kellogg who made the practice so popular among physicians in the early 1900s. It faded out of popularity when the modern laxative was invented, and because colonics was never able to scientifically support its alleged healing benefits.

The practice is now back in vogue among alternative health gurus and fitness fans who use it to improve their health and well-being. Just like Kellogg once did, alternative medicine practitioners herald the procedure mainly for detoxification but claim that it does everything from improve metabolic efficiency to treating a variety of intestinal issues. Some get a colonic after a fast to "cleanse" their intestines; others use it to lose weight. People who believe their emotional issues are rooted in their intestines seek the treatment for inner healing or to get them through a difficult lifestyle change.

But does it work? No.

Doctors may prescribe a kind of colon cleanse for procedures such as a colonoscopy, but most see no purpose for colon cleansing to detox the body. The reason is simple - the digestive system and bowel cleanse themselves naturally of waste and bacteria so there's no need to "reinvent the wheel."

Even though proponents make a lot of claims about how cleansing the body of toxins from the gastrointestinal tract can benefit one's overall health, the Mayo Clinic claims there is little evidence that it produces these effects.

Notwithstanding the nasty side effects it can cause such as cramping, bloating, nausea and vomiting, it can also increase a person's risk of dehydration, lead to bowel perforations and infections, and can cause changes in electrolyte levels which could be dangerous to people suffering from kidney disease or other problems.

To be honest, one colonoscopy every five years is more than enough for me but I endure it because it could save my life. Colonics is even more uncomfortable (at least you're asleep for a colonoscopy!) and offers no apparent benefit.

For me, this is a no-brainer. I'm going to pass on colonics.