The idea that stagnation and decay in the colon (large intestine) produce toxins that poison the body is an ancient one, sometimes called auto-intoxication. Down through the ages, people have used strong laxatives, enemas, and other colon “cleansing” or “irrigation” practices as cures for almost every medical complaint as well as for spiritual benefits.
But these ideas and practices were discredited long ago. The only medically accepted use of colon cleansing is to clear out stool as preparation for procedures such as colonoscopy—done so the inside of the colon can be seen—for which you fast and take strong laxatives.
Still, the fear of auto-intoxication seems real to some people, which often leads them to the weird world of colonic irrigation (also known as hydrotherapy). It involves inserting a tube into the rectum and up into the colon and pumping in large quantities of water—usually containing additives such as soapsuds, herbs, coffee or coffee grounds, and other potentially irritating substances—in successive doses or continuously. This is very different from a standard enema.
Colonic irrigation is touted as a treatment for constipation and irritable bowel syndrome, a cure for acne and splotchy skin, the magic path to weight loss, and a means of ridding your body of harmful environmental pollutants. Particularly disturbing are wild claims that colonic irrigation will prevent or cure cancer, especially of the colon or rectum. It does this, supposedly, by preventing constipation. But no connection between constipation and cancer has ever been proven.
It is not true that your colon is clogged with toxic fecal matter that you can’t get rid of except by enemas or irrigation. Even if you had high levels of heavy metals such as lead or mercury in your body, colonic irrigation and enemas would not rid you of them. Fecal matter is not rife with toxins; it is indeed populated by microorganisms, many of which are actually beneficial. Your digestive system is very efficient at cleansing itself and ridding the body of waste. The idea that “caked-on” toxins can cling to the colon and thus impair your health is nonsense.
Colonic irrigation can cause not only diarrhea, dehydration, and impaired bowel function but also serious complications such as electrolyte imbalances, blood infections (septicemia, caused by contaminated equipment), perforation of the intestinal wall, severe hemorrhage, and even heart failure.