woman is having stomach ache
milazvereva/iStock/Getty Images

Colon cleansing is an alternative medicine practice used to eliminate the build up of wastes and toxins in the colon. While there are many purported benefits to cleansing, there are several side effects as well. Some of the most common side effects include nausea, vomiting, bloating, cramping, constipation and fatigue. These side effects are considered normal to the process of cleansing and will resolve with time. However, there are some side effects to cleansing that are more severe in nature and potentially dangerous.

Mild Side Effects

Some of the common mild side effects associated with colon cleansing include diarrhea, dehydration, fatigue and in some cases, allergic reactions to the ingredients contained in cleanse products. Cleanse products that contain the herb, Senna, may cause diarrhea. Diarrhea upsets your body's electrolyte balance. Long-term electrolyte imbalance and mineral loss can lead to severe health problems, such as heart attack, kidney failure, and in rare cases, death. Senna may also interfere with your body's ability to absorb water, resulting in dehydration. This will further exacerbate the electrolyte imbalances caused by diarrhea. Finally, Senna carries allergy risks. If you develop symptoms such as swelling, hives or trouble breathing, you should immediately discontinue use of the product.

Severe Side Effects

Some of the negative side effects of colon hydrotherapy and enema are more severe. They include the risk of perforation, or puncturing or tearing, of the intestinal wall and subsequent infection. During the process of colon hydrotherapy, water is infused into the colon through the rectum several times and a colon hydrotherapist employs light massage to help break up waste material. This procedure should be performed under the supervision of a trained hydrotherapist. Enemas also introduce water into the colon through the rectum, but it is a less extensive cleanse and can be done by you at home. Both procedures carry the risk of severe side effects related to improper administration and faulty equipment. The instruments used must be sterilized and inserted properly to avoid injury. Tearing of the anal tissue or a puncture of the gastrointestinal wall is painful. Furthermore, if infection develops in the damaged tissue, you could become ill and possibly die.


Dependency to enemas and cleanse products is another side effect of colon cleansing. Enemas are not meant to replace your body's natural ability to eliminate waste products. It is important that you not become dependent on them to move your bowels, as this will compromise your health. Similarly, it is possible to develop an addiction to the herb, Senna. You should carefully monitor your body's reaction to cleanse procedures and products.