Middle Aged Woman with bellyache.
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Colon hydrotherapy, also called colonic irrigation, is an alternative health care practice intended to cleanse toxins and built-up waste from the colon, also known as the bowel and large intestine. The procedure is said to keep the colon functioning more effectively and to promote health in general. Colon hydrotherapy is similar to an enema, but flushes a longer section of the gastrointestinal tract. During colon hydrotherapy, the health care practitioner inserts a rubber tube and nozzle into the client's rectum and flushes the colon with warm water. InteliHealth advises going to an experienced practitioner for this service because the procedure can cause severe negative effects, particularly if not administered properly.

Electrolyte Imbalance

The colon is very effective at absorbing water, and when receiving regular colon hydrotherapy treatments you may absorb too much water and develop electrolyte imbalances, according to InteliHealth. This can cause nausea, vomiting, fluid in the lungs and abnormal heart rhythms, and even coma and heart failure in severe cases.


Bacterial infection is possible with colon hydrotherapy if the equipment is contaminated. The Mayo Clinic advises you to make sure that the equipment is disposable, sterile and has never been used before. Infection also may occur due to clearing away healthy colon bacteria.

Bowel Perforation

Bowel perforation, or breaking through the bowel wall, is another risk of colon hydrotherapy, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This severe complication often requires surgery. The risk may be more likely if you attempt colon hydrotherapy at home without supervision by a health care practitioner. The Texas attorney general filed a lawsuit against equipment manufacturers after a woman died from administering her own colonic irrigation and perforated her large intestine, according to Quackwatch. The suit also was a response to reports of four other patients experiencing serious injuries due to colonic irrigation.

Worsening of Health Conditions

Colon hydrotherapy can worsen certain health disorders, and some health conditions can increase the risks of colon hydrotherapy. InteliHealth warns that, if you have intestinal disorders such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis and tumors, you should not receive colonic irrigation. Anyone with internal or severe hemorrhoids may not be able to safely receive this treatment. You should not receive colon hydrotherapy after bowel surgery without first consulting a health care provider. Heart disease and kidney disease patients also should not have regular colon hydrotherapy treatments.

Avoiding Medical Treatment

Another risk of colon hydrotherapy is that you may rely on it to cure serious health conditions rather than seeking more proven treatments, as noted by InteliHealth. Since colonic irrigation has not been shown to prevent or cure illness, consult a qualified health care provider about any possible serious illness rather than relying on this alternative therapy.