What are the Benefits of Colonic Irrigation and is it Right for Me?
Updated: Feb 28
Colonic irrigation is the process of having a tube inserted into your rectum and water being introduced into the colon to ‘flush out’ the bowel. There is absolutely no evidence of any benefits to colonic irrigation but plenty of reasons to avoid it.
If you have uncomfortable bowel symptoms and you’re looking for a solution, colonic irrigation is the last place you want to look. Colonic irrigation is usually carried out by therapists who don’t have the relevant experience or expertise to rule out bowel problems like diverticular disease, ulcerative colitis, rectal or bowel cancers, and other conditions that could lead to perforation (a tear in the bowel) if a tube is inserted and the bowel is filled with water.
Most providers will ask if you have any of these conditions but given that so many of them remain undiagnosed and are passed off as IBS for years, the risk remains high.
If you have any bowel symptoms, always seek medical advice to rule these things out before you pursue any alternative treatments, especially ones that involve putting your bowel under further stress.
Colonic irrigation is very likely to disrupt the precious colonic ecosystem and microbiome. Ironically, for many people seeking symptom relief from colonic irrigation, the cause of their symptoms will be a poorly functioning microbiome. You can see therefore that further disrupting things will only lead to the problem continuing for longer.
While people may get some temporary relief from their symptoms after colonic irrigation, they’re likely to return very quicky after the treatment, leading them to want to have it more frequently without realising it’s very likely to be making the underlying problem worse.
We also have serious concerns about how treatments like this can delay the diagnosis of serious problems like bowel cancer, which is becoming much more common in young people and is often missed. If you have any bowel symptoms, seeking medical help is essential.
It is understandable that if people have uncomfortable symptoms and they don’t feel supported or listened to by their GP or other healthcare professionals, they will seek alternatives. If you feel this way, seeing a registered dietitian with expertise in colorectal diseases and disorders is a really good place to start. We can help you to find the underlying cause and provide advice for long term management.
Very occasionally, people may be required to perform rectal irrigation on themselves at home if they have a dysfunctional rectum and all other treatment options have been exhausted. This is very different to colonic irrigation as it is a very low volume of water and only irrigates the rectum. Furthermore, people who have this treatment will have been thoroughly screened and examined to ensure they are not at risk of perforation.