Colonic irrigation, also known as colonic hydrotherapy, involves flushing waste material out of the bowel using water.
It's not available on the NHS – you'll have to pay for it privately. Prices vary depending on the clinic, but it typically costs around £60 to £90 for a single session.
If you decide to have colonic irrigation, make sure you choose a qualified and experienced practitioner.
You can find a registered practitioner on the Professional Standards Authority website.
Before having colonic irrigation, the therapist will ask you about your medical history to check if you have any health problems that might make the treatment inadvisable.
During the procedure, you lie on your side while warm water is passed into your bowel through a tube inserted into your bottom. Herbal infusions are sometimes added to the water.
The water circulates through your bowel, and waste products are passed out of your body through the tube.
Colonic irrigation usually takes about 30 to 45 minutes, during which time about 60 litres of water are passed through your bowel.
Does colonic irrigation have health benefits?
There's no scientific evidence to suggest there are any health benefits associated with colonic irrigation.
Is colonic irrigation safe?
People have reported a number of different side effects after having colonic irrigation.
Mild side effects may include:
- tummy pain and cramping
- fullness and bloating
- dizziness, nausea and vomiting
- anal irritation and soreness
More severe side effects may include:
- low blood levels of essential minerals, such as potassium
- punctured bowel
- kidney failure
- heart failure
Some herbal remedy preparations have also caused aplastic anaemia (where your bone marrow does not make enough blood cells) and liver problems.
When is colonic irrigation not recommended?
Colonic irrigation is not recommended if you have:
- severe anaemia
- uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension)
- a condition that causes bowel inflammation, such as diverticulitis, Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
- bowel or rectal cancer
- anal fissures
- painful haemorrhoids
- rectal bleeding
- heart problems
- kidney disease
- liver disease
You should also avoid having colonic irrigation if you're pregnant (at any stage of the pregnancy).
Page last reviewed: 6 February 2020
Next review due: 6 February 2023