Colonic irrigation is 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.
What is colonic irrigation?
Colonic irrigation, also known as colonic hydrotherapy, is a complementary therapy. It involves flushing waste material out of the bowel using water.
Colonic irrigation is carried out by colonic hydrotherapists, or colon therapists, who may be registered with an organisation such as the Association of Registered Colon Hydrotherapists (ARCH) or the Register of Integrative Colon Therapists and Trainers (RICTAT).
If you decide to have colonic irrigation, make sure you choose a qualified and experienced practitioner.
ARCH has a directory you can use to find an approved colonic hydrotherapist in your area.
You can also find a colonic hydrotherapist on the RICTAT 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.
The water circulates through your colon, and waste products are passed out of your body through the tube.
It usually takes about 30 to 45 minutes, during which time about 60 litres of water are passed through your colon. Herbal infusions are sometimes added to the water.
Does colonic irrigation have health benefits?
There's no scientific evidence to suggest there are any health benefits associated with colonic irrigation.
In 2011, researchers in America analysed studies about the procedure, but found no strong scientific evidence to support it.
Is colonic irrigation safe?
People have experienced a variety of adverse side effects after having colonic irrigation.
Mild side effects have included:
- tummy pain and cramping
- fullness and bloating
- dizziness, nausea and vomiting
- anal irritation and soreness
More severe side effects have included:
- low blood levels of essential minerals, such as potassium
- punctured bowel
- kidney failure
Some herbal remedy preparations have also caused aplastic anaemia (where your bone marrow does not make enough blood cells) and liver problems.
ARCH recommends that you should not have colonic irrigation 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
- pregnancy at any stage
Page last reviewed: 10 April 2018
Next review due: 10 April 2021