Treatment > Alternative Medicine

The enema – A tried and tested procedure for colon cleansing and rehabilitation

Dr. med. Andre Sommer

Dr. med. Andre Sommer

Enemas have been used since antiquity. Even back then it was known that a properly functioning intestine is the be-all and end-all for health and well-being. Medical and spiritual experts agree that our inside also needs thorough cleansing every now and then. Whether it's in conventional medicine or in the thousands of years old yoga practice from India - there are various methods to clean the internal organs stimulate bowel activity. An enema is one of the easiest and most gentle procedures to clean the inside of the body and to deal with common digestive problems such as constipation.

What is an enema?

With an enema, warm, pure, still water is usually passed through the anus into the intestine in order to rinse it. With a feeling of fullness, constipation, flatulence and general discomfort in the intestinal region, an enema usually promises rapid improvement. It can be carried out with different devices. It is also possible both at home alone or under the professional supervision of a doctor or alternative practitioner. However, an enema should not be done too often. With chronic constipation, a change in diet while increasing your fluid intake and a lot of exercise can help better and above all more sustainably.

Did you know that the enema ...
... is one of the oldest treatment methods and has been used since ancient times?
... is also called colonic irrigation?
... is used in alternative medicine as an accompanying procedure for fasting?

What are common enema devices and aids?

You can use different enema devices for colon cleansing. While professional colon irrigation devices with two channels are used in alternative medical practices, smaller, manual and disposable enema devices are available for use at home. For example enema syringes and balls or manual irrigators. Boiled, still water is the primary substance used for enemas. Depending on your preference, this can be enriched with various additives, such as chamomile tea or table salt. Coffee enemas, although their effectiveness has not been scientifically proven, are often mainly used to clean the liver.

Clyster vs. enema: The differences
A clyster is a simple pump device, the clyster syringe or the clyster ball. The clyster consists of a klyso pump and a clyster tube. It is used to flush water through the anus into the intestine. The main purpose of this procedure is to promote bowel movements. Less water is used than with an enema.
On the other hand, an enema is used for more persistent and more serious symptoms. The intestine receives significantly more water washed into the rectum and colon to soften stool.

When does it make sense to do an enema?

Colon cleansing always makes sense if the processes in the intestine no longer function smoothly, as is typically the case with constipation. Colon cleansing can also be useful when preparing for a fasting cure, liver cleansing or for general care. A colon irrigation can also help with diarrhea in some cases. Especially if this is due to harmful bacteria in the intestine.

In addition, enemas are often used before birth at the request of expectant mothers. This is done using an irrigator or enema. Since the enema stimulates intestinal activity, it usually also encourages mothers to go into labor. This is particularly advantageous when labor is still ineffective and facilitates the birth process.

Overview of reasons for an enema
Constipation (acute and persistent)
For the administration of medication (e.g. lactulose enema for cirrhosis of the liver)
Colonoscopy
For diagnosis in the rectum area (rectoscopy, contrast enema, etc.)
Reducing fever
Operations in the intestine
For relief during a natural birth
Colon cleansing before and during a fasting cure
Sexual practices like BDSM or clinic eroticism

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Can I make an enema myself?

Of course, you can also set up an enema yourself quickly and easily at home. This is particularly useful for mild constipation and general digestive problems. Easy-to-use enema devices for home use such as pear syringes, irrigators or klyso pumps and enema sets can be bought in the pharmacy.

The choice of enema basically depends on individual preferences. It works best with still, slightly warmed water. If you want, you can enrich it with mineral and / or herbal additives. For example with table salt, base powder or various teas. Chamomile and herbal teas are particularly popular.

What happens after the enema?

That varies depending on the initial situation. If the enema is carried out alongside a fasting cure, then you simply start fasting afterwards. If it is used for intestinal rehabilitation, the intestinal flora should be rebuilt after the enema with light food and foods rich in lactic acid. Even if the enema is used to remove acute constipation, a change in diet towards digestion-promoting foods should take place.

Does an enema really help with detoxification and deacidification?

In alternative medicine in particular, enemas and colon cleansing are often used for detoxification. For this purpose, up to 60 liters are usually flushed into the intestine using a tube. The 60 liters can flow out again via a second hose. However, the promised cleansing effect has not yet been scientifically proven. In addition, there are also a number of medical reasons that speak for an enema.

Excursus: Colon hydrotherapy
Colon hydrotherapy is a more advanced form of enema that uses even more water than enema or enema. Approximately 10 to 30 liters of water are guided into the intestine with a professional enema device without pressure and with changing temperature. During the procedure, the abdominal wall is repeatedly massaged in order to stimulate the intestinal activity even more. Colon hydrotherapy is generally carried out two to three times in a row in order to thoroughly clean the intestine and, above all, to remove older, hardened residues. Many alternative practitioners recommend colon hydrotherapy to be carried out every year and swear by their effects, especially as the start of fasting or in combination with a liver cleanse.
Colon hydrotherapy should always be performed by an experienced bowel specialist.

Can an enema have side effects?

An enema can cause some body reactions. These are not side effects in the classic sense, but mostly sequelae of too frequent or improper implementation of enemas. The most common risks and side effects of colonic irrigation include:

  • Damage to the intestinal flora (especially if used too frequently)
  • Cramps and scalding in the intestine (wrong water temperature)
  • Injuries to the intestinal wall or anus (improper use)
  • Infections (consequence of injuries due to improper use)
  • Irritation of the intestinal mucosa (too high acidity of the rinsing liquid)
  • Allergic (anaphylactic) shock (in response to specific additives in the rinsing liquid)
  • Bloated stomach or abdominal pain
  • Nausea (possibly associated with vomiting)
  • Diarrhea
  • Circulatory problems (due to loss of fluid that can lead to dehydration)

    In these situations, enemas should be avoided:
    Bowel obstruction
    For acute abdominal diseases such as peritonitis
    With congenital malformations in the colon or rectum
    Hemorrhoids
    During pregnancy (only right before birth again)
    With severe bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
    Bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract
    Kidney disease
    Heart disease
    

How often can you perform an enema?

If enemas are performed too often, this can lead to a series of unpleasant, health-threatening secondary reactions in the body. The intestinal flora can suffer, for example, or dehydration or infections can occur. As a preventative measure, a colon irrigation is therefore only recommended once or twice a year. In the event of acute constipation, the enema must be used in a targeted manner. However, if constipation is very common and becomes chronic, a doctor should be consulted and alternative treatment methods discussed.

Where can I buy an enema device?

An enema irrigator, Klyso pumps, pear syringes and whole enema sets are available without a prescription **in any pharmacy **and sometimes also available in drugstores.

Mosimann, F., & Cornu, P. (1998). Are enemas given before abdominal operations useful?. European Journal of Surgery, 164(7), 527-530. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9696975

Kupferschmidt, F. Darmreinigung vor Koloskopie: Ein Vergleich zweier Abführlösungen bezüglich Reinigungseffektivität und Patiententoleranz. https://d-nb.info/1067099069/34

Rauch, E. (1960). Die Darmreinigung nach Dr. med. FX Mayr. Depression, 74, 78.

Rehmann, I. H. (1997). Darmreinigung mit Polyethylenglykol/Macrogol-Elektrolytlösung als Mittel der Wahl: Eigenrezeptur versus Klean-Prep®. coloproctology, 19(1), 33-40.

Dr. med. Andre Sommer

Dr. med. Andre Sommer

I’m André, a medical doctor from Berlin. Together with a team of medical doctors, nutritionists and data scientists we empower people to understand digestive issues with our app Cara.

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