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Does colonic irrigation have any health benefits and is it available on the NHS?

Find out about colonic irrigation, also called colonic hydrotherapy, which is a type of complementary therapy.

Colonic irrigation isn't available on the NHS – you'll have to pay for it privately. Prices vary depending on the clinic, but it typically costs around £60-90 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 the Association of Registered Colon Hydrotherapists (ARCH).

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.

The procedure

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 30-45 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
  • diarrhoea
  • dizziness, nausea and vomiting
  • anal irritation and soreness

More severe side effects have included:

  • dehydration
  • low blood levels of essential minerals, such as potassium
  • infection
  • punctured bowel
  • kidney failure

Some herbal remedy preparations have also caused aplastic anaemia (where your bone marrow doesn't make enough blood cells) and liver problems.

ARCH recommends that you shouldn't have colonic irrigation if you have:

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