(Investigator 162, 2015 May)


Colon therapy or colonic irrigation was practised by the ancient Egyptians who erroneously associated feces with decay, and decay with death, concluding that all diseases began in the colon.

Hippocrates and Galen, ancient Greek physicians, both mentioned the use of enemas and the Romans, with their preoccupation for baths, used enemas for internal cleansing.

In the 19th. century, the idea that poisons from putrifying intestinal bacteria entered the body through the gut wall led to the popularisation of the intestinal toxicity theory. This "autointoxication" theory was popular around the turn of the century but was abandoned by the scientific community during the 1930s.


Down through the years, various "roughages" - bran, apples and yoghurt among them, have been advocated to achieve rapid elimination of waste. To these has been added colonic irrigation through the use of enemas.


A procedure in which liquids, a few litres at a time, are infused through a tube into the colon via the rectum, to wash away and remove the contents.

Other liquids used include coffee, herbs and enzymes. Up to eighty litres, pumped by machine or gravity fed, may be involved in a "high colonic" to achieve its purpose.


Like the ancient Egyptians, today's proponents claim that "all disease and death begins in the colon"; that colonies "detoxify" the body, and that regular "cleansing" is essential to maintain one's health. None of these claims are true.

"Detoxification" is based on the notion that, as a result of intestinal stasis, intestinal contents putrefy and toxins are formed and absorbed which causes chronic poisoning of the body. No such "toxins" have ever been found, and careful observations have shown that individuals in good health can vary greatly in bowel habits. Proponents may also suggest that fecal material collects on the lining of the intestine and causes trouble unless removed by laxatives, colonic irrigation, special diets, and/or various herbs or food supplements that "cleanse" the body.

The falsity of this notion is obvious to doctors who perform intestinal surgery or peer within the large intestine with a diagnostic instrument. Fecal material does not adhere to the intestinal lining. While today we understand the importance of dietary fibre, medical scientists know that this has nothing to do with intestinal toxicity. Colonic irrigation is simply a health fetish appealing to those who, for one reason or another, believe themselves to be "unclean" or "impure".

There are also some health hazards associated with this type of therapy. They include illness and death by contamination of colonics equipment (Istre 1982); death by electrolyte depletion (Eisele, 1980), (Ballantine, 1981), and the possibility that colonic apparatus can perforate the intestinal wall leading to septicemia.

Colonic irrigation through the use of enemas or water is a dangerous pseudo-medicinal therapy.


Eisele. 1980. Deaths Related to Coffee Enemas. JAMA. 244:1608-9.

Franklin. 1981. Questions and Answers: colonic irrigation. JAMA.246:2869.

Kastner, Mark and Burroughs, Hugh. 1993. Alternative Healing. Halcyon Publishing, La Mesa, California.

Kizer. 1985. The case against colonic irrigation. California Morbidity #38. September 27.

Edwards, H. 1999 Alternative, Complementary, Holistic & Spiritual Healing, Australian Skeptics Inc