The Dangers of Colonics

Colonics are questionable non-surgical wellness procedures which involve the introduction of supposed de-toxifying or cleansing liquids into the colon using rubber tubing and water pressure. Advocates say colonics remove harmful bacteria, toxins and other unhealthy matter from the colon. Skeptics cite the fact that while there are no proven benefits of colonics, the potential side effects and complications outweigh the risks of any purported benefits.

Colonics have more proven dangers than benefits

Even proponents of colonics cannot cite medical research studies which prove any of their claims. Using a colonic to treat one of the many purported benefits may lead a person not to seek more proven methods of treating the problem. According to the Johns Hopkins Web site, “Johns Hopkins doctors advise against colonics because of concerns about the potential for side effects.”

Bowel Perforation

A colonic can cause a perforation in the bowel wall if there is too much pressure from the water used to perform the cleanse or the rubber tubing. A bowel perforation has the potential to lead to a life-threatening infection, according to the Johns Hopkins Medical Center.

Allergic Reaction

If the patient undergoing the colonic is allergic to latex (used in the rubber tubing used during the procedure) or one of the substances added to the water solutions (e.g., herbs, soap, coffee, minerals, enzymes) used for the colonic, this increases the risk of a side effect from the procedure. Make sure to review with the person performing the colonic what ingredients will be introduced, and alert him or her to any allergies you have. Johns Hopkins suggests the risks of complications from a colonic increase if you are over the age of 65, or someone who has a bowl disease such as ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis or Crohn’s disease.

Can Create an Electrolyte Imbalance

Because colonics remove minerals absorbed into the bloodstream via the large intestine, including electrolytes like sodium and potassium, the procedure can result in an electrolyte deficiency.

Increased Risk of Infections

Most colonics today are performed using disposable tubing. However, if the equipment used to perform the colonic is re-used and not properly sterilized between procedures, this raises the risk of infection from bacteria and viruses.

Possible Over Hydration

According to an article on, which cites the article, “Gastrointestinal Quackery: Colonics, Laxatives, and More” by Stephen Barrett, M.D., colonics can lead to ” . . . fluid absorption and overload leading to heart failure.” A colonic can introduce 20 gallons or more of liquid to the body. In comparison, an enema uses only a quart of fluid.

Additional Resources

Johns Hopkins: Risks of Colonics

CNN Health: Colonics Awash in Speculation