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Health Q&A: Colonic irrigation

How safe is colonic irrigation? I have friends who swear by it as a cure for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but I’ve also read that it gets rid of important ‘friendly’ bacteria in the gut. Does it benefit people with digestive problems and if so how often is it recommended?

There is no evidence that colonic irrigation is effective at treating IBS, or indeed any other medical condition. The idea that ‘detoxification’ is somehow beneficial goes very much against mainstream medical thinking. The colon naturally eliminates waste material and absorbs water and electrolytes, and colonic irrigation has the potential to disturb this balance, leading to dehydration and salt depletion.

While there is no evidence to suggest that having a colonic is particularly dangerous, there’s nothing to support the idea that it will really do you any good, either. The same goes for other ‘cleansing’ treatments – detox clinics and so on. Our body is perfectly well equipped to do all of these things itself, and forcing the process is likely to give psychological satisfaction rather than any physiological boost.

THE NUTRITIONAL THERAPIST Melanie Brown

Colonic irrigation is based on the theory that impacted faecal waste causes ‘auto-intoxication’ but there is no evidence supporting this. The delicate ecosystem of bacteria is almost certainly disrupted so re-population with probiotics is essential. Electrolyte balance may be affected and vitamins B and K, made by gut bacteria, lost. It is an invasive treatment so finding a qualified, experienced therapist is vital

Always consult a medical practitioner if your symptoms persist.

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