A treatment that was once taboo, has taken center stage in the wellness world: colonics. Women all over the country are raving about this internal detox treatment that leaves you with more energy and radiant, glowing skin. Not to mention, colonic devotees who have incorporated regular cleanse sessions into their wellness routines have been able to clear up acne, psoriasis, eczema and even help improve gastrointestinal conditions and symptoms.
I first became intrigued by colonics after listening to Ciara Mumford, owner of Living Water Wellness in San Diego on Ava Johanna‘s podcast, The Alchemized Life. Ciara is a third generation cleansing specialist and truly an expert on all things detoxing and digestive health. After listening to the episode, I knew I had to experience the treatment for myself, but what really sold me was the fact that the average, healthy person with regular bowl movements is walking around with anywhere from 10-15 extra pounds of waste in their intestinal tract (OMG!!!!). The idea of being able to deeply clean and cleanse my GI tract felt SUPER satisfying to me (hello, OCD), so I booked an appointment with Ciara and went in to get my first colonic.
Keep reading to learn all about colonics and my personal experience going through with the treatment.
What is a colonic?
A colonic, or also referred to as colon hydrotherapy or colon irrigation, is a wellness treatment that cleanses and flushes out the colon and GI tract by gently infusing water (or other liquids) into the rectum. The treatment is administered by a skilled and certified colon hydrotherapist. It’s a practice that has been around since ancient times. The goal is to help remove digestive waste (sometimes dating back years depending on how well you naturally eliminate) that can be toxic to the body.
The difference between enemas and colonics
You may have also heard of enemas. While enemas and colonics both aim to cleanse the colon by introducing water (or other liquids, such as coffee, which has become very popular in recent years) via the rectum and have similar benefits, there are some key differences between the two treatments.
- Enemas are a one-time infusion of water. Colonics involve multiple infusions. So with an enema, you basically have a set amount of liquid and once it’s infused that’s it. When you get a colon hydrotherapy treatment, you visit a spa or wellness facility that uses an irrigation machine that essentially has an unlimited supply of water available for the treatment. We’ll get into the specific of the treatment below, but think of a colonic as a sort of rinse, flush, repeat scenario.
- Enemas can be administered by yourself at home with a DIY kit. Colonics treatments are provided to you by trained, certified therapists with the use of specialized equipment.
- Enemas only reach the lower colon, whereas colonic can cleanse a much larger portion of your bowel. The below image helps demonstrate this.
Photo courtesy of Hawaii Naturopathic Retreat
What are the benefits of colonics?
Getting just one colonic may be equivalent to have many regular bowl movements. The main benefit of receiving a colonic is that the treatment has the potential to remove a substantial amount of toxins from your body. Typically, the very first treatment you receive will primarily eliminate more recent waste from your colon. But, subsequent sessions have the potential to remove years of older, hardened waste from your colon as the water irrigation and hydration of your colon walls helps to soften and dislodge the impacted waste.
Benefits of colon hydrotherapy may include:
- Weight loss
- Reduced bloating and gas
- A flatter stomach
- An overall boost in energy
- Improved athletic performance
- Increased metabolism
- Clearer more radiant skin
- Fresher breathe and body oder
- Mental clarity
- Improved mood and relief from anxiety and depression
- Better sleep
- Strengthened immune system
- Reduced abdominal pain
- More frequent and productive bowl movements
- Better nutrient absorption
- Prevention of bowl disorders, illness and disease
- Overall improved sense of wellbeing
Your colon is so important that recent studies have proved that the health of your colon affects 60% of your body’s overall health.
How do you know if you should get a colonic?
A poorly functioning colon not only affects your digestion, but may also affect your weight, skin, cognition, immunity and overall health and wellbeing. The main function of the colon is to remove waste (feces) and toxins (bile) from the body, but when your colon isn’t functioning properly, and this waste builds up in your system, these toxins continue to build up in the colon’s cell walls until they have no where to go and must return back into the body – thus making you sick. (gross, right!?). As these toxins seep back into your body, the potential for auto-toxicity, an allergic response to the toxins, increases. If these toxins aren’t removed, overtime, a slow moving colon can lead to more serious digestive disorders such as ulcerative colitis, IBS, colon cancer and Crohn’s disease, etc.
If you answer yes to a number of the below questions, it may be indicative of a poorly functioning or backed up colon.
- Do you have difficulty emptying your bowels or have less then 2-3 daily bowel movements? (P.S. – a bowel movement after having coffee is kind of an assisted movement. Ideally, you want to be eliminating naturally, on your own body’s accord).
- Do you have constipation or take supplements to keep yourself regular?
- Is your stool hard, have the consistency of heavy paste or is primarily liquid (diarrhea)?
- Do you experience excessive bloating, gas and abdominal distention?
- Do you suffer with pain, nausea, cramping, rectal bleeding and mucus in the stool?
- Are you tired and sluggish even with plenty of sleep?
- Are you struggling to lose weight despite eating a healthy diet?
- Is you skin is pale with dark spots or acne prone?
- Do you experience bad breath or foul body odor even though you practice good hygiene?
- Are you frequently getting sick?
- Do you have a family history of Colon Diseases or Colon/Rectal Cancer?
- Are you experiencing excessive brain fog?
- Do you suffer from candida, yeast, or parasites?
- Do you often have pain under your upper right or middle area of your rib cage?
- Do you suffer from Liver or Gallbladder issues?
*It’s important to note, if you have a serious condition/illness or are pregnant or breastfeeding, please consult your physician before getting a colonic.
How do you prep for a colonic?
The way you prepare for a colonic can really raise or lower the potential benefits of your treatment.
At a minimum, you want to try to avoid consuming meat, dairy and bread the 24-48 hours prior to your session and stick to a diet rich in fresh, whole foods, fruits and vegetables. I would also toss in that you should abstain from alcohol during this time as well. When prepping for your session, you want to help reduce the possibility of inflammation in your body by avoiding foods and beverages that are triggering.
With that said, here is how I prepared for my first and second colonic:
I’ve been eating pescatarian and have cut out dairy (products from cows) entirely for the last 60 days, so avoiding meat and dairy was pretty simple. I also already eat a diet rich in fruits, veggies and whole foods – so again easy peasy.
48 Hours Prior
I also avoided dairy products from other livestock animals, alcohol, sugar and grains as well (sprouted breads, quinoa, edamame pasta, etc.) I started each day with either a green smoothie or green juice and made sure to incorporate a lot of vegetables.
My appointment was at 11am, so I did a HIIT workout in the morning and then fasted (I usually intermittent fast anyways, so that wasn’t a big deal). I also had lots of water and a black coffee. I wanted to make sure I eliminated before going into my appointment so the session wouldn’t be spent removing super recent waste.
I scheduled my second colonic treatment one week later (there’s a reason for this I’ll get into) and in addition to following most of the above, here are a few things I’m doing differently:
48 Hours Prior / Day Of
This time I’m doing a juice cleanse. I’m doing this to stop my digestive system, but am using the nutrients from the juice to make sure I stay nourished. Basically, I don’t want to put anything “new” into the system so when I go in for my treatment, we can really try to remove much older waste. I’m using juices made from mostly veggies and am drinking lots of water, tea and may mix in some keto coffee.
I also have a third treatment scheduled, but haven’t started prepping for it yet, so I will update this post once that happens.
What actually happens during a colonic treatment?
Alright, the real reason you’re probably reading this… what the hell goes on when you actually get a colonic. Buckle up, here we go.
Before we actually started my treatment, I filled out a health history form and chatted with Ciara briefly about why I was coming in and my reasons for being interested in colonics. Much of what you’d expect before starting any wellness therapy.
The Treatment Itself
When we were ready to get started, Ciara instructed me to go to use the restroom one last time to empty my bladder and then showed me into the treatment room where she handed me a hospital gown. I undressed, put on the gown (with the backside open) and got on the treatment table. The table is similar to an examination table at your physician’s office, with the sanitary roll of paper over it, except this table also had what looked like a doggy pee pad (lol) on it as well. There was also a triangular pillow wedge at the head of the table (also with sanitary paper over it) so you could lay back but still be propped up. The room itself is akin to any spa treatment room – soft lighting with calming music and decor.
To begin the treatment, you roll over onto your side in fetal pose so the therapist can insert the disposable speculum into your rectum. Don’t worry – there’s lube on it. Ciara and her staff also do a great job of walking you through breathing exercises so you can stay completely relaxed during the insertion. It was a really easy and smooth process. Once the speculum is in place, you turn onto your back, facing up.
While there is only one speculum that is inserted, the hose itself has two lines. One line brings clean water in and a larger line takes waste and dirty water out. A lot of people think that with a colonic, you’re literally being hosed out, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. What’s actually happening is that as water is gently (it moves real slow) flows into the colon, the pressure that is created promotes a reflexive contraction of the colon muscles (kind of what it feels like when you need to go), called peristalsis. It’s this natural process that then forces the waste out of your colon, through the exit hose and into a closed disposal system.
So basically, once the speculum is in. You just lay there. The therapist will turn the water on, and it will go inside you and then come back out often times carrying waste with it. As the treatment goes on, the therapist may incorporate things like stomach massage to help dislodge waste. The therapist may also do things like pause the exist hose to allow for more water to fill into your colon (aka deeper into your system) and then flush it all out. The hydrotherapy unit the speculum is hooked up to also has a pressure gauge on it (in addition to controls for temperature and flow of entry/exit water), so the therapist can closely monitor this entire process and make sure you’re safe and never filled too far. Although, our colons can hold many many liters of water.
While this is happening, here is how you may feel. Often times, it feels like you need to go number two… which… is kind of a scary feeling because you’re sitting on this table in front of a stranger basically hoping you don’t push the tube out out of your butt and poop all over the table (to be real fucking candid). BUT, it’s not going to happen – don’t worry. I even expressed this to Ciara, and she filled me on how the speculum is weighted and there’s just no way that would occur. And while it feels natural to want to “contract” so you don’t accidentally eliminate, that’s actually the opposite of what you want to do. You want to stay totally relaxed and avoid tensing up to allow for the eliminations to happen. Some people may feel cramping through this process – I didn’t get a whole lot of cramping in my first session though. But, the therapist will apply some message and reflexology to help push out gas pockets and provide you with more comfort.
The part that was most fascinating and satisfying to me was being able to actually see the waste being removed from my body. You don’t have to look if you don’t want to, but I’m a freak like that and like I said, LOVE making things super clean. As the waste and bile go out you can see it since the tube is clear, but you defintielyyyyyy can’t smell it and there’s not chance of it accidentally leaking out. Also, you shouldn’t be embarrassed or shameful about the fact that the therapist can see your waste! Number one, it’s their job so I’m pretty sure they are use to it by now. Number two, most therapists are extremely fascinated and passionate about the digestive system and how much it contributes to your health. So they’re usually pretty jazzed on being able to help you achieve better wellness and health.
A typical treatment lasts about 45 minutes. If you’re lucky like me and have an amazing hydrotherapist, you’ll be chatting, super comfortable and time will fly by.
Towards the end of your treatment, you often have the option to include an additive. Living Water Wellness offers three additives: probiotic, coffee and wheat grass/chlorophyll. I got the probiotic additive because you know I love gut health. And what’s amazing is that these probiotics are being directly delivered to where they need to go! When you take a probiotic orally, a lot of times the majority of bacteria get killed off before they even make it to your lower GI tract, where they need to be in order to thrive. The coffee additive is amazing for liver cleansing (I’ll be doing coffee during my second one), and the wheat grass or chlorophyll additive is high in enzymes and helps improve digestion.
If you book a session at Living Water Wellness and want a probiotic additive, you must request it. For regulation reasons, hydrotherapists are not permitted to offer the probiotic to you. So if you want it, ask for it. Also, if you want the coffee or wheat grass additive, you must provide the coffee and wheat grass yourself.
When it’s time to wrap up, the therapist will turn the water off, wait for all the waste water to drain out and then remove the speculum. There’s no mess or drip (I know you’re probably wondering about that) because that’s not how your anus works – we sometimes forget because we just get nervous.
All in all, the entire treatment is VERY civilized and clean. You’ll leave thinking, “oh, that was pretty cool and not really a big deal.”
So the treatment is done and the speculum is removed. You use the restroom one more time just to empty your bladder and in case you need to. Then you get dressed and go on your way!
It’s VERY important to note that after your colonic, you want to make sure to stay super hydrated. Your body will likely have eliminated quite a bit, so you need to refuel with good nutrients and lot’s water.
In terms of what you can eat right after a colonic, there really aren’t any limitations, but Ciara said something that stuck with me. She said, after a colonic, your body is very open to receiving, so choose well what you want to replenish it with. I opted for a freshly pressed green juice – it just felt really good to give myself a rush of nutrients from veggies and then continued on to a salad for lunch and some fish and veggies for dinner.
How do you feel after a colonic?
The day of my first colonic, I left my schedule completely open because I didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t sure if I would maybe need to be near a restroom all day. But honestly, I felt completely normal. I think I eliminated once more after the treatment, but beyond that it was business as usual.
In the days following my first session, I’ve had really excellent energy and my mood has been great. I did notice a small decrease in bloating after my first session as well. As I write this, it’s been just shy of one week since my first treatment, and I have noticed that my skin has been looking really amazing. I’m glowing and have been breaking out far less! My digestion has been maybe slightly better, but not a major change.
What comes next?
I’ve learned that the major shifts start to happen after your first three series of colonics. Ideally, you book your first three treatments no more than a week apart from each other. The reason you do this is because you want to have your subsequent treatment completed while your colon is still hydrated. In doing so, you can increase the likelihood of breaking down older, more hardened waste on your colon walls (aka a deeper clean). When you wait too long in between sessions your colon can dry out again so when you go in for your second or third treatment, it’s almost like starting from scratch versus where you left off.
At the end of your initial series of treatments, your hydrotherapist will recommend when or how often you would be advised to receive additional treatments – either to continue strengthening a poorly functioning colon or for maintenance. It depends on what your wellness needs and concerns are.
Of course, you can go in for just one treatment if you want to try it out – you don’t need to book multiple sessions. Actually, I had originally only booked one session and then after experiencing the treatment, booked two more because I really enjoyed it and wanted to complete my initial three.
Overall, I’m definitely a fan of colonics and had an amazing experience at Living Water Wellness. I’m super excited to see what other shifts happen for me after my second and third treatments.
If you enjoyed this post, have further questions or want to chat feel free to send me a message on Instagram!
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If you have a serious condition/illness or are pregnant or breastfeeding, please consult your physician before getting a colonic.