Irrigation and laxatives without a Stoma
On this page you will find information about purging and irrigating the intestines if you do not (yet) have a stoma. You can do this if you have problems with constipation, or the opposite: faecal incontinence.
The following topics are covered:
Irrigating the large intestine
Eliene's experience of Colon Hydrotherapy
If you have problems with constipation or even blockages then you look for stopgap solutions. First of all there are enemas. Fluid is introduced into the rectum via the anus by means of a squeeze-bottle or a bag with a tube. Between five and twenty minutes later you feel a strong urge to go and often also have stomach cramps, after which the fluid and faeces are evacuated. Enemas are not innocuous remedies but real medicines with possible side effects and, if used in the long term, can be dangerously habit-forming (you van develop a lazy bowel). Use them only for a short time and on your doctor’s advice.
Return to top
Irrigating the large intestine
Rather than using laxatives, it is better to rinse or irrigate your large intestine with water. First and foremost you reach much more of your large intestine (approximately one third) and secondly water does not harm your intestine but cleans it. How is this done? You use an irrigation pouch with a tube and possibly a cone (a conical rubber tip at the end of the tube) which you then suspend somewhere. The height difference between the ground and the irrigating bag is hereby very important: if the irrigating bag is too high the water will run in too fast.
The pouch is filled with (sterilised) water. You can dissolve camomile (this helps to calm, soften and prevent infection), a pinch of salt or a little sunflower oil in the lukewarm water. Make sure that the water is not too hot!
It must be roughly at body temperature. You let the water run into your intestine through the tube in your anus; this is best done lying down. Any faeces will gradually mix with the water. When the intestine is filled beyond its capacity, there is a (gastrocolic) reflex when the peristaltic movement of the intestine will start to work. In this way the large intestine can empty itself. When you sit on the toilet the faeces are evacuated from the body together with the water that has been introduced. You need roughly half an hour/1 hour for this. Always do this in consultation with your doctor!
Picture source: the original is from
It can be physically difficult to insert the tube/cone. You can use a special irrigation accessory for this so that you do not need to ask for help You can place the tube in the in the pipe with the notch and the black part is the handle. This special accessory is not for sale but can be made to order.
Picture source: and text:
In order to irrigate your intestine you can use an irrigation pump instead of an irrigation bag. The advantage of a pump like this over an irrigation bag is that you can change the water pressure with the pump yourself. You do not need to hang it up but can simply leave it lying on the ground. Also you do not need to lie down while using the irrigation pump, you can irrigate in a sitting position. Coloured lights on the pump indicate water temperature i.e. whether it is too hot or too cold.
There is also the Peristeen Anal irrigation Set. This is a complete system for irrigating the bowels and primarily meant for people who, as a result of neurological disorder, have problems with chronic constipation and faecal incontinence. The set consists of a pump which you use with your hand, or if you have poor manipulation, with the underarm or elbow. During the irrigation you have both hands free because you can attach the pump using a strap to the thigh. You can place the reservoir on the ground; it is not necessary to hang it up. The rectal catheter is coated and is therefore very smooth.
Picture source: Coloplast
The quantity of water used varies in each person. The recommendation for adults is 500 to 1500 millilitres. You can often feel yourself what is the best amount of water to use. With children is depends on the body weight: approximately 20 millilitre of water per kilogram.
Return to top
Colon hydrotherapy is the cleansing (irrigation) of the whole large intestine (colon) up to the small intestine by means of a colonic irrigation appliance which uses filtered water (hydro) at body temperature. In fact it is no different from what is described above, only on a larger scale. Colon irrigation has taken place and been considered an important medical procedure in all cultures over centuries. In the olden days it was administered in a primitive fashion but in the past few decades this therapy has become increasingly popular in Germany and America. It is only in the last few years that high colonic irrigation has spread to Benelux.
The large intestine is the last part of the digestive system and is approximately 1.5 meters long. If there is an unhealthy environment in the bowel, for example through stress, an unhealthy lifestyle or medicine use, a layer of baked, solid faeces (slurry, sludge) can attach to the bowel wall. This layer reduces the absorption of nutrients and poisons can be produced. If these poisons stay in the bowel for too long, they are reabsorbed via the bowel wall into the blood system and thereby reach other organs such as the kidneys and liver. This process is called self-poisoning or “intestinal auto-intoxication”. These poisons can cause physical complaints in all sorts of places. By irrigating the bowel it can be completely cleaned preventing formation of air, fermentation and adhesive faeces. Colon hydrotherapy can help with for example diarrhoea, constipation, an irritable bowel, diverticulitis, absorption diseases and adhesive faeces. This therapy is also often used as an complete therapy during a cleansing cure. High bowel cleansing is also used as preparation for a surgical intervention or as a post-operative treatment after a bowel operation. The therapy is not recommended during an acute phase of Crohn’s, by bowel cancer, during pregnancy and under the age of 16 years old.
How does irrigation work in practice? Beforehand it is advisable to take a mild laxative, such as Milk of Magnesia, to promote the effect of the cleansing. It is not necessary do this on an empty stomach. However, it is advisable not to drink too much before the procedure and to urinate just beforehand. During the treatment you lie on a table with a sheet over the lower half of your body. Very often a hot water bottle will be placed under your feet. A small canula (tube) is introduced into your anus. Attached to this are a discharge and feed pipe which in turn are connected to the irrigation appliance. One pipe feeds in warm water and the other discharges the water, mucous, faeces and waste products. The discharge pipe is connected to a glass tube where it is possible to see what is being flushed away. Since the whole system is closed there are no unpleasant smells.
Picture source: Folder by M.R. Hoeksema te Utrecht
Warm water flows into the large intestine until a certain pressure level is reached; you can indicate when you feel this. Then the discharge pipe is opened and the irrigation water can flow out together with the waste products. This process of flowing in and out is repeated a number of times, each time reaching a higher part of the intestine. By filling the intestine with warm water the intestinal folds open up and any decomposed remains which have been stuck in the intestine for years are loosened and washed out. They are visible as crusty deposits, small stones and tar- like material – otherwise known as ‘snails’.
During the irrigation a qualified nurse or natural practitioner will massage your stomach; this helps to loosen the faeces and mucous remains which have been trapped in the folds and also promotes the outflow of water. The advantage of this type of treatment is that the body is in a horizontal position which is ideal for relaxing. The treatment lasts for 45 minutes to an hour. It is usually not painful and in fact the sensation of warm water in the large intestine can be quite pleasant. After irrigation you can go to the toilet to get rid of any remaining water. Afterwards you are often given a cup of tea or soup to put you back on your feet. As the intestines are empty it usually takes a few days before a normal bowel pattern is established. After treatment a lot of people feel relieved and clean.
A lot of people have a series of colonic irrigations for prophylactic reasons once a year to give the large intestine a thorough cleansing. Just how many irrigations you require depends on your problems and condition. It is often suggested that irrigation should take place 3 to 4 times once or twice a week.
At one point my intestines were so full that the radiologist who had taken a picture of my stomach said to me quite literally: “it won’t be long before the poop starts coming out of the other end, girlie”. My skin was getting yellower, I was retaining fluid, my face was breaking out, I was breathing shallowly because my stomach was so full, my hair was falling out, I had stomach-ache, back-ache, felt sick all the time, I was exhausted and hadn’t eaten for weeks. Enemas were no longer any good as they did not reach high enough. The faeces in my intestines had hardened to a stone-like consistency…
Someone told me about an irrigation clinic which I had not heard about before. In the beginning I found it embarrassing to lie there with nothing on watching the poop come out. But I soon noticed an improvement. Very gradually all the old faeces were softened and eliminated. Slowly all my problems disappeared. At first I went once a week and after a while only once every two weeks, then once a month and so on. As I could no longer go to the toilet of my own accord, I learned how to irrigate my large intestine at home with an irrigation bag. I could only reach a third of my intestine, but this was enough to ensure a free flow.
I had expected that after a few months, all the excrement would have been eliminated, I would no longer have to go to the irrigation clinic and that my irrigation at home would be sufficient. But after a year and a half I had to go to the clinic increasingly more often. It seemed that I could no longer go on without colon hydrotherapy. I found that to be quite a frightening thought, to be so dependent. I was most happy when a high colonic irrigation was necessary again so that I could say when I wanted to make another appointment. Sometimes I had to go twice a week. As a result of a week away on vacation and no high colonic irrigation I felt myself filling up and all the old problems started slowly coming back.
Since it is quite an intimate procedure, I was pleased that I had the same person, with whom I got on well, treating me each time. All in all, I had some 40 high colonic irrigations in 2 years: I was a regular customer! After I had my stoma, the irrigations in the clinic were no longer necessary. In the beginning it was odd not to have to go there any more – you get used to these things. I can definitely say that the irrigation clinic was my salvation and I have no idea what would have happened if I hadn’t ended up there.