Sunday, December 11, 2011

Colonic Hydrotherapy and Colon Cleansing; Time to Bend Over?

Garden Hoses in Assorted Colors

A few times each month, a patient asks me for my opinion on colonics. They ask me because I am a gastroenterologist, and I am supposed to know this stuff. After 2 decades of performing colonic intrusions, I should be well qualified to respond to these alimentary inquiries.

To those who are unfamiliar with the concept of colonic detoxification, I offer a brief rationale of the procedure. Those who have been lured into the Fraternal Association of Rare Toxins (acronym not provided) have been persuaded that stagnant stool within the colon is a source of toxins that seep into the body causing disease. According to the anti-toxin crowd, when stool overstays its colonic welcome, it can lead to chronic fatigue, lassitude, restlessness, irritability, mood disorders, skin rashes, arthritis, cardiac rhythm disturbances, seizures, allergies, dementia and the murky diagnosis of candidiasis, or yeast infection. This symptom list could apply to half of my medical practice. So far, I've never prescribed a colonic to any of these sufferers. Have I been medically negligent to withhold this treatment from them?  Could a plaintiff attorney accuse me for failure to cleanse?

This is a scary symptom list, which is only a partial listing of the maladies attributed to a slothful colon. Patients reading through these symptoms, might be inclined to use a garden hose for an unintended purpose. Amateurs, however, are strongly advised not to do try this at home. Leave it to the professionals, who are trained to separate you from your stool and you from your money. They succeed on both counts.

To assist you in your research efforts, be aware that there are various names for colonics.
  • Colonic cleansing
  • Colonic hydrotherapy
  • Colonic irrigation
  • High colonics
  • Wallet cleansing
Then names may change, but the mission doesn’t. The objective is to get the colon toxins out. The motto of the Society of Hydrotherapists Investigating Toxins (acronym not provided)  is, Don’t just die, detoxify!

If any readers at this point are tremulous over your toxins, let me reassure you.  There is no science that supports colonic cleansing and no responsible medical doctor will prescribe them.  Indeed, if a health professional does recommend that your colon gets hosed down, I'd look for a second opinion.  Obviously, stool is waste matter.  That's why your intestinal system reliably and regularly eliminates it from your body. There is no persuasive scientific evidence that dangerous 'toxins' in your stool leech into your body and cause disease in normal folks. Hydrocolonic power washing can't compete against millions of years of human evolution. 

But, colonic hydrotherapy is big business, and I'm aiming to get a piece of the action.When health care reform gets underway in a few years, and doctors are on salary working supervised by government bureaucrats, I’ll need a side job to make a living. The colon can again be my pathway to success, particularly as colonscopy becomes obsolete. I’ll need a niche as the colonics competition will be fierce, from out-of-work gastroenterologists who will be on the street corner with a sign that reads, Will Do Colonic for Food. However, it won’t be enough to offer routine colonics to gain a foothold in the marketplace. I will need to provide a Bionic Colonic, or perhaps a Supersonic Colonic to turn a profit. Of course, there will be family discounts and volume pricing. Kids under 12 will be half-price. Tuesdays will be Ladies Night. Pets? Endless possibilities.

A year ago, I was worried that health care reform legislation, if it became law, would erode my livelihood. More wiser now, I realize health care reform will be a fountain of opportunities for resourceful physicians. For this gastroenterologist, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.


  1. While you may not see the necessity of Colonics a lot of people have seen improvements in their health that they had not otherwise.

    One great example is the success that the American Naturopath Bernard Jensen had with his bowel cleansing regime and is documented in his book Tissue Cleansing through Bowel Management

    Sandy Halliday

  2. Thanks, Sandy, for your comment. I have no doubt that some folks feel better after colonics, but I think that the scientific basis for these results is lacking. However, conventional physicians like myself often prescribe treatments that are not evidence based.

  3. MDW-- great topic for a post. I've long wanted to write an expose of this practice where it flourishes on the south side of chicago.

    surprisingly, i've never seen anyone in the hospital with an (admitted) adverse event from one.

    now that i've moved on further west (oklahoma!) i'm learning about new local and folk health customs, like Continually Revisiting About Pain (acronym not provided), as we have what seems to be a staggering amount of opioid use and abuse here.

    haven't stumbled into colonics as of yet, but will keep my eyes open (and nose closed).


  4. @GH, This is not just an Okee phenom. I've never seen so much dilaudid pushed in my life. It seems half the hospital is on a standing order. With the effect these drugs have on the colon, we should bring in some high colonics. Thanks for commenting.

  5. Enjoyed reading this post. Continued success in 2012!

  6. I do something that's semi-alternative. I'm an adherent of the paleo diet, and I've lost so much weight eating the foods allowed on it!

  7. Thanks, Doc, for an entertaining and enlightening article! I don't disagree with a word of it. However, I am one of those unfortunate souls who suffers from a lifelong sluggish system, and problems with this even led to a hemmoroidectomy at the young age of 44. Bugger of a deal. I'm recovering from some breast-cancer related surgery, and have tried every trick in the book to get things moving again. It's been a week, and I have a major blockage. Problem is, I can't give myself a doggone enema - - takes too much core muscle. So, I found your article while trying to find someone in my area who might be able to help me in this arena. Cuz I'm desperate at this point. Thanks for the chuckles. I plan to read more of your expose's and commentary. They are great. - - ks

  8. Hi,
    What lovely post you are sharing here. Colon hydrotherapy can helps to clean the colon.There are various other techniques to clean the colon.
    Colon treatment

  9. I want Dr Kirsch to be my doctor. His blogs are hilarious. Since laughter is the BEST medicine, even better than colonics, I would likely feel healthy and refreshed after seeing this doctor. I have been reading through his blogs and this one was particularly amusing.
    Thank you Dr. Kirsch.

  10. I will admit to having had this treatment several time over the years, and each time I have felt better more energized and quite frankly have lost weight, I am not sure about the toxins but for a girl who has ALWAYS had problems being regular this treatment when done periodically helps tremendously! I just finished chemo and radiation for breast cancer and I would like to help my body purge any residual "toxins" that remain so I am back to the colonic center in a week to get my power wash!!:-) I don't know how scientific it is but I can tell you that it does help.

  11. At the age of 19 I suffered terribly from a duodenal ulcer, as diagnosed by a physician after performing an upper G.I. His "cure" for my ulcer?!? "Take Maalox, drink milk, and don't eat any raw fruits and vegetables - "they irritate the stomach," he said.) After following his regimen for several weeks I told him that I still had severe pain, that I was constipated and whenever I tried to go to the bathroom, I was bleeding from my rectum? His "solution?" Go to the 4th floor to see a psychiatrist. He added, "it's all in your head." As it happens it was all in my colon and not in my head. After several more months of excruciating pain and sheer agony, when I seriously contemplated suicide (I am glad I did not inform my "doctor" of this fact, or he would have put me on an antidepressant), I met a man who simply told me to buy some fresh squeezed carrot and spinach juice and drink it every day. Several hours after the first two glasses I sat on the toilet and for the first time in more than a year I had a normal stool. Under my friend's guidance, I immediately started doing research on colonic irrigations and followed a strict vegetarian regime which continues to this day. I have done hundreds of colonics over the past 30 years with nothing but POSITIVE effects.

    When my son was 10 years old he suffered an intestinal blockage which two "doctors" (one a "pediatrician") could not diagnose, despite the X-ray they took. After four visits, which included blood and stool tests, they were at a loss about my son's condition. I mentioned colonic therapy, only to be informed that it was a "very dangerous procedure." The result? One colonic irrigation later my son was just fine and had no more abdominal pain.

    In your article you write that "scientific basis for these results is lacking." Well, I am sure glad that "scientific basis" is not lacking for Maalox, Xanax, Zoloft and Wellbutrin. My 80 year-old mother almost committed suicide after taking Xanax, which was prescribed to her by a "doctor" for her "anxiety attacks." When he heard about my mother's intention to commit suicide, the "doctor" suggested Zoloft instead. Luckily, I intervened and saved my mother just in time.

    A good friend of mine was stabbed in 11 times in the chest by his girl-friend, who was under the influence of Xanax at the time.

    Bravo, American Medical Association. You are doing a great job!

    Gabriel Alexander

  12. It is hard to have a clean colon when you're already suffering from these symptoms.

  13. While I found your blog hilarious. I also feel a little sad and defeated. I was hoping to find some gastro doc who supported colonic hydrotherapy. I have had so many problems since birth,and for 33 years I've seen specialist after specialist. Done bloodwork, xrays with dye, xrays without dye, and in the end I just still feel like I'm gonna die. I wonder if it might help people if maybe some doctor did a study to see if there was a chance it could help people. What if you really are making your patients suffer. and you could have helped them? Isn't that worth investigating?

  14. These days, I'm always looking for an extra buck. If a garden hose works, would it be legal for me to open a sort of makeshift clinic on my lawn, next to my kids' lemonade stand? I could hang sheets for my patients' privacy concerns.

  15. @Dolmance, you may wish to check first with your city's business code before launching your entrepeneurial pursuit. I would not want you get hosed!