Colonics: All Your Questions Answered

Do colonics work and how do they benefit your overall health? We asked an expert to help demystify the science.


by Emma Stoddart |
Updated on

Often referred to as ‘the second brain’, the gut has come under the spotlight in recent years with nutritionists and wellness gurus alike touting the pivotal role our digestive system plays in our overall health. As a result, a bumper crop of supplements and treatments targeting our tums have hit the mainstream. One such treatment, which you may or may not have heard about on Gwyneth Paltrow’s Netflix series, The Goop Lab, is a colonic. The treatment, which irrigates the colon (the last segment of our long digestive tube) by filling it with water before flushing it out, is said to help eliminate waste and cleanse our often-overloaded digestive system.

And while it’s become a staple treatment in several spas and retreats across the globe, we want to know a) if it works and b) what exactly we can expect during the treatment. Otherwise known as colonic irrigation, colon hydrotherapy or internal baths – expert opinion and research in the field is not unanimous on the benefits. Critics argue that the colon is perfectly capable of ‘self-cleaning’ and removing harmful toxins away from the body on its own. Yet advocates say it can reduce bloating, clear harmful bacteria and boost the skin’s radiance.

Although there’s very limited research to support the claims and doctors would probably advise against a colonic, we wanted to quiz a Colonic Practitioner to find out what a regular treatment involves as well as the reported results from clients. Amanda Griggs, Nutritionist and Colonic Practitioner at Urban Retreat has answered all of our burning questions below...

1. What are the main benefits of colonics?

'One of the most important benefits I find with clients is that it kickstarts you into a healthy lifestyle,' says Griggs, 'especially after a prolonged period of overindulgence of refined and processed foods, sugar and excess alcohol.' Colonics can also help treat headaches, allergies, skin problems, intolerances, mental and physical sluggishness that occur as a result of the imbalance in your gut microbiome, adds Griggs.

And for those of us with a slow-moving colon, the treatment can help speed things along. 'The gentle flow of water with varying water temperature and pressure, combined with abdominal massage works to clean the waste matter and also to stimulate the natural nerve and muscle action of the bowels to encourage proper bowel function.'

What's more, a colonic can actually tap into the gut/brain axis to stimulate your gut serotonin. 'The stimulation of our gut serotonin accounts for the fact that clients will often report that they feel lighter and brighter not only physically but emotionally and spiritually, too.'

2. Step-by-step, can you talk us through the treatment?

Step 1: 'Once I am sure you feel at ease, I will ask you to lie on your back so that I can examine your tummy palpating and check for gas pockets and any signs of discomfort.'

Step 2: 'Next, you will lie on your side as a single use sterile speculum is gently inserted about an inch and half into your rectum. Warm water enters your colon and I'll gently fill and release the water using reflex points to stimulate release of matter and gas.'

Step 4: 'You'll then move onto your back and I will massage each area of your abdomen while filling and releasing which helps with effectively clearing each area of the large intestine. The water pressure and temperature are carefully controlled and all the waste is drained away discreetly in a closed system.'

Step 5: 'A total of between 60 and 90 litres of filtered water (depending on the length of the treatment) is passed through your colon. Appropriate herbal tinctures and added infusions may also be used to relax and stimulate the bowel. '

Step 6: 'If the treatment is a success and the bowel has been completely emptied then a probiotic is added at the end or a probiotic capsule will be given to you. To finish, you'll go to the toilet to get rid of any excess water.'

3. Can a colonic wipe out the good bacteria?

'This is one of my most frequently asked questions,' says Griggs. 'Most of the important bowel bacteria are present on the bowel wall and are not removed during colon hydrotherapy. Beneficial bacteria breed best in a balanced environment and a colonic may actually improve their environment and increase their numbers.'

4. Does the treatment hurt or feel uncomfortable?

'You will feel varying sensations of fullness as the water enters your colon with a little pressure,' says Griggs, 'and you will also feel a sense of relief as the waste leaves your colon. The therapist will ask you to tell her/him constantly how you are feeling and adjust the treatment accordingly and will be massaging your abdomen which gives a feeling of comfort too.'

'In cases of very compacted colons, there can be a degree of discomfort as once the stool softens a mass may try to move out of the colon too quickly. In these cases it will be advisable to stop the treatment, get the client to go to the toilet to clear the mass then come back to carry on with the treatment again.'

5. Will you continue to go to the toilet after having a colonic?

'It is generally different for different people. Some people may experience an increase in bowel movements post treatment and for others you may find that it can take more than 24 hours to resume bowel movement.'

6. Who are they most beneficial for?

According to Griggs, almost anyone can benefit from colon hydrotherapy. 'While we don't make exaggerated claims about “curing” problems, experience shows us that colonics can provide relief from a wide range of symptoms.' From digestive issues to general health and wellbeing reasons, Griggs notes that her clients choose a colonic for various different reasons.

7. Can a colonic help or hinder Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

'Often symptoms of a patient are dismissed under a catch-all blanket diagnosis of IBS,' says Griggs. 'Abnormalities in bowel motility, brain-gut interaction, abdominal pain, imbalance in intestinal microbiome, altered gut immunity have all been shown to contribute to IBS.' While the research is limited in the area of colonics and IBS, Griggs advises when used together with healthy lifestyle and diet changes - colonics can be helpful with relieving IBS symptoms.

8. Are there any skincare benefits associated with a colonic?

'Your skin is the largest organ of detoxification. When your other eliminative organs like the colon and liver are overwhelmed, the skin ultimately suffers and can result in breakouts, dryness and appear lacklustre. With a series of colonics and dietary recommendations from an experienced therapist you will see a difference.'

Immediately after a colonic, Griggs will get her clients to look in the mirror to see how bright their skin and eyes look.

To book in for a treatment with Amanda Griggs at Urban Retreat, click here (prices start from £145)

READ MORE: Gut Health: Are You In Know?

READ MORE: 10 Things To Ask Before You Start Taking Supplements

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us