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What Is Bowel Irrigation?

Article summary:

  • Learn the difference between whole bowel irrigation and colonic irrigation
  • Understand the reasons for bowel irrigation
  • Find out how you can cleanse your bowels safely and naturally

Bowel irrigation can have two different meanings, depending on what you are looking for: whole bowel irrigation (WBI) or colonic irrigation.

Both are medical procedures, although whole bowel irrigation is much more invasive.

In this article, we’ll explore both. We will also look at their role in bowel and digestive health – and why you may not need either if you take the proper steps.

Whole bowel irrigation (WBI)

Whole bowel irrigation is a rarely used medical procedure. You cannot self-administer, nor would you want to. Its purpose is to clear the entire gastrointestinal tract as an extreme measure in response to a potentially life-threatening situation or in preparation for intestinal surgery.

Who needs whole bowel irrigation?

Doctors may choose to recommend or do whole bowel irrigation for the following reasons:

  • A patient is about to undergo surgery on the intestines.
  • An individual ingested or overdosed on a large amount of sustained-release or enteric-coated medicines or drugs.
  •  Someone ingested a life-threatening dose of medications that cannot be treated by activated charcoal. No other bowel cleansing methods would be appropriate or work. Examples include an overdose of lithium, lead, or iron supplements.
  •  The ingestion of illicit drugs.
  •  Medicated skin patches were ingested.
  •  Water or gel beads were swallowed (and there is no sign of bowel obstruction).

How WBI is done

Whole bowel irrigation should only be performed by medical professionals. The patient must be monitored throughout the entire procedure. And enough polyethylene glycol must be readied for the entire procedure, which can last up to six hours. Here is how WBI is done:

  • A doctor or nurse will insert a nasogastric tube through the nose and into the stomach – this is the only way to perform this procedure.
  • Patients are given a drug called metoclopramide intravenously to limit potential vomiting and encourage the emptying of the stomach.
  • Activated charcoal will be administered via the tube unless a metallic substance has been ingested.
  • The polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution is pumped into the stomach.

If possible, the healthcare professional will have the patient sit on a toilet. The treatment lasts until the discharge becomes clear.

Contraindications of whole bowel irrigation, or why it's a rare procedure

WBI is done strictly when complete gastrointestinal decontamination is necessary, such as when toxic ingestions of sustained-release or enteric-coated drugs or packets of illicit drugs have occurred.

You wouldn’t do this as part of a colon cleanse. And often, due to the reaction of an individual to the substances ingested, the procedure cannot be done. For example, it cannot be done if someone is uncooperative, vomiting, at risk for seizure or unconsciousness, or has a bowel obstruction. In these cases, the nasogastric tube cannot be inserted into the gastrointestinal tract.

Side effects of whole bowel irrigation

It’s really no surprise that a technique like whole bowel irrigation comes with serious risks of adverse effects. These could include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Damage to the gastrointestinal tract and possibly other organs
  • Dangerous allergic reactions

The WBI treatment also comes with a risk of death. Fortunately, if you only seek a cleanse, detox, or decontamination of your colon and digestive tract, you have other options.

Alternative bowel cleansing option #1: Colonic irrigation

Colonic irrigation, also called colon hydrotherapy, is very different from the traditional definition of whole bowel irrigation.

The water or solution used enters through a tube inserted into the rectum and up into the colon (your large intestine). The technique only aims to clear out any residual waste that has built up in the colon.

It has become a popular method for colon cleansing.

If you decided to try it, you should have the treatment performed by a medical professional. It is also recommended that you ask the provider for information about their practice to confirm that new tubes and medical equipment are used for each patient and procedure.

Although it is generally safer than whole bowel irrigation, the risk of complications still exists.

When is colonic irrigation necessary?

Colonic irrigation may be recommended by a doctor prior to a colonoscopy. Whole bowel irrigation may be necessary to purge the gastrointestinal tract of dangerous substances. Aside from those two instances, colonic irrigation itself is rarely, if ever, necessary.

Even doctors have moved away from it as much as possible for colonoscopy prep – they prefer to use an over-the-counter technique called the Miralax™ Gatorade® bowel prep.

Yet, colon hydrotherapy has grown in popularity as a way to cleanse the colon of waste buildup. 

Why do people choose bowel irrigation?

Waste buildup in your colon disrupts digestion. It makes you gassy, bloated, and uncomfortable. And constipation never feels good.

Bowel problems can interfere with your absorption of nutrients from your food. And if you don’t get enough nutrition, your metabolism slows. You gain weight. Your body slowly starts to weaken and even break down – not only in your gut but everywhere.

Many people have become aware of this. And the idea isn’t new. The ancient Romans would get enemas in an effort to cleanse their lower digestive tracts.

Bowel irrigation, specifically colonic irrigation, flushes your large intestine with water, speeding the removal of any waste that you haven’t passed.

Yet, as noted, it isn’t necessary. There are other ways you can cleanse your bowels that do not come with potentially adverse effects.

Potential side effects of colonic hydrotherapy

The insertion of any physical object, like tubes, into the body comes with risks of complications. This would be especially true if they were not clean and sterilized. In that case, infection is a genuine risk.

You also risk damage to tissue along with adverse reactions to any of the solutions that might be used.

Most professionals who practice bowel irrigation do so safely. However, you should always get all the information and know the risks of any treatment or technique, especially if you are doing it to protect your health.

Is an enema a type of bowel irrigation?

Enemas and colonic, or bowel irrigation, are different treatments.

The administration of an enema can be done at home or in the office of a healthcare practitioner. A person should always be careful if self-administering at home, especially if solutions are used.

An enema also typically cleanses the lower section of the colon.

Colonic irrigation is a more invasive medical procedure and should be performed by a trained professional, though it will cleanse the entire colon.

Safe and natural bowel cleansing practices

Clearly, whole bowel irrigation is not meant for cleansing the bowels – unless it’s a dire situation.

Colonic irrigation is an option. It does involve an investment of time and cost, and there is always some risk.

Unless medically recommended, however, you probably don’t need any medical treatment to cleanse your bowels. In fact, they’re made to purge themselves of waste. All you need to do is support their natural processes. Here are some ways you can.

Colonic irrigation is a more invasive medical procedure and should be performed by a trained professional, though it will cleanse the entire colon.

Eat more fiber

It may sound simple, but fiber is nature’s original colon cleanser. The recommended daily fiber intake today is between 25-35 grams. According to some studies, our ancestors ate more than 100 grams a day. Work your way to that number, and you’ll probably find cleansing happens every day.

Drink plenty of water

If you dehydrate, you don’t have enough water in the colon to keep your stool soft.

Add enzymes to your diet

Digestive enzymes break down your food, reducing the chance undigested food will reach the colon and cause problems. Metabolic (also known as systemic) enzymes clear excess protein from your digestive tract and bloodstream. Every process in your body relies on enzymes.

You can get enzymes from food, though processed foods have none, and many of our fruits and vegetables lose their enzyme counts by the time they reach the stores. Plus, your body produces fewer as you age.

It’s no surprise that so many of our customers who start taking Digest Infused and Metabolic Infused report amazing results and living better.

Get probiotics in your diet or via a supplement

Those beneficial probiotic bacteria play a vital role in digestion. Make sure you support your gut’s bacteria levels. You can eat foods like miso and tempeh, or take supplements like Flora Infused.

Take a gentle colon cleansing supplement

You can find a lot of colon cleanses. Many use harsh herbal laxatives. They may work to get you going, but they also come with side effects. You want to avoid these. Instead, look for those that contain gentle ingredients. For example, oxygenated magnesium like that in Cleanse Infused Plus supplies oxygen to the digestive tract. There, the oxygen breaks up waste, kills harmful bacteria and germs, supports your immune system in the gut, and softens stool.

If you want to do a colon cleanse, you don’t need to look to medical procedures. Colon Cleanse supplements like Cleanse Infused Plus work on your schedule. You can take them in seconds. And you can get a regular, daily cleanse for less than the cost of a single bowel irrigation.

A gentle, yet powerful colon cleanse supplement powered by oxygenated magnesium, premium herbs and enzymes.

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