Myths About Colon Hydrotherapy

colon hydrotherapy graphic

Colon hydrotherapy, also known as a colonic, is an age-old practice described in ancient Egyptian medical books, and discussed by famous Greek physicians, such as Hippocrates and Galen. For centuries the cleansing of the colon has been credited with assisting the healing process of chronic and acute illnesses such as diverticulosis, irritable bowl syndrome (IBS), and most commonly, constipation.

Today, several misconceptions about colon hydrotherapy persist, perhaps the most common of which is that it is a painful, or at least an uncomfortable, process.

But this is not necessarily true, says Dr. Darlene Holloway of the Alternative Health Center of Cary. “Most of our clients describe the experience here as a relaxing period during which they can meditate or even go to sleep on the table. When done on a regular basis to maintain optimal colon health, it’s really quite a pleasant process.”

Dr. Holloway, a board certified naturopath and licensed massage therapist with  more than three decades of experience, says colon hydrotherapy is an alternative to mainstream options for restorative and preventive colon care. The primary purpose, Dr. Holloway explains, is detoxification.

“When digestion is not working properly, and you haven’t had a bowel movement for a week or more, toxins build up in your colon and can be reabsorbed by your body. This leads to all kinds of health problems. By gently introducing triple filtered water into the colon, we are helping to break up the stagnated fecal matter, rehydrate the colon, and allow the cells of the body to do their job of breaking down food, extracting the nutrients, and getting rid of the waste.”

So why are colonics so often thought of as painful?

Dr. Holloway prepares a patient for colon hydrotherapy.

Dr. Holloway prepares a patient for colon hydrotherapy.

“Hydrotherapy itself is not uncomfortable,” Dr. Holloway says. “However there are a number of reasons someone may experience minimal discomfort. First, the colon is part of the large intestine and is made up of four layers of muscle. Just like any other muscle in your body, the colon contracts and relaxes when it is being used. When it is not being used on a daily basis, however, the muscle can grow weak. So when we put the muscle back into proper use, there can be some discomfort—just as your leg muscles would get sore if you decided to go for a run when you are not in the habit of doing so.”

The other main reason colonics are sometimes reported as painful, Dr. Holloway notes, is because clients who don’t have normal bowel function—meaning having a bowel movement after every meal or at the very least once a day—are unaccustomed to the feeling of peristalsis. “For people who aren’t used to the feeling of a healthy, functioning colon, when we introduce hydration allowing the muscles to start working again and the toxins to clear out, it is an unfamiliar sensation—which sometimes gets misconstrued as discomfort.”

Additionally, preexisting health conditions can interfere with relaxation during the procedure. “For male clients,” Dr. Holloway says, “it may be that the prostate is enlarged. As the hydrotherapy helps to break up impacted matter, it can put pressure on an enlarged prostate as that impacted matter moves down, which may be uncomfortable. Similarly, women who are menstruating will have a swollen uterus, which may put pressure on the colon leading to discomfort.” And sometimes Dr. Holloway finds, perceived discomfort is simply due to the intimate nature of the procedure. “For a lot of people,” she says, “it’s the unknown, especially when I’m a new practitioner for them.”

Laxatives vs. Colonics

Another myth Dr. Holloway is working to dispel is that laxatives are safer than colonics. “Laxatives—whether chemical or herbal—over-stimulate the colon muscles,” she says. “They go through the entire digestive tract, affecting all the organs before they eventually get to the colon. Over-use of laxatives will wear the colon out and actually cause constipation. The only exercise the colon should have is physical—from food and water.”

For more information about colon hydrotherapy and other therapies offered at the center, contact:


919 Kildaire Farm Road
Cary, NC 27511
Telephone: (919) 380-0023

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