Colonics can kill!

Today's tale of alternative medicine with potentially deadly side effects is the occasionally popular but surprisingly dangerous colonic irrigation. For those of you not in the know, a colonic is like an enema, but rather than a small bag of water flushing out your rectum, it's a large volume of water. Like 60 liters. And sometimes it's done over and over again. Alternatively, they can be very strong herbal laxatives, designed to make you evacuate your bowels with a force to shatter the very earth itself.

Despite its popularity among people looking for alternative treatments for various bowel problems, most medical professionals have for years claimed that detoxification — whether through colon cleansing or any other form — does little if nothing for your health. Now information is coming to light that colonics are downright dangerous.

So, just how bad are the side effects? It turns out they can be pretty nasty, especially if you have GI, heart, or kidney disease, or have ever had colon surgery — and since the procedures and supplements aren't considered medical, there's no requirement to warn people about the dangers. The side effects can be relatively mild (cramping, abdominal pain, fullness, bloating, nausea, vomiting, perianal irritation, and soreness) to pretty deadly (electrolyte imbalance and renal failure), with some that are frankly terrifying:

Some herbal preparations have also been associated with aplastic anemia and liver toxicity.
Case reports also have noted back and pelvic abscesses after colonic hydrotherapy, fatal aeroportia (gas accumulation in the mesenteric veins) with air emboli, rectal perforations, perineal gangrene, acute water intoxication, coffee enema-associated colitis and septicemia, and deaths due to amebiasis

If you really are that keen on flushing out your rectum, just consult your physician first.

Photo by Ljupco Smokovski/Shutterstock