The most common complaints that prompt people to turn up for the big kahuna of enemas are bloating, fatigue, skin problems, and generally feeling "toxic". One practitioner says she gets a lot of people who discover that the mighty flushing helps their spiritual pursuits, particularly meditation. There are also so-called enema abusers documented in the psychiatric literature. Like laxative abusers, the enema bunch feels thinner and leaner after doing it. But according to a director of an eating disorders clinic, from the point of view of caloric and fat intake, colonics work on the wrong part of the gut: the colon is there for fluid absorption and formation of stool; it deals with left-overs, not food. By the time matter gets to the colon, fat and calories have already been taken out. So a colonic is clearly not a weight-control device.
What's accomplished with colonics is the subject of much debate. The mainstream medical community wants nothing to do with them. For them a colonic is a very unnatural stimulant to the colon. People have this idea, if they clean all the stool out they're better, which is a holdover from our grandparents' era that's been totally disproved say gastroenterologists. Doctors who practice alternative medicine are a bit more tolerant. They say colonics are useful for helping to unconstipate, but they're no long-term solution to whatever's causing trouble. Colonic therapists, on the other hand, talk as if their work were the Second Coming of Christ. Says a colonicist,"Death begins in the colon." She proposes to stave off the inevitable with, you guessed it, colonics.
While the benefits of the bowel-flooding treatment are highly controversial, what's happening mechanically during the procedure is quite clear. Water is sent into the colon, which is the last stop for waste in the digestive system before it's eliminated. A roughly four-inch-long disposable speculum is placed about one-inch into the rectum. Two hoses are attached to the speculum: one that leads from a water source and another that leads to the sewer system. Water is turned on and sent up the rectum through the speculum and into the colon.
The colon, which is part of the large intestine, is a long tube suspended over the small intestine with two sides hanging down. (It's shaped something like a rubbery Arc de Triomphe.) Its three sides are known as the ascending, transverse (the top of the arch), and descending portions. At the start of the colon is a gateway, called the ileocecal valve, which allows indigestible waste to move out of the small intestine and into the ascending portion of the colon (which gets its name because that's the way matter moves inside of it - heading upward toward the top of the colon).