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Can Using Enemas Harm Your Intestines?

Using Enemas On A Regular Basis Could Be Harmful

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Updated December 28, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Enema

The overuse of enemas can have health consequences.

Photo © Dmitry Poliansky

Question: Can Using Enemas Harm Your Intestines?

Answer: Most adults must deal with the occasional bout of constipation. In most cases, constipation can be relieved without the use of laxatives or enemas, but instead with lifestyle changes such as adding fiber to the diet, exercise, and drinking more water.

Using an enema or a laxative on rare occasions to help ease constipation is not going to cause any permanent damage. However, the repeated use of enemas can, over time, cause problems with the muscles in the intestines. The regular use of enemas can prevent the muscles of the intestine from doing their job properly. You should not need to use enemas to have a bowel movement, and should seek the advice of a physician if you can not move your bowels without a stimulant.

In addition to doing harm to the muscles in the intestine, regular enema use can also lead to a condition called hyponatremia (or water intoxication). Hyponatremia is an imbalance of the electrolytes that occurs when the body does not have enough sodium (salt). Acute hyponatremia can be dangerous and may require treatment with medication or IV fluids.

Never use unapproved enemas without clear guidance from a physician. If you have recently become dependent on enemas to move your bowels, seek advice from your health care provider.

Source:

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. "Facts and Fallacies About Digestive Diseases." NIH Publication No. 04–2673 Oct 2003. 28 Dec 2013.

 

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