An enema is an injection of liquid containing various substances into the rectum. The goal is to loosen stuck stool and encourage a bowel movement. A doctor may recommend an enema to treat constipation when first-line treatments have not worked.
Homemade and commercial enemas can cause adverse effects. Most doctors recommend using laxatives and dietary changes before suggesting that the person try an enema.
A homemade enema may be safe if a person uses an appropriate mixture and sterile equipment.
However, most of the medical community does not recommend using homemade enemas.
Before a person attempts to use one, they should consult a doctor about safe methods and alternatives.
Keep reading for more information about the safety and risks of homemade enemas.
An enema is a liquid solution that a person injects into the rectum using either tubing or a syringe.
The contents of homemade and premixed commercial enema solutions can vary. A homemade enema may contain ingredients such as salt, soap, or coffee. Commercial kits can contain a variety of ingredients, as advertised on labeling.
The medical community generally recognizes that enemas can treat constipation and get a person's bowels moving again.
Doctors may also use enemas to help clear the distal colon for endoscopic or surgical procedures. The distal colon is the last part of the colon — it descends toward the rectum.
According to an older study, there is only anecdotal evidence that enemas are effective in treating acute or chronic constipation.
Anyone experiencing constipation should speak to a doctor. They will likely recommend other methods before suggesting that a person uses an enema for constipation.
No evidence suggests that an enema is effective for other purposes — such as losing weight or removing toxins from the body.
A person should consult their doctor before trying a homemade enema because of the potential risks.
When a person receives an enema in a hospital or another clinical setting, doctors generally consider it a safe treatment for constipation.
However, a homemade enema carries greater risks because of the ingredients and proportions that people may use.
A person should discuss their plans with a doctor before trying to create their own enema. The doctor may also provide instruction about safely administering one at home.
It is important to consider the potentially fatal complications of using enemas incorrectly.
The typical enema that a doctor may use contains a saline solution. They mix the solution and inject it into the rectum using a large syringe or tube.
Homemade enemas typically contain clean distilled water mixed with another substance, such as:
- castile soap
- sodium phosphate
- docusate sodium
- iodized salt
- sodium butyrate
- mineral oilprobiotics
- milk and molasses
- sea salt and baking soda
Enemas — particularly homemade enemas that contain coffee or citrus juice — can cause significant adverse effects. The type of fluid in the enema can have a major, potentially fatal, impact on a person's electrolyte balance, bowels, and overall health.
For example, using minerals and soap in an enema puts a person at risk of an electrolyte imbalance. This is also a risk of using some premixed enema solutions.
A homemade enema may contain the wrong proportions of salt or soap, which can disrupt the body's balance of electrolytes. According to at least one medical report, this disruption can be fatal, following an enema.
Other types of enemas can injure the bowels. Coffee, lemon juice, and other acidic ingredients in enema solutions can cause irritation, burns, and inflammation.
Having an enema — particularly at home — also carries a risk of infection. This risk is higher when enema supplies are not sterile. Do not reuse enema kits, and make sure all equipment is as clean as possible.
In addition, a person runs a risk of perforating or damaging their colon when administering an enema.
A person should talk to a doctor about their constipation before making an enema at home. The doctor can suggest alternative treatment options. They may also advise about effective enema solutions and safe ways of administering them.
Do not use an enema as a treatment for anything other than constipation. There is no evidence that an enema will help rid the body of toxins, help a person lose weight, or provide any health benefits beyond potentially loosening impacted, or stuck, stool.
Based on current research, it is difficult to say what a safe enema mixture is. However, most saline, docusate sodium, and bisacodyl enema preparations sold over the counter are typically safe when a person uses them as directed.
Speak to a doctor about creating an enema at home.
Homemade enemas may help relieve constipation by loosening stuck stool and encouraging bowel movements.
However, a person should talk to a healthcare provider before preparing or administering an enema at home.
The doctor will likely recommend other methods of relieving constipation, including fiber supplements, stool softeners, laxatives, and changes in diet, including an increased intake of liquids. The doctor may be able to help loosen stool in their office, as well.
Enemas come with serious health risks. A person should use caution before attempting to create their own enema at home.