It’s common for my bowels to get off schedule when I travel, but this was terrible. Five days without a bowel movement and I was so uncomfortable! I felt like I had to go, but when I sat on the toilet nothing would happen. I was on the third week of our trip in Thailand, and after avoiding raw foods for safety, skipping magnesium supplements, and not always carrying enough bottled water, my colon was stagnating.
Over the prior few days I had upped my water intake, massaged my belly, squatted for minutes at a time, eaten 3 servings of a low-sugar yogurt, which claimed to have live cultures, and eaten prunes. I looked for a tea or other herbal remedy in the shops, but even in this very touristy area, there was none.
At the end of that quest I found an enema syringe – the size you might use on a 2 year old. I was desperate to feel better, so I bought that and another big bottle of spring water and set up a makeshift enema in our rental home. It was imperfect and took 2 hours, but it provided enough relief that I could begin thinking about other things again.
I was thankful that I have experience doing enemas at home because it gave me the confidence to address my misery on this trip, even though I was away from my familiar supplies.
It probably sounds strange, but I’m a huge fan of enemas. It’s the kind of thing that seems really weird until you try it, but once you’ve done one, you realize it’s no big deal. And when you’re constipated, the relief it brings is so worth it!
To take some of the mystery out of the process, today I’m explaining how to do an enema.
When and why might you want to try an enema?
- To relieve constipation
- To flush toxins carried in your stool out of your body
- To rehydrate and remove stuck, dried feces from your colon wall
- To introduce probiotics directly into your bowel
- For liver cleansing
- To heal hemorrhoids
I suggest starting with water enema, and once you get the hang of it you can try more advanced things like adding probiotics to the water, or using coffee.
How to Do an Enema
I prefer doing enemas laying in the bathtub so if the water spills it doesn’t make a mess. I fold an old a towel to lay on, and have a bath pillow or another folded towel, to rest my head on. I usually bring in music, a book, or my laptop with a TV show playing, to pass the time when I’m laying down.
Make sure you have a clear path from the tub to the toilet so you can get there easily if you need to release the water urgently. Always discontinue enemas if you have any adverse reaction and discuss it with your practitioner.
- An enema bag or bucket* (here’s my favorite)
- Stainless steel cooking pot
- Pure water: chemical-free spring, well, or filtered water (chlorinated water should be boiled for 10 minutes to release this)
- Olive oil or coconut oil as a lubricant
*A see-through enema bag or an enema bucket with silicone tubing is nicer and safer for ongoing use, but an old fashioned type that doubles as a hot water bottle can found at most drug stores if you need one now.
- Put about 2 cups of water in a pot and bring it to a boil, then turn it off.
- Make sure the tube end of the bag is closed, or that you hold the tube well above the bag, so the water doesn’t drain out as you’re filling it.
- Pour about 3 cups of cool filtered water into the enema bag, and then add the hot water. Continue filling the bag with cold water, leaving about 2 inches of space at the top.
- Stir or shake it to mix the water to one even temperature, then test the temperature with your finger. It should be the same temperature as a baby’s bottle (tepid). Add more cool water as necessary. It’s safer to have it too cold than too warm; never use it hot or steaming.
- Loosen the clamp to allow a little bit of water to run out the end of the tip to remove air from the enema tubing, then clamp it back down.
- Use a shower caddy, towel rack, or a coat hanger on a door knob, to hang the enema bag at least two feet above where you will lay. Make sure it’s low enough for the tube to reach you easily.
- Add some lubricant to the enema tip and around your rectum. Olive oil, coconut oil, or a vitamin E capsule will work. It’s generally a good idea to avoid petroleum products.
- Lie down in the bathtub on your back or right side, with your knees pulled up toward your belly (this straightens the last part of your colon for easier insertion), and gently insert the enema tip into the rectum a few inches. CAUTION: You never want to force the enema tip in – that can cause an internal tear or perforation. If it seems stuck, back it out a bit, take a deep exhale and try again with a slightly different angle. Take your time.
- Release the clamp to let the water flow in. I find it most comfortable to press the tubing between my fingers so I can control how slowly the water flows in.
- Clamp the tubing off as soon as there is the slightest amount of discomfort or fullness. This will pass within a few seconds and you then you can release the clamp to allow more water to flow. It’s usually just a gas bubble. Massaging your colon a bit can help this pass.
- When all the water is in you can remove the tip entirely, or leave it in. There will be a little bit of back-flow into the tubing if you leave it in, but it can allow for more comfort as gas bubbles pass out the tube.
- It may be helpful to gently massage your colon from your bottom left hipbone, up and then across the top of your abdomen, and down to your right hip bone. This can help the water move through the entire space and keep gas bubbles from being trapped in one area.
- Try to retain the enema for 12-15 minutes to allow the water to soften any hardened stool. Turning over to your side, or moving to your hands and knees can sometimes be more comfortable. Find what works for you. Sometimes there will be an immediate urgency to have a bowel movement and that’s fine. Get up and go. It helps to clean the stool out of the colon so that next time around you can hold more water for longer.
- After 12-15 minutes, or when you need to release the water, move to the toilet and allow it to come out. If you don’t feel “done” it can help to massage your abdomen from the bottom right, up and across the top of the abdomen, and down the left side, tracing the natural path of your colon.
- It is natural to release a lot of it, sit there for a few minutes, and then release more. It can take 10-15 minutes until you feel “done.” If you feel done, but very little came out, your body has absorbed this water because you were dehydrated.
- For stubborn constipation you can repeat this process until the water runs out clear. It can take a few enemas to loosen compacted feces from the walls of your colon.
- When you have finished your session, wash the tip with soap and water, rinse out the bag, and hang it up to dry thoroughly. Periodically run boiling water, Thieves Household Cleaner, hydrogen peroxide, or another non-toxic cleaning agent through the empty bag, to discourage mildew growth when not in use.
If you think you’d benefit from enema, but you’re just not ready to try one on your own, check out a local colonic irrigation clinic, also called colon hydrotherapy. They work a bit differently, but you’ll have a professional to guide you and that can help you gain confidence in trying an enema at home too.
Enema is something that seems weird and makes us anxious until we try it. Once we’re over that, everyone says the relief is worth it and they feel much lighter!