Home enemas for constipation: Are they safe?

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Home enemas for constipation: Are they safe?

Question

I find that weekly home enemas seem to help keep me "regular" and prevent constipation. Is there any reason I should discontinue this practice?

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Answer

Yes, there are several reasons. An enema is a solution injected into your rectum that stimulates evacuation of your bowels. The occasional use of home enemas for constipation is generally safe for most people. However, habitual use of home enemas can be harmful — especially if used for an extended period.

Frequent home enemas can increase the risk of injury to your anus and rectum. Also, home enema solutions can irritate and cause changes to the lining of your large intestine (colon). Frequent enemas can be dangerous for people with kidney or heart disease, who are more likely to experience fluid overload (hypervolemia) or electrolyte imbalance.

Over time, frequent use of enemas can impair the natural ability of your colon to evacuate stool. If this occurs, you may have to retrain it to go without enemas. You can do this by consuming plenty of fiber and water, taking a bulk-forming laxative, increasing your exercise and taking time to have bowel movements.

If you've used home enemas for a long time, your doctor may suggest that you gradually reduce their use to give your body a chance to return to normal. Be patient because it may take many months for your intestines to get back to normal if you've been using enemas regularly.

Occasional constipation is normal. But chronic constipation should be evaluated by a doctor. Some doctors may recommend home enemas for people with special health problems. However, enemas should be used only as a last resort for treatment of constipation. If you find yourself relying on enemas, laxatives or any other medication to have a bowel movement, you should consult your doctor.

Last Updated: 03/02/2007
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