Enema For Constipation Uses, Benefits and Drawbacks

What is enema? Enemas are devices that are inserted into the rectum to administer fluids or medications. They are also known as colonics.

There are several types of enemas for constipation, each designed to treat specific conditions. Some are intended to cleanse the body, while others are meant to provide relief from constipation.

Colon cleansing is a great way to get rid of toxins and waste build up in the digestive system. The benefits include improved digestion, increased energy levels, better skin, and clearer thinking.

This article will cover what enemas are, the uses of enemas, benefits, and its drawbacks. 

What is an Enema?

An enema is inserting a liquid solution through the anus into your rectum and lower part (colon) of the colon. It is considered a type of laxative, but it is not taken orally like others are.

Enemas are mostly used for the following reasons:

  • To relieve symptoms of constipation or stool impaction.
  • To cleanse and prepare the rectum and lower intestine for an examination like a Colonoscopy or Flexible Sigmoidoscopy.
  • To prevent contamination during surgery by clearing out any feces.
  • To administer anesthesia or medications to a patient.

Enema For Constipation Relief 

An enema is considered a laxative to help alleviate symptoms of constipation and/or fecal impaction. The main ingredient in these types of laxatives is the fluid which is injected into the rectum.

Most enemas involve using a saline-solution. Some enemas may include baking soda, soap, and mineral oil. These ingredients may help improve the effectiveness of the enemas. They can also cause minor irritation and should be used carefully.

Fluid inserted into the rectum irritates your lower bowel which stimulates muscle contractions. It can also soften or hydrate hard stools to help with eliminating them. Contractions help you expel impacted feces along with enema fluid. 

Enemas work quickly, usually only taking a few minutes to empty the bowels. You might feel some cramping initially, but this passes after about 15 minutes.

Enema Precautions and Risks

An occasional enema is a temporary way to relieve symptoms associated with constipation, but it shouldn’t be used regularly. Frequent use of enemas may lead to damage to the anus and rectum.

Repeated enemas may cause an imbalance of electrolyte levels and cardiovascular overload. If you experience symptoms such as vomiting, dizziness, or sweating after doing multiple enema treatments, it could be a sign of a balance issue.

Insertion of anything into a rectal cavity always comes with risks. It is important to make sure the tip or tube being used for inserting enemas is smooth and flexible. If it isn’t, there’s a risk of tearing or perforating the rectum.

Repeated use of enemas to treat constipation can cause the problem to get worse over time. Colon cleansers only temporarily stimulate the colon wall and do not strengthen the walls.

Enemas can weaken the colon muscles if they’re used over long periods of times. If those muscles aren’t strong enough, they don’t have the contractions necessary to move feces through your digestive system.

Therefore, using an enema for constipation relief should be considered a last resort and if recommended by a doctor.

Enema for Constipation Final Thoughts

Enemas are an effective way to relieve constipation, but are not for regular use, nor a first option. However, they shouldn’t be used often because frequent use can cause problems.

If you have questions about enemas and if it’s right for your situation, talk to your doctor before trying one on your own.

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Enema for Constipation FAQs

Do enemas make you poop immediately?

Yes, an enema will make you poop very quickly. You will usually have the urge to use the toilet a few minutes after the enema. If you do not feel the urge to poop within 30 minutes, you may be dehydrated. Make sure to drink plenty of water. If you still cannot poop after a while longer, contact your doctor. 

Will an enema break up hard stool?

Yes, an enema will break up hard stool by softening it. This makes it easier to pass. The purpose of an enema is to introduce fluids into the large intestine (colon) in order to loosen hardened fecal matter that has accumulated in the intestines.

How long does it take for an enema to work?

An enema starts working in less than 10 minutes. Afterward, you’ll need to wait at least half an hour before having another one. You should not do more than one enema per day. If you haven’t had success with the enema, contact your doctor for advice.

What happens if you don’t poop after an enema?

If you don’t poop after an enema, then you probably didn’t empty your bowels completely. This means that you still have stool left in your intestines. This can cause serious problems including dehydration, constipation, and other medical conditions. To prevent this from happening, make sure you empty your bowels completely before doing another enema and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Will impacted stool eventually come out?

An impacted stool does not usually come out by itself, so you will need to see a doctor. For long-term care, you will want to change your diet. Eat fewer beans and other hard foods. Drink plenty of fluids. Avoid caffeine. Take probiotics. Try eating fiber-rich foods such as applesauce, prunes, and bananas. Don’t eat anything after midnight. And avoid alcohol.

Julie C. Guider MyGoodGut

Medically reviewed by Julie Guider, M.D.

Dr. Julie Guider earned her medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine. She completed residency in internal medicine at the University of Virginia. She completed her general gastroenterology and advanced endoscopy fellowships at University of Texas-Houston. She is a member of several national GI societies including the AGA, ACG, and ASGE as well as state and local medical societies.