(I'm sorry if this message is really graphic.) I'm a female in my early 30s, no health problems, and I did a 24 hour fast yesterday, and last night I did a water enema. I have been doing enemas off and on for years because I often get constipated. Anyhooo...I did the enema using warm water and using the full enema bag, then after draining the bag I laid down in different positions massaging my stomach to disperse the water inside the colon as I always do. After a few minutes, when I sat down on the toilet to expel, a lot of water and feces came out, but then I started to get severely painful cramping...I was doubled over in pain on the toilet...and then my feet and hands started tingling and going numb...my face broke out in a cold sweat...and I felt like I was going to faint, which I've never done before. I reached over and turned the water faucet on and splashed some cold water on my face and then, mercifully, I expelled some more feces and water and I started to feel better. The numbness, cramping, and EXTREME discomfort slowly subsided. I honestly thought I was going to lose consciousness and die.
I have had cramping during enemas before, but never this severe and never accompanied by severe tingling and numbness in my hands & legs. It was really awful. Does anyone know why this happened? I am so afraid to ever do an enema again. Thank you!
How long before the enema had you had a satisfactory BM? In other words, were you severely constipated when you had the enema?
Did you use just plain water? How long did you retain the enema before expelling? What temperature was the water?
What I recommend for enemas to relive constipation is a gentle soap solution prepared with castile enema soap if possible, (they come in a box of 50 one-time use packets), or a mild facial soap bar (not liquid!) such as Ivory or Dove stirred in water at 103 degrees F until it's milky in color.
However, soapsuds enemas can be irritating if used too often, so if you take enemas more than once a week then it would be more gentle on your colon to use a Sea Salt solution with one teaspoon per pint of water.
It sounds to me like what you may have experienced was a case of transient water intoxication, where the enema water was absorbed through the wall of your large intestine and diluted your body's electrolytes (primarily Sodium and Potassium).
Next time try a half bag full for the enema, and if that doesn't cause problems, and you feel that there is more in there that needs to come out, try a full bag but don't take it all at once. Use salt solution if you used soapsuds for the first enema.
Let a few ounces in while taking slow deep breaths until you start to feel uncomfortable pressure or cramping and then clamp off the flow until the discomfort subsides. Then resume the flow and take short rapid breaths when you first feel a cramp coming until you use the shutoff to pause the inflow.
What you experienced is not that unusual, but when it happens it's usually the result of using just plain water that's too cold or too hot, or retaining the solution too long. For a standard cleansing enema I don't recommend retaining it more than about 5 minutes or so.
A properly administered enema is the safest and most natural way to relieve constipation, and the choice of the R.N. profession for over a century or more for that purpose.
Thank you for your thoughtful response. I did use plain water and it was a very mild temperature, right between too hot & too cold (just a few degrees above lukewarm). I held the water in for only about 5 minutes. I was laying down on a towel and varying my positions, massaging my abdomen the whole time to distribute the water.
It was really scary, I have never gotten any kind of tingling or numbness in my feet & hands before. The numbness was so severe that when I turned the water faucet on to splash cold water on my face, my fingers had a hard time moving, so I could barely "cup" the water. It was frightening.
Because I was fasting at the time, I'm thinking electrolyte balance *may* have had something to do with it. But I also know that there seemed to be some of the water trapped up inside my colon and the pressure and cramping kept building and building....and then the tingling/numbness came on....until finally some balls of feces and water were expelled...then I started to feel better. I've had that type of cramping before - when the enema water gets distributed really well and you are sitting on the toilet waiting for all the water and feces to expel...sometimes there is some that gets trapped up in the colon, blocked by hard balls of feces and I think that's when cramping occurs. But this was very severe and the numbness was new to me. Scary stuff. If I ever do decide to do an enema again, I will definitely do less water and will not lay around after the bag has emptied - I'll go straight to the toilet to expel.
I meant to ask, were you lying down while taking the enema? I ask because you said that after draining the bag you laid down in different positions, which is good and recommended, but I wondered if you might have been sitting on the toilet while taking it, which is not recommended unless there is no other alternative. And 5 minutes is not too long to retain it.
Try salt solution the next time, unless you have gone more than 2-3 days without a BM and then it would be better to use a mild soapsuds solution. For a salt solution, use one teaspoon of salt for each pint of water. Sea Salt is best, but plain non-iodized salt is okay and regular iodized table salt is better than plain water for an occasional enema.
A soapsuds or salt solution is called isotonic, meaning the water that enters the colon stays in the colon until it is released. In contrast, a hypertonic solution, such as that used with a chemical Fleet disposable enema works by osmosis, drawing water from the body across the colon wall into the colon to stimulate a movement. I suggest you stay away from those and continue to use the old fashioned enema bag.
And finally, a hypotonic solution (such as plain water), as a result of osmosis, draws water from the colon into the body and dilutes the concentration of electrolytes that can result in the symptoms you experienced.
I wouldn't be afraid to take an enema in the future, but when you do, start out with 2 or 3 pints while lying down and not hanging the bag more than 18 inches above your hips. If that doesn't work then you can follow up with a full bag salt solution. But in any case, my suggestion is not to let yourself go more than 48 hours without an adequate movement.
That's my rule of thumb. My family for generations on my mothers side has a history of constipation and I've had enemas since before I can remember. Even today a week seldom passes when I don't take at least one enema. I've never really minded them since I absolutely hate the way I feel when my bowels go even a day without moving, and I always feel much better after an enema.
Sincerely and with best wishes for your health and well being,
I am so glad to be on this forum - what you experienced was what I have on a few occasions; especially after taking a laxative and then a day later, an enema. I truly believe that it is a result of losing all nutrients and electrolytes - I have almost passed out and thought I was going to die. I have no choice but to take enemas; thanks to this forum, I will now do it correctly. I have been taking 6-8 enemas just to get some of the feces out! I don't eat a lot and I am sure I send water into the small intestine as I feel it. I think if we use as others have suggested, celtic salt or baking soda, it might prevent that from happening. I also get severe cramping and lately, by the 2nd day of not going potty, I cramp up terribly at night. It literally keeps me awake all night.
I hopes this helps knowing that you are not alone and that you are not going to die! Thank you so much for your post, it has helped me put my condition in perspective....I thought I was the only one suffering and using enemas - too embarrassed to talk to anyone and doctors really don't listen. They use the same routine diagnostics for everyone. I told the last specialist that I have done everything. Fiber, water, eating well, exercising etc . I told him I have been prescribed Amatiza - take herbal pills, eat activia - the works and what does he do.....prescribes Amatiza! Needless to say it did not only Not work - it made the condition worse - by the 4th day I stopped it and had to take 10 enemas just to get some relief....I hate this. But I have learned to live with it and I know what helps and what does not.
Thank you for your reply, it's nice to know I'm not alone in experiencing such a reaction. The more I read online about the numbness in hands and feet, the more certain I am that it had to do with electrolytes, although somehow my fecal blockage during my enema really exacerbated it for a few minutes until my body was able expel the fecal balls and water...immediately after expelling the impacted stool and water I started to regain normal feeling and felt much better. It was definitely one of the scariest experiences of my life thus far.
I don't believe that enemas are an ideal long term solution to constipation at all. Although they are more natural than taking a chemical laxative...still, there is nothing "natural" about putting a hose up one's rectum and injecting a quart of water. lol So I try to only use enemas as a last resort. I constantly strive to improve the consistency of my turds through diet. Also, I think that there is far too great an emphasis and expectation regarding frequency of bowel movement. We've been falsely led to believe that if we don't have a BM every day or every other day that there is something seriously messed up in there. In fact, I find that not to be true and I have heard from many doctor as well that that's not true. People's systems are very individual and while it's normal for some people to take a dump twice a day, it's normal for other people to take a dump twice a week, and both are okay as long as the stool is soft/cohesive and easy to expel. Hard stools are the enemy, infrequent stools are not. This is what I have come to believe.
I have been having a lot of luck recently by adding a few soft prunes a day to my diet - anything more than a few would likely have the opposite effect. I eat maybe 6-8 soft (not hard and tough) prunes a day at various times throughout the day and I make sure that I drink some water with them...and last night I had my first BM since my whole terrible enema experience last weekend, and my stool was very soft and easy to expel, which I can only attribute to eating a few soft prunes a day. This is what is working for me right now. I am not concerned with pooping every day...I only hope that when I DO poop, that my stools are cohesive and easy to expel: I refuse to accept straining and little hard balls! The prunes are not a laxative though, they won't necessarily make your BMs more frequent, but they do seem to soften my stool and make them easy to expel, which I am so happy about.
I really hope you can find what works for you. :-)
Hi again tourmaline, I think your practice of eating prunes is a wise one as well as being a tasty treat. I buy packets of natural dried fruits including dried plums (prunes) and keep them in my studio to snack on during the day.
However I do have to disagree with the majority of physicians who say that for some people 2 or 3 bowel movements a week are normal. I believe that having less than daily movements is unhealthy and abnormal, and in such cases, enemas and colon hydrotherapy are preferable and recommended as alternatives.
"Physicians Nicholas L. Petrakis and Eileen B. King of the University of California, writing in Lancet, have found that women who have two or fewer bowel movements per week have four times the risk of breast disease (benign or malignant) as women who have one or more bowel movements per day."
See the above link for more information.
Believe me, as someone who has personally experienced the misery of life long constipation, and having witnessed the suffering of the patients and clients I treat as a practitioner of colon hydrotherapy, moving your bowels on a daily basis is by far the preferred alternative, even if it requires frequent enemas.
Hi GammieGal, 6 to 8 enemas, if you are taking them one after another during the same day is not recommended and could be harmful to your health.
The most important thing is not to let yourself become constipated to the extent that such a drastic measure would even be considered.
I am a practitioner of colon hydrotherapy, working with a naturopathic physician, and in addition to giving colonics, not infrequently I am called upon to relieve fecal impactions of his patients. Many are elderly, others include children, pregnant women, and people in occupations where frequent travel and desk jobs contribute to severe constipation.
Relieving such conditions typically involve multiple enemas among other means, none of which are very pleasant.
When you have taken up to 10 enemas, is that during a single day or over a period of time? And are those the disposable Fleet type chemical solutions available in supermarkets and drug stores, or are you using an enema bag or bulb? If the latter, how much water do you use for each enema?
When I have a patient scheduled for impaction removal I request that the night before that they take one or two Fleet Mineral Oil Enema s and retain it for at least one hour to soften the impacted stool. These are small disposables and do not cause discomfort. If the patient can retain them overnight they work even better.
Generally for home use I don't recommend more than one or two enemas on any day unless you are severely constipated, and then no more than 3.
You may want to schedule a colonic and discuss your situation with the therapist who can evaluate the condition of your large intestine during your sesion and offer suggestions for a future course of action.