What To Know About Enemas

What To Know About Enemas

An enema is the process where you or a healthcare professional inject fluids into the rectum. The purpose is to clean out the colon, stimulate bowel movements, or administer medication. You can use different devices to perform an enema, such as a bag or bottle, which you manually insert into the rectum. Upon doing so, the liquid is released into the rectum. 

You don’t simply use any old liquid for an enema, but you can use a few different solutions. Some enemas may release medication to manage a certain health condition, for example, ulcerative colitis. Other enemas can consist of certain solutions that may relieve constipation. The type of enema, how it’s used, and what liquid is inside all depend on why you’re using the enema.

What Is An Enema Kit And How Do You Use It?

Used by medical professionals and the average person alike, an enema kit is readily available and consists of a bag/container and a tube or nozzle. If you have decent flexibility in your arms, you can easily administer an enema at home. Instructions for each kit can differ, but most follow these steps:

  • Choose a quiet place with space to lie down (a bathroom is ideal). Make sure that you have towels, a timer, and the enema kit at the ready.
  • Take all of your clothes off from the lower half of your body. Wash your hands with soap and hot water and pat them dry.
  • Lay a towel (ideally one you don’t care about) on the floor and lie on your left side if right-handed, or on the right side if you’re left-handed. 
  • Bend the knee on the top leg and place a rolled or folded towel between your legs for support. 
  • Remove the cap of the from the nozzle on the enema. Gently insert the tip of the nozzle into the anus and continue inserting it 10 centimeters (three to four inches) into the rectum. 
  • Slowly squeeze the liquid from the enema bag until it is completely empty. Carefully remove the nozzle from your rectum and wait for it to take effect. It can take anywhere from two minutes to one hour, but the kit’s instructions should give a more specific time frame. 
  • Go to the toilet as usual and empty your bowels. 

What Is In The Enema?

Enemas contain different types of fluid. The liquid solution in your enema container will depend on what you want the enema to accomplish. Some people use coffee, while others use a mineral solution. More often than not, enemas contain the following solutions:

  • Glycerin: A glycerin enema is occasionally used as an alternative to saline. Glycerin makes the colon absorb water, which stimulates muscle contractions in the colon to encourage a bowel movement
  • Barium: This is an element that, when released into the colon, can help diagnose certain conditions of the large intestine. Typically, this enema solution is used when you get an X-ray of the colon and rectum to detect health issues like cancer or inflammatory bowel disease. Barium can make the images clearer, but barium enemas are becoming less common due to the increasing popularity of colonoscopies. 
  • Sodium Phosphate: This solution consists of salt and water and works to pull water into the large intestine. In doing so, you help to soften the stool and make it easier to empty your bowels. A person with occasional constipation may use an enema with this solution.
  • Bisacodyl: This is a type of laxative, a drug used to stimulate bowel movements, that you may see in some enemas. 
  • Medication: Sometimes, but not always, an enema can contain medication to treat certain health conditions. 
  • Minerals: A mineral solution typically acts as a lubricant in the lower portion of the digestive tract, making it easier to pass stool.


Keep in mind that an enema is an invasive procedure and a person should only use it for medical reasons. Always purchase an enema kit from a reputable pharmacy and avoid homemade kits. Although using an enema can help treat constipation, using an enema as a regular treatment for it can cause health problems. You don’t want the body to become reliant on enemas in order to pass stool. Overuse of enemas could cause incontinence. Lastly, anyone with a compromised immune system should not use an enema because of the risk of bacteria entering the body.



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