Colon cleansing—practices using water to "heal," such as enemas and high colonics—remains somewhat controversial. Some experts theorize that toxic materials build up and decay in the colon, leading to disease; by quickly shooting a large amount of water into the colon, built-up feces and toxins are flushed out.

The 19th-century Victorians made it fashionable to use these therapies as "health" activities, much as today we consider a weekend getaway to the spa. But when 20th-century medicine came around, the practice of high colonics fell out of favor. Today, however, the practice is coming back. Some colonics these days even come with a twist, such as the coffee enema, made with organic coffee that has been strained and cooled.

Is colon cleansing helpful? And, more important, is it safe? "The occasional colon cleansing may be healthy," says Stephen Holt, MD. However, there is no scientific support linking colon cleansing to decreased disease risk. Furthermore, if done improperly, says Holt, "colonic irrigation can result in perforation of the bowel, depletion of necessary body chemicals, metabolic disturbances and cross-infections."

Still, some people swear by colon cleansing. In fact, in a recent issue of TV Guide, Hollywood actor James Coburn admitted his penchant for high colonics: "It's like a glorious bowel movement for somebody who's been constipated for a week." If you're considering a colonic, seek the guidance of a health care professional with expertise in the practice. For a list of certified practitioners in your area, check out the Colon Health Network Web site at