Objective: To ascertain the current practice of commercial colonic hydrotherapy in the UK and to collect data on the profiles of both the practitioners and their clients. In addition to understand how colonic hydrotherapy is perceived by those who use it and how much economic benefit it generates for the practitioners. Information as to training and complications was sought.
Patients and methods: A questionnaire was sent to all 80 practitioners registered with the Association of Colonic Hydrotherapists (ACH) of the UK. The practitioners who responded were sent 10 questionnaires to be given to a group of consecutive clients. This client questionnaire included an SF-36 self-administered scoring system and a satisfaction survey. To understand the methodology and ritual of the hydrotherapy procedure a field trip was arranged and two of the authors (NJT and PJM) underwent one colonic hydrotherapy session with an experience practitioner.
Results: Thirty-eight (48%) of practitioners responded to our practitioner survey and 242 client questionnaires were returned. One third of practitioners reported a previous clinical background and 32 (83%) were single-handed practitioners. The average time in practice was six years and with an average age of the hydrotherapists being 50 years (22-78 years). Estimated number of sessions conducted were 3200 (range 140-10 000). Average annual income before expenses per practitioner was estimated at pound 45 675. The clients' ages ranged was 18 and 82 years of age (mean 44 years) and had undergone an average of 35 hydrotherapy treatments (range 1-2500). Clients had lower SF-36 scores than the UK norm.
Conclusion: Colonic hydrotherapy is practised widely in the UK with an estimated 5600 procedures carried out by ACH practitioners monthly. It is not known how much activity is carried out by non-ACH members. ACH practitioners appear to be well trained and a proportion have medical backgrounds. Clients, who are often unhappy with orthodox medicine seem satisfied enough with the experience of colonic hydrotherapy to undergo regular purgings. No serious side-effects have been reported to us. Economic factors could be a driving force for the continuation of the practice as the monies earnt are not inconsiderable.