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Anal Douching: What to Know

Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on August 26, 2022

If you’re planning to have anal sex or simply “clean” or “rinse” the area, you might consider anal douching. It’s a process many use to clean out the rectum – the last part of your large intestine – through the butt using water. But is it safe for you?

A diet high in fiber is usually enough to keep the inside of your rectum clean. Ideally, this should be your go-to method to maintain gut health and poop regularly. But if you’re planning to give anal douching a try, here’s a closer look at how to do it safely.

What Is Anal Douching?

The word “douche” is French and means to shower. In this case, anal douching refers to using a device such as a squeezable bottle or tube to squirt water or other liquids like saline up your butt to “clean” it. It can be done for medical or sexual reasons.

Who Does Anal Douching?

People of all gender identities can practice anal douching. But according to a study that looked at over 1,700 people, experts found that anal douching was more common among men. More than 7 out of 10 men douched, whereas over 3 in 10 women anal douched. The study also reported that among men who have sex with men, more than 5 in 10 men anal douched before they had anal sex.

Types of Anal Douching

There are many ways to try anal douching. Popular methods include:

Bulb douche. It’s one of the most common and affordable types of anal douching kits that usually includes two pieces – a rubber or silicone bulb and a nozzle that you insert into it. To use it, fill the bulb with warm water and insert the nozzle into your butt. Squeeze the bulb to release the water. This usually gives you a shallow cleanse.

Water bag douche. This contains a bag like a hot water bottle that you can hang high on a hook. One end has a long tube that you can insert into your butt. It also usually comes with an adapter to control the flow. The design allows it to be portable and easy to use. But you’ll need to clean it and replace it often to avoid infections.

Fleet enemas. These are over-the-counter laxative treatments that you can take for short-term relief, especially if you’re constipated. To do it safely, follow the instructions on the package. If you’re unsure, ask your doctor how to do it. You’ll probably see results in about 2-5 minutes. But if you notice side effects like bleeding, pain, blistering, a burning sensation, or other types of irritation in the area, tell your doctor. Don’t use fleet enemas for more than a week at a stretch unless a doctor approves it.

It’s best to use lubricants to reduce your odds of tearing, swelling, or bleeding. If you’re worried about doing it safely, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about your options.

Don’t use laxatives regularly unless you have constipation, you can’t have regular bowel movements, or you have impacted poop in your gut. If you do, talk to your doctor. They can suggest over-the-counter enemas or suppositories (laxative medications you insert up your butt) if necessary. This can help to loosen up the stool and pass it. Fiber supplements can help, too.

How to Do Anal Douching Safely

The best way to have a clean gut is to have a diet high in fiber, drink plenty of water, and exercise often. But if those don’t work or if you’re looking to try anal douching, there are few things you should keep in mind. Here are some tips to do it safely:

  • Use only warm water.
  • Gently slip the nozzle or tube inside your butt. Don’t force it in, as you can risk tearing or bleeding in the area. Use lubricants if necessary.
  • During your first try, only squeeze or squirt water in for about 10 seconds. It may feel strange at first, but you don’t need too much water. You only need to clean the first few inches inside your butt.
  • Try to hold the water in for a bit. You can hold your breath for this. To release it, breathe out and relax.
  • Repeat the process till the water comes out clean.

Things you shouldn’t do include:

  • Don’t rush it. This will reduce your odds of hurting yourself in the process.
  • Don’t squirt the water before you check the temperature. Make sure it’s not too hot. While you may like a hot shower, the same water could burn your insides.
  • Don’t put or spray too much water in. This might throw off the balance and kill good bacteria in your gut, too. It can also increase your risk for infection.
  • Don’t use olive oil, bleach, alcohol, or any cleaning chemicals you might find under your sink. It can cause serious harm to your gut health.
  • If you’re using a bulb to douche, after you squeeze it, don’t let go of it right away, as the water might get sucked back with all the particles in it. This makes the bulb unsanitary and unusable.

What Are the Risks of Anal Douching?

Studies show that douching can increase your risk for HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and human papillomavirus (HPV).

In fact, one study found that those who douche had 74% higher odds of reporting an STD in the past year, compared with those who don’t douche. But you might wonder how cleaning the insides of your rectum increases your odds of infection. Shouldn’t it do the opposite?

It can irritate or damage the inner mucus lining of your rectum (called rectal mucosa).

Without this protection, you’re more likely to get HIV or other infections, especially if you don’t use protection in the form of condoms or PrEP (preexposure prophylaxis), a type of medication you take to reduce your odds of getting HIV from sex.

How Is Anal Douching Different From Vaginal Douching?

Most doctors don’t recommend vaginal douching, as a healthy vagina is a mix of good and bad bacteria that help to maintain a proper acidic environment.

This allows it to self-clean, and it naturally carries a distinct odor. Douching your vagina throws off the good balance and puts you at risk for some serious infections and health problems. This can include pelvic inflammatory syndrome, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy. In some cases, it can cause you to have painful sex.

It’s possible for bits of poop to be stuck to the walls of your rectum, especially if you have a low-fiber diet or don’t have regular solid bowel movements. Anal douching, if it’s done safely, can help clear it up.

How Often Can You Do Anal Douching?

As with most things, anal douching is OK if you do it in moderation and you take your time doing it. There’s no correct number of times, but it’s best to limit yourself to once per day. Ideally, don’t do it more than 2-3 times per week.

If you’re unsure how to do it, hurt yourself in the process, notice any side effects from anal douching, or have symptoms of an STD, talk to your doctor right away.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

San Francisco AIDS Foundation: “Anal douching safety tips,” “Here are the results of the anal douching survey in San Francisco.”

Birmingham LGBT: “Sexual Health Week 2016 – Douching Guide.”

Burnett Foundation Aotearoa: “Your Guide to Anal Douching.”

BMJ Journals: “Association between rectal douching and HIV and other sexually transmitted infections among men who have sex with men: A systematic review and meta-analysis.”

BMC Infectious Diseases: “Prevalence and types of rectal douches used for anal intercourse: results from an international survey.”

Office of Women’s Health: “Douching.”

National MS Society: “Fleet Enema.”

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