A soap enema is when a mild soap is added to an enema for a more thorough colon cleansing. Though many enema guides recommend using only warm water during an enema, small amounts of other ingredients such as oils or salts are often added to the enema bag. A soap enema is meant to encourage a full emptying of the bowels when simply using warm water has had incomplete results.
Using this type of enema requires carefully choosing the right kind of soap. Only natural soaps should be used, because commercial dyes and fragrances can irritate the colon and cause pain. Good choices for natural soaps include goat's milk and glycerin-based soaps. Castile soap, which is made with olive oil, is the most irritating to the colon and may cause a type of inflammation called chemical colitis.
Preparing a soap enema involves adding about 3 ounces (100 grams) of soap to an enema bag filled with warm water. Both liquid and hard soap can be used. If the soap used is hard, it will have to be grated before adding it to the water. The enema should then be administered through a tube in the anus.
There are two different kinds of soap enemas: the cleansing enema and the retention enema. Retention enemas are meant to be held in for up to 15 minutes in order to allow the salt or other ingredient to be absorbed into the walls of the colon. Cleansing enemas are not meant to be held for very long, since most additives will have an immediate impact on the bowels.
A soap enema is a cleansing enema, and thus will cause cramping when it is administered. The soap will stimulate the walls of the colon, as well as filling the colon to capacity. This will touch off peristalsis, the series of muscle contractions which start a bowel movement. For a soap enema, five minutes is usually the maximum that a patient can retain the enema before having to release it.
Once the liquid has been introduced into the colon and the patient has voided their bowels, a soap enema should be followed up with one using only water. This will wash out any soap residue, which can irritate the colon if left in. More than one warm water enema may need to be used in order to wash out all of the soap.