You may have noticed many new age spas and alternative healing retreats lauding the benefits of coffee enemas. While the practice is currently experiencing a renaissance, the use of enemas for detoxification dates back to the 1800s. People believed that by flushing their system of intestinal toxins the body would be relieved of poison and thus many diseases unable to take root. Combining caffeinated coffee with water for colon cleansing gained popularity as part of “Gerson Therapy” – a treatment developed by the German doctor Max Gerson in the 1930s. This theory supports the use of coffee enemas to stimulate the liver for cleansing and detoxification. Coffee was thought to help liver functions as it contains compounds that may aid in opening bile ducts as well as widening blood vessels. This treatment initially prescribed for patients suffering from ailments ranging from TB to migraines was to be undertaken under a physician’s supervision. Within the last 10 years, the coffee enema has regained popularity, even being described as a detoxification wonder. Promoted by such celebrity-driven websites as GOOP the use has increased dramatically. However, since the beginning of this practice medical practitioners have been warning patients of the possible risk factors. Read on to learn the real sh*t about coffee enemas.
What are enemas?
An enema is a one-time procedure to clean the lower bowels, typically performed with a handheld kit. It is commonly used to alleviate severe constipation and is sometimes administered before a medical examination or procedure. A nozzle is inserted into the anus of a seated subject who presses a lever infusing the lower colon with water (or gas) and forcing the release of waste. It is often performed at home, as opposed to a colonic, which is usually administered at a facility under the guidance of trained personnel. The enema cleanses a smaller region than the colonic, takes less time to complete, and sometimes involves the use of infused fluids such as herbs, oils, and of course what we are discussing here, coffee.
A list of the purported benefits of coffee enemas include:
- Allergy relief
- Pain relief
- Cancer fighter
- Cleanse the body of heavy metals
- Clean the digestive system of harmful parasites
- Help with the treatment of autoimmune disease
- Energy booster
- Immunity booster
- Relief from anxiety and depression
What science says
Many in the alternative medical community proclaim that cleansing toxins through waste removal alleviate a number of the above problems. Yet, the science behind these declaratives is hazy at best. In fact, there is no conclusive evidence that aiding colon cleansing actually improves the functioning of the digestive system. The procedure and its benefits are oft described as pseudo-science. There are few acknowledged benefits but many possible side effects including, but not limited to cramping, dehydration, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, electrolyte imbalance, improper bowel functions, and intestinal imbalance. An article in the American Journal of Gastroenterology reported that within 24 hours of administering a coffee enema, a 60-year-old woman suffering from chronic constipation began to experience rectal bleeding and pain. She was then diagnosed with Proctocolitis (inflammation of the rectum and colon). Other patients who self-administered coffee enemas experienced abdominal pain, bloody stools, rectal burns, and subsequent diagnoses of colitis. What’s more, there have been reported deaths if not caused by, possibly related to the use of coffee enemas.
With the lack of evidence supporting the benefits, combined with indications of harmful effects, the medical community has not endorsed the use of coffee enemas. If an enema is recommended, a non-coffee, commercially prepared enema should be used, and only under the guidance of a trained professional.