Coffee enemas have been highlighted in the media recently as either the best way to naturally detoxify the body or as a frivolous and reckless medical procedure that puts your health at risk.
What is the real story on coffee enemas and what can they do for you? Is this practice safe and how do the results of using coffee compare to other solutions used for colon cleansing?
An at-home coffee enema is a type of cleanse for the colon that is commonly practiced in alternative medicine. The procedure consists of inserting a mixture of water and freshly brewed caffeinated coffee into the rectum via an enema to clear our the colon and support detoxification.
It is thought that German physicians in the early 1900s developed coffee enemas as a possible treatment for cancer. But, it was the Gerson therapy that made the procedure so well known.
Max Gerson was an American doctor of German decent who believed that the body could heal itself if it were properly detoxed and provided with a diet of the necessary organic nutrients consisting of raw juices, a plant-based foods and coffee enemas.
This diet, along with coffee enemas to cleanse the colon, makes up what’s called the Gerson therapy. Many believe that this procedure instigates bile flow as well as glutathione production, which is a detoxifying antioxidant.
Coffee Enema Benefits
Coffee enemas may be beneficial in relieving constipation, promoting health colon function, boosting energy, strengthening immunity and ridding the body of unwanted toxins.
For many, the main and most immediate benefit is relieving constipation with multiple bowel movements, helping to cleanse the colon. If you suffer from constipation you may get some relief with a coffee enema.
Advocates of coffee enemas believe the practice offers a number of other health benefits.
- Treats or prevents cancer
- Treats autoimmune diseases
- Improves symptoms of depression and mood disorders
- Strengthens the immune system
- Stops the overgrowth of yeast
- Clears the digestive tract of parasites
- Cleanses the body of heavy metals
- Boosts energy and alleviates fatigue
- Supports liver function
- Reduce stresss and anxiety
- Improve skin health
- Help to minimize chronic pain
- Support hormone balance and ease PMS symptoms
- Increase low glutathione levels
- Promote mental clarity, focus and attention
With such a long list of purported benefits, you may be wondering what can’t coffee enemas do?
Many of the benefits above come from anecdotal user reviews, case studies posted by practitioners or general observations on how the body works. Note that research into this practice is currently very limited.
While there is some evidence that enemas can improve the body’s ability to remove waste products in times of constipation, many of the above-mentioned claims do not have enough research behind them be evaluated.
Scientific Research Review
There is very limited scientific evidence that can enlighten us as to whether coffee enemas may or may not be helpful in treating any health condition or disease.
Any evidence is anecdotal as to whether coffee enemas should or should not be used. Naturopathic practitioners believe that enemas can help to lower the toxin load of the body, which can improve other functions that contribute to health and well-being.
The prevailing opinion among those practicing traditional medicine is that colon cleansing is not at all necessary because the body’s digestive system is perfectly capable of clearing out bacteria, toxins and waste without any assistance.
There is a theory called autointoxication that claims a build-up of waste in the colon is toxic. A 2014 article that came out in The Journal of Lancaster General Hospital says there is no evidence supporting the autointoxication theory.
Who would Potentially Benefit from having a Coffee Enema?
There are no formal guidelines as to who might find a coffee enema to be beneficial. If you see an integrative medical practitioner or a naturopathic doctor, consult with them about whether this procedure is appropriate for you.
In an article written by Linda L. Isaacs, M.D., a physician practicing alternative medicine, she states that we are constantly being exposed to pollutants and toxic chemicals in the air we breathe and in the food and water we consume.
Therefore, she is of the belief that anyone of us could find coffee enemas helpful by stimulating the liver to clear the body of all these toxins and waste materials.
In preparation for a video capsule endoscopy, a coffee enema may be used to cleanse the bowel in place of a stimulant laxative. In 2014 Clinical Nutrition Research published a study that determined that coffee enemas can possibly help prepare the bowel for this procedure without any adverse side effects.
However, they also concluded that more studies are needed before coffee enemas should be recommended on a routine basis for bowel prep.
Warnings & Dangers
Getting a coffee enema could be harmful, especially if not done correctly. According to medical literature, three deaths have occurred that could potentially be associated to coffee enemas.
In one instance, a woman had to undergo a temporary colostomy following improper use of an enema. The reason for many of these complications is excessively hot water temperature.
If you are performing a coffee enema at-home using a kit, it is critically important to allow the coffee that you are brewing to cool before administering it to your rectum. Almost all of the case reports of serious side effects linked to this procedure were caused by people using burning hot water for their enemas.
Coffee enemas have the potential to cause rectal burns, which is a serious side effect. However, you can avoid this side effect by ensuring the water is not too warm. Body-temperature water is best for administering the enema solution.
There is evidence to suggest that getting coffee enemas could potentially be harmful to one’s health. In fact, the National Cancer Institute claims that the three deaths detailed in the medical literature look like they could be associated with coffee enemas.
One death might have been caused by a bacterial infection, however this could not be confirmed. The other two deaths were the result of electrolyte imbalance.
The American Journal of Gastroenterology published a Letter to the Editor that claimed that a coffee enema caused a Korean woman to contract a case of proctocolitis, which is an inflamed colon and rectum.
The authors of the letter determined that coffee enemas do pose a risk and their use as an alternative treatment should definitely be reconsidered.
If you’re someone who is particularly sensitive to caffeine or if you take certain medications that do not interact well with caffeine, you may have a problem with this procedure and may be better off using a tap-water solution.
A general colon cleansing procedure may cause:
- Bowel perforation
- Infection from unsterilized implements
- Rectal burns
How are coffee enemas performed?
Before deciding to perform an enema, consult with your doctor to help you decide whether it is appropriate for you. Your doctor can also give you information on how to perform this procedure safely.
You can perform a coffee enema at home, or you can have this procedure done at certain holistic health clinics. At home kits are available with coffee prepared specifically for giving an enema. These kits are generally 1/10th to 1/5th the price of having the procedure done for you.
There are no formal or standardized guidelines for the procedure. If you are currently undergoing the Gerson Therapy technique, follow guidelines provided to you by a qualified healthcare practitioner.
If you decide to get a coffee enema, it may cause you to feel pressure, fullness and cramping while you’re having the procedure. You might also feel somewhat shaky and/or even have heart palpitations.
These are the side effects that result from the caffeine. After the procedure it is recommended that you drink plenty of water to avoid becoming dehydrated.
Some sources recommend trying a tap water solution first before using a coffee-based enema. Follow the directions on the enema bag or kit you buy to stay save and avoid negative reactions.
Mainstream medical practitioners do not recommend having coffee enemas. There is insufficient research available to evaluate many of the purported health benefits of this procedure.
However, a number of natural healthcare practitioners recommend having enemas to support detoxification, antioxidant pathways and liver function. There are many supporters who claim they’ve experienced an improvement in their health and well-being without any adverse side effects.
Since clinical data on the effects of coffee enemas is limited at present, it’s hard to know whether the majority of people who’ve had them feel the experience was a positive or negative one.
User reviews on Amazon and other web forums are generally positive, though there are also people who found the procedure uncomfortable and did not experience any benefits. Some users who take a coffee enema to alleviate constipation report positive results, but it does not work for eberyone.
What we do know is that coffee enemas can potentially be dangerous, especially if using hot water or taking them without first consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. In deciding whether or not to have a coffee enema, it is best to consult with your doctor.
If you do decide to go ahead and have a coffee enema and you end up experiencing serious side effects, immediately seek emergency medical treatment. Serious adverse side effects could be severe pain, rectal bleeding, persistent diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.