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What Is a Coffee Enema?

enema bag

Coffee is enjoyable in a lot of forms. For many people, it is the beverage that jumps starts the day. You can also find coffee-flavored ice cream, coffee liquor, coffee-flavored candy, and much more. One thing that may not be as enjoyable is the coffee enema, however.

A new holistic approach to personal wellness, the coffee enema has become popular with non-traditional health care advocates and extreme caffeine-lovers. The supporters of the procedure claim health benefits from extra-energy to curing cancer. The naysayers, however, are indicating some more serious consequences for this peculiar coffee consumption.

Which side is right, though? In this article, we will explore what the coffee enema is, what benefits it can have on your health, and what side effects it could cause. We will also share what the medical professionals are saying.

So, before you end up with a coffee bummer (the only bad pun in this article, we promise), take a look at the information below.

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What Is a Coffee Enema?

The coffee enema is just as it sounds. It is a traditional enema that’s done with room temperature java instead of water. A gallon of caffeinated coffee is brewed and allowed to cool to room temperature. Then, using a standard, drug store enema kit, a bag and tubes are used to transport the caffeine through the rectum to the colon. In essence, it is a colon cleanse.

Once the coffee is in place, it is held for as long as possible. A typical enema is used primarily for alleviating constipation and emptying the colon and digestive tract. Many procedures, such as a colonoscopy, require the colon to be empty. Many people find this procedure easier and more effective than using laxatives which can have their side effects.

History of the Coffee Enema

Though the standard enema dates back for thousands of years, the first coffee enemas were originally done in Germany in the early 1900s. Medical experts at the time were searching for alternative ways to treat and cure cancer, and it was thought that the coffee enema had potential.

That being said, the procedure didn’t take hold outside of the medical community until the 1940s and 1950s when German-American Dr. Max Gerson brought it to the mainstream. Gerson adopted a holistic approach to medicine where a plant-based diet was used to detox the body of impurities and heal it from internal trauma. Part of this approach was the coffee enema.

Although Gerson died in the 1950s, the Gerson Institute in San Diego has further popularized the practice of coffee enemas as a way to remove “poisons” in the body. Papers published by the institute claim several other benefits that will we discussed in the next section.

coffee beans
Image Credit: Markus_KF, Pixabay

Coffee Enema Health Benefits

Coffee enemas have been connected to all sorts of benefits including the traditional side effect of cleaning out the colon. As mentioned, the Gerson Institute has published a paper claiming many health-benefiting perks like increased cell energy production, improved tissue health, and immunity boosts. There may also be benefits like better cell growth and increased blood circulation.

Another medical professional to endorse the coffee enema is Dr. Datis Kharrazian who heads up the Kharrazian Resource Center. Kharrazian, a Harvard Medical School Trained Ph.D., claims that the coffee enema aids in the vagus nerves proper functionality and well-being.

The vagus nerve is attached directly to the brain and helps run the heart, lungs, and digestive tract. Kharrazian asserts that this cranial nerve is responsible for gut health, and in turn, gut health is responsible for many issues ranging from an upset stomach, constipation, depression, and anxiety to Parkinson’s disease.

Kharrazian believes that a coffee enema opens up the vagus pathway to allow better communication between the gut and the brain. Not only that, but it also removes toxins such as bacteria, fungi, heavy metals, and yeast. Plus, his resource page indicates it allows the gallbladder to “release(ing) liver metabolism end-products into the bowels for elimination.”

Reported Coffee Enema Benefits

Outside of those medical establishments, common users of the coffee enema have also indicated health benefits. Take a look at the different pros coffee enema users are reporting:

  • Decreased constipation
  • Immunity boost
  • Increase in energy levels
  • Decrease of yeast overgrowth
  • Improves depression and other mental illnesses
  • Gets rid of parasites for the digestive tract
  • Removes heavy metals from the body
  • Treats autoimmune diseases
  • Treats cancer

The treatment of cancer is promoted by the Gerson Institute; however, there is no scientific evidence to prove it works. In fact, many of the claims above have come under heavy scrutiny by the majority of medical professionals.

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The Research Behind Coffee Enemas

With all the benefits mentioned above, it is no wonder even the squeamish have swallowed their distaste and tried this popular holistic approach to health care. Unfortunately, most of the perks have not been scientifically proven to be effective, nor do they have the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval (FDA).

For example, the Gerson Institute indicates that the use of coffee enemas allows the colon to absorb caffeine quickly which triggers detoxification. That in turn will fight off cancerous agents. In 1947, however, the National Cancer Institute found that, despite the careful regiment of coffee enemas, patients from Gerson’s Institute with the disease had either not gotten better, or their condition had worsened.

Image Credit: Alicia_Harper, Pixabay

Outside of that, there is not a lot of research on the practice to endorse or disprove it. Looking at it from a traditional standpoint, however, many argue that it is a good way to relieve constipation and empty out the colon for medical procedures.

Colon Cleansing Research

A study done by Korean Medical Universities and Research Institutes showed favorable results after the coffee enema was used before a video capsule endoscopy. In this study, a controlled group of patients was given a coffee enema and polyethylene glycol. The second group received only polyethylene glycol.

In the results, doctors found the visibility in the controlled group’s mid to lower small intestine was increased compared to the other group. The study concluded that more research was necessary, though. It is also important to note that enemas, in general, are not considered necessary by mainstream medicine as your body naturally takes care of that itself.

Additionally, the vast majority of health care professionals do not recommend the practice for several reasons:

  • Traditional enemas are just as effective at curing constipation and eliminating the colon/bowels.
  • No scientific research proves any positive side effects of the procedure
  • It is not FDA approved
  • No known long-term effects or benefits
  • There are some serious side effects involved

Although there is not a lot of medical research to say whether or not this is a positive practice for people to adopt, there are documented cases of negative side effects that are mild to severe.

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Side Effects of the Coffee Enema

Though many supporters of the coffee enema have claimed varying benefits, many people have reported some serious side effects from doing this non-traditional colon-cleanse. For example, in another Korean study, a female reported rectal bleeding after a coffee enema.

Colon cleansing itself is also not supported by medical research, as mentioned. An article by The Journal of Lancaster General Hospital concluded that toxins from your body are not detrimental to your health. This theory, also called autointoxication, has no evidence of being legit.

The lack of research along with the misinformation is what leads to some serious side effects that can cause issues in the body for those who use coffee enemas regularly. Even those who have tried it once have reported issues.

For example, despite supporters such as Kharrazian indicating the coffee enema is safe for people with caffeine sensitivities, two deaths have been reported due to electrolyte imbalances. The Cancer Institue also reported a death appeared to be caused by bacterial infection after using this colon-cleanse.

Coffee Enema Dangers

Outside of those three deaths, there have been other health concerns related to coffee enemas. Take a look at some of these reported symptoms and issues:

  • Cramping
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Rectal burns
  • Dehydration
  • Bowel perforation
  • Nausea
  • Infection
  • Diarrhea
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Allergic reaction
  • Intestine irritation

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Final Thoughts

Deciding to try coffee enemas is a personal choice. Though many claim to have experienced a lot of health benefits, there is evidence of risks, as well. What is more noticeably absent, however, is solid research on the short and long-term effects on the body. Though many holistic approaches can benefit your life, we recommend speaking with your doctor before embarking on any non-FDC-approved procedure.

At the end of the day, coffee enemas may be the new approach to body wellness, but for now, you might want to stick with the old-fashioned way of consuming the brew and have it in a cup! It’s certainly a more enjoyable way to consume coffee.

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Featured Image Credit: Doro Guzenda, Shutterstock


Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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