What is a coffee enema?

A coffee enema is a type of colon cleanse used in alternative medicine. During the procedure, a mixture of brewed, caffeinated coffee and water is inserted into the colon through the rectum.

Coffee enemas may have originated from German physicians searching for a cancer treatment in the early 1900s. But it was the Gerson therapy that helped put the procedure on the map.

Max Gerson was a German-American doctor who believed you could detox the body and give it the nutrients it needs to heal itself using an organic plant-based diet, raw juices, and coffee enemas. His rigorous program became known as the Gerson therapy.

Coffee enemas are thought to stimulate bile flow and the production of glutathione, a detoxifying antioxidant. Sounds promising, right? However, don’t run to the drugstore for an enema bag just yet. There are some things you should know before trying a coffee enema.

It may help:

  • relieve constipation
  • boost immunity
  • increase energy
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For many people, the immediate benefit of a coffee enema is having multiple bowel movements that help purge the colon. If you’re experiencing constipation, a coffee enema may bring relief.

Coffee enema supporters claim the procedure provides these additional benefits:

  • boosts immunity
  • increase energy
  • stops yeast overgrowth
  • treats autoimmune diseases
  • removes parasites from the digestive tract
  • removes heavy metals from the body
  • treats depression
  • treats cancer

There’s no scientific evidence that proves or disproves that coffee enemas are helpful to treat any medical condition. Evidence for or against the use of coffee enemas is mostly anecdotal. In mainstream medicine, colon cleansing is considered unnecessary because your body’s digestive system is capable of getting rid of waste, toxins, and bacteria on its own.

The theory that colon waste is toxic to your body is known as autointoxication. According to a 2014 article published in The Journal of Lancaster General Hospital, there isn’t any evidence to support this theory.

Check out: The master cleanse diet (lemon detox diet) »

There aren’t any official medical guidelines about who should get a coffee enema.

According to an article by alternative medicine physician Linda L. Isaacs, M.D., people are continually exposed to toxic chemicals and pollutants in food, air, and water. As a result, she believes that anyone may benefit from coffee enemas as a way to “help stimulate the liver to rid the body of these waste materials and pollutants.”

Coffee enemas may be used as an alternative to stimulant laxatives to cleanse the bowel for a video capsule endoscopy. A 2014 study published in Clinical Nutrition Research concluded that coffee enemas are a possible way to prep the bowel without negative side effects. However, more study is needed before coffee enemas are routinely recommended for bowel prep.


  1. This process may be harmful.
  2. Three deaths potentially related to coffee enemas have been recorded in medical literature.
  3. Coffee enemas may cause serious side effects, such as rectal burns.
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There’s some evidence to suggest that coffee enemas may be harmful. According to the National Cancer Institute, three deaths reported in literature appear to be related to coffee enemas. One may have occurred due to bacterial infection, although this couldn’t be confirmed. Two other deaths occurred due to electrolyte imbalance.

According to a Letter to the Editor published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, a coffee enema caused proctocolitis (inflammation of the colon and rectum) in a Korean woman. The letter’s authors concluded that coffee enemas are risky and should be reconsidered as an alternative treatment.

Coffee enemas may be a problem if you’re sensitive to caffeine or if you take medications that interact with caffeine.

Colon cleansing may also cause:

  • rectal burns
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • cramping
  • bloating
  • dehydration
  • bowel perforation
  • infection caused by improperly sterilized equipment

A coffee enema may be performed at home or, for a hefty price tag, in some holistic health clinics. There aren’t any official guidelines on how to perform a coffee enema.

If you choose to get a coffee enema, you may feel cramping, pressure, and fullness during the procedure. You may also feel shaky or experience heart palpitations as a side effect of the caffeine. You should drink plenty of water afterward to help prevent dehydration.

Mainstream medicine doesn’t advocate the use of coffee enemas. Many people claim coffee enemas improve their health and well-being without negative side effects. Because statistics about coffee enemas are hard to come by, it’s difficult to determine if most people have had a positive or negative experience.

What is known for sure, is that coffee enemas are potentially dangerous. The decision to have a coffee enema or not is a personal choice best made between you and your doctor.

If you choose to have a coffee enema and experience any serious side effects, get emergency medical help. Serious side effects include severe pain, persistent nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and rectal bleeding,

Keep reading: Colon cleanse: What you need to know »