An enema is a procedure that involves injecting fluid into the rectum to ease constipation or prepare the body for certain medical procedures. A coffee enema involves injecting room temperature coffee. There is little evidence to support the use of coffee enemas, and they may be dangerous.
Proponents of coffee enemas claim that they help detoxify the body, regenerate the liver, and reactivate the immune system.
However, there is no quality scientific evidence to support these claims. Moreover, most studies highlight the potential risks and dangers of coffee enemas.
In this article, we describe what coffee enemas are and outline what the research says about them, including the associated risks and warnings.
- There is no quality scientific evidence to suggest that coffee enemas provide health benefits.
- Most of the research regarding coffee enemas derives from case reports, which typically highlight the risks of the procedure.
- Medical professionals are unlikely to recommend coffee enemas due to the lack of evidence regarding their safety and efficacy.
An enema involves injecting fluid into the rectum. Some people perform enemas at home using coffee at room temperature.
According to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research (CSIR), in the 1920s, a scientist suggested that coffee enemas would be more effective than saline enemas. He claimed that coffee enemas would stimulate the liver, detoxifying the body.
There are no quality studies to support these claims. Moreover, people who use enemas for this purpose risk disturbing the good bacteria in their gut, which may result in bacterial imbalances and digestive symptoms.
Coffee enemas can be dangerous if a person uses them incorrectly or too often.
A healthcare professional may perform an enema for various reasons, including:
- delivering medication
- relieving constipation
- emptying the bowels before a procedure
- performing a diagnostic test
However, these enemas typically use saline solutions and take place in a medical setting.
The CSIR states that there are no benefits to coffee enemas. There are no quality studies to suggest otherwise, and people risk rectal burns and caffeine overdose, alongside other complications of enemas.
In addition, a
The authors of the systematic review recommend against the use of self-administered coffee enemas as a complementary and alternative therapy that people can use for self-care.
It is not clear whether receiving a coffee enema from a qualified practitioner is any safer or more effective than self-administering a coffee enema. Further research is necessary to investigate this possibility.
As coffee enemas are unlikely to help, a person can learn about alternative ways to ease digestive complaints here:
Several case reports outline the risks associated with coffee enemas.
The authors note that coffee enemas have been responsible for three deaths, two resulting from electrolyte imbalance and the other from sepsis.
According to the authors, other reported complications of coffee enemas include:
- thermal burns from heated coffee enemas
- stricture, which is an area of narrowing within the intestines
- bowel perforation
Before considering a coffee enema, people should familiarize themselves with the potential risks of the procedure.
Coffee enemas remove potassium — an essential macronutrient — from the body and can cause the following side effects:
- loss of appetite
- salt and electrolyte imbalances
- constipation and colitis, particularly from long-term use
- heart problems
- lung problems
In some cases, the procedure can even be fatal.
Moreover, scientists know very little about the potential long-term risks of coffee enemas.
If a person wishes to perform enemas at home, it may be safer for them to use fluids such as water or saline solution in place of coffee. However, relying on enemas may make it more difficult for a person to have an unaided bowel movement in the future.
Anyone who regularly experiences difficulty going to the bathroom should seek medical attention to determine the cause.
Max Gerson was a German-American physician who developed a dietary-based alternative therapy called “Gerson therapy” in the 1920s and 30s. Gerson claimed that the therapy could treat cancer and other diseases.
Cancer Research UK notes that the therapy consists of three parts:
- 3–4 coffee enemas or castor oil enemas per day
- taking vitamin and mineral supplements, including potassium, vitamin B12, pancreatic enzymes, and thyroid supplements
- drinking 20 pounds of crushed fruits and vegetables each day, which equates to one glass each hour, 13 times a day
Gerson advocated the use of coffee enemas along with a vegetarian diet as a way to heal and detoxify the body. He claimed that this therapy could cleanse the liver and that coffee enemas would help remove toxins from the body.
Despite the above claims, there are no clinical trials showing that coffee enemas can improve health. Conversely, case studies show that the procedure can have severe side effects.
Most doctors and naturopaths discourage people from trying coffee enemas. Over-the-counter enemas are likely a safer option.
However, people should always let their doctor know about any complementary or alternative therapies that they are considering.
Some of these therapies can worsen certain existing health conditions or interact with certain medications or supplements.
A coffee enema is a practice that involves injecting room temperature coffee into the rectum. Some people may have a coffee enema to try to alleviate constipation, while others may be aiming to boost their digestion or rid their body of toxins.
No high quality scientific evidence suggests that coffee enemas are beneficial for health. Most of the research into coffee enemas derives from case studies, the majority of which highlight the risks of the practice. The risks include irritation or injury to the rectum or intestines, electrolyte imbalances, and infection.
A person who wishes to try a coffee enema should speak with a doctor before performing or undergoing the procedure.
Some alternative and complementary therapies can worsen existing health conditions or interact negatively with medications or supplements.