Coffee Enemas: The how’s, why’s and what’s of this natural liver detox
Important disclaimer: I am not a doctor and the information presented here is for your information only, not for the purposes of diagnosing, treating, or curing any ailment. It is your responsibility to seek appropriate medical advice from a qualified health care practitioner. I strongly advise you to consult a qualified health professional before embarking on any significant changes to your diet, lifestyle, or supplement regime. Please read my full disclaimer here.
I swore I’d never do it.
There are places things go, and places things don’t go. Stick a tube up my butt and then release coffee into it? Um, no thanks. This would fall distinctly in the “places things don’t go” category.
And yet: never say never.
Enemas have been used for hundreds of years for their detoxifying and colon stimulating benefits. They’re a core component of many health protocols and there’s not much controversial about them. But coffee enemas? That’s a whole other ballgame.
As the story goes, a German nurse in WWI with scarce supplies and hundreds of soldiers in pain, intending to give her patient a water enema, accidentally filled the enema bags with coffee and didn’t realize her mistake until after the coffee was already in the patient. (I can’t even imagine what went through her mind in that moment.) Not only did the patient survive to tell the tale, but he noted a significant reduction in pain. Things that make you go hmmm…
Since then the coffee enema been adopted by many holistic health practitioners, perhaps most famously by the natural cancer treatment, The Gerson Therapy, Dr. Lawrence Wilson in his Nutritional Balancing programs, and Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride in the GAPS Protocol. In fact, up to 1984 coffee enemas were listed in the Merck Manual – the handbook used by physicians all over the world. But coffee enemas have also been the subject of a lot of debate – a quick Google search will yield as many who claim they’ll hurt you as heal you.
For years I’ve been hearing about coffee enemas, but the scary stories scared me. I have a history of digestive issues and the idea of anything possibly exacerbating that situation was more than I could handle. And let’s face it: the idea of sticking coffee up my rear wasn’t all that appealing. It’s pretty easy to write it off as crazy.
And then client after client experienced great results with them (not on my recommendation); colleague after colleague shared their success stories both personally and with their clients. At a certain point, I had to try one.
I couldn’t believe the results.
First of all the energy! I felt incredible. It wasn’t that typical coffee buzz, this was different: invigorating, refreshing, a clean energy.
The next thing I noticed was how clear headed I was. It was like the wind swept through and whisked away the mental debris. Kind of like the feeling you get after a week on a good detox – except that this was after a process that took me all of 45 minutes!
I was concerned that it was going to back me up. I’ve had colonics before and while I loved the feeling immediately afterwards, I was so cleaned out that I wouldn’t have another bowel movement for days, which felt wrong. With coffee enemas I never had this experience. I’d have some great bonus clean out with the enema, and the next day go right back to my normal schedule. Perfect! Nothing disruptive here.
I also felt so much lighter afterwards, and actually weighed myself before and after to see if I was, indeed, losing weight. Turns out I lost between 1.5 and 2 pounds with every enema I did. I know some of that was liquid, but there was a significant amount of old debris that came out as well. I certainly wasn’t doing it for this reason, but it was a pleasant side effect.
The biggest downside I found with the coffee enemas was that it was a bit of a logistical feat to make it happen – with a busy business and family life, setting aside the 45 minutes mid-morning to do this (my busiest time of day) is a challenge. I settled into it as a Sunday morning routine, but would happily do it more if I had the time. (I don’t do it in the evenings, which would be the obvious time, because I find I get so much energy I can’t sleep).
So what on earth is going on with a coffee enema? Why do people love them so much and how do they work?
A coffee enema stimulates the liver to release toxins, freeing it up to do more inner housekeeping.
First let’s make sure we understand some basics of detoxification. One of the most critical detox pathways is the liver-gallbladder-intestines. In a very over-simplified explanation, it goes like this:
- The liver processes or neutralizes toxins in your body, basically converting them to a form that your body can excrete without causing any collateral damage.
- The liver creates bile, which essentially escorts those neutralized toxins from your body. Bile is also a key emulsifier of fat, making it essential to proper fat digestion.
- The bile gets stored in the gallbladder until you eat a meal that contains fat, at which point the gallbladder contracts, and a little flush of bile flows into the top of the small intestine (the duodenum) where it emulsifies the fat and escorts the toxins out of your body via the intestines.
The liver-gallbladder-intestinal pathway is one of the most critical detoxification pathways in the body, and is often compromised at every stage.
With the enormous burden on our livers (we’ve never before subjected the human body to such an endless onslaught of toxins), they easily get overburdened. With the prevalence of poor-quality oils in our food, the bile is often sludgy and thick, leading to gallbladder issues, poor fat digestion and compromised detoxification. And with the high incidence of digestive dysfunction, many people aren’t eliminating their waste the way they should. (If you have less than one bowel movement per day or if they are hard and dry, I’m talking to you).
The coffee enema works by stimulating all three of these organs
- The Liver – the caffeine in the coffee stimulates the liver to produce more bile (which contains those toxins ready for elimination). It is also believed that the palmitic acid in the coffee activates the enzyme glutathione-S-transferase, one of the most powerful body detoxifiers, and the amino acid glutathione, which binds to toxins so they can leave the body safely. Plain-speak translation: it turns up the volume on the liver’s detoxification processes and makes it easier for the liver to do this work.
- The Gallbladder – the enema also stimulates the gallbladder to release a squirt of bile into the intestines, which stimulates peristalsis and the urge to “evacuate”. Furthermore, the coffee activates enzymes thought to prevent the resorption of this bile (and the toxins it is escorting). This means it makes sure that the bile actually exits the body. This is important because the body, in its desire to conserve resources, re-absorbs and re-circulates bile up to 10 times. This was no big deal in a world much less toxic than ours, but it contributes to our overall toxic load in the highly toxic world we live in today.
- The Intestines – the coffee itself only goes into the colon, and mostly that last portion of the colon – the sigmoid colon. The astringent qualities of the coffee slough off the top layer of the mucous membrane in the colon, which is loaded with toxins and usually ready to be shed. The presence of the water itself stimulates peristalsis in the colon (peristalsis is the series muscular contractions in the walls of the intestines that move nutrients and debris through your digestive tract). The colon gets a nice flush and old debris is removed.
You might be thinking to yourself “Okay, this is all well and good, Margaret, but you put the coffee up your arse. Other than the intestinal flush, none of the rest of this makes sense. How does the coffee get from your colon to your liver?”
There is a system of veins connecting your colon and your liver called enterohepatic circulation. These portal veins carry nutrients from your intestines to the liver for further processing before they get circulated in the blood and distributed throughout the body. When coffee enters the colon, the caffeine is absorbed into this system and goes directly to the liver, where it stimulates the detoxification processes I explained below.
But why not just drink the coffee?
Another great question.
Coffee is actually an herb with healing properties. When you drink it, the coffee goes through the body’s digestive processes and gets broken down by stomach acids and enzymes, destroying much of its healing properties. When you insert coffee into the colon, it gets absorbed and shuttled to the liver in its purest form without being denatured by your digestion and thus you receive its full benefit.
A google search of “coffee enema” will yield lots of articles telling you how dangerous they are, but most of the fears are easily dispelled with a little common sense.
Let’s look at the common ones:
Fear 1: Wipe out gut flora. There is no evidence that coffee enemas negatively alter gut flora. In fact, when the colon is cleaned out of excess debris, it allows the beneficial bacteria to thrive.
Fear 2: Bacterial infection from a dirty enema kit. This is one of those “common sense” items I mentioned. Clean your enema kit properly – and I give you instructions on how to do that below – and you’ll be fine.
Fear 3: Burns from hot coffee. So… this one seems obvious to me but: let the coffee cool to room temperature before inserting it. It’s likewise a good idea to let cold coffee come to room temperature before inserting it so that you don’t shock your colon.
Fear 4: Disrupt electrolyte balance. The coffee does have diuretic properties so it’s important to rehydrate, and to rehydrate properly with water that contains electrolytes. The easiest way to do this is to add a pinch of unrefined sea salt to your drinking water. Done.
Fear 5: Dependence. This was a real fear of mine because I’ve found that with colonics I get stopped up after a few days. The opposite was true with coffee enemas – I found they got everything moving nicely and kept it that way over time. I’ve heard similar reports from clients and other practitioners.
Fear 6: Rectal perforation. This is another common sense one: use lots and lots of lube, go slowly, and ONLY use the nozzle that comes with the enema kit. Do not substitute that nozzle with any DIY versions.
There are some very real cautions and coffee enemas are contraindicated in certain situations.
- If you are a struggling with a serious health condition, it is always a good idea to consult with your practitioner before starting any new self-care or detox regime.
- If you have a very high toxic burden, particularly high heavy metal toxicity, then I would start with water enemas rather than coffee enemas as a gentler introduction. Stimulating detoxification too quickly in these situations can be dangerous.
- If you suffer from bowel disease, an inflamed colon, colon cancer, or other serious bowel issue, consult your practitioner.
- If you’re pregnant, coffee enemas are contraindicated. It’s safe to use a water enema with a little sea salt or probiotic added to it.
- If you are allergic or sensitive to coffee or caffeine, I would recommend not doing a coffee enema. Again, stick with water with a little sea salt or some probiotic added to it.
- Young children: if you wouldn’t feel comfortable giving your child a cup of coffee to drink, they’re too young for a coffee enema. Again, stick with water or the water/probiotic combo in these cases.
Okay let’s do this. Here’s what you’ll need:
- An Enema bucket (like this one). You don’t want to use a plastic enema bag because the acidity of the coffee will cause chemicals to leach out of the bag and into the coffee, and then into your colon. The whole point of this is to cleanse, so it’s worth the slightly higher investment to get a quality enema kit.
- A glass or ceramic pot for boiling the coffee. This, again, is to prevent heavy metals from leaching out of the pot and into the coffee as it’s cooking.
- Food grade hydrogen peroxide for cleaning out your supplies.
- Coconut oil or other natural lubricant. Olive oil works well, too.
- Bath tub and lots of towels. The bath tub isn’t necessary, but that’s where I like to do it.
- Organic coffee beans. There is special enema coffee that is very lightly roasted, but there is also debate between practitioners about whether light or dark roast coffee is best. Quite honestly it feels like splitting hairs to me and a good organic dark roast is much easier to find, so that’s what I use. The cleanest coffee on the market is Bulletproof. Very important: this is not somewhere to skimp on buying organic. Coffee crops are one of the highest pesticide-use crops, and if you’re not at least using organic coffee then you’re just loading yourself up with more chemicals.
- Coffee grinder. It’s best to grind the coffee fresh each time to maintain as much of its herbal healing properties as possible. Also, I store my coffee in the fridge or freezer.
- A fine sieve for straining the coffee
- A glass pitcher or large (1 quart) measuring cup
- Bonus: Release essential oil. Because I do mine in the bath and because I like to support my body on all levels when I do a protocol like this, I add a few drops of this essential oil to the bath water to encourage my body to release toxins at all levels.
- Bonus: Epsom salts. This makes the bath that much more relaxing and stimulates a gentle detoxification through the skin. Obviously you’d skip this if you’re not doing it in the bath.
- A good book or something fun to watch on your phone / tablet.
Holy Mother of All Things Healthy am I REALLY going to do this?!?
You’ve got all the gear and you’re ready to go. If you’re feeling a bit nervous or freaked out, that’s totally normal. I was, and most people I talk to feel really weirded out about this the first time they do it.
Before we dive into the step-by-step process, here are some considerations worth noting:
Take your usual bowel movement first. This allows for deeper cleaning. And if you’ve got a poop ready to go, your coffee isn’t going to get that far. That said, I’ve had clients who in times of extreme constipation have used this technique to get things moving – so don’t fret if you can’t go beforehand for this reason. If that’s the case, you might want to start off with a basic water enema to do an initial flush and get the most bang for your buck with the coffee enema.
Do your enema in the first half of the day. The process of the enema is deeply relaxing, but the result is amazingly energizing. I would recommend NOT doing this later in the day and definitely not before bed. The one time I did it in the evening I was up almost all night. I felt fabulous, but it didn’t make for a good night’s sleep.
Stay well hydrated. Caffeine is a diuretic no matter which end it entered your body. Make sure to drink lots of water with a pinch of sea salt for added electrolytes.
Okay… let’s do this! Here is the process:
1) Prepare the coffee
Bring 1 quart filtered water (not just tap water) to a low boil with 1-3 Tablespoons organic dark coffee, fresh ground. I suggest you start slow and increase the amount of coffee you use over time as your body gets used to the process. Let the coffee come to a low boil for 12 minutes, then set out to cool. I usually pour it through a sieve and into a quart glass measuring cup at this point, and let it cool there. Make sure you can stick a finger in it comfortably – it might be a little warmer than room temperature, but NOT hot.
2) Prepare your enema kit
Rinse everything through with warm water. I like to flush a little hydrogen peroxide through as well if it’s been a while. Make sure to rinse well. Do this for all components: the bucket, the tube, the nozzle. You want it all to be clean, inside and out.
3) Draw a nice warm bath
This is kind of a bonus but I really like to do my coffee enemas in the bath. It’s warm and cozy, I relax more easily, and I’m not as paranoid about coffee spills. For the ultimate relaxation and release, I like to add some Epsom salts and a few drops of Release essential oil. If you don’t want to do it in the bath, I still highly recommend doing it in the bathroom. You can make a little bed of towels on the bathroom floor – just make sure it’s comfy. You’ll be here a while.
4) Prepare the enema
Pour half (2 cups) of the coffee into your enema bucket. Attach the hose firmly and attach the little nozzle to the end of the hose. There will be a little clamp somewhere on the hose to close off the flow. Make sure it’s sealed tight.
Put your enema bucket somewhere near or in your bath. I hang mine over the little stand that holds the hand shower. The key is that it’s close enough for the nozzle to reach you comfortably without stretching the hose, and that the bucket itself is positioned higher than you (so you get the benefit of gravity when it’s time for the coffee to make it’s grand entrance). Note: The higher the bucket is, the faster the flow of coffee when you release the valve. You might want it closer to you when you first start out so you can have the coffee enter nice and slowly.
Release any air bubbles by slowly releasing the clamp on the tube – just until a little coffee dribbles out the end. We don’t want to put air up there!
Have some coconut oil within reach of the bath, and keep some towels nearby. Once you’ve got the enema in, you’re not going anywhere for a bit, so it’s nice to have that towel close by to dry your hands so you can use your phone, read your book, or do whatever you need to do without getting everything wet.
I like to get all of this set up, have my phone or an iPad close by cued up with my favorite mindless TV show (reruns of SVU, since you asked) and then get undressed and in the bath.
5) Ready, set, go!
Okay, now’s the moment of truth. You’re naked in the bath. Your coffee enema is ready to go. Take a few deep breaths. I know it’s highly counter intuitive to stick something up your rear, but this is exactly what it’s time to do.
First thing is to lube yourself up well – I smear a bunch of coconut oil all over my anus as well as the nozzle of the enema. Slowly insert the tip until it’s about 1-2 inches in. You want it deep enough that the coffee is released well inside you (no squirting out), but not so deep that it’s uncomfortable. You can do this on your knees, bent over; you can do this lying on your back; or you can do this lying on your left side, and then rolling over to the right side once all the coffee is in. Do whatever feels the easiest for you. I wouldn’t say it feels awesome, but it’s not as uncomfortable as it sounds. Mostly it’s just weird to be sticking something up there.
Take another deep breath.
Once you’ve assumed the desired position and have the nozzle inside, release the clamp on the tube to allow the coffee to come through. You can start/stop/start/stop the flow if you want to go really slowly –and I’d recommend this approach if it’s your first time having any sort of enema or colonic. It’s important to give your body a moment to get used to having the liquid inserted this way. The slower you go, the easier it will be to hold it. After you’ve done it a few times, you can let the whole thing go in at once.
Take another deep breath. Once all the coffee is inside you, make note of the time. Lie on your back or your right side and get as comfy as you can since you’re going to be here for the next 15 minutes. Take some more deep breaths. You might feel the urge to “evacuate”, but see if you can’t relax into it and hold things a little longer. I always find at first my body’s instinct is to release, but once I have taken a few deep belly breaths and relaxed, I actually hardly notice it. If the urge truly becomes unbearable, then by all means go to the toilet and release. You’ll be able to keep it in longer the more you do it.
Note: I like to leave the nozzle in the whole time because it feels like it gives me a “plug” effect. I know many people who like to remove it, but I find if I do, I simply can’t resist the urge to go and the enema is basically a bust. I’d try it both ways and see what works best for you.
Now… it’s time to relax. Here’s the great bonus of coffee enemas: a little “you” time. Watch some mindless TV, read fiction, or just chill out. I like to have a distraction and it’s one of the only times I let myself space out to TV.
6) Release the enema
At the 15 minute mark, carefully remove the nozzle from your rectum (a little coffee may spill out here – hence it’s nice to be in the bath so that it’s not messy). Get out of the bath, do a quick towel off if you like, and go to the toilet, where you can finally release. And what a release it is!!! I just love this part. Let it ALLLLLL GOOOOOOOOO….
Don’t rush this process. You might feel done, but stay another few minutes just in case. Sometimes it comes in waves. Ahhhh the delicious release of it all!
7) Rinse and repeat
Congratulations, you’ve done the first round! Now it’s time for the second half of the coffee. Basically you want to repeat steps 4 through 6 a second time.
Why do this twice? Well, the first time is almost like a primer. It gets that surface stuff out. The second time goes a little deeper. Some people will say they can actually hear their gallbladder squirt (it sounds just like a little digestive gurgle that comes from the right side under your rib cage), but only on this second round.
8) Tidy up – don’t skip this step!
Once you’ve gone through the process twice, you’ll want to drain the bath and rinse out the enema bucket, hose, and nozzle. I like to rinse all three out several times with warm water, and then do a rinse with a little hydrogen peroxide, and then a few more warm water rinses. Then I hang it back up to dry in three separate parts.
Now, you’re basically done but I’d highly recommend staying close to home for the next hour just in case. You never know if you’re going to have the urge for more release, and I promise you’ll be happy you stayed home if you did.
That’s it! You’re done!
If you’re feeling intrigued and want to do some more reading on the topic, here are some articles that explain things in greater depth:
- The Ultimate Liver Detox by MyGutsy
- How Coffee Enemas Work to Detoxify Liver and Bloodstream on Peak Health Now
- Coffee Enemas by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
- How Coffee Enemas Work from the Gerson Institute
- No Way! I’m not doing that! by Amy Love, NTP
If you’ve tried a coffee enema before, I’d love to hear your experience in the comments below. If you’re still skeptical, are you feeling a little closer to checking it out?
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