I vividly remember brewing my first batch of enema coffee back in 2013, pouring it into a pink rubber enema bag and letting it flow into my rectum while I listened to NPR. After holding it, squirming, breathing as deeply as I could for about 5 minutes and 16 seconds, I leapt to the toilet and eagerly examined the contents.
At the time, I hoped to see a massive pile of tapeworms. There weren’t any worms on that specific occasion–mostly just undigested kale and pumpkin seeds–but, this ancient practice of colon cleansing grasped my intrigue and my goodness, I felt amazing, calm, and buoyant for the rest of the day.
Since that first coffee experiment, my appreciation and eternal gratitude for this simple practice has expanded, so I’m hoping to share some of what I’ve learned along the way.
Why do we need to clean the colon?
While most people do not want to talk about putting something into their bum or, gasp! inspect what is coming out, proper elimination is the foundation for health. When food sits for too long, starting to ferment, putrefy, and leak back into the bloodstream, the gut becomes more inflamed, allowing even more toxins to circulate into the bloodstream every time we eat or drink (e.g. chronic leaky gut).
As food sits and bacterial colonies thicken, health declines in direct correlation with systemic autointoxication, which is caused by the production of toxins within the body from the action of bacteria and yeasts upon food particles, which then circulate into the bloodstream and trigger hyper-immune responses. This sets the stage for chronic inflammation, food sensitivities, autoimmune diseases, unexplained pain, bowel issues, bloating, brain fog, depression, insomnia, acne, tooth decay, hormonal imbalances, and cancer. Endotoxins truly wreak havoc on our systems!
According to Dr. Ray Peat, “Endotoxin, produced by bacteria, mainly in the intestine, disrupts energy production, and promotes maladaptive inflammation.”
The longer food sits and ferments, the less able the liver is able to detoxify LPS (endotoxins), increasing levels of circulating estrogen, which further inflame the system and burden the liver as it tries to cleanup:
“Estrogen makes the toxic-mediator-producing cells in the liver (Kupffer cells) hypersensitive to LPS–15 times more sensitive than normal (Ikejima, et al., 1998).” -Ray Peat, PhD
Most people welcome a morning cuppa’ Joe or a little afternoon pick me up, stopping for coffee on their way to work without a second thought. What joy we derive from the timeless taste of coffee or the subtle buzz of energy when consumed in a well-fueled state! We love talking about coffee, we love drinking it, and we love the ritual of it all.
Going a bit further, the benefits and profoundly healing impact of coffee enemas seem worthy of conversation, too. Clearing up misconceptions and myths of addiction, injury, or even death seem desperately needed.
What is an enema?
Simply put, an enema is “a procedure in which liquid or gas is injected into the rectum, typically to expel its contents.”
Enemas have been used since the dawn of time, gaining recent interest by biohackers lake Ben Greenfield and Dave Asprey, looking to optimize their health and perhaps, gain followers in the process.
We find medical texts dating as far as 1500 BC in the Egyptian Ebers. We find evidence in ancient Chinese texts, in Babylonia, Greece, and in indigenous Native American culture, using a bladder of an animal and a hollowed out bone for the procedure.
“Treatment consists merely of three elements: drink, food, and the enema”.
A hilarious description of enemas is found in the Dead Sea scrolls:
“…seek, therefore, a large trailing gourd, having a stalk the length of a man; take out its inwards and fill it with water from the river which the sun has warmed. Hang it upon the branch of a tree, and kneel upon the ground before the angel of water, and suffer the end of the stalk of the trailing gourd to enter your hinder parts, that the water may flow through all your bowels. Afterwards rest kneeling on the ground before the angel of water and pray to the living God that he will forgive you all your past sins, and pray the angel of water that he will free your body from every uncleanness and disease. Then let the water run out from your body, that it may carry away from within it all the unclean and evil-smelling things of Satan.”
The coffee enema is a critical component of the Gerson therapy, developed in the 1930s to treat cancer. “How the Gerson Therapy Heals” explains why they use coffee enemas and how they increase liver function and “stimulate the glutathione-S-transferase system by 700% in the colon” and “cleanse the blood.” Glutathione is a potent antioxidant, so elevating it’s activity allows for more effortless and efficient liver activity and greater functioning of the entire body in general.
Until about 1984, coffee enema procedures were listed in the Merck Manual – a handbook by physicians the world over, but as of today, you’re more likely to find warnings and horror stories with any information linked to the pharmaceutical companies or large medical establishments.
I’m here to dispel any concerns, highlight some positive impacts, and explain in a few simple steps how to perform a coffee enema.
What’s so great about coffee enmas, anyways?
- They get things moving: Enemas mechanically wash the lower portion of the colon, cleaning out impacted and fermenting feces, which are the preferred homes for yeasts, parasites, candida, and pathogenic bacteria. In an ideal world, the bowels should move after every meal, yet most Americans have one or less bowel movements a day. Since coffee is slightly acidic and astringent, this can increase waves of peristalsis in the colon, allowing it to rhythmically squeeze out what really needs to go or what might even be blocked further up the tract.
- They’re packed with nutrients and antioxidants: Coffee, especially dark roasts, are rich in Vitamin B1, magnesium, manganese, niacin, selenium, zinc, and, most noteworthy: palmitic acids, which are essential for that 7-fold increase of glutathione production and for proper liver detoxification. The liver loves what coffee has to offer and seems to gobble it up with glee! A single shot of espresso has about 25 mg of highly bioavailable magnesium, which can help relax the GI muscles to oppose each contraction! Coffees’ rich source of antioxidants can repair and prevent some of the oxidative stress that necessarily takes place in the colon when bacteria feed on fibrous foods and release their endotoxins.
- They directly target the liver: When you consume food, it does not go straight to the bloodstream. It is first taken up by the portal system, and then shuttled to the liver for processing. However, when absorbed from the colon, coffee travels straight to the liver, providing easily absorbable nutrients and caffeine to stimulate release and therefore, systemic detoxification. The entire blood supply circulates through the liver about every three minutes. By retaining the coffee for 15 minutes, the blood will circulate through the liver five times, almost like a dialysis treatment. Given coffees choleretic effect (e.g. its ability to increase bile flow), toxins stored in the liver are eagerly excreted into the bile and can then move into the small intestines, then the colon, and finally, out of the system. By directly accessing the liver and bi-passing the small intestines, the liver can more easily dump what it doesn’t need, like excess estrogen and stress hormones, heavy metals, endotoxins, environmental contaminants like BPA and microplastics, medications, urea, and even alcohol.
- Coffee enemas profoundly limit endotoxin formation and lower autointoxication syndrome: Clearing out the bowels regularly decreases the time bacteria have to feed on and ferment partially digested foods and fibers. This reduces the gas, bloating, and strongly smelling stool associated with very slow transit time and the subsequent bacterial action. The acidity of coffee triggers a release, clearing out parasites, bacteria, yeasts and leftover fibers. As bile is dumped out of the liver, toxins can move into the colon and then safely out of the body.
- They activate the vagus nerve & parasympathetic system: The vagus nerve lines the intestines, sending signals directly to the brain. It is responsible for calming the “fight or flight” feeling and allowing the body to rest, digest, and repair. Research shows that coffee enemas help strengthen vagal tone by activating nerve receptors, leading to greater parasympathetic activation (e.g. relaxation), smoother peristalsis waves, which over time, lead to better bowel movements without the use of an enema. Removing toxins from the liver and colon also has a relaxing effect. Combined with a potent elixir of calming nutrients, most people report feeling euphoric and focused following a coffee enema
- Coffee enemas allow for relaxation, wellbeing, and clarity: By removing a massive toxic burden, breathing deeply, and resting in a nest of towels or on the floor, the body has a chance to slow down, the mind can settle, and much needed repair of the intestinal lining can start to take place. Having the clarity and energy to work on meaningful tasks, to connect with others, and live a stimulating life is paramount when it comes to health. The longer we can sustain these higher frequency feelings and directly antagonize stress, the better our cells work, the better we feel, the more able we are to cope with the unavoidable chaos in life, and the more energy the liver has to work on regular bodily maintenance and cleanup. Instead of the classic coffee buzz (and crash) associated with overconsumption of caffeine in a calorically deficient state, coffee enemas create a calm, balanced, even euphoric state of grounded energy.
Preparing a coffee enema is simple. Here’s the breakdown:
Step 1: Choose your coffee
Research from Molecular Nutrition & Food Research found that dark roast coffee restored blood levels of the antioxidants vitamin E and glutathione more effectively than light roast coffee. Make sure to choose organic, sustainably grown, freshly roasted coffee, to avoid exposure to mold and rancidity, and support farmers that are doing it right!
Step 2: Choose your enema bucket
I recommended a stainless steel enema bucket, something like this. Easy to clean, and less likely to allow bacterial growth than plastic. For travel options, I love the convenience offered by this bag.
Step 3: Brew Your Coffee
For beginners, I recommend using less water, and slowly working your way up when you’re comfortable holding more. Anywhere from 4-16 oz. of liquid is a great place to start. ( I’ve worked up to 40oz. over the years, but not without some fun explosions in the process.)
Take 2 heaping TBS of your chosen coffee and add about 1 cup of filtered water to your favorite pot. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 13 minutes. Remove from heat and add another cup of room temperature filtered water. Do the pinkie test to make sure it’s not too hot, not too cold, but juuuuuuuuust right. Pour the coffee into the enema bucket, leaving the grounds in the bottom of the pot. You can also strain out the grounds or pour through a french press, if needed.
I’ve also had amazing results using my InstantPot to make my enema coffee, set to high pressure for 3 minutes. The high pressure extracts even more of the nutrients in less time, so I’ve been leaning towards this approach. If you are blessed to have a pressure cooker, I highly recommend this option!
Step 4: Lube up and fill up your bum!
Clamp the enema tube and add the warm coffee to the enema bucket. Loosen the clamp to allow the coffee to run through the tube until it begins to squirt from the tip to dispel any air bubbles.
Most people feel more comfortable holding a coffee enema after they’ve already had a bowel movement. If this isn’t possible, a quick, filtered water enema beforehand will make holding the enema much easier.
Make yourself a little nest of towels, either on the bathroom floor or in the tub. Lube up the enema tip with coconut oil or olive oil, or cold bacon grease (just kidding), and gently insert into your bum.
Laying on your left side, unclamp the enema tube and allow the coffee to flow in.
Breathe slowly and deeply. If you feel the urge to evacuate, clamp the tube to stop the flow, and see if your deep breaths can carry you through it.
Once the enema bucket has emptied its contents, clamp the tube, roll onto your back or right side and continue breathing deeply.
Try and hold it for at least 15 minutes, and work your way up to 30 minutes, if you can. I find it helpful to play a podcast, bring a book, or even talk on the phone to help the time pass in an enjoyable manner. Sometimes, I massage my belly, breaking up impactions if I find any.
Step 5: Let it out!
This is the best part! Slowly remove the tube from your bum and skillfully, move to the toilet, clenching your rectum if needed to avoid any drips. I have had a few tubes pop out of my bum and begin spraying the bathroom ceiling with coffee. It helped to laugh as I disinfected the walls and every other crevice.
Wash your enema bag or bucket with soapy water, leaving it out to dry completely, or wipe it down if you prefer to put it out of sight.
Enjoy the feeling of knowing you’ve lifted a massive toxic burden from your body, taken the time to care for arguably your most overworked organs, and congratulate yourself for trying something new. If coffee enemas are not right for you, start with a simple water enema, just to clear out the lower bowels and limit reabsorption of toxins. Or, if sticking anything up your bum really does not feel right, keep with your morning latte or, if drinking black, after a hearty meal to counteract any rise in stress hormones: your liver will thank you.
How often should I do this?
It really depends on a variety of factors: your circumstances, the health of your colon, how often you have bowel movements, your symptoms, what your health goals are, how much free-time you have. I went through a phase of having to do 4-6 water enemas a day just to function and support my colon. However, I was lucky enough to be working full-time on my health, so I could take the needed time to prep and cleanup, without rushing and stressing, which only further insults a compromised system.
Now, I get to do coffee enemas when I choose to support the health of my colon and liver, which is anywhere from 1-3 times a week. I understand that this practice is not for everyone, and even reading this might cause some squirming and unease.
That’s it for now. Feel free to share any insights, ask any questions, or sit and reflect silently. I’m always excited to talk about all things related to poop, digestion, and constipation related, so no need to feel shy or filter your questions.