No Way, I’m Not Doing THAT!

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raw-coffee-bean

(raw coffee beans)

Please welcome Amy from Real Food, Whole Health who does a great job introducing us to a topic that makes many of us think “ick” and “no way”! –Wardee

Being raised in the US, enemas aren’t something we typically grow up with. In other countries, this easy and effective home remedy is often commonplace. Just like anything new or unknown, the concept can seem weird and for some, kind of icky. So, hopefully I can demystify (and de-ickify) the subject a bit.

What’s An Enema?

First of all, let’s talk about what an enema is. The official definition is: “the injection of liquid into the colon for cleansing, for stimulating evacuation of the bowels, or for other therapeutic or diagnostic purposes.” Lovely, huh? It’s really not as bad as it sounds.

But I didn’t always think that.

Despite being involved in the alternative health and healing world since the mid 90s, and hearing about enemas for some time, it wasn’t until actually working with clients who were on the GAPS protocol and training to be a GAPS Practitioner with Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride that I became fully aware of the benefits of enemas.

During a training session with Dr. NCM, she talked about how beneficial enemas are, especially to those on GAPS (or any gut healing protocol), and how, in Europe, almost every home has an enema kit. She said that a parent would never even dream of taking a child to the doctor for routine constipation, because they would just do a small, safe, easy enema at home and like magic, the constipation would clear immediately. She also impressed upon me that clients would benefit from my personal experience and being able to talk them through the process step-by-step (and be able to answer those kind of questions you only know the answers to by doing).

So, that’s when I began doing them, and indeed, the experience has helped me numerous times with many different clients and their questions. It’s been extremely helpful to know about enemas when dealing with babies and constipation, because it’s helped me to empower parents to easily assist their child with that uncomfortable issue and help the baby pass stools easily within minutes, with no pain and no need for medicines that can have side effects or be irritating.

Enema Specifics and Benefits

There are several different types of enemas. The most common are plain water (with perhaps a bit of sea salt or a probiotic added in) or coffee enemas. Sometimes, herbal infusions and other preparations are used, but for the majority of folks, the plain water or coffee enemas are the go-to formulas.

The benefits of enemas, including coffee enemas, are far-reaching. Not only are enemas beneficial for clearing constipation and helping with detox, but coffee enemas especially help with liver and gallbladder support — and whose liver couldn’t use more support these days, right? This is especially important for those on GAPS because the liver has been long overburdened due to gut health issues. People have reported everything from headaches clearing, fatigue lifting, skin issues clearing up, better digestion, clearer thinking, an easier time losing weight, reduced pain (especially like pain related to fibromyalgia symptoms), and more.

I should say, however, that while enemas in general are very gentle and safe, coffee enemas aren’t for everyone, and those with an extreme burden to detox (like a huge heavy metal issue), those who are in extremely poor health or have active gut inflammation (Crohn’s, colitis, etc.) might want to start very slowly with plain water enemas, or consult their physician about the appropriateness of any enema in their condition. Although many U.S. physicians aren’t well versed in enemas, this would at least give you more information to choose what is best for you. Coffee enemas are also contradindicated during pregnancy and are not appropriate for young children. Regular water enemas (with a bit of sea salt or some probiotics) would be more advisable in those situations.

How Enemas Work

Alrighty, so let’s get real. Honestly, despite understanding the benefits enemas may offer, it’s hard for many people to get over the “ick factor”. This issue was one I struggled with and I see it in many clients, even those on the GAPS protocol. The tendency is just “skip” that part of the book and therapy. Like many in the U.S. who are unfamiliar with enemas, it just seemed a little too invasive for my taste. I sort of had a no entrada policy regarding the hind end, if you know what I mean.

I also thought it would be so gross, and honestly, messy. I don’t know what I thought was going on but I just imagined a big mess. And I thought it’d be terribly embarrassing — like you’d have to go to the drugstore and buy the kit or you’d go to a colonics therapist and there’d be that whole interaction. So, there were several reasons I didn’t want to even consider it.?? But once I learned a bit more about it, and that a lot of people in other countries regularly employ this easy, safe, painless home therapy, and that enemas are a traditional remedy that’s been trusted by cultures around the globe for centuries (and almost 100 years for coffee enemas), I began thinking it couldn’t possibly be THAT bad.

During her teaching, Dr. Campbell-McBride had a drugstore enema bag displayed so that we could see what it looked like and she went over the basics. That helped a lot. And then I realized that you just go to the bathroom afterwards, so it’s not like there was this tremendous, gross mess in your house (again, who knows what I was really thinking happened!!!)

The final thing that helped me feel comfortable was to watch a (very tastefully done) video, on a medical website, where they explained the process in a much more thorough (but discreet) manner. I could easily see that it was no big deal. (Just a note, you might not want to just Google this one, because you could end up with some, shall we say, less-than-credible, links.)

enema-video-screenshot

(click image to watch a tastefully done video about enemas)

People get really worked up about the whole insertion thing. Honestly, it’s a super small tube and it’s inserted into the rectum a teeny bit, about the length of your pinky finger (much less for children), so it’s not like you see in the movies with these crazy machines and huge attachments and all. It’s not painful or really even uncomfortable.

And, no, you won’t be walking funny afterward!

Can You Do Them Too Often?

People always ask if it’s possible to do enemas too often or if they can become addicted to enemas (or  create dependence so that their body will not handle regular elimination without an enema).  From what I understand, this is not really a valid concern. Enemas are an important part of many therapeutic protocols, often used daily or multiple times daily during the protocol (not forever). For example, while on the Gerson therapy, a nutrition-based cancer treatment, the patients do four or more enemas per day, specifically coffee enemas, with no ill effects (and to much benefit).  I am not involved with the Gerson therapy as that is outside my scope of practice, but I have researched it and have spoken with several people who have had fantastic results and no problems related to enemas.

During the GAPS protocol, enemas are a critical part of detoxification. I do have experience with clients doing enemas (plain or coffee) as often as once or twice daily during critical times of health challenges or detox, extreme constipation or to ward off migraines (say for a week or two at a time) and to my knowledge, no one has ever had any side effects or problems and they certainly still effectively eliminated on their own once stopping the enemas. I am sure that like anything, enemas could be overdone, but a proper application of this centuries-old technique has been nothing but beneficial in my experience and research. Certainly, to keep this therapy in your back pocket for use during times of constipation or ill health by a family member, it is a means of empowerment — to be able to help your family at home with a safe therapy always makes us feel more secure!

Personally, I definitely did experience the overall cleansing and detox benefit of enemas. It seemed to just clear out the junk and improved fatigue, some little nagging health stuff, supported my digestion (especially liver/gallbladder function), and has cleared headaches and a skin rash. I am prone to migraines and it was actually through a client that I discovered that coffee enemas could help with migraines. So, I’ve been so thankful to have this drug-free remedy in my toolbox. Luckily, since changing to a real food diet and addressing the rest of the Essential Elements of Whole Health, I haven’t really experienced migraines or fibromyalgia pain anymore, but once you’ve suffered from them, you do fear they could return, so it’s nice to know I have another method to handle that unbearable pain!

Coffee and Kit Choices

One thing I want to make sure I mention is that if you choose to try coffee enemas, you can’t exactly just go down to Starbucks and pick up the house blend, pop into Walgreens and grab a discount enema kit and start doing these enemas. Well, I suppose you could, but it’s not exactly ideal.

First of all, the coffee needs to be a lighter roast than we generally use for drinking in the United States. The roasting affects the acidity of the coffee and the lighter roasts are generally better tolerated and not as irritating. There are coffees sold specifically for enemas, or you can order low-roasted coffee. I am not a coffee connoisseur, so I can’t speak too much to the roasting issue, but from what I understand, a roast around a 2 is preferable for enemas and most people would drink coffee roasted to a 5 or 6.

The equipment you use is also important, as most of the drugstore stuff is going to be plastic (or PVC) and, as we know, plastic carries its own health risks. Not exactly something I want to put directly in my colon! The acidity of coffee also may contribute to leaching these chemicals from plastic bags or tubing, so we use a stainless steel enema bucket (it looks like a big measuring cup) with silicone tubing and nozzle. For infants and young toddlers, you would be able to use a bulb syringe (and remember, just water for them, not coffee).

What Do You Think?

I’m so glad that Wardee invited me to write this post because enemas are something that I think should be talked about more often in health circles, and are certainly an important part of the GAPS protocol.

I’m pretty sure the fear of the unknown and the “ick factor” stops people from using this safe, easy home remedy. I talk clients through this process quite often and answer a lot of questions in the beginning, but once people have done it, they see how simple it is and that it’s really not such a big deal after all.

Hopefully this has helped you understand this somewhat taboo topic a bit more and encouraged you to investigate a bit further or try an enema for yourself or your child. If you have specific concerns, I’m more than happy to try to help you one-on-one during a consultation or Q and A session.

What do you think now? If you said No Way! in the past, what do you think now? If you’re already familiar with enemas, please share your experiences.

New to our GAPS series? Get up to speed by browsing past posts in this series or reading what the GAPS diet is.

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Comments

  1. Heather says

    I have no problem with getting (or giving to my family) enemas, but due to liver issues I would really like to try coffee enemas. I haven’t yet because I’ve been pregnant or nursing for the last 5 years. As I am currently due in March I’m looking at another two (or more) years of nursing. I realize coffee enemas aren’t to be used during pregnancy, but what about nursing or extended nursing when the baby is eating a regular solid diet? Obviously caffeine is a concern, especially if caffeine is one of the things that create the theraputic benefits.

    • says

      I have had clients use coffee enemas during breastfeeding. My recommendation is to perhaps wait a bit until baby is a little older, 4-6 months. The caffeine does go right to the liver, rather than being systemic, as long as the coffee is not retained for longer than 15-20 minutes according to the research I’ve read. If you have specific concerns, feel free to email me and we’ll talk about any special considerations in your case. Without knowing a bit more, I can only speak very generally. :)

  2. says

    I, too, skimmed that chapter in the Gaps book when I first started the diet. But after I was on it a few months, a friend recommended coffee enemas for liver detox and since I had some “liver spots” on the skin directly over my liver, it sounded like a good idea. My friend had done them daily in the past for cancer treatment, so could reassure me they didn’t need to be a big deal. So, I tried it. I followed the instructions in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNOo37rmyGc . I was surprised that my first enema experience was actually very relaxing. Who’da thunk? I did 7 total over the course of a few months, and by the end of that time, my liver spots cleared. I did find that sometimes retaining the enema was uncomfortable, so I started the habit of doing a warm water enema first, to clear my colon (even if I had a bowel movement recently), and I was able to retain the coffee enema more comfortably. I hadn’t heard of the low-roast recommendation, so I used regular roasted organic coffee instead, and that worked fine for me. As for a Heather’s question about caffeine, my understanding is that the caffeine goes directly to the liver, bypassing the rest of the bloodstream, so I felt no caffeine buzz like I would drinking a lot of coffee.

  3. says

    Thank you for bringing this up! I just started Epsom salt baths and this would be another great way to gently detox while breastfeeding (just plain water). Would it be better to use purified or distilled water?

  4. BJ Griffin says

    Thanks for the comments y’all I have hep c and doing a detox now with my practitioner he wants me to do the coffee one and I had been hesitate to but now think I’ll be making some coffee and adding them in, thanks agaon

  5. says

    Im a believer in these–im T1 dominant autoimmune and coffee is good to balance out the system. I can only eat a few foods, and of course i cant drink coffee…..but i still get the coffee inside of me..and it works :) hehe. awesome post!

  6. says

    I’m so glad you covered this topic. I too thought “no Way!” when I first read about enema’s in the GAPS book and yet eventually got to the point where it was no big deal for myself and my children.
    My daughter will even request an enema if she hasn’t gone in a day or two. I think that is a very healthy attitude to them. Much better than pretending it isn’t happening.

  7. says

    I am so happy to see this on the web and on Facebook. I did a cleanse last September which included daily coffee enemas and have been doing them weekly since. Fortunately, I don’t have any serious illnesses. I do find that the enemas give me a sense of well being. I know that I have lost weight and inches around my middle due to the cleansing and releasing. I am doing another cleanse this month and again and doing coffee enemas, almost daily. They take a bit of organizing and time, but are so worth it.

  8. Dona says

    When my husband (and I) went to Mexico for treatment of severe muscle pain that was caused by taking Crestor, the clinic used coffee enemas daily along with Kelation. Most people were at this clinic for 2 to 3 weeks. This clinic treated several illnesses and cancer patiences. My husband said it definitely made him feel better. At first he was shocked, and a little uncomfortable about the idea, but then he realized how easy it was. He read this post and has decided to use the idea again. He is feeling very sluggish and his muscle pain that has never went 100% away is creeping in again. Thanks for posting this topic and posting the video.

  9. says

    So glad to see the positive responses and hear stories of others having good success with this protocol! It definitely helps others feel comfortable about trying this technique! :)

  10. says

    I am wondering, in the link you gave there are lots of different sets and set ups, sizes and such. Can you make some specific recommendations?

  11. Deanna says

    So glad to find this post — thank you for sharing your experience

    I am looking to purchase an enema system for my family and feel urgent as my boy hasn’t had a movement for 2 days! Locally I can only find latex and dont feel comfortable with that. I see that the prices are very high on the above link and see better prices on Stainless steel & silicone enemas at other sites….but want to make sure we are getting what we need especially b/c I want the experience for my 5 yr old to be positive. Is there a reason you spend the big bucks and not go eslewhere? Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Deanna! The link in the article above was simply one I have found and used with good success. Great product, good customer service, etc. When I purchased my kit, it seemed like the pricing was pretty in line with what I was finding elsewhere, but that may have changed in the couple of years since with coffee enemas growing in popularity. I also liked that I could get a complete kit, with the right coffee, and not have to piece meal it all together. If you find a better deal and you feel that the company is reputable, the product is high quality (truly stainless steel and silicone tubing AND nozzle) then I say go for it. :) Perhaps you would be willing to share other links with us here on the comments for others who are looking?

  12. LauraSC says

    I was half grown before I realized our family was different than my friend’s families back in the 1950s. As the baby by a whopping 9 and 14 years, my sisters thought I had it pretty easy because I didn’t have to take the dreaded castor oil, they had Castoria a milder watered down version. The other thing I got off easy on was that I got one day to see if the Castoria would work its magic laxative powers before we were placed on our left sides on a towel beside the toilet and given an enema. Having regular bowel movements was of utmost importance to my mother. She came from generations of doctors and nurses. Evidently it was an important feature of health care at the turn of the prior century and for the first third of the good old twentieth. Enemas were recommended for curing a number of ailments including bringing on the labor process. It was just a part of good hygiene and wellness in my family so to me it has always been no big deal. When I found out that none of my girlfriends had similar bathroom experiences, I had some tales to tell them. Now I am amazed that as a society folks are so far removed from this practice. I think enemas were practiced in this country at a time that most people now have lost touch with, just as they are commonly practiced in other countries now.
    I did have a cousin by marriage who was lucky he married into our enema taking family. Back in the 1960s he cured himself of late stage pancreatic or liver cancer with coffee enemas. Many each day. He was written up in medical journals because of the rarity of the cure at that time. I would be interested to know where they came across this information back then. Maybe the Gershon therapy? I know I would definitely do this if I had the same problem.

  13. Sally Bennett says

    I’m afraid you are misleading people that there is no pain or discomfort with enemas. I have had a number of enemas over many years, some as a child and always during labor. I always had cramping and pain both during the process of taking the enema and for some time after releasing the enema. I found them very painful and distressing. I can’t imagine anyone looking forward to this procedure.

    • says

      Hi Sally! Thanks for your comment. I am sorry you have had bad experiences with enemas. Since it’s been multiple times, it’s hard to pinpoint a cause for the problems- perhaps it’s just not a home remedy you choose to keep in your toolkit. Different people will respond differently, and there is no problem leaving this out if it doesn’t suit you. :)

      For others who may be worried about experiencing discomfort, here are some tips:

      – Make sure to apply lubricant (coconut oil or salve) to the nozzle and bum before insertion.

      – Enter into this procedure as relaxed as possible, and if there are any emotional issues (history of trauma or abuse) then make the decision if this is an appropriate treatment for you at this time.

      – There may be some slight cramping as the liquid moves into the intestines. Stopping the flow (there is a crimp on the hose) and going slower, doing abdominal massage and changing positions can all help ease cramping. Deep breathing also helps, along with mental focus and/or visualization. Again, this is usually slight and temporary, and will pass quickly in most cases. If there is a lot of pain, simply stop, release by going to the bathroom and then choose to either try again or not.

      – If you have a serious gut inflammation issue, hemorrhoids, or are experiencing diarrhea or irritating stools, an enema may not be comfortable during these times, or may not be the right fit for you right now.

      – Make sure the water (or liquid) is body temperature. Should not be cold, nor hot. If it is too cold, it can cause cramping. If it is too warm, it will be burning and could damage the sensitive tissue.

      – Make sure to use some sea salt in the water. Just as doing a NetiPot/sinus rinse, using pure water burns- using salted water is more pH appropriate and is much more comfortable. Coffee will be more intense than water and could cause more cramping than a plain, salted water enema.

      – Many people have experienced an enema given in a hospital or clinical setting, under stress, perhaps during an illness, in the throes of pregnancy pain, or a diagnostic tool. Most of these are done with glycerin or barium- both irritating substances. This would not make for the most pleasant memories of the treatment and is a different experience than a peacefully administered home remedy.

      Hope this helps!

  14. Justin says

    Hi there,
    I’m so glad to find this info. I’ve been doing coffee enemas (2 per day) as part of a detox program and I have a problem. I have difficulty releasing my enemas. I have no problem getting in 32 oz and holding it for 12 minutes, but it often takes up to 30-45 minutes to release it all. It comes out a little bit at a time, with waiting periods in between. I do squats, vigorously massage my abdomen, and anything else I can think of. At the end of the session, I’m always worried that not everything came out. Any suggestions? Thanks!

    • says

      Hmm… interesting. It sounds like you are doing the right first steps- the massage, etc. I would suggest trying a pose used traditionally in Chinese medicine. After the enema (and possibly after initial release) lay on your back, and put the soles of your feet together (legs out like a frog) and press soles of feet together firmly (but comfortably). I do not understand the full mechanism behind this, but it is said to help the “ilial flush”- meaning releasing from the ilium (ascending colon). Failing this, it just may be that your body takes a bit of time to release everything, and if it isn’t extremely painful or anything (indicating a blockage or inflammation) then I might not personally be overly concerned. Of course, if you feel it warranted, you should check with a professional (either physician or colon hydrotherapist) for more information related to your specific concerns. Hope that helps!

    • says

      Justin (or others),
      I just came across your concern about not releasing all of the enema. If you are at all dehydrated, even a little, your body will absorb the water from the enema into the colon, making the amount you eliminate accordingly less to the amount you took in. I once was so dehydrated (and didn’t even realize it) that NOTHING came out when it was time to let it all go. I mean NOTHING! That was a little frightening, and I thought there was something wrong; but it turned out that I was simply dehydrated and my body needed that water. You might try drinking 8-16 oz of water before your enema just to be sure you’re completely hydrated.

      Another thing you can try if dehydration isn’t an issue is to press your four fingers into the area just below the belly button. Somehow this really helps the stomach to relax and let go of all the liquid. And avoid pushing at all costs. This actually tightens the muscles, making them less likely to relax and let out the liquid.

      If after all this I’m still having trouble with the liquid coming out, I’ll simply be finished. I’ll start cleaning up and moving around, and this almost always does the trick. Within 10 minutes or so, the urge to go will be there, and the rest of the liquid will come out. Sometimes really thinking or worrying about it has the opposite effect, and relaxing and not stressing about it is almost like reverse psychology!

      • Tali says

        I was just about to bring the ‘dehydration’ issue myself…..try to hydrate really well for a few days before your next enema and see if that makes a difference.

  15. Rachel says

    Hi Amy,

    Thank you so much for this post! I have been using warm water enemas to relieve occasional constipation and I can’t tell you how great I feel afterward!

    I have a quick question: are occasional low volume warm water enemas generally safe for a healthy pregnant woman in her first trimester? I seem to encounter conflicting advice on this topic and wondered what your opinion is?

    Thanks so much :)

    • says

      Hi Rachel! Thanks for your comment and glad you’ve had success with enemas. It is my opinion that this should be a safe practice, given that it is low volume and simply warm, salted water. If you feel terribly apprehensive, you could always wait until after the 12 week mark, but I believe it’s something i would use personally if I needed it during my pregnancy. Hope that helps!

  16. says

    Contemplate adding full grains, fruits, entire grains bread
    and greens that are higher in fiber to your diet regime.
    The affected person will also require to undertake continuous examine-ups in order to observe the veins in the
    anal sphincter.

  17. Abby says

    We have just started the GAPS diet with our 2 1/2 yo son. I have done the coffee enemas and have found them to be very helpful. I was wondering if it was possible to do them with our son? If so, how much coffee could be used to brew. I have looked at this online and have found that some say yes and some no. Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Abby! Glad you have found these useful for yourself. There is no easy answer when it comes to the age at which coffee enemas can start- just like most things, it will depend on the situation and the child’s health. I do know that plain water enemas (with a bit of sea salt) can be safely used on even infants (done gently with a blue nasal bulb) to ease constipation, so those should be totally fine with a 2 1/2 year old. These are typically what most of my clients use with their little ones. However, if you feel you’d like to try the coffee with him, perhaps a highly diluted amount would be a good idea to start (say, 1/4 of the normal amount) and only after doing some plain water enemas to see how he responds (meaning, I wouldn’t do a coffee enema the first time ever). Ultimately, you know your child better than anyone else and you are the best judge of how he might respond to this therapy. In the big picture, coffee enemas are very safe compared to most any conventional treatment, especially when diluted and used sparingly. I hope this has been helpful, and I am sorry there is a not an easy clear-cut answer. I’d be happy to talk with you further about your specific concerns during a Q & A session- just email me (info@realfoodwholehealth.com) or call the office (860-325-0697).

  18. says

    Wow, some of those comments are long…I didn’t read them all, but wanted to say a couple of things. I am a Certified Rehab RN working in Spinal Cord Injury, so I have a LOT of experience with MANY kinds of enemas and suppositories…you may or may not understand why.

    *About coffee enemas: something that you did NOT mention that is of vital importance is WHY coffee enemas are so good for migraines, energy, focus, etc. The coffee itself is only a small part, but it’s the caffeine that does most of the work. The lighter the coffee roast, the more caffeine. Instilling coffee directly into the rectum is like mainlining caffeine. The mucosal lining of the rectum absorbs a LOT…it’s why in european countries, they give so many medications rectally. It’s also why it affects the organs so quickly…it doesn’t have to pass through your digestive system, it just goes directly into the blood stream. SO…if you have trouble with sleep or are sensitive to caffeine, you may need to use a LOT of caution. More emphasis on kids…if you won’t let your kid drink a 32oz coffee because you don’t want them having that much caffeine…you may want to rethink the coffee enema. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance are no giggling matter, but they’re serious considerations when introducing that much caffeine.

    *You are absolutely right to suggest asking your doctor before going on a regular enema routine. There are fantastic enemas and suppositories out there that are safe for daily use, and there are ones that can really mess you up if you use them every day…doing a tap water enema every single day can cause irriversable damage. I have seen it with my own eyes. Your electrolytes get so thrown off that it causes altered mental status and if not rectified immediately, can cause permanent brain damage.

    YES, these enemas should be more widely accepted and the “ick-factor” should be driven far away. I know better than anyone how important it is to think about things below the bellybutton, but please do not go blindly into the world of enemas.

    Educate yourself. Go to a saavy doctor. Ask questions. Get blood work. I’m a Primal RN, and I’m listed on the Primal Docs website. Use it.

Trackbacks

  1. [...]  Since my appointment last week I have added in green tea successfully! I was doing coffee enemas (learn about them here), but those were not enough to keep my immune system balanced. I can already feel a different [...]

  2. [...] to ensure the liver detoxes properly and the gallbladder releases the bile. If you are interested, read more about it here. As you probably know by now, im not afraid to do anything that will help my body detox and heal [...]

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