(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.)
(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.