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These ER Horror Stories Prove Why You Should Never Do a Coffee Enema - Men's Health

January 12, 2018


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Also called colonics, colon and bowel cleanses, and colon detoxes, enemas are nothing new. David M. Poppers, MD, PhD, a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Health and a clinical associate professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine, says the practice of bowel cleansing has been around for hundreds or even thousands of years.

“I know in ancient Egypt [enemas were] used. It comes back into popularity periodically and has been popularized by the media and celebrities or a patient story,” Poppers says.

Save Your Own Ass!:

Yet such devices can do the opposite of hydrate, says Chicago emergency room doctor Howard Mell, MD, a spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Medicine.

“I saw a case about a year and a half ago of a patient who’d used a coffee enema. He told us what he’d done and said he’d had a fair amount of diarrhea and rectal pain,” says Mell.

The doctors initially thought it was an infection, but after a lot of tests, they determined not only that the enema had caused diarrhea, it had also led to proctitis — inflammation and irritation of the lining of the rectum, where it connected to the colon.

“He had burned the tissue there, or it had had a reaction to the pH of the coffee. He basically needed to go to the operating room and get an internal exam and have CAT scans and other tests. Things eventually worked out. It didn’t kill him, but it certainly took a lot of time and work-up and effort to deal with,” says Mell

He says the whole idea of detoxification is “an absolute misnomer.”

“There is no reason for the body to ever be ‘detoxed.’ That’s what your liver and kidneys are for. The idea that you are going to have to remove or cleanse some poisons is an idea that sounds great, but the reality is that that’s not how it works. Our bodies clean ourselves out constantly. We have microbes that live in our guts that are very necessary. You don’t want to mess with them,” he says.

And the coffee (or any other substance inserted rectally) will also be absorbed much faster through the lining of the intestine, so you’ll get a bigger jolt of caffeine than you would if you downed a cup of coffee, he adds.

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Poppers says he’s seen many different types of enemas being sold: “saline or salt water, soap suds, castor oil, coffee.” When he was in training, he saw one patient who had used an alcohol-based enema, “in part for the alcohol-like effects, but also related to sexual practices and experimentation.” Another patient he saw had used a saline enema. Both led to extremely severe colitis, an inflammation of the colon.

At-home enemas like the one Goop is promoting have also been associated with severe infections and sepsis and severe “degradation” of the colon wall and perforations, says Poppers. They can lead to imbalances in electrolytes, the minerals in your body that keep fluids in your organs and cells balanced.

And just because a friend says a home-based colonic helped him or her, it may not have the same effect on you, he adds. Your neighbor’s response to it can vary very differently for your own based on the medications and herbs and supplements you are taking.

Don’t be duped by spas offering enemas, either: Dr. Christine Frissora, MD, a gastroenterologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, says they can lead to serious infections if many other people are being treated with the same equipment.

“It can be toxic to the body depending on what you’re putting in,” she says, warning that you could become infected with hepatitis or C. difficile, a bacterium that causes inflammation of the colon.

If you’re still not convinced a coffee enema — or any other kind — is a lousy idea, check in with your doctor about it before trying it.

“Always have a frank and open discussion with your physician, even about topics that are more sensitive and potentially embarrassing,” says Poppers.

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