“Coffee enemas have long been in use. In a case report in the Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal in December 1866, M.A. Cachot, MD, described successful use of a coffee enema to treat a child dying from an accidental poisoning. Articles from the late 1800s reported that coffee enemas were helpful in post-operative care; at a medical meeting in 1896, Dr. W.J. Mayo, one of the founders of the Mayo Clinic mentioned coffee enemas as a routine part of care for patients after abdominal surgery. Coffee enemas were listed as a stimulant and as a treatment for shock in medical and nursing textbooks in the early 1900s. In an extensive 1941 article in Uruguayan Medical, Surgical and Specialization Archives, Dr. Carlos Stajano described immediate improvement in near-terminal patients after coffee enemas, including a patient with cocaine intoxication and a patient with post-operative shock. He elaborated on his extensive experience with coffee enemas in post-operative management and made a plea for their continued use.” – Helping The Body Detoxify by Linda L. Isaacs, M.D.
While the idea of rectal cleansing dates back to the Ancient Egyptians, the notion of caffeine as an enema-related substance is relatively new. It was conceived in 1917, and appeared in the Merck Manual until 1972.
In 1920, German scientists investigated caffeine's effect on the bile duct and small intestines. Max Gerson proposed that coffee enemas had a positive effect on the gastro-intestinal tract. Gerson said that coffee enemas had positive effects on patients with tuberculosis, and later even those with cancer. He claimed that unlike saline enemas, the caffeine traveled through the smooth muscle of the small intestine, and into the liver. This, he said, cleared even more of the gastro-intestinal tract and removed more toxins and bile than a normal enema. He told his patients often that the "coffee enemas are not given for the function of the intestines but for the stimulation of the liver."
Effects and dangers
Some proponents of alternative medicine have claimed that coffee enemas have an anti-cancer effect by "detoxifying" metabolic products of tumors. There is no medical scientific evidence to support any anti-cancer effect of coffee enemas.
Coffee enemas can cause numerous side effects, including infections, sepsis (including campylobacter sepsis), severe electrolyte imbalance, colitis, proctocolitis, salmonella, brain abscess, and heart failure. If the coffee is inserted too quickly or is too hot, it could cause internal burning or rectal perforation.
The use of coffee enemas has led to several deaths as a result of severe electrolyte imbalance, hyponatremia, dehydration, pleural and pericardial effusions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ruled that study participants must be warned of the risk of death from coffee enemas in studies that use them.
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