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A coffee enema is the enema-related procedure of injecting coffee via the anus to cleanse the rectum and large intestines. There is no medical, scientific evidence to support any positive health claim for coffee enemas. The process can result in sepsis, severe electrolyte imbalance, colitis, proctocolitis, internal burning, rectal perforation, and even brain abscess or heart failure.
While the idea of rectal cleansing dates back to the Ancient Egyptians, the notion of coffee as an enema-related substance is not 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 detoxification effects that contributed to the recovering health of his patients. He claimed that unlike saline enemas, coffee in the enema traveled through the smooth muscle of the small intestine, and into the liver. This, he said, stimulated autonomic nervous system in the same way caffeine does when consumed orally and activated the release of bile in the liver, cleared even more of the gastro-intestinal tract and removed more toxins 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 a rapid detoxification effect by "detoxifying" metabolic products of tumors. There is no medical scientific evidence to support any detoxification or anti-cancer effect of coffee enemas.
Coffee enemas can cause serious side effects (some common to other types of enemas), including infections, 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.
When administered as often as every two hours, coffee enemas have shown to be connected to two cases of deaths as a result of severe electrolyte imbalance, hyponatremia, dehydration and 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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