February 6, 2013 By Amy
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
We don’t typically grow up with enemas here in the US…
In other countries, however, this easy and effective home remedy is often commonplace! I want to demystify (and de-ickify) the subject — because just like anything new or unknown, the concept may seem weird and gross to some.
What’s An Enema?
First of all, what is an enema?
“The injection of liquid into the colon for cleansing, for stimulating evacuation of the bowels, or for other therapeutic or diagnostic purposes.” (That’s the official definition.)
It’s really not as bad as it sounds! But I didn’t always think that…
Despite being a part of the alternative health world since the mid-1990s, I didn’t become fully aware of the benefits of enemas until I trained to be a GAPS practitioner with Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.
She told me how beneficial enemas are, especially to those on GAPS — or any gut healing protocol, for that matter.
She also said that almost every home in Europe has an enema kit! A parent would never dream of taking a child to the doctor for routine constipation, because they would just do a small, safe, easy enema at home. And voila, like magic, the constipation would clear immediately!
Dr. Natasha also impressed upon me that clients benefit from talking to someone with personal experience, and that I should be able to explain the process, step-by-step.
In other words, I needed to do enemas myself! So I did, and it helped me to get over the ick factor, and address many questions that clients may have.
Enema Specifics and Benefits
There are several different types of enemas:
- plain water (with perhaps sea salt or a probiotic added)
- coffee enemas
- herbal infusions
For the majority of folks, plain water or coffee enemas are the go-to formulas.
Not only are enemas beneficial for clearing constipation and detoxing, but coffee enemas in particular support the liver and gallbladder. And who couldn’t use some more liver support nowadays, right? This is important for those on GAPS, whose livers have long been overburdened due to gut health issues.
After doing enemas, people have reported everything from headaches clearing, fatigue lifting, skin issues clearing up, better digestion, clearer thinking, an easier time losing weight, reduced pain (such as related to fibromyalgia), and more.
While enemas in general are very gentle and safe, coffee enemas aren’t for everyone. Those with an extreme burden to detox (like a huge heavy metal issue), or those who are in extremely poor health, or those who have active gut inflammation (Crohn’s, colitis, etc.) may want to start very slowly with plain water enemas. They should also consult their physician about the appropriateness of an enema in their condition.
Coffee enemas are also contraindicated 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
All righty, let’s get real!
Despite understanding the potential benefits of enemas, some people may still have a hard time getting over the ick factor. I struggled with this issue, and I see many clients struggling with it. It just seems a little too invasive! I had a no entrada policy regarding the hind end, if you know what I mean.
I also thought it would be gross — and messy.
While teaching, Dr. Natasha showed us a drugstore enema bag displayed and went over the basics. That helped a lot. And then I realized that you just go to the bathroom afterward, so there’s no huge gross mess in your house.
I also watched a (very tastefully done) video on a medical website, where they explained the process thoroughly but discreetly. I could easily see that it wasn’t a 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.)
So, in the end, once I learned more about it, I changed my mind. After all, lots of people in other countries regularly employ this easy, safe, painless home therapy! Enemas are a traditional remedy, trusted by cultures around the globe for centuries.
What about the insertion bit? The super small tube is inserted in the rectum only a teeny bit — about the length of your pinky finger (much less for children). It isn’t painful or even uncomfortable. And, no, you won’t be walking funny afterward!
Can You Do Them Too Often?
Can someone become addicted to enemas, or just depend on them so their body can’t handle regular elimination without an enema?
Enemas are an important part of many therapeutic protocols, and may even be used daily or multiple times daily during the protocol. Yet, they do not last forever.
For example, while on the Gerson therapy, a nutrition-based cancer treatment, the patients do 4 or more coffee enemas per day. They have no ill effects, and actually benefit greatly. I am not involved with the Gerson therapy, but I have researched it and 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. Clients may do enemas as often as once or twice daily during health challenges, detox, extreme constipation. They may even do them to ward off migraines (say for a week or 2 at a time).
However, to my knowledge, no one has ever had any side effects. And they can certainly still effectively eliminate on their own once stopping enemas.
Like anything, I’m sure enemas can be overdone, but proper application of this centuries-old technique has produced nothing but benefits in my experience and research.
So keep this therapy in your back pocket for times of constipation or ill health! It is a means of empowerment.
My Detox Experience
I personally experienced the overall cleansing and detoxification benefits of enemas. It cleared out all the junk, and improved fatigue, some nagging little health stuff… It even supported my digestion, has cleared headaches, and got rid of a skin rash!
I am prone to migraines, and through a client discovered that coffee enemas help!
I’m 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.
Coffee, Coffee Enemas, And Kit Choices
If attempting to do a coffee enema, it’s not ideal to pop into Starbucks and pick up the house blend — then run into Walgreens and grab a discount enema kit.
First of all, the coffee needs to be a lighter roast than we in the US generally drink. The lighter roasts aren’t as acidic, and thus aren’t as irritating. From what I understand, a roast around 2 is preferable for enemas — whereas most people would drink coffee roasted to a 5 or 6.
Some coffees are sold specifically for enemas, or you can order low-roasted coffee.
The enema equipment is also important. Most of the drugstore stuff is going to be plastic (or PVC) and, as we know, plastic carries its own health risks. 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, 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.