I love coffee. So when the opportunity came along to inject coffee up my butt, I did what any member of the millennial hipster-scum class would do: I gleefully volunteered on the condition that I could order the small-batch organic beans.
The excitement began to fade when my enema kit arrived in the mail, and I got a firsthand look at it—the silicon bag and plastic syringe-like tube looked as though it belonged on the set of a Civil War movie.
But before I get to the Battle of Fecal Run — better known to some as Fecalburg — let’s look at where this idea even came from. In 2013, writer James Hamblin wrote about the history of the coffee enema for The Atlantic, claiming that it began in the 1930s as part of the still-popular Gerson therapy:
“‘How the Gerson Therapy Heals’ explains the reasoning behind coffee enemas and how they ‘stimulate the glutathione-S-transferase system by 700 percent’ and ‘cleanse the blood.’ It says the enema route is essential because ‘patients cannot be expected to consume the therapeutically necessary daily amount of at least one liter of coffee by drinking it.’”
According to the same article, the FDA — along with several physicians and health boards — have advised against all types of colonics. “Any time you’re filling your colon like that, there’s a small chance it will pop like a balloon,” Hamblin wrote.
Furthermore, in a recent Forbes article, Bruce Y. Lee listed all the potential risks that come along with injecting coffee water up your butt, based on medical case studies that have been published in medical journals:
- Rectal perforation due to benign stricture caused by rectal burns associated with hot coffee enemas
- Rectal burn induced by hot coffee enema
- Proctocolitis caused by coffee enemas
- Rectal burn caused by hot-water coffee enema
- Polymicrobial enteric septicemia from coffee enemas
- Deaths related to coffee enemas
So why are people—including many celebrities—practicing a custom that could potentially light their butt on fire? According to myriad wellness sites and a few physicians, the benefits of a coffee enema are such that they may include, but are not limited to, finding the Good Lord Himself:
- They can cleanse your body of its toxins.
- They can help promote clearer skin.
- They can reduce anxiety.
- They can strengthen your immune system.
- They can boost your energy.
- And, of course, they can help you lose weight, because they instigate a massive round of pooping.
So far, so much like almost everything else on the current detox market, which is pretty much all to be taken with a vast pinch of salt — ideally, rectally.
So now, onto the coffee enema itself. Confession time: I’ve had an enema once before. I was 10, and I had a 104-degree fever. The enema, you could say, helped cool me off. I say this because it’s important to know that, while staring at the enema kit and beneath the glaring fear of, “There’s no way this is going to feel good,” there was also a small part of me that thought, Could this be the answer to all of my health problems, including migraines?
With optimism foaming nicely, I lit a vanilla-scented candle and began brewing my enema au jus — three tablespoons of organic coffee grounds mixed with four cups of distilled water.
It was during this time, while I waited for the brew to boil, that I set a towel on the bathroom floor and went through what can only be described as a dry-run. I hung up the silicon bag on the towel hook about four feet above me, laid down in the fetal position and touched the end of the plastic tube to the edge of my butthole, the way a glass harpist would a goblet.
At approximately 8:30 p.m. on a cool Southern California Sunday night, armed with a silicon bag full of coffee water and the tip of the plastic tube slathered in coconut oil, I did what the Ancient Egyptians and Romans did before me, and plugged my butt with a water hose. (Upon inserting the tip, I swear I could hear my mother’s voice, telling me in her native tongue of Farsi just how disappointed she was in me.)
Once I was approximately an inch and a half deep, I looked up at the three bulbs above my medicine cabinet mirror, released the valve using my free hand, closed my eyes and waited for the brown liquid to crawl inside me.
Then it didn’t hurt.
Then it really hurt.
My insides were being electrocuted by a surge of liquid, and I could feel the shockwaves down to my fingertips. For a second, I thought my body was going to be permanently stuck in the fetal position: Every few minutes, I would yell toward the bathroom ceiling and roll around on the floor as I clenched by butt muscles, worried that I was leaking poo. I thought of the little Dutch boy who held his finger in the dike to save all of Holland from drowning. But while he was a hero, I was just an idiot who volunteered to stick a plastic tube up my butt because I like coffee.
It continued on like this for 11 minutes, which although four minutes short of the suggested time one is supposed to hold the coffee-water inside their body, felt adequate enough. (That’s a polite way of saying that another few seconds, and I surely would have Jackson Pollock’d my bathroom floor and walls with some abstract but very expressive fecal matter.)
Still, there were upsides: In between bouts of stomach growlings that would scare off even the most decorated 15th century Catholic exorcist, there were small but notable moments of euphoria, similar to the inexplicable joy of popping a bubble as it’s floating through the air. I can’t say for certain whether these moments were actually exceptional, or if they felt good only because they weren’t the misery I was suffering otherwise, but I can honestly say that without them, I’d have likely pulled the plug at least five minutes earlier.
Here’s what happened next:
And 20 minutes later, it happened again:
And in the middle of the night, it happened again:
And at work the next day it happened once more:
In the immediate aftermath of my first and most explosive bowel movement, I experienced a blinding headache, which scared me enough to later reach out to a professional to find out what was going on. “This isn’t a symptom I’m familiar with,” explains Carey B. Strom, a gastroenterologist in L.A. “I can tell you, there is no benefit to an enema — let alone a coffee enema — whatsoever. It can cause infection, and it can cause a perforated colon.”
But what about the toxins that were supposedly being removed?
“That’s a bunch of bologna. I don’t even know what toxins are,” he adds.
To that end, the other six gastroenterologists I tried to speak to on the topic told me that, since they don’t offer colonics, they didn’t want to comment on the matter.
Slightly delirious, I took four pain pills, climbed in the shower and stood leaning against the tile wall, where I would stay until I felt sufficiently sorry for myself.
As for how I slept that night, I’d be lying if I said that anything felt “different.” I didn’t have any lurid dreams about poop squirting out from every orifice of my body, nor did I wake up feeling more or less energized than usual. I already have fairly clear skin, so that looked the same, too. I did, however, wake up feeling lighter, which wasn’t a surprise considering the fecal monsoon that had come and gone, expelling everything I had inside me.
So would I do it again?
No chance. I have, however, thought a lot about those ephemeral moments that interspersed my violent screams for help that would never come. What they were, I’m still not exactly sure, and like everything else that’s inexplicably good, I wish they’d lasted a bit longer.
But I do know this: I’ll be taking my coffee orally from now on.