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Gwyneth Paltrow and GOOP recommend irrigating your rectum and colon with coffee. Don’t.

It seems January is Gwyneth Paltrow’s go-to month for promoting dangerous things that should not go in or near an orifice. January 2016 brought us vagina steaming, January 2017 brought us jade eggs, and here we are in the early days of January 2018 and goop.com is hawking coffee enemas and promoting colonic irrigation.

I suspect that GP and her pals at goop.com believe people are especially vulnerable to buying shady, quasi-medical items in the New Year as they have just released their latest detox and wellness guide complete with a multitude of products to help get you nowhere, except perhaps the emergency department.

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Ha ha, go deep. Nice play on words for a dangerous yet ineffective therapy.

Goop.com is not selling a coffee machine they are selling a coffee-enema making machine. That, my friends, is a f*cked up way to make money.

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I know the people at goop will either ignore the inquiries from reporters or release a statement saying the article is “a conversation” not a promotion and that they included the advice of a board-certified doctor, Dr. Alejandro Junger  but anytime you lend someone else your platform their ideas are now your ideas. That is why I never let anyone write guest posts for my blog. And let’s be real, if you are selling the hardware to shoot coffee up your ass then you are promoting it as a therapy especially as goop actually called the $135 coffee-enema making machine “Dr. Junger’s pick.” I mean come on.

The interview with Dr. Junger is filled with information that is unsupported by both the medical literature and by human anatomy and physiology. There is no data to suggest that a “colonic helps with the elimination of the waste that is transiting the colon on its way out.” That is what bowel movements do. There are no toxins to be cleansed or irrigated. That is fake medicine. A 2011 review on colonics concluded that doctors should “advise patients that colon cleansing has no proven benefits and many adverse effects.”

The idea that colonics are used in conjunction with a cleanse is beyond ridiculous. Dr. Junger tells us via goop that a cleanse creates some kind of extra sticky mucous that “blocks elimination of what needs to be disposed of” (I will admit that hurt my brain more than a little). Dr. Junger says this cleanse residual is a “mucoid plaque,” basically some kind of adherent, cleanse-induced super-glue that needs a colonic for removal. He supports this assertion not with published research, but by telling goop’s readers to “Google mucoid plaque.”

No really. That is what he said. Google it.

So I did. This is what came up first:

Mucoid plaque (or mucoid cap or rope) is a pseudoscientific term used by some alternative medicine advocates to describe what is claimed to be a combination of allegedly harmful mucus-like material and food residue that they say coats the gastrointestinal tract of most people.

Apparently,  the term was “mucoid plaque” was coined by Richard Anderson, who is a naturopath not a gastroenterologist so not a doctor who actually looks inside the colon. I looked “mucoid plaques” up in PubMed. Guess what? Nothing colon-related. There is not one study or even case-report describing this phenomenon. Apparently only doctors who sells cleanses and colonics can see them. I am fairly confident that if some gastroenterologist (actual colon doctor) found some crazy mucous that looked like drool from the Alien Queen that she or he would have taken pictures and written about it or discussed it at a conference.

If we needed cleanses to live and thus colonics to manage this alien-like mucous residue created by cleanses how did we ever evolve? Wouldn’t we have died out from these mysterious “toxins?” Wouldn’t our rectums be different? Wouldn’t we have invented irrigation tubing before the wheel?

So many questions.

There is only a side mention in the goop post of two of the many complications seen with colonics, colon perforation and damage to gastrointestinal bacteria.

And as for coffee enemas? While Dr. Kelly Brogan, Gwyneth Paltrow’s AIDS denialist doctor gal pal who is speaking at In GOOP Health later this month, is also a huge fan there is no data to suggest that coffee offers any benefit via the rectal route but there are plenty of reports of coffee-enema induced rectal burns.

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So here are the facts.

No one needs a cleanse. Ever.

There are no waste products “left behind” in the colon that need removing “just because” or after a cleanse.

If a cleanse did leave gross, adherent hunks of weird mucous then that would be a sign that the cleanse is DAMAGING THE COLON. You know what creates excess, weird mucous? Irritation and inflammation.

There are serious risks to colonics such as bowel perforation, damaging the intestinal bacteria, abdominal pain, vomiting, electrolyte abnormalities and renal failure. There are also reports of serious infections, air emboli, colitis, and rectal perforation. If you go to a spa and the equipment is not sterilized infections can be transmitted via the tubing.

Coffee enemas and colonics offer no health benefit. The biology used to support these therapies is unsound and there are very real complications.

Keep the coffee out of your rectum and in your cup. It is only meant to access your colon from the top.

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Discussion

64 thoughts on “Gwyneth Paltrow and GOOP recommend irrigating your rectum and colon with coffee. Don’t.

  1. I have read of a veterinary surgeon specialising in exotic animals giving a coffee enema to a Tiger to help reverse an anesthetic, but that’s the only time I’ve heard of it.

    Posted by Peter Benson | January 5, 2018, 8:17 am
  2. Peter Benson, that would make an interesting coffee ad…

    Posted by Angiportus | January 5, 2018, 8:30 am
  3. A cup of coffee or a caffeinated soda promotes colon cleaning the “natural” way. And it tastes better. 😉

    *sigh*

    Posted by msdonnarl | January 5, 2018, 8:41 am
  4. I need caffeine for perimenopausal fatigue but can’t take it from the top end of my alimentary canal due to perimenopausal chronic gastritis. I am now wondering if it will work from the other end… Just kidding. Sort of. I will not do this. But not being able to have coffee (even decaf) makes me very sad. Side question: any tips for chronic gastritis due to hormone crap? 🙂

    Posted by wheelerbc | January 5, 2018, 9:28 am
    • Caffeine is actually absorbed from a coffee enema. From https://www.hindawi.com/journals/isrn/2013/147238/):
      “The max caffeine concentration and AUC (area under curve) of caffeine obtained from the coffee enema were about 3.5 times significantly less than those of the coffee consumed orally, despite having slightly but statistically faster time of max concentration. … In summary, the relative bioavailability of caffeine obtained from the coffee enema was about 3.5 times significantly less than those of the coffee consumed orally.”

      But caffeine is also absorbed through the skin, especially the hair follicles. See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2767280/ It’s a small hydrophilic molecule, so it can get through easily.

      Posted by Laura | January 10, 2018, 3:57 am
  5. Keep putting the word out. Just before coming to your post I read this on the New York Times from another physician fed up with Goop and other pseudo-scientist/naturopaths:

    Posted by TexasTrailerParkTrash | January 5, 2018, 9:37 am
  6. These cleanses always make me snicker. I have Crohn’s disease, and as a part of that, I have pretty frequent colonoscopies. Not once after a prep have I said, “Oh, I feel so wonderful and refreshed now!”

    Posted by scatteredthoughts1974 | January 5, 2018, 10:35 am
  7. I would imagine that given the absorbent nature of the rectum, the caffeine in coffee would produce considerable zippiness after the procedure. I pass on the opportunity to run the experiment, thanks.

    Posted by Eugenie Scott | January 5, 2018, 11:01 am
  8. At least, it isn’t the 17th. Century enema of tobacco. Yes, they did!

    Posted by Gerald | January 5, 2018, 1:03 pm
  9. It may interest you to know that “iyasu” is a Japanese word that means “to heal, to cure.”

    Posted by Bob | January 5, 2018, 2:19 pm
  10. What a waste of coffee .

    Posted by James Bowater | January 6, 2018, 1:49 am
    • What a waste of coffee? You can’t be serious! Think of the potential in a combination enema parlour and coffee shop! Not a drop need be wasted! Enema followed in due course by long black, cappuccino or whatever takes your fancy.
      And I’ve got a name for this enterprise: ‘What comes around goes around’.
      And a chain bigger than Starbucks in no time at all…!

      Posted by Ian MacDougall | January 9, 2018, 5:21 am
  11. Btw , instead of Goop.com they should change it to Poop.com . 😉

    Posted by James Bowater | January 6, 2018, 1:50 am
  12. Does the coffee enema cause the same types of problems with intestinal bacteria as antibiotics? In your opinion which one is more detrimental? Also, are regular over the counter enemas considered safe?

    Posted by Evon | January 6, 2018, 4:05 pm
  13. I’ve always wondered why doctors don’t offer colonic irrigation as a prep for colonoscopies. As a matter of fact I was considering getting one before my next test. I started getting them at 35 because of colon cancer in our family. Anyway, I think I’ll stick with the prescribed cleanse after reading this article. Thank you for your blog not everyone is a granola eating anti-vaxxer I’m just a normal person looking for a quick fix that turns out to be dangerous.

    Posted by Stacy Davis | January 7, 2018, 1:26 pm
    • When the prep doesn’t work as well as it should, they do an enema as well.
      But just the enema itself wouldn’t work, because the GI tract is continually pumping stuff down. Also it might not clean as deep as they need.

      Posted by Laura | January 10, 2018, 4:03 am
  14. I’m guessing coffee isn’t iso-osmolal, either? One Gastroenterology article from 1995 puts the average osmolality of coffee at 58 mOsm/kg (blood osmolality is typically near 300). In a healthy person this doesn’t matter. But in a chronically ill person (one of the GOOP snake-oil salesperson’s favorite targets) with water balance issues such as renal or liver impairment, putting hypo- or hyper-osmolal fluid in their rectum can cause significant fluid balance shifts.

    As a peds radiologist I do enema studies in babies and we always make sure to use iso-osmolar rectal contrast because if we don’t we can put babies into heart failure or shock. I’m guessing GOOP isn’t that conscientious.

    Posted by JTD | January 8, 2018, 7:37 am
  15. I’m not sure why but the movie “The Exorcist” came to mind when I read the title of this article. Some people, like the alternative new age health community, are all too fascinated with how to alternatively utilise their nether regions. Anyone that tries this coffee up the rear foolishness should expect potentially explosive demonic pea soup vomit style results.

    Posted by Sekhmet | January 8, 2018, 12:51 pm
  16. Mucous is an adjective. The noun is mucus.

    Posted by T Roberts | January 9, 2018, 12:33 am
  17. Bravo Jen, a great assessment of shameful exploitation of patients for money not health benefits. As a UK GP throughout my career and for some years a doctor working in gastroenterology I agree that colonic irrigation is at best useless and often harmful. Coffee has another orifice of choice which by popular demand is generally agreed to be mildly beneficial. Patients wanting coffee could be advised to put their money where their mouth is, not to use enemas needlessly!

    Posted by rhyswatkins | January 9, 2018, 5:58 am
    • If you can put coffee in one end of your alimentary canal, why can’t you put it in the other?
      By “irrigation” one presumably means a powerful jet of water. That sounds a trifle dodgy, agreed. But I fast twice a year, and use the gentle introduction of tap water to hasten the emptying of the colon and get the fasting process underway uhhh.. faster. I see no harm in that.

      Posted by Rod | January 9, 2018, 1:53 pm
  18. Thought coffee naturally makes one want to use the loo, why take one from the back side? Yuuuukkkks!

    Posted by Jason Vine | January 9, 2018, 3:44 pm
  19. Sherry A. Rogers, M.D. is board certified by the American Board of Family Practice, board certified by the American Board of Environmental Medicine, a Fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition. She has been in solo private practice in environmental medicine for over 38 years in Syracuse, NY where she sees patients from all over the world. She has lectured at Oxford and in 6 countries where she has taught well over 100 physician courses, has published over a dozen books including the landmark book Detoxify or Die (prestigepublishing.com), 20 scientific papers, textbook chapters, was environmental medicine editor for Internal Medicine World Report, received the American Academy of Environmental Medicine Rinkle Teaching Award for Teaching Excellence, has a referenced newsletter for 19 years, a non-patient consulting service, a lay and professional lecture service, is the guest on over 100 radio shows a year, and more. She swears by coffee enemas, and so do her patients, thousands of them. I can’t believe the absolute ignorance and arrogance exhibited by so-called ‘modern medicine’ and the medical profession.

    Posted by Word to the Wise | January 10, 2018, 2:49 am
    • It’s a wonder Dr. Rogers hasn’t published this ground breaking work, isn’t it.

      Posted by Dr. Jen Gunter | January 12, 2018, 11:00 pm
      • I did not say coffee enemas were or are groundbreaking science. It’s a tool to help SOME PEOPLE AND NOT ALL PEOPLE! Do you even know of Dr. Rogers and her very famous and successful practice? It was obvious you had never heard of Dr. Steven R. Gundry before you dropped the F-bomb! Obviously, you know it all! Which means, you will never learn anything new or relevant ever again. No need to reply, your arrogance and ignorance are astounding!

        May I further remind you of the failed history of medicine, “I would rather err with Galen than side with Harvey”. And, let’s not forget my very good friend, Dr. Semmelweis, who, years before Pasteur’s Germ Theory, got run out of Hungary, for saving the lives of his pregnant patients, simply, by washing his hands! His colleagues were aghast at his insolence for suggesting that they too should wash their hands. Poor Ignatius died in abject poverty!

        Is this the medicine and the science you represent?

        Posted by Word to the Wise | January 13, 2018, 2:44 am
    • Hi, Dr. Rogers!

      Posted by JTD | January 13, 2018, 6:53 am
    • And Mehmet Oz still has his academic appointment as a thoracic surgeon in spite of multiple formal protests by colleagues about his peddling of obvious quackery and well publicized endorsements of known quackeries. People can coast on formerly solid credentials for years. An MD can often be a lucrative license to steal and harm with minimal repercussions until you have a pattern of harming people in ways that are actually criminal.

      Posted by Sara | February 4, 2018, 10:34 am
  20. “No one needs a cleanse. Ever.”

    People do – for colonoscopies.
    And it involves eating progressively less fiber and roughage over several days until you’re on a clear liquid diet. Then, drinking a gallon or so of a laxative solution, and spending hours waiting for the next urge to poop and going off to the bathroom until (finally) you gush clear.
    My version of a clear liquid diet was a maple syrup party. Many cups of very maple syrupy tea. It was somewhat fun to really indulge in sugar.
    But overall, people would probably like enemas better.

    Posted by Laura | January 10, 2018, 4:15 am
  21. Watching you on Timothy Caufield’s program going through the vaginal steam!

    Posted by Helen | January 11, 2018, 2:50 am
    • Is this all some sort of variation of the “do you smoke after intercourse” joke? Couldn’t Gwynnie market the device for a mere $1.35 as an enema of the people?

      Posted by Ctesias62 | January 12, 2018, 9:42 am
  22. Also the mucus layer of the intestines seems to be the dwelling place of the helpful probiotic bacteria that live in our gut so eliminating that layer may displace them

    Posted by Philippa Gordon MD | January 30, 2018, 6:46 am
    • Yes, Most important point here. You need an assortment of probiotic and prebiotic strategies to re-establish health gut flora. Yogurt is not enough, and some don’t contain a viable balance of organisms that can survive stomach acids and transit through the gut. Fiber is prebiotic fuel for many beneficial microbes. Non-pasteurized, fermented foods can help. Much is still unknown about a healthy gut microbiome, and I doubt these hucksters even address that issue beyond selling you an overpublicized and unproven prebiotic/probiotic rostrum.

      Posted by Sara | February 4, 2018, 10:41 am
  23. Hello, Dr. Gunter.

    Great article on letting one’s hair down there just be. 🙂

    I am new to your site so you may have already covered what I ask you here:

    Is Vagisil cream okay to use once in a while? It’s really helped me.

    Do you still recommend glycerin soap for cleaning the vagina,
    even though it contains sugar?

    Besides coconut and olive oil, are there other oils you recommend,
    such as Vitamin E oil?

    And finally, your thoughts on vaginal lasers.

    Thank you!

    ~Ria

    Posted by Ria | April 18, 2018, 10:48 pm

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