It seems January is Gwyneth Paltrow’s go-to month for promoting potentially dangerous things that should not go in or near an orifice. January 2015 brought us vagina steaming, January 2017 was 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 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.
One offers to help “if you’re looking to go deep on many levels”. Ha ha, go deep. Nice play on words for a dangerous yet ineffective therapy. Goop.com is not selling a coffee machine, it is selling a coffee enema-making machine. That, my friends, is a messed-up way to make money. 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 any time 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 Junger is filled with information that is unsupported both by 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. 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 residue 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 “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 sell 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, 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.
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 was 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 embolisms, colitis, and rectal perforation. If you go to a spa and the equipment is not sterilised, 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 can be 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.
• Dr Jen Gunter is an obstetrician, gynaecologist and pain medicine physician. This piece originally ran on Jen Gunter’s blog