Colonic irrigation is the process of flushing large amounts of water into the intestinal tract, reaching the upper portions of the bowel.
Enemas have legitimate uses but can be abused. Allegedly, colonics and enemas "detoxify" the system, taking out internal poisons so that diseases can be cured. They are often recommended in unproven therapies for cancer and by alternative practitioners for a variety of unrelated illnesses.
Colonic irrigation owes much to Max Gerson, a German physician who died in 1959. Gerson and his followers claimed that the use of coffee enemas eliminate poisons and offer a legitimate treatment for cancer.
The rationale behind the Gerson cancer therapy program of coffee enemas and a strict diet of juices from fruits, vegetables, and calves' liver is that the enemas eliminate poisons which were believed to be related to the onset of cancer. The coffee enema is the primary means by which proponents of Gersons's therapy claim to achieve "detoxification."
Proponents promote purging with coffee enemas as a treatment for cancer because they believe, as Gerson did, that an "unpoisoned" body possesses "reserves" that can recognize and destroy cancer. They believe that cancer is a degenerative disease that develops when normal oxidative (aerobic) energy metabolism in the liver and intestine is converted to abnormal fermentative (anaerobic) energy metabolism by "poisons" in processed foods. Accordingly, they claim that cancer can be cured if the patient's body is detoxified by the coffee enema, and if the patient adheres strictly to the specific diet prescribed. After the body is detoxified, the essential organs destroy the cancer cells by an allergic inflammatory reaction.
In a critique of the Gerson coffee enema cancer treatment published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Saul Green, a biochemist, argued that Gerson and his followers based their treatment on several invalid claims: that cancer is caused by the body resorting to less efficient energy production after eating processed foods; that coffee enemas stimulate bile production and detoxify the body; that enzymes from raw fruit and vegetables and calves' liver reactivate the damaged body organs; and that the body, once cleansed, then undergoes an allergic reaction that only destroys cancer cells.
The bulk of the scientific research indicates that cancer is caused by mutations inducing uncontrollable and abnormal growth of cells and not by abnormal energy production.
Furthermore, there is no evidence that any food therapy effectively treats cancer.
The conclusion reached by researchers is that frequent coffee enemas have never been shown to mobilize and remove poisons from the liver and the intestines of cancer patients. There is no evidence that "poisoned" oxidative enzymes in the liver and intestine are related to the onset of cancer. There is no evidence that a normal "healing" inflammatory reaction exists that can seek out and specifically kill cancer cells.