If you suffer from poor brain function or chronic intestinal problems, you may benefit from regular coffee enemas to improve communication between your brain and your gut.
The vagus nerve is essential for communication between the brain and the gut, known as the gut-brain axis. This is a long, winding nerve that runs from the brain stem to the major organs.
In functional medicine, we use various exercises to improve the function of the vagus nerve and therefore the communication between the brain and the intestines. However, one of the best is the coffee enema.
The idea of taking an enema makes some people reluctant at first. Once you learn how to improve the gut-brain axis, it may motivate you to give it a try.
Many people report feeling more relaxed and clear afterward. This is probably due to stimulation of the parasympathetic arm, or "rest and digest" of the autonomic nervous system.
How the gut-brain axis drives gut health
The vagus nerve winds its way from the base of the brain to the major organs and serves as a communication route to and from the brain.
This path is known asgut-brain axisor thebrain-gut axisand it is bi-directional, which means that the communication goes both ways. The brain talks to the gut and the gut talks to the brain.
Through the vagus nerve, the brain plays important roles in gut health, including:
- Movement of food through the intestine (motility)
- Release of digestive enzymes to break down food.
- Regulate the flow of blood that carries oxygen, nutrients and immune cells to support intestinal health and repair
How poor brain health leads to poor gut health
Poor brain function leads to poor gut health. As the brain ages, degenerates, is injured, or is otherwise compromised, the overall performance of the vagus nerve declines. As a result, the organs do not receive enough neurological information to function properly. Think of bad water flowing through a hose.
This can cause intestinal health problems such as:
- Difficulty digesting food.
- Constipation or irregular bowel movements
- swelling and puffiness
- Bloating and discomfort after meals.
- food intolerances
- Difficulty swallowing supplements or large bites
- A gag reflex that is overly sensitive or underactive
One of the first signs of poor brain function is poor gut health.
The gut is often one of the first places poor brain function shows up.
Memory loss, inability to find words, difficulty learning new things, and mental confusion are often accompanied by increasedDifficulty digesting food., constant gas and bloating, or alternating constipation and diarrhea.
In fact, Parkinson's disease has been found to attack the gut before the brain. Chronic constipation occurs.agebefore a Parkinson's patient develops tremors. Medicine now recognizes chronic constipation as a possible early warning sign of Parkinson's disease.
If your gut symptoms are getting worse, you need to take your brain health seriously.
It may not be Parkinson's disease, but it certainly points to possible early brain degeneration and decreased function of the gut-brain axis.
How poor gut health can worsen brain health
Just as poor brain health can affect the gut, poor gut health can also worsen brain function.
The intestine uses chemical messengers to send messages to the brain along the vagus nerve. These chemicals affect the brain's immune system and its neurotransmitter activity.
When the intestine is healthy, these messenger proteins can improve memory and learning. However, when the gut is inflamed and unhealthy, these messengers are linked to:
- depression and anxiety
- Parkinson's disease
- memory loss
Have you ever felt bloated after eating a certain food and then suddenly felt irritable, depressed, or dizzy? This is an example of how your gut can affect your brain chemistry.
I write more about the vagus nerve and the gut-brain axis in mybrain book.
Exercise your vagus nerve with coffee enemas
In functional medicine, we use various exercises to strengthen the vagus nerve. Like muscles, neurons need constant stimulation to stay healthy and strong.
If you break your arm and wear a cast, those muscles will shrink within a few weeks due to reduced activity. The neurons are the same. Without regular "exercise", they lose their function.
Vagal exercises are easy to do at home. I typically prescribe these exercises for my patients who have poor vagal tone and a faulty gut-brain axis:
- Aggressively gargling several times a day
- Stimulate the gag reflex several times a day with a tongue depressor on the back of the tongue
- Sing out loud several times a day.
- Coffee enemas several times a week.
The first three of these exercises activate tissues in the throat that are connected to the vagus nerve.
How do coffee enemas stimulate the vagus nerve?
As the enema stretches the intestine, it activates the vagus nerve pathway.
I also tell my patients to hold the enema to the point where they have to exert themselves a lot, like holding a plank, as this greatly stimulates the vagus nerve.
Start with a diluted blend and gradually increase the strength of the coffee. Stronger Active Coffeecholinergic receptors, nerves that activate the brain chemical acetylcholine. It also stimulatesnicotinic receptors.Activation of these receptors stimulates the vagus nerve and the parasympathetic nervous system.
Most people are in a friendly domain these days. This is the "fight or flight" arm of the nervous system. The activation of the vagus nerve and, therefore, of the parasympathetic nervous system not only improves intestinal health, but also the ability to relax and concentrate.
Many people find that coffee enemas improve bowel function over time.
Many people find that their bowel function improves over time and coffee enemas can be eliminated.
This is because the enemas improved the pathways of the vagus system.
Unfortunately, in some people, brain degeneration overwhelms the ability to make lasting changes. In this case, coffee enemas can be used to relieve constipation, which increases the risk of bacterial buildup, leaky gut, and toxicity.
And the caffeine?
If you're sensitive to caffeine, coffee enemas probably won't be a problem for you. Although people sensitive to caffeine rarely experience an effect, studies show that the bioavailability of caffeine is lower with enemas.3.5 times lessto drink coffee
If you are sensitive to caffeine, start with 1/2 teaspoon of coffee grounds in the solution at the beginning of the day and see how your body reacts.
How to do a coffee enema to improve vagus nerve function
Schedule and setup for the coffee enema.
Try to do the enema without discomfort for at least an hour.
To make it more convenient and effective, be sure to schedule it right after your daily bowel movement.
Preparation of coffee enema
Brew a cup or two of organic coffee (non-organic coffee may contain toxic pesticides).
Some people can handle up to 2 tablespoons of ground coffee per enema, but if you are new to enemas or very sensitive to caffeine, start with 1/2teaspoonand slowly increase your concentration to the best of your ability.
The stronger the coffee, the more stimulating it is to the slacker. Filtered or distilled water is best.
Boil the coffee for about 10 minutes and strain the powder.
Let the coffee cool down to room temperature.
Make sure the coffee is cool enough to comfortably place your entire hand in the coffee for the full five seconds.
The tissues of the intestine are very sensitive to temperature; Never use hot coffee!
what coffee to use
- Use organic coffee to avoid exposure to pesticides.
- Avoid decaf, flavored, very oily, and light-colored or browned roasts.
- Avoid instant coffee as most tests showed the presence of gluten. However, my busiest patients use Starbucks instant coffee. It's the only instant brand we know of that's gluten-free, despite not being organic.
- You can find coffee online made specifically for coffee enemas.
If you can, grind your own beans before the enema. The oils in pre-ground coffee can oxidize and become rancid. If you use pre-ground beans, store them in the refrigerator to keep the oils fresher.
Instructions for performing a coffee enema.
1. Lie down in the bathtub or on the waterproof floor
Since a "spill" can happen to a beginner, do your enema in the bathroom or with a towel under you to protect the floor.
2. Make sure the hose clamp is closed
Make sure the enema bag hose clamp is closed (hold it close to your body at the end) and fill the bag with the cooled coffee.
3. Deflate the hose
Deflate the tube by holding the end of the bag slightly lower over the sink and allowing the liquid to drain until the air bubbles are gone.
4. Hang the enema bag or bucket 2-4 feet above you
Hang the enema bag or bucket so that it is 2 to 4 feet above where you will lie down. The end of the hose should easily reach your body. However, if you hang it too high, gravity can create more pressure than is comfortable.
5. Lubricate the tip of the enema and insert it into the rectum.
Lubricate the end of the plastic tube with a lubricant such as KY jelly or olive oil. Traditionally, people are told to lie on their right side so that the coffee solution can better reach the portal vein of the liver; however, experiment with whichever side works best for you. Bend your knees toward your stomach and gently insert the tube a few inches into your rectum.
6. Use the clamp to slowly release the enema solution
Slowly inject the solution from the tube into your body, controlling the flow with the tube clamp. You may feel cramping and the urge to have a bowel movement as fluid rises in your intestines.
If you feel spasms, close the clamp to stop the flow and take several deep breaths. The cramps usually pass quickly. After the spasm has passed, gently open the clamp again.
The presence of gas is the main reason some people find it difficult to perform a coffee enema. If you have gas that makes it difficult to hold the enema in, you can leave the tip of the enema in; the gas will come out of the tube and this will make it easier to retain the enema.
4. Hold for 5 to 15 minutes; work to keep the vagus nerve active
You may feel like having a bowel movement, but relax and hold the enema for 5 to 15 minutes. Working to retain fluids is what benefits the vagus nerve the most. Don't be discouraged if you can't hold the liquid down for long at first and it spills. It's pretty common and you'll get better.
For some, leaving the plastic tip of the enema in the rectum helps prevent leakage.
If it's easy to hold, it means you can increase the coffee concentration next time.
Drink as much fluid as your body allows. Two cups is an average, everyone is different and your ability to hold more will improve with practice.
After time, go to the bathroom and drain the liquid.
5. Cleaning and care after the enema
Remove the enema bag and tube, rinse them well, and wash the end of the plastic tube with hot, soapy water.
If you use a stainless steel enema bucket, wash it with soap and water to prevent the acidity of the coffee from corroding the metal.
Some people like to apply a little hydrogen peroxide to the bag and hose after washing. If you do, be sure to rinse it well with water afterward so the peroxide doesn't get into your intestines next time.
Hang the hose and bag/bucket in a warm, dry place until completely dry. Store dry.
Tips and common problems with coffee enemas
To optimally activate the vagus nerve, the enema must be very difficult to hold so that it suppresses the impulse as much as possible.
If you are sensitive to coffee, use a milder coffee so that you can keep it longer.
As you get more experienced with enemas, use a stronger coffee to keep it challenging.
First clean the intestines with a water enema.
Some people prefer to start with a water enema to cleanse the colon so they can keep the coffee longer.
A mild saline solution of 1 teaspoon of salt in 2 cups of water is ideal. But you can also use filtered or distilled water. It is better to avoid tap water.
Learn more about vagus nerve health in my book on the brain and food sensitivity course
I write in more detail about the function of the vagus nerve in mybrain book,Why is my brain not working?🇧🇷 Also, I invite you to see my online brain health course,Save Your Brain: The Six Week Rescue Plan🇧🇷 The course takes you step by step through the same brain health strategies I use with my patients.
If you are on an elimination diet due to chronic illness, have a leaky gut, or suffer from unexplained food intolerances, I invite you to take my online course at your own pace.The 3D Immune Tolerance Program: Steps to Restore Oral Tolerance🇧🇷 In the course you will learn what oral tolerance is, what leads to its loss and the role it plays in the recovery or treatment of chronic diseases. You'll learn how to improve your oral tolerance so you can eat more food choices, and what factors can thwart attempts to regain oral tolerance.
Do coffee enemas stimulate vagus nerve? ›
Believe it or not, coffee enemas can boost your digestive health by improving your brain health. The act of holding the enema stimulates the vagus nerve, a large nerve that runs between the organs and the brain.What is the fastest way to stimulate the vagus nerve? ›
- Breathe more slowly (aim for six breaths per minute).
- Breathe more deeply, from the belly. Think about expanding your abdomen and widening your rib cage as you inhale.
- Exhale longer than you inhale.
Singing, Humming, Chanting and Gargling
The vagus nerve is connected to your vocal cords and the muscles at the back of your throat. Singing, humming, chanting and gargling can activate these muscles and stimulate your vagus nerve. And this has been shown to increase heart-rate variability and vagal tone (12).
In Chinese medicine, different parts of our body correlate with different specific reflexology or pressure points. The vagus nerve point for your hand is right inside of the pinky, for example. This is great because it's so accessible during the course of your day.How do you stimulate the vagus nerve for a bowel movement? ›
Diaphragmatic breathing will activate your vagus nerve and engage your parasympathetic nervous system. Additionally, it has been shown to improve gut motility (the speed at which your gut works).What does the vagus nerve have to do with constipation? ›
4. Vagus nerve stimulation: the vagus nerve is one of the cranial nerves. It is called the “wanderer” because it travels all the way from the brain down to the kidneys and to the uterus. One of its many functions is to stimulate the small contractions to move the stool through your digestive system.What position should I sleep on for vagus nerve? ›
Sleep on the right side
Lying on the back decreases Vagus Nerve activation, but sleeping on the right side shows greater Vagus Nerve stimulation compared to left side sleeping.
In a vagus nerve massage, moderate pressure is applied to the area between the trapezius and sternocleidomastoid muscles in the neck/shoulder area and at the muscles below the base of the skull, with twisting or stroking motions .Which side of the neck is the vagus nerve on? ›
The vagus nerve is also noted as being the tenth cranial nerve (designated as CN X). The vagus nerve is actually a set of two nerves, a vagus nerve right side of the neck and a vagus nerve left side of the neck.What aggravates the vagus nerve? ›
There are two main causes of vagus nerve dysfunction: previous infection or inflammation and physical or psychological stress.
What relaxes the vagus nerve? ›
Breathe Deeply: This works in two ways: first, if you focus on the rhythm of your breathing, you take your attention away from what's stressing you. Second, if you breathe deeply from your belly and exhale longer than you inhale, that physical act triggers the relaxation response from your vagus nerve.What foods stimulate the vagus nerve? ›
Eat foods rich in tryptophan.
Dietary tryptophan is metabolized in the gut and may help the astrocytes—cells in the brain and spinal cord—control inflammation, which may improve communication from the gut to the brain via the vagal messenger pathway. These foods include spinach, seeds, nuts, bananas, and poultry.
Some of the most popular ones feature simple hacks to “tone” or “reset” the vagus nerve, in which people plunge their faces into ice water baths or lie on their backs with ice packs on their chests. There are also neck and ear massages, eye exercises and deep-breathing techniques.How do I know if my vagus nerve is working? ›
To test the vagus nerve, a doctor may check the gag reflex . During this part of the examination, the doctor may use a soft cotton swab to tickle the back of the throat on both sides. This should cause the person to gag.How do you know if your vagus nerve is not working properly? ›
When the vagus nerve itself gets damaged, you'll obviously deal with some pain in your neck - but other weird symptoms will present themselves as well. You'll notice issues with your voice, problems with your throat, an increased heart rate, brain fog, excessively high or low blood pressure, and gut problems.What is the best massage for vagus nerve? ›
- Apply massage oil. Begin with two pumps of body oil into the hands. ...
- Inhale deeply. Cup your hands to your nose and inhale deeply.
- Massage your neck. Starting at your clavicle, gently massage in an upward motion along the left side of your neck. ...
- Move to your ears.
It can take months or even a year or longer of stimulation before you notice any significant reduction in seizures. Vagus nerve stimulation may also shorten the recovery time after a seizure.What does it feel like when vagus nerve is stimulated? ›
When stimulated, you feel calmer, more compassionate, and clearer. Stimulating the vagus benefits your autonomic nervous system and mental health. Healthy vagal tone means emotional regulation, greater connection, and better physical health as well.What stretches the vagus nerve? ›
Torso stretch activates the vagus nerve
While sitting on the floor or in a chair, come into a twist. Place your right hand on the outside of your left leg and place your left hand behind you. Gaze over your left shoulder. Lengthen your spine on your inhale, and on the exhale, deepen the twist.
This vagal nerve damage can result from diabetes, viral infections, abdominal surgery and scleroderma. Vasovagal syncope: Syncope is another word for fainting. Vasovagal syncope occurs when a vagus nerve to your heart overreacts to certain situations like extreme heat, anxiety, hunger, pain or stress.
What supplements are good for the vagus nerve? ›
- Choline (to make acetylcholine, our main neurotransmitter)
- Vitamin B12.
- Sodium (yep, salt)
- Omega-3 fats.
It is important to remember that stimulation of the vagal nerve can occur with enemas. Vagus stimulation results in a drop in heart rate. In a severe response, the patient can become dizzy or faint.Does caffeine stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system? ›
Caffeine enhances modulation of parasympathetic nerve activity in humans: quantification using power spectral analysis.What is the point of a coffee Enima? ›
According to the reports, coffee enema was effective for relieving constipation as caffeine increased the intestinal motility when absorbed in the intestinal mucosa, and decreasing lipids and cholesterol as well as improving thyroid function.Is coffee good for vagus nerve? ›
We demonstrated that caffeine intake enhances autonomic nerve activities. Although a significant effect of caffeine on the increase in the LC or SNS activity was not observed, modulation of the vagal tone was markedly enhanced 20–30 min after consumption of the caffeine-containing beverages.What stimulates the vasovagal nerve? ›
In vagus nerve stimulation, an implanted pulse generator and lead wire stimulate the vagus nerve, which leads to stabilization of abnormal electrical activity in the brain.Does the vagus nerve control bowels? ›
Both the large and small intestine are controlled by the vagus nerve. For example, the vagus nerve tells your intestine muscle to work to push food and waste through your digestive system. It's also where the pathway known as the gut microbiome is located.What vitamins help the vagus nerve? ›
In other words, vitamin C increases the ability of the autonomic nervous system, especially the vagus nerve, to respond to pressure variations.What calms the vagus nerve? ›
One simplest and most effective way to calm your nervous system is to practice deep breathing. Deep breathing helps activate your vagus nerve, which in turn helps to calm the nervous system.Is it possible to reset your vagus nerve? ›
Some of the most popular ones feature simple hacks to “tone” or “reset” the vagus nerve, in which people plunge their faces into ice water baths or lie on their backs with ice packs on their chests. There are also neck and ear massages, eye exercises and deep-breathing techniques.
What calms the parasympathetic nervous system? ›
Can you improve how your parasympathetic nervous system functions? There are many ways to practice using your parasympathetic nervous system. These include mild exercise, meditation, yoga, deep breathing from your diaphragm, even nature walks.Is coffee sympathetic or parasympathetic? ›
Coffee acutely increases sympathetic nerve activity and blood pressure independently of caffeine content role of habitual versus nonhabitual drinking. Circulation 106, 2935–2940 (2002).Why do you lay on left side for enema? ›
The left lateral position is the most appropriate position for giving an enema because of the anatomical characteristics of the colon. Although the length of the tube to be inserted is designated as approximately 5-6 cm, do not try to force it but pull it back slightly if any resistance is felt.How often should you do an enema? ›
The best course of action is to use the enema once a day, and around the same time every day, as directed by a doctor. This not only reduces side effects, but will also help to train your body to release waste regularly. If constipation continues for more than a few days, call your physician.How long do you hold a water enema? ›
Hold the water in your rectum as long as possible – at least 15 minutes – then expel it into the toilet.