While most adults occasionally experience constipation, the majority of these cases can be resolved without the use of enemas or even laxatives. In fact, dietary changes, water intake, and other lifestyle factors can usually be adjusted to relieve these symptoms. In the event that these changes do not relieve constipation symptoms, most medical professionals agree that you should use a mild stool softener or laxative before reaching for an enema.
However, there are many people that use enemas both occasionally and often for reasons other than constipation. For example, there have been some unsubstantiated health claims advocating for enemas that use liquid other than water such as coffee and olive oil. Others use regular enemas for hygiene purposes before engaging in anal sex. Whatever the reason may be, there are a number of health implications associated with enema use, even if it is occasional. Knowing these details can help you use your own judgement on whether or not you should use one and how often is right for you.
But First – What Is an Enema?
Generally speaking, an enema refers to the act of flushing a liquid into the rectum and the large intestine through the anus. For some medical procedures such as a colonoscopy, an enema is required in order to completely clear the intestinal tract to check for abnormalities such as polyps or growths. Additionally, enemas can be used to deliver medications to help treat inflammation caused by inflammatory bowel disease. However, more severe cases of constipation or impacted stool might also require a saline enema in order to trigger a smooth bowel movement and remove the blockage.
What are the Types of Enemas?
While the efficacy and safety of the different types of enema usage varies significantly, there are nonetheless a few different “types” of enemas that are designed to reach a variety of goals.
The saline enema is the most common type of enema that is used to clear the rectum and big intestine of constipation or a blockage. This is due to the sodium phosphate that’s mixed into the water – this substance triggers a bowel movement after 1 to 5 minutes of administration. Although it is recommended to talk to a doctor before use, saline enemas can be purchased over-the-counter at your local pharmacy and even many grocery stores.
Mineral Oil Enema
You can find mineral oil enemas alongside saline enemas in most pharmacies and grocery stores as well. Similar to the sodium phosphate contained in saline enemas, the mineral oil in these enemas acts as a laxative which triggers the body to have a bowel movement. However, mineral oil also acts as a lubricant, making it easier for the rectum and big intestines to pass a blockage. These are usually used for more severe cases of constipation.
Mesalazine enemas contain a medication that is used to treat the symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, also both known as inflammatory bowel diseases. These are often administered by a caregiver or a doctor and cannot be purchased over-the-counter.
Reusable rubber enema bulbs can be purchased easily online and are intended to be used with warm saline-free water. Unlike saline or mineral oil enemas, water enemas do not trigger a bowel movement, so they are most often used to clear the rectum only, instead of the large intestines as well. Shower enema hookups and adaptors fall into this category and can be setup to connect with the shower faucet. Both shower enemas and reusable rubber bulb enemas are also commonly sold at sex stores and are intended for use before anal sex due to the fact that they are designed to only clear the rectum.
Other (Coffee Enema, Milk Enema, Green Tea Enema)
While many fad health programs advocate for the use of other types of enemas, these variations have widely unsubstantiated and potentially dangerous results. For example, proponents of coffee enemas market this solution as an effective way to cleanse the colon, and having potential benefits on chronic pain, constipation, depression, fatigue, and internal parasites. However, despite their popularity, the benefits of coffee enemas have been documented in very few scientific studies and could actually cause dehydration and infection.
Are Enemas Safe?
The real question comes down to the safety concerns and health precautions at play when using an enema. It is important to remember that no matter the circumstance or reason, the act of forcing a large amount of liquid inside of you in order to stimulate the bowels can cause the body stress. First, let’s unpack the potential impacts enema use might have on the body (1).
Enema Side Effects
You may experience the following side effects:
This is especially a concern when using a saline enema. When absorbed into the rectal and small intestine tissue, the sodium phosphate in most saline enemas can suck the moisture out of these mucous membranes, which could result in dangerous dehydration levels in the body
When using a shower enema attachment, it is sometimes hard to control the water pressure, which could result in damage to the rectal membrane
Block absorption of nutrients
The matter that passes through your intestinal tract needs a certain amount of time for the nutrients and vitamins to be absorbed. Enemas, however, wash out this matter before it has time to be fully digested, which could prevent the body from absorbing the nutrients it needs
Repeated use of enemas over time show the potential to damage and cause harm to the muscles in the intestines. This harm could prevent the muscles from being able to move stool through your system as they normally would
To read on about other side effects, check out our article about the dangers of excessive douching.
How Often Can You Do an Enema Without Causing Damage?
No matter the reason, regular enema usage is not advised by medical professionals. With regard to alternative types such as coffee and milk enemas, many professionals even strongly advise against engaging in these methods. However, for more severe bouts of constipation, or for medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, the occasional enema might provide the body a much-needed relief. In these instances, talk to your doctor to make sure an enema is right for you.
In short, using an enema to help solve occasional bouts of constipation is not going to cause irreparable damage to your intestinal tract. While an exact number is difficult to pin down, using an enema once or twice a month to help resolve constipation is probably safe, so long as you are not straining or pushing out the water harder than you need to. That being said, you should not become reliant on using an enema to have a bowel movement, and if you begin using them more regularly just to properly move stool along, you are likely doing more harm than good.
How Often Can You Do an Enema before Anal Sex?
While enema bulbs and enema shower attachments are commonplace in many sex stores, repeated use before sex can be dangerous to the tissues in your rectum and the muscles in your intestinal tract. As mentioned above, shower attachments can be especially dangerous because the water pressure is more difficult to control, and could push your body beyond safe boundaries.
Additionally, using an enema before anal sex sometimes breaks up and loosens hard stool that is farther up the rectum to begin with, causing particles to disperse within your anal cavity. This can actually result in messier sex compared to not using an enema, and is less effective than other safer alternatives out there.
Safer Alternatives to Stay Clean Before Anal Sex
Instead of reaching for your enema, try these safer (and often more reliable) alternatives for hygiene and staying clean before anal sex.
Consider a Fiber Supplement
Pure for Men is a fiber, psyllium husk, chia seed, and flaxseed-based powder supplement that ensures smooth and complete bowel movements. You take 4-6 pills daily with food and water, and after a few days you will notice that your bowel movements will be more complete, require less wiping, and leave you ready to play.
To read our review on Pure for Men, click here.
To buy on Amazon, click Pure for Men.
In addition to using a daily fiber supplement to ensure smooth passages, you should also consider using a Squatty Potty when going to the bathroom. This is essentially a stool that allows you to squat when using the restroom, and according to NPR, squatting while pooping can help in more complete bowel movements, preventing colon disease, can end hemorrhoids, and improve pelvic floor issues.
To buy on Amazon, click Squatty Potty.
Use a Bidet
Finally, for ultimate hygiene before anal sex, you should consider using a bidet. While common in Europe and much of Asia, bidets are harder to come by in the United States. Nonetheless, they are far more hygienic compared to toilet paper, and can provide an ideal way to prepare before anal sex without douching.
TUSHY offers a bidet attachment that can be hooked up to almost any conventional toilet in under 15 minutes. The design is simple and intuitive, allowing you to angle the nozzle perfectly for the ultimate rinse after using the restroom. The water pressure is substantial enough to allow you to properly wash out the very base of your rectum without performing a full enema.
To read our review of the TUSHY bidet, click here.
To buy on their website, click TUSHY.