Q. I am very concerned about my wife’s practice of giving our boy’s enemas on the last Thursday of every month. Our sons are 14 and 12.
When I ask why she does this, she replies that it’s good for them. She says “it cleans them out,” keeps them regular, and cuts down on their chance of colorectal cancer.
I believe a diet high in fiber is enough, but she insists on this measure. Are these enemas harmful or helpful for our sons?

A. A diet high in fiber that includes lots of fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains is your sons’ best insurance against constipation and colorectal cancer!
We share your concern about your wife’s enthusiasm for administering enemas. Most teenage boys would find this practice embarrassing.
Pediatricians generally counsel against regular enema use. Some commercial preparations are high in sodium phosphate which may be absorbed and upset the body’s mineral balance.
P.S. We know of no evidence that enemas protect against cancer.


Not surprisingly, this Q&A stirred some powerful emotions for our readers. Here is just one response:

Q. Since your expertise is in pharmacological matters and medical anthropology, I realize that you had to give a gentle answer to the husband who questioned his wife’s “perverse” need to subject her teenage sons to enemas. I am only a high school dropout, so I am free to voice my opinion.
This mother should be taken to a head shrink. She has no insight into her own incestuous need to bind her sons forever to an anal fixation. The sexual damage done to them needs treatment immediately.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see the correlation between tortured children and adults who are mentally disturbed. Telling this woman that there’s no proof enemas prevent cancer will not stop her compulsion. It’s like telling her to take up Bingo instead.

A. People have reacted emotionally to the question about enemas administered monthly to a 12- and a 14-year-old boy by their mother. She insisted she was trying to “clean them out” for their health and to prevent cancer.
We are not in a position to diagnose medical or psychological problems. We agree with you, however, that this situation does not sound healthy.
We certainly discouraged the practice. Too many people are overly concerned with bowel function and regularity. Use of enemas and laxatives can become habit-forming and counterproductive.
Anyone who would prefer a more natural approach to digestive problems including constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, hemorrhoids and hiccups may find our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies from National Geographic quite helpful. In addition to GI problems we deal with everything from arthritis and acne to high cholesterol and sinusitis. Let’s leave the enemas for emergencies.

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  1. Anonymous
    Reply

    I hope the father has the courage to read and think about the feedback given on this thread. I was raised by two parents who did abusive things because they “loved me” and “because it’s for your own good”.
    Even with years of counseling I couldn’t get past some childhood memories. What has helped is reading any of the books by Alice Miller. They are hard for me to absorb, but very healing.
    From what I have learned, I am guessing that if the father doesn’t recognize this as inappropriate, then he was probably mistreated as a child and has never known how to set boundaries. It would be easy for people who were raised in a loving, healthy home to be outraged at the mother; and the father for letting the mother do this to the teen boys.
    If the father is still reading this – PLEASE go to a therapist, even if you have to go by yourself or go to a free clinic. If you didn’t know this was unhealthy (in so many ways) for your sons, then you can learn how to stick up for them and yourself. You can only teach what you already know.

  2. EL
    Reply

    This letter raises more issues for me than do those responses already submitted. If the mother in question does not heed the advice given, I think she needs psychiatric help to uncover her motives for her barbaric practice.

  3. Dallee
    Reply

    To add a bit of perspective … this type of health belief was popular in Europe at the turn of the century and before antibiotics became available. Not only was this viewed as a treatment, but a heightened concern about “regularity” existed — which was viewed as being a diagnostic indicator of a person’s health.
    The parent in question probably learned these practices and views from the parent’s family. And, as reported, these views can be very hard to change.

  4. MB
    Reply

    THIS smacks highly of sexual abuse–Her sons may report this to teachers,doctors and dear Dad-you are a man-put a stop to this practicebefore it does irreperable harm to these teens-respect thier privacy!!fruis -veggies-high fiber and plenty of water prevent constipation.

  5. L E S
    Reply

    I don’t know the woman in question so I won’t comment on her mental health but I do know that the boys are suffering, what she is doing is not helping them in any way. The boys will have problems with their bowels and I think they will suffer emotionally. I suspect that she is trying to control her boys as long as she can, she needs help now and the boys need help right now.

  6. HJ
    Reply

    I doubt this comment will be published, but I have to say it.
    This reminds of ‘The Shining’ – but instead of heeeere’s Johnny, it’s heeeere’s Mommy.
    Those poor kids.

  7. ebm
    Reply

    I agree with all comments above, plus: she is removing the natural flora from the colon
    and at the least should re-introduce probiotics! I used to do coffee enemas all the time when I had bad food allergy headaches so I could function. My chiropractor stopped me because, as he explained to me, the probiotic/natural flora removal.

  8. rgcmd
    Reply

    I am a pediatric colorectal surgeon as well as a mother of two sons, both now grown. This woman has serious problems. It is likely that her perverse anal fettish involving her sons is only the tip of the iceberg. THERE IS NO MEDICAL OR PSYCHOLOGICAL DATA ANYWHERE THAT SUGGESTS SHE IS ANYTHING BUT CRAZY. She needs serious psychiatric evaluation and help.
    In the meanntime, please, Sir, get her away from these boys or are you a participant in this domestic terror. Yes, it is a horrific form of child abuse that will have longlasting effects on them and those they subgsequently affect. Please bring this to the attention of their pediatrician and psychologist .

  9. Robin D
    Reply

    I am shocked, to say the least !!!! Read Sybil or see the movie. If those kids emerge “normal” it’s only by the grace of God!

  10. DS
    Reply

    I would like to read any updates to this conversation.

  11. AC
    Reply

    How disturbing. The mother is setting up those boys for a lifetime of troubles and the father needs to stop deferring to her and stand up for his boys. Moms are not always right and this one is downright abusive.

  12. T.M.
    Reply

    I am a recently retired mental health professional who dealt with adolescents, as well as a parent of adult children. I agree with “high school dropout” and with Betty, CAH, and Margie, above. Even if the boys’ mom means well, her behavior is abusive and needs to stop. I would recommend family counselling for the entire family as soon as possible.

  13. Margie
    Reply

    This is child abuse and needs to be stopped immediately.

  14. CAH
    Reply

    No, no and no–this is NOT OK. I agree 100% with the poster who identified himself as a high school drop out. The embarrassment factor is certainly a reason, but more than that, the all too real possibility of life-long disruption of normal sexual development to say nothing of normal bowel function. . . . .very worrisome.
    I am a registered nurse as well as a mother of adult children, so speak from some experience here. The lady in question needs to start by discussing this with her health care provider.

  15. betty
    Reply

    Good grief. Those poor poor boys.

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