DETOXIC: THE COLON COLUMN
By Andrew Biggs
By the time you read this column, I will have returned from a week away at detox.
Yes, you heard right. Detox. Angelina Jolie’s done it. In fact just about all of Hollywood has done it, so naturally, it’s my turn.
I’ve never really been into detox – it’s something people with too much money, time, and toxins encrusted onto the walls of their intestines do. And yet for the first time in my life, I am giving up all worldly pleasures and disappearing off to a remote southern island, only this time it is to detox.
That means giving up all those things that bring me so much comfort in my frequent hours of despair and self-loathing, such as potato chips, Swenson’s Earthquakes and two-for-one Long Islands every Wednesday at a bar not far from my work place. There’s no alcohol or fatty foods during detox. In fact, I have to give up all food whatsoever. For one week, I will not even be eating.
I know, it’s crazy. But ever since I ran a full-marathon I’ve been looking for new life challenges. I dabbled in religion for a few months but the guilt trips were debilitating. Traditional Thai fruit carving was so dreary I wanted the knife to carve out my own wrist instead of the watermelon.
Then one February morning, a breezy phone call from my friend Andrew.
“I’m going down to Samui to detox this Songkran,” he said in his American drawl. “Wanna come?”
Now there’s something I haven’t ever tried! My friend gave me a quick rundown of what it would entail – no eating for a week, and at the end of it I’d feel fantastic. The idea of getting off on not eating as opposed to the usual suspects was intriguing. I said yes.
February turned to March, which quickly rolled over to April. Suddenly I was two weeks away from leaving when I started getting the emails from Andrew’s PA, Khun Shela.
Since you are only two weeks away from your detox experience, we would ask you to stop eating all meat. Also, no caffeine in any form. Eat plenty of raw vegetables and fruits, and we probably don’t need to remind you not to drink any alcohol as of now.
The reality of what I was doing gripped onto me like toxins in an intestine. To me, Samui is synonymous with food and drink, having fun with Eurotrash, bad tailor shops and overpriced public transport. It’s like a giant glass of vodka-tonic rising out of the Gulf of Thailand. That was all going to change.
I stopped eating meat for two weeks. I stopped all alcohol and to my surprise, that wasn’t a problem. But the killer was coffee. Within three days of giving it up I was experiencing tunnel vision and bad headaches. I became unbearable to my staff, and I lost my smile somewhere on the way to work in those first few days and never regained it.
That wasn’t the worst. One week before detox, Khun Shela was tapping away again:
By now your pre-detox should be well in session. We advise you to do a Liver Flush prior to the cleansing program. I enclose the recipe.
Believe me, dear reader, a liver flush tastes worse than it sounds. It’s olive oil, garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper and orange juice blended to form a bilious sludge one is expected to drink and then, fantastically, keep down. I did it for five nights in a row. It’s supposed to clean out your liver and gall bladder but let me tell you it cleans out your intestines as well.
And speaking of the lower body …
Part of “detox” requires what they call colonic irrigation. Don’t pretend you don’t know, but for the blissful uninformed, it requires getting a “colema tip” and affixing it to the end of a tube. The colema tip is then inserted up one’s rear end, and coffee is pumped into your rectum. Oh all right, not your rectum. Mine.
I have two very major issues with this:
1. I can’t drink coffee, but I can shove it up my backside? An orifice is an orifice is an orifice. I feel betrayed I have foregone my two morning black coffees for two whole weeks only to arrive at a resort where it is pumped up my behind.
Upon disseminating this information to friends, I have come across many fascinating facts. Apparently if you pump vodka up your backside, you get drunker than if you drank it. I can’t imagine doing that … wouldn’t all those ice cubes hurt? Another friend told me the ancient Mayans used to pump peyote, an hallucinogenic derived from the cactus plant, up their backsides in a religious ceremony where they then allegedly “saw the Gods”. I bet they did. I can’t imagine what I will see when that colema tip makes contact with my backside, other than a stoic yet horrified expression from the staff member assisting me.
2. Just look at the bogus information one is fed about this colonic irrigation. “The process removes poisonous layers of waste that is caked to the inner walls of your intestines.” Two years ago I had a colonoscopy. Six hours before the camera-on-a-leash went into me, I had to drink a potion even more disgusting than Liver Flush. But it did the trick, leaving your intestines spotless so that the camera could investigate. And I mean spotless.
After the event I was given a VCD of what the camera had explored and seen deep within me. In the comfort of my home I opened a bottle of South Australian chardonnay, put on my favorite Mozart horn concertos, and watched the VCD as it explored my nether regions.
At the doctor’s the next day I had to ask her. “My intestines were so clean. Where was all the rubbish that’s supposed to be caked to the sides of my intestines, which colonic irrigation is supposed to remove?”
My ever-so-diplomatic doctor simply smiled and said: “Now you know.”
Well, I might have known, but it isn’t stopping me two years down the track giving up food, alcohol, caffeine, meat and my sensibility for one whole week. But who knows? Maybe I’ll come out of it a more stable, likeable human being. Maybe that burst of energy will kick in, or I’ll lose so much weight everybody will think I’ve got a disease.
I just hope for the sake of the resort staff it works. Otherwise the only tip they’re gonna get when I check out is of the used colema variety.
(One week later:)
Upon arrival at the spa, I was presented with my spa pack, including a booklet entitled “Your Cleansing Fast”.
Page one was disheartening: “We here DO NOT PROFESS to be MEDICAL AUTHORITIES or ADVISORS.”
Now they tell us!
Does that mean I can rise up and revolt when you start denying me food? Also included in the pack was a long plastic tube with a hole on the end, like a mini lawn sprinkler. This was our “colema tip”, and it sat ominously next to a new tube of KY Jelly.
This is the heart of detox. All was explained on Day One, when we were invited to the reception area. We sat around as the staff flicked on a 20 minute video explaining the colemic process.
I had imagined a nice ward with friendly smiling attendants who made soothing comments like “Goodness the weather’s hot outside today isn’t it?” as they placed warm white towels over your crotch while slipping the little colema tip surreptitiously into your sphincter. “Now you just relax there for 15 minutes and I’ll be back when it’s over,” one attendant would say from behind her white mask, her head cocked slightly to one side as she winked at you happily.
Reality was far more jarring. There is no “Colon Ward”; you do it alone in your own bungalow bathroom. So that explains the big black ugly meat hook hanging next to the toilet, the type you see in a butcher shop or every sequel of Friday The 13th . We had to fill a bucket up with coffee and warm water, then hang it precariously from the meat hook.
Precariously? I should have saved that word for what I had to do next.
Next to the meat hook is something resembling a surfboard, but the only waves around were those of nausea upon knowing what I had to do. The surfboard was a “colema board” and it had a sizeable hole at the end big enough for a head to pop through. Only my head wasn’t going anywhere near it.
The idea was to lay the surfboard down with the hole over the toilet. Then you lie down on top of it with your backside against the hole. A hose goes between the bucket and the colema tip. You smother the tip with KY Jelly and presto, the colema tip is in your nether regions faster than a Catholic priest celebrating Children’s Day.
For the next half an hour, you lie there as coffee goes up into your intestines. After a few minutes there is a full feeling like you are about to explode. You flush out, then take in, flush out, then take in. All the time I was lying on a plastic board suspended above the ground thinking: “Please God, don’t make a Thai Rath photographer come bursting into my bathroom.”
It was scary, ludicrous, and after a few times, more than a little funny. It did lead to interesting dinner conversation. A chatty Croat-Brit woman spoke non-stop of the spidery monsters coming out of her ample backside, as Andrew and I delicately sipped on our clear broth and carrot juice.
“I released a lot of black sludge this afternoon. Then some of it looked like a mini pine tree. I examined a few of them and wondered how long they had been inside me. What about you guys? What have you been excreting?” Madam, please.
Despite the caffeine rush, I remained in a constant state of weakness and hunger. Energy levels were down; not to the point of despair, but my one motivation was the alleged sparkling, wonderful feeling one got after two days of not eating.
Alas, it didn’t come. I took solace in the myriad New Age experts I could pay 2,000 Baht per hour to tell me about my chakras and energy channels. Honestly, these farangs are onto something. I would be quite happy to open anybody’s chakras for 2,000 Baht an hour. Just find me four or five tourists a day, and I’m earning 280,000 tax-free Baht per month! Who needs a university education?
Jennifer the Iridology lady was lovely, though my friend Andrew was a little disheartened when she gazed into his eyes and pronounced: “You have impacted fecal matter.”
“That’s the first woman who’s gazed into my eyes and said that,” he said despondently.
My favorite was Abigail, a beautiful British psychic with 89 angels who accompany her on a sublime cleansing mission. For an hour they weaved their magic as she held my hand and filled me with light. And why not? I certainly wasn’t getting any sustenance from the spa … why not try it with angels?
When it finally came time to break the fast, the spa told us to do it slowly and carefully.
“On the first day of breaking the fast eat RAW FOODS – all fruits and salads” the Detox manual ordered me in capital letters which shook my chakras to the core. To hell with that. At the airport Andrew and I ordered a coffee “for the mouth”. On the plane back I felt I was in heaven as I placed a cooked carrot into my mouth and chewed on it. Later that day I would eat half a sausage and some mushrooms.
My system literally rejoiced. My mood changed abruptly, and I transformed from sluggish curmudgeon to affable raconteur. The first morning back I ran 5 km around Rama 9 Park and it felt fantastic to have the energy to be able to exercise. I could feel my stomach enzymes breaking down food with wide grins on their acidic faces; my intestines gaily twisting and dancing as they sent fecal matter down, down, down.
My detox experience was not wasted. I had a week off; I read lots of books about positive thinking and setting goals. But was it life changing? Some of the other guests were ecstatic over it all. I wasn’t. Maybe it’s because after so many years in Thailand, my diet does already include lots of fruit and vegetables. I eat a lot more raw stuff than if I was living in, say, Sydney, on a diet of pizza, and meat pies.
And maybe, just maybe, it is a little presumptuous and arrogant of us to think that the fantastic machinations of our human body require a “break” from food now and then. Such were my thoughts nearly a week after getting back from detox as I enjoyed the lively company of friends while snacking on moderate portions of Oriental Bakery items.
Let’s face it. Detox is good. Pastry is better.