A health treatment that dates back to ancient Egypt and Greece, colon hydrotherapy (a.k.a colonics, colon cleanse) is becoming increasingly touted by alternative and homeopathic health practitioners as a way to eliminate toxins and extra waste and blockage from the bowels. Although the science behind colon cleansing has been largely denounced by mainstream Western medicine, its many advocates swear by the positive effects of colonics.
Intrigued by the hype around colon hydrotherapy, (albeit a little bum-shy), your dedicated Ms. Fit editors Jessica and Kathie decided to see for themselves if colonics were all they were cracked up to be, in Ms. Fit’s first installment of We Did It So You Don’t Have To. Curious? Considering colon hydrotherapy but feeling squeamish? Read on.
What was your previous knowledge of or experience of colonics or colon hydrotherapy?
Kathie: This was all new to me, but I had two anecdotal stories to rest my hat on. A few years ago, a friend was swearing by colonics, saying that she lost 5 pounds by having her colon cleared. More recently, the night before the event, my neighbor, also a huge advocate for colonics, broke down his experience for me. He described a dual purpose intake/outtake hose with an insertion point like a small, stainless steel butt plug; a warm, wet cloth over the tummy area with a gentle stomach massage; and a wise, comforting practitioner who could determine his past few day’s diet based on what she saw in the outtake hose. These are the ideas I went into my experience with.
Jessica: I had very little previous knowledge of what colonic hydrotherapy was like. I’d been recently reading Sacred Woman: A Guide to Healing the Feminine Body, Mind, and Spirit by Queen Afua. It’s a book full of resources on how Black women can reclaim their health and vitality through natural remedies and lifestyle changes. Queen Afua raves about the healing properties of colonics, so I thought, what the hell, I’ll try anything once. I’ve also done a basti, a yogic enema as a part of a process known as panchakarma, so colonic irrigation just seemed like the next level.
Describe your arrival on the scene:
Kathie: The reception space (it was an Eastern-medicine sort of place in a trendy residential neighborhood), was cozy but also a little shabby looking. The woman behind the counter asked me if it was my first colonic and I told her it was. I saw medical release forms on the counter but she never asked me to fill one out. She immediately brought me back to a small room with a weird looking bed/table in it. There was a deep well built into the table which I soon found out was where my body funk would expel itself. I told the attendant I was a little nervous. There was a small, wall-mounted television on the wall directly across from the bed/table. She started a DVD in it that she said would explain everything and then she left the room.
Jessica: My appointment was in an alternative health center in Oak Park, IL. The waiting room was full when I arrived, with a great diversity of patients waiting to be seen. I was feeling a little vulnerable, too, Kathie, and the receptionist picked up on it, so when I mentioned I had an appointment she didn’t broadcast to the whole room, “Oh yeah, you’re here for a colonic, right?” I was really grateful. She ushered me into a room with a self-acting massage table. It was designed to help me relax, and looked and felt a bit like those massage chairs you get at some nail salons. Honestly, I wasn’t really prepared for this, and it felt more weird than relaxing. After five or so minutes on the table, another woman ushered me into a room where the actual process would begin.
What happened next?
Kathie: Okay, after watching the video I was a little freaked out and seriously considered leaving. The video directed my attention to a small, straw-like disposable nozzle wrapped in cellophane on the pillow of the bed/table. It instructed me to strip and insert that into my butthole and hit the “help” button when I was ready. It said to let the water fill me up until I felt full, and then press out, like I was having a bowel movement. The straw would make way when I was expelling my waste/water. Compared to my neighbor’s experience, the D.I.Y-ness of this made me feel disconcerted to say the least. Instead, I stood there for a good three minutes, before I decided “what the hell” and began taking off my pants.
Jessica: Yeah, I can imagine if this is your first time, having to self-administer would make you pretty nervous! Rather than having to do it myself, I actually had someone explain the process, and I’m so glad, because I don’t know if I could have done it myself. She said she would pump water into me for a set number of seconds, and then it would flush out. All I had to do was relax, maybe massage my belly a little, and not push. She told me that the water she was pumping into me would only go in and out once, and then move on to a disposal drain, so no back-up or re-use to worry about. Thank God for that! I got undressed from the waist down in privacy, wrapped a paper gown around my waist, and lay on my side. She came back in, lubed me up, and then inserted the nozzle in my bum.
Kathie: My pants were around my knees when the worker came back into my room. I asked her a few questions about, “so I am supposed to take off my pants and lay there and put that thing in my butt and then let my colon fill up with water, after which I would push out, like I was pooping?” She confirmed that this was the case, and she opened and attached the straw-tube to the water hose, and dabbed the rounded tip of it with a bit of lube. After she left the room, I took off my underwear and got on the table, feeling my way around to comfort until it was time for the inevitable. I straddled the hose tube, feeling very, very weird and not sure at all if I was doing it right. Eventually, I felt it enter my anus with a surprising “pop.”
Jessica: Wow! I didn’t get any sound effects! She started pumping water into my colon. This giant machine behind me where the water came from was making noise, and it felt—weird: rather like being full and then being empty over and over again.
Kathie: Ha ha! Just to clarify, the “pop” was a sensation, not an actual sound!
Okay, keep going:
Kathie: After I was lying on the table with the tube in my butt, the worker came back in. She turned on the water and reminded me to wait a few minutes until I felt full and like I had to poop. Then she left again. I sat there for a while. The video screen (directly in my line of vision as I was lying there) began to show me a series of commercials about the other services this place offered. Suddenly, I felt an uncomfortable cramping in my stomach. I pushed. From that point forward, there was a wait/push pattern going on that was basically like having serious diarrhea. Throughout this, I was learning about the cupping, dermabrasion, and foot-detoxing services offered by the clinic. Cramp, push push push, refill. It was strangely comforting in some weird way I can’t yet put words to. After a half-hour of this, the video gave me instructions about how to unhook myself from the system. At this point the worker came back in. She made sure I knew what was what. I unplugged myself, rinsed off with the water spray (think kitchen sink) spray hose at the ready (which was only spraying ice cold water. Hello!).
And then I got up, and got dressed.
Jessica: Oh Kathie, if I’d had to watch commercials while I’d had all that going on, I woulda been really uncomfortable. Like, “Really, you’re trying to sell me a facial while I’ve got a hose up my butt?” Girl, you’re such a good sport!
As far as the actual process goes, I think I had a similar experience to yours. After about a half hour of pumping and flushing water, the nurse advised me to use the toilet that was in the room to finish. She turned on the fan and left me in the locked room. I sat on the toilet and tried to relax as all the extra water she’d pumped into me (and everything else it’d knocked loose) came out. I think it’s really interesting that your experience felt comforting. Mine was emotional, too, but (and please pardon the hideous pun here) I felt like I was letting a lot of shit go. I felt an emotional release; at one point I thought I was going to cry. Once I was finished, I wiped up—I wish I’d had a hose like you did, it would have made things much neater. Then I got dressed.
Kathie: If you didn’t want to watch the infomercials, they also had the clinic’s WIFI code posted. You know, just in case you want to update your Facebook status or do some day trading while your bowels are being irrigated.
Jessica: Are you serious? Wow, I don’t think I could think about anything else except my colon being flushed! Talk about your multitasking!
After thoughts / effects?
Kathie: So, I felt good afterwards. Honestly, expelling all of that (literal) crap felt pretty great, both physically and psychologically. My clinical experience was marginal to say the least, although now that I know the ropes I’d consider going back there because it was matter-of-fact-down-to-business and private, and I could see the benefits of getting in and out quickly without a lot of muss or attention. I was instructed to stay away from roughage for the next 24 hours, and I haven’t pooped yet (it’s been about 36 hours) but I heard that was normal. I feel pretty confident that I will be back on my normal body cycle (which is pretty consistent) by tomorrow morning. I did lose 1 pound, which means that I got rid of one pound of (literal) shit that was lining the walls of my large intestine (a pound! Think of what a pound of hamburger looks like. That’s a lot of poo!). Today (the next day) I feel lighter and cleaner. I would definitely do this again, especially if I was feeling sluggish and toxic.
Jessica: Me too. I didn’t weigh myself afterward, so I don’t know what kind of weight I lost, if any, but I felt tremendous afterward: light and easy and clean as a newborn. I had the same pooping lag that you did; I think it took me a day or two to get back to normal. But I would definitely do it again. I’m someone who often has digestion and elimination trouble, and I think a series of colonics would be really helpful in making sure my system works at its most effective.
Kathie: Yeah, in no way am I advocating this as a weight loss program. The pound I lost is less notable as weight-loss than it is as a pound of waste matter I had in my system that I’ve gotten rid of that was clogging up my digestive tract, allowing toxins to leach into my system. There’s definitely an “ew” factor to get over, but I’d say it’s worth it, with this caveat: there are certain risks attached to colon hydrotherapy including, in the worst case situations, perforation of the bowel. Because colonics are generally not regulated by state health agencies, look for a clinic with a good reputation (check Yelp, and/or ask your doctor for a recommendation). Finally, do some research and weigh the facts before you decide if colon hydrotherapy is right for you.
Conclusion: Two (conditional) thumbs up the bum.