Emma Bangay puts her body on the line to document the beauty and wellbeing road less traveled.
When writing about my first foray into colon hydrotherapy (also known as colonic irrigation) headlines weren't really what I was after. But in the pursuit of a good, gripping story - with all the gory details - here is my experience of colonic irrigation.
And it's really not as bad as I'd insisted it would be.
Colonics are not akin to torture
Arriving at Melbourne's renowned Duquessa Skin Sanctuary, I was immediately relaxed. Meeting my therapist, however, was awkward. I pined to crack a joke about her buying me dinner before we got down to it, but I soon realised that colonic hydrotherapy was just another beauty and wellness treatment. Nothing to be embarrassed about at all.
Colon Hydrotherapy is akin to a detoxifying, cleansing facial - on the other end of the spectrum. After introductions, pleasantries and a nice cool glass of water, I was given a simple questionnaire thoroughly covering health and medical history, allergies and the like. With each tick and cross off the boxes, the easy part was coming to a close.
Nice girls do get colonics
I mean seriously, who drops their pants for a complete stranger? Well, it seemed I did. It's amazing how an awkward situation - when sprinkled with the promise of improved wellness and a side-serve of beauty - can get a girl to do just about anything. So there I was, going through the ins and outs (initially verbal) of colonics. What were they and how did I get here? Katherine Millar Shannon, Director and Cosmetic Nurse Practitioner, explained that although mainstream Western physicians may not agree that colonics are necessary, "the understanding by integrated physicians is that adults may need additional support cleansing the bowel deeply to prevent disease," making it an attractive option for some.
I wasn't sold. Give me the skin of a 17-year-old, eyes brighter than a diamond in a snowstorm and a stomach flat enough to complete a jigsaw puzzle on please.
Whilst I got busy mentally interrupting Katherine with my list of superficial desires, she continued; "For people who have less than two to three daily bowel movements, colonics might help them reestablish healthy daily detoxification," she continued. And yes, this means I may get all of the above. Here's bloody hoping!
Colonic Hydrotherapy is not that cringeworthy
As instructed I emptied my bladder in the connecting bathroom and placed my pants on the chair - luckily without confusing the two requirements - and popped myself up on the table with a towel wrapped around me. Staring at the ceiling, I began to relax. This place was nice; ambient music, soft lighting, soothing reassurances and WOAH NELLY, there it was. The first digital had taken place faster than a speed date in a spin dryer. But from what I could tell my bum - and my reputation - were still intact. Just. Note: If you are uncomfortable with the thought of going this alone, you can have someone in the room with you.
Think of it as derriere dentistry
The next new friend to invade my person was the colonic tube, and this was attached to something resembling the love child of R2D2 and a radiator. You know the robot from Lost In Space? All I can remember before I blacked out (just joking!) was a large silver machine with multiple tubes and a little screen showing a transparent part of the pipe where my poop was about to make its debut. So proud! Although I didn't anticipate a Broadway-worthy performance, my therapist told me you could tell a lot about a person's health and nervous system just by their crap. I have to say; I was very intrigued.
Colonics don't keep their promises
Call it a win, call it a loss. I was never destined to see my previous few meals grace the small screen. Once my therapist had fired the first shot of water upon insertion of the tube (are you still with me people?!) I felt a cool sensation that was neither strong or unpleasant. Kind of nothing really, like when you walk back up the beach with half the surf still swirling around in your bathers. What followed was anything but calm waters, however.
The urge to purge (as I'd been instructed could take several minutes of water flow and manual stomach massage to achieve) was almost immediate. My therapist assured me this was normal. And that if I felt the urge to 'Go,' I generally should. So, as is a Plan B for many clients - I went old school and hot-footed it to the loo to let the colonic work its magic.
And man did I feel lighter for it. And maybe I was? Katherine had told me that colonic hydrotherapy is believed to remove waste from the colon and might assist some people to lose weight. "People might lose a few kilograms after several colonic treatments," she explained. Furthermore, this little episode is also believed to improve absorption of nutrients from foods as the tract is cleansed.
On re-emerging into the treatment room, all was well with the world. And I wasn't one iota embarrassed. The colonic hydrotherapy had done its job and apparently, over-achieved in little time. Highly stressed people can find it hard to pass anything from the bowel, indicating that their nervous system is not working as it should. Apparently, I had an 'excellent nervous system,' Katherine explained.
"Anxiety is, quite literally, a state of disease," she told me, "and a clear sign that people are overwhelmed. One of the many benefits of colonics is that they clean out old waste and toxins from your body, which dramatically reduces the stress on your system. Colonics will relax your intestinal nervous system and that, of course, will rest all the other systems of your body."
Having one colonic is the first step to renewed health and vitality, she continued. "The number of colonics that may be required will depend on your goals, intestinal health, lifestyle choices and dietary choices."
Over the course of the next 24 hours, I felt lighter - and went to the bathroom often. I was amazed at how flat my stomach was, but instead of gloating, it made me question bloating and what it was in my diet that could cause this on occasion. Another benefit was that my skin was visibly brighter for days to follow. "Poor digestion can lead to a build up of waste in our bodies, inflammation, and malnutrition – and our skin responds accordingly with breakouts, redness or devitalisation," Katherine told me when she contacted me the next day to check in. "When you detox, the first place you see the results is in the skin."
On the flipside, there are risks associated with colonics. I probably wouldn't venture down that particular path again as I exercise regularly, eat cleanly and keep stress at bay. But for those who are interested in colonic hydrotherapy, never undertake one without speaking with your general practitioner first. And always - always - choose a clinic that is professionally run, hygienic and, safe salon.