Sarah Kiely: Why I swear by colonics and the 'ugly' side of the beauty industry
Many celebrities swear by colon hydrotherapy.
Oprah, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow and Leonardo DiCaprio are just some who have spoken highly of the water therapy and flushing away the stigma of a less than glamourous treatment.
I have been using colonics for over a year now and now I can't imagine myself without my bi-annual cleanse. I am prone to bloating and while I know certain foods will trigger the sluggish and uncomfortable Buddha belly I’m destined to bear; when you’ve no medical intolerances, it can be hard to say no to that slice of bread/glass of wine/half block of good cheese on a Friday.
You see, I love food. I eat very healthy most of the time, but allow myself to indulge, explore and reward myself with delicious things in moderation. I’ve accepted that I don’t have the stone cold resolve of gym fanatics, I'll never be happy to call a piece of cauliflower a steak because food provides one of life's simple pleasures.
Trust me, there’s a million other things I’d rather be doing than being propped up on a bed while a stranger essentially ’’washes’’ out my large intestine- but it’s not as bad as you’d think. Colon hydrotherapy works with your body, helping to return your digestive system to a more natural, healthy state.
The gentle flow of water works in two way - firstly, it cleans out waste matter in the colon, and secondly it stimulates the natural nerve and muscle action of the bowels to encourage proper bowel function.
Unlike an enema, Colon Hydrotherapy, combined with gentle abdominal massage from your therapist, can reach the full length of the large intestine, ensuring a thorough cleanse and the maximum benefit. Something red meat eaters could benefit from in particular.
The feeling isn’t painful, it's more of a cramping sensation similar to an upset tummy before a release. Afterwards you’ll feel quite tired, tummy muscles a little sore, but all round lighter and brighter.
The main thing I learned is as much as I like yeast and dairy, they don’t like me. Your therapist will talk you through the "release’" and what’s observed. I tried to watch, but inadvertently gave myself stage-fright, so I had to take their word for it.
Aftercare is key. That means NO booze especially for 48 hours. I chanced a glass of wine the following evening and it was almost disastrous. Top tip: make sure you’re near a loo and your partner isn’t in the shower. It made me laugh, but I only understood how sensitive my system was by ignoring the aftercare advice.
It’s quite telling of the state of our bodies and how blocked up we can be with waste and toxins that a mere 30mls of red wine after a session had me almost defecating in my recycling bin. Post-treatment, it’s all about restoring the natural flora in the gut, a strong course of quality probiotics and gut-soothing produce are vital for a happy tummy and internal ecosystem.
I’ve heard the Hippocrates’ expression "All disease begins in the gut’" and with a movement in gut-loving foods and supplements reigning supreme in 2016, it appears he was onto something. I sat down with Lisa Manley, a qualified nurse and owner from The Cleanse Within, specialising in Colon Hydrotherapy.
Lisa informs me, "Colon cleansing is not a new idea; in fact, it has been carried out for thousands of years by people across the world who have enjoyed the health benefits of the treatment. Today, the treatment is safer and simpler than ever."
So why the controversy? I’m told it’s more a matter of knowledge and people not understanding the process of Colon Hydrotherapy, and general squeamishness I’m sure plays a part.
The therapy itself takes around 45 minutes, during which modern, hygienic equipment gently cleanses your colon using warm filtered water, in a simple, dignified procedure.
Lisa explains the process for us: ”Warm, filtered water is introduced into your colon through a small tube called a speculum that is gently inserted about an inch and a half into your rectum. As the warm water enters, you’ll feel a slight fullness as your colon fills up, then a relaxing feeling as it empties. The water pressure and temperature are carefully controlled and all waste is drained away discreetly in a closed system with absolutely no mess or odours.’’
She explains that Irish lifestyles in particular could benefit from a session: "Most people I meet are aware that they need to change their dietary habits. They know how much the food they're eating is either exacerbating their digestive problems, zapping their energy, causing headaches, increasing their weight, inflaming their skin, causing sugar cravings etc.’"
When asked about our love of convenience and carbs, Lisa tells us our culture can be causing havoc on our system. "We are at a loss when it comes to knowing what to eat instead of the typical Irish diets of processed sandwiches, cheese, potatoes, milk and biscuits. People want to change but they just need guidance as to know what the better options are."
While typically Lisa’s patients are IBS sufferers, some Irish people are frequenting the flush, to help with a whole host of issues: "Your digestive system is closely linked with the rest of your body's functions, the therapy may also help you with headaches, allergies and acne, and improve mental and physical sluggishness," she tells us.
Women in particular prone to yeast infections may find some relief with the treatment. It’s been reported the sugar is now one of the culprits for candida, and this yeast is killing off our friendly bacteria naturally present our bodies. "Good bacteria can only breed best in a healthy balanced environment, a colon cleanse should improve their environment and increase their numbers in conjunction with a healthier diet and Probiotics supplementation."
Whether you think its flushing money down the toilet or essential bowel and digestion care, Colon Hydrotherapy is having a moment. Whatever your stance, it seems we’re becoming more in-tune with our natural rhythm, and I don’t think that’s anything to be embarrassed about.