time to come clean

January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

This is an article I wrote for a well-known raw website, but it was never published.  And since a lot of you might be thinking of starting the year with a detox, I thought it was the perfect time to share it.  May all your dreams come true in 2010, for the good of all.

There is a lot of conflicting information out there regarding raw food, let alone nutrition and wellbeing as a whole.  One of the testiest topics I’ve come across is colonic irrigation.  To cleanse, or not to cleanse?  That is the ongoing question.

My first brush with colonic irrigation happened quite accidentally – well, as unintentional as finding yourself attached to a long-tube dangling from a bucket of diluted coffee could be.  I was at The Sanctuary in Thailand, a resort and spa that became my home for two blissful weeks in January 2008.


When I arrived at The Sanctuary, I made a beeline for the legendary restaurant and its thick menu with page after page of mostly vegetarian dishes.  There was a raw-food section at the back, one I barely took note of.  I wondered how I was going to try everything during my stay, and when I cast an eye on the homemade bakery case, I knew I had to get a move on.  Back then, my life revolved around food, and not in the healthiest way.  I had trained as a pastry chef and built not just my travels – but my days – on what I was going to eat next.

Then I happened to stumble into the resort’s detox centre.  I had heard murmurs about the fasts being supervised there and had seen people on the beach checking their watches before downing a handful of tablets.  Just what the heck was going on here?  I had to find out.  Of course I had zero intention of not eating for several days in a row, or so I told myself.

Padding barefoot up the wooden steps, I spied a couple drinking watermelon juice at the bar.  Trying to keep a low cover, I eyed up the chalkboard offering 3.5 and seven-day fasts.  I could tell the couple was watching me, and soon I learned they were fasting veterans who, when they found out I wrote about food for a living and was obsessed with it, told me I absolutely had to do this.  “No use coming all the way here if you’re not,” they agreed, “And no better way to confront your attachments to food.”  Then they told me about the colonics, and with such zeal you’d think they were talking about a massage or bingeing out on ice cream, something I had been doing with abandon to cope with the tropical heat.

I signed up for the shorter fast and was sent off with a bunch of literature in preparation.  And read it I did, but not before gorging myself on coconut ice cream shakes and goodies from the aforementioned dessert case as if these were my last few days on Earth.  Looking back, I realize how counterproductive – even a waste of my money – this approach was.

We were told to switch over to the raw-food menu two days before the start of the fast, an idea I couldn’t get my head around and implemented reluctantly.  My, what a difference a year makes! I now eat a “pre-fast” menu practically all the time, and with pleasure.

The fast at The Sanctuary is actually not a fast at all.  You’re putting something into your belly about every two hours, be it psyllium husk and clay (something my gag reflex never got used to), mineral tablets, your choice of juice (coconut, apple, watermelon or carrot), and an evening vegetable broth spiked with cayenne pepper.  The group atmosphere is almost cult-like with people popping pills in synchrony, but I’ll tell you: it works.

While you’re taking a lot in, you’re also evacuating quite a bit – via those colonics I mentioned earlier.  To say I was skeptical is an understatement.  If we were meant to have colonic irrigation, wouldn’t we have been born with the required equipment?  There are a lot of arguments against colonic irrigation, and this is a legitimate one.  But if the idea of it goes against nature, how about the mounds of unnatural stuff we subject our bodies to in modern times?  I kept mulling this thought as I joined my fellow first-day fasters for a colonic demonstration given by Moon, the detox center’s lively manager.

Yes, a demonstration because, as I soon learned, these weren’t colonics at all but rather a super-sized enema self-administered on a colema board.  Once inside the little colema hut, Moon stretched out on the board – fully clothed – and proceeded to give us a surprisingly tasteful step-by-step demo on how to do this.

Later that day, it was the moment of truth.  I undressed from the waist down, double-checked the shaky lock on the hut door, and made myself as comfortable as you can on a wooden plank while “Girl from Ipanema” pumped out of the speakers and a giant bag of diluted coffee flowed into my bowels.  If that sentence seems long, imagine what 45 minutes of this felt like.  That’s how long my first colema took, and, as I would soon discover, I wasn’t alone.

Probably the best part about doing a group cleanse like this are the post-colema conversations, especially the ones started by men.  Men, of course, tend to be slightly more squeamish about the procedure, and the ones in our group dealt with it by conjuring up a steady stream of comic material.  In short, all we talked about was poop – how much, what color, what size.  The buzz word at the center was “mucoid plaque,” a digestive by-product considered the holy grail of colon cleansing.  There were pictures of the stuff in the literature we gaped at every day, and it ain’t pretty.  We all secretly hoped to pass the elusive monster, but by the end of our fasts not one of us had produced a trophy.

Once you get the hang of a colema, it’s a breeze and goes fairly quickly, although the point of it is to hold the fluid in as long as you can before expelling it.  One of the guys in my group was a wedding singer from Northern England, and he had us howling with laughter when he revealed he was able to hold the entire contents of the colema bag before releasing it.  A medical marvel?  Moon said he was one of two people he’d met who possessed this special talent.

As the days went on, I was amazed at how light and alive I felt.  By the end of the fast, my skin cleared, I felt incredibly alert, and my little belly had disappeared.  Of course, attributing these changes to the colema, the fast or both would be ridiculous.  Let’s not forget there was plenty of sunshine, serenity and seawater.  In short, there is no magic solution.  It’s the total experience that counts.  My time at The Sanctuary was magical and cleansing on many different levels – physically, spiritually and emotionally.  I can neither credit nor discredit colemas.

But I can tell you I haven’t had coffee since.


Me post detox with Moon, the manager at the Wellness Center at The Sanctuary in Thailand.

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  1. Jess January 5, 2010 at 20:03

    Thank you very much, Patricia, I really appreciate that! May 2010 be delicious for you.

  2. Patricia January 2, 2010 at 18:48

    A well-written, thoroughly enjoyable and humorous article… I needed a laugh today. Joy and blessings!

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