Whenever the holidays come around, those switches in my brain called discretion and willpower get turned off. I become an eating machine. It's not that I don't feel sorry for my body as I guzzle down more food than I should, or could, seemingly, eat. It's just that I don't want to stop. Some of it is healthy stuff - veggies, fruits and unprocessed grains, but a lot of it isn't. Over one weekend, I ate a chili burger, fries, cupcakes, and candy, and then started my week off with pizza, brownies, and ice cream. Where is Susan Powter to stop this insanity?
But as the holidays come to a close, even my body knows that party time is over, and it's time to start afresh on a new foot, and in my case, maybe a new gut. As I Google physical "renewal" methods, I come across Biotherapy, an alternative medicine clinic in San Francisco that specializes in traditional folk medicine, Eastern medicine, and European and American naturopathy, to heal the body.
One of Biotherapy's main treatments is colon hydrotherapy, or as most people know it, colonics. Biotherapy claims that this procedure can remove the waste built up in the pipes, maybe even from meals you ate several months ago, so that the whole body is rejuvenated. It also claims that 80% of Americans host parasites in our intestinal tracts that make us crave sugar, starches, and fatty meats. (Good to know that it was the worms, and not me, that wanted me to eat that extra cupcake.) Colon hydrotherapy is supposed to draw out the toxins, microbes, and other bad guys in our bodies that could be making us sick. I wasn't completely sold, but I was game to try it out.
I was told not to eat or drink anything for a couple of hours before my appointment. I arrived 15 minutes early, as instructed, to my appointment at Biotherapy's Post Street location (they also have an office in Redwood City) to fill out some paperwork before the procedure began. I was asked to check off medical symptoms that I have, from acne to varicose veins to mental illness. I also signed papers that warned me that the herbs used in the procedure weren't appropriate for pregnant women and explaining that the treatments weren't designed to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease or medical condition.
After a few minutes, a middle-aged woman exited and exclaimed to no one in particular, "I feel so much better!" Wow, I hoped to have such a result. The technician, an older Russian woman named Lisa, came to get me. She led me to a small room that contained an examination table, a sink, and a box-like machine with a container of dark liquid hanging above it, connected by a tube to it. Lisa told me to take off all my clothes except my bra and change into a paper gown. Then I was to empty my bladder in the bathroom, return to the room, and lie on the table on my back. I was just getting on the table when she knocked to come in.
When I was ready, she asked me in a motherly way if it was my first time. She looked over my chart and commented on the check marks next to the entries for gas and constipation. "The holidays," she said sympathetically.
She told me to turn to my left while she unwrapped from plastic a tube with a clear attachment at the end that looked like something you could buy at Good Vibrations. She lubed up the end of the speculum and explained that I'd be helping her guide it into my rectum. Although we held hands, it was far from romantic. I was then told to lie on my back with my knees bent and feet on the table.
Lisa brought my attention to the machine in front of us. I found it funny that the Hydro San Plus Colon Therapy System was a gleaming white box, maybe to cancel out association to the dirty waste matter that would soon flow through it. It had a window in the middle that allowed you to see what was being removed from your body. Now that's entertainment. She pulled a lever and warm water was pumped into me. The sensation was akin to feeling like you needed to use the bathroom.
At first, it was just a brief desire, but suddenly, it felt like it was going to be an emergency. At this point, I told Lisa that I felt very full of water, and she shut the valve and began massaging my stomach. The abdominal massage is supposed to help your body expel out the waste and encourage peristalsis, or muscle contractions. And believe me, it did.
I started to feel, and see, myself expel the contents of my colon. It wasn't pretty, but I couldn't help but stare at the tube, as spurts of brown pebbles, chunks, and murky water passed by. I've heard that people see weird things like gum, wads of hair, even worms, pass through, but the things I noticed most were small red specks, what I deduced was probably red pepper flakes from the massive amounts of kimchi I'd been eating. Hey, I'm Korean, what do you expect?
Biotherapy's web site and brochures explain that the process is painless and relaxing. Maybe it's because it was a new experience, but I wasn't having a picnic. Lisa kept saying in her soothing Russian accent, "I know, I know. Because your first time. You are nervous. Will be OK" as she noticed my wincing face. She told me to breathe deeply, but avoid pushing, as I felt waves of cramps. I was afraid I was going to push out the tube and explode all over the exam table. Fortunately, this did not happen.
Lisa repeated the process a few times before changing tubes to the liquid above the machine. It was a tea that contained cleansing herbs like rosemary and thyme. I couldn't help but think of Scarborough Fair and Simon and Garfunkel as the mixture was pumped in and out of me.
And finally, after 45 minutes, it was over. Lisa removed the speculum and told me to go to the bathroom to pass any residual water and waste. In the bathroom, you get to encounter one of the clinic's coolest gadget, a toilet with a seat warmer and an automated bidet. After freshening up, I went back to my room and changed back into my clothes.
When I emerged, I was told to drink some hot herbal tea in the waiting room, which would further help cleanse my body. I wasn't proclaiming wonders like the woman before me, but I did feel satisfyingly empty, like you do after a really good... well, you know. So here's to a fresh start. My colon and I wish you a happy new year.
Do it yourself
If you're interested in colon hydrotherapy treatment at Biotherapy, call (415) 409-3939 to make an appointment. The San Francisco clinic is located at 2215 Post Street, Suite 1.