Friday, March 16, 2007

The big flush

Warning: This post contains material some people may find unappetizing. I’d advise eating lunch first, and then reading.

OK, so if I was going to write about a colonic irrigation, specifically my first ever colonic irrigation, I decided there was no point in doing it by half measures. Bottoms, or rather what comes out of them, is one of those subjects we don't like to talk about, which has a lot to do with why so many people are getting struck down with bowel cancer. If you don't talk about it, and don't go and see a doctor about it, how are you going to ensure something that is so easily treatable doesn't develop into a life-threatening illness?

So in a bid to overcome my own issues, as well as a more overriding fear of developing this disease, I decided to go and have a colonic irrigation done, and then write about it as honestly as I could. I appreciate my friends may look at me a bit differently after reading this, but if I can do my little bit to get people talking about having a poo and more so doing something about it if they aren't, then so be it.

But first let’s back up a bit and start with the initial phone consultation I had with Linzi.

Linzi Dean (that's my practitioner’s name) asked me a bit about my digestive process, specifically how often I go to the loo, if I feel a sense of completion after each visit, and we discussed what I hoped to achieve from the experience. Although I hate discussing things of this nature (who doesn’t?) She was refreshingly professional and easy to talk to. I told her that I wanted to get cleaned out and get things working as they should, instead of the ‘once a day if I'm lucky, sometimes not for two days if I’m not’ business I currently have going.

I explained that I was also hoping to get pregnant, and have read that pregnancy can cause a woman to suffer constipation, which in my case, with my bowel, is almost a certainty. I had also worked with someone who’s mother had died shortly after giving birth to her thanks to severe undiagnosed bowel problems, exacerbated by pregnancy. I decided I wanted to start with a fresh slate, and also wanted information on how to keep things working throughout. Information, I was pleased to discover, was something Linzi was happy to provide in bucket loads.

OK, so having spoken to her and booked my appointment, I then started to worry. What should I eat in the days preceding my visit? What if I have an upset stomach on that day? How embarrassing would that be? Also, and perhaps this is more of a womanly paranoia thing than a man one, what was the best thing to do to present myself in the most hygienic way? I mean, if I go to the dentist I spend at least an hour before cleaning and flossing to make sure my teeth are as clean as possible for him to inspect. To put it plainly, I wanted to make sure my bottom was just as clean and presentable in this case.

I decided I couldn't do much about the inside (that was her job), but this morning I had a bath and took good care of things with soap, wishing that soap could also get rid of the cellulite on my bottom cheeks at the same time. But I digress.

Linzi’s practice is based in Kings Langley, which if you traveling from Euston station, is 25 minutes from London on the fast train. A couple of my friends asked me why I didn’t choose to see someone a bit closer to London – especially as we live so close to Harley street and there must be at least one based there. The truth is I liked the sound of Linzi in Isabel Losada’s book, and when I spoke to her on the phone she sounded like someone I could feel comfortable with, at least as comfortable as you can be with someone fiddling with your bottom. I didn’t want to go some place after only speaking to a receptionist, and then run the risk of finding that I was completely ill at ease with the practitioner I was allocated.

So finally the day arrived, specifically today, and I got on the train feeling almost pathologically calm. It's a trick I discovered when I attended acting school - learning how to disconnect from myself when faced with an embarrassing or painful situation. I'm not sure how entirely healthy it is in a psychological sense, but it's gotten me through some difficult times in my life. I turned on my iPod, read the latest Vanity Fair, and completely and utterly shut out the fact that I was about to have my anus probed by a complete stranger. It was either that, or flee the train screaming like a banshee.

At 10.30am I was met at Kings Langley station by a taxi I had pre-ordered, and arrived at Linzi's place - a beautiful old house surrounded by leafy trees (the whole area of Kings Langley is like this) 10 minutes later. I walked around to the front door, and was surprised by an old gentleman with outstretched arms as if to embrace me. What the hell? My bottom and I were not in the mood for any embracing at this point - especially from a stranger. Not even an air kiss thank you very much. Fortunately the poor man dropped his arms and motioned towards his front door instead.

He welcomed me into his home to be met by what appeared to be his wife - equally warm and bizarrely welcoming. It was as though they were expecting me, and for a split second I thought I was at the wrong place, and that these elderly (and clearly confused) people must think I was someone else – a relative perhaps?

I have a very active imagination - it runs towards the cinematic when I'm in a real panic. I was clearly so stressed out about my upcoming experience, that everything just felt odd and confusing – and suddenly all sorts of improbable rubbish seemed entirely probable. My mind raced to the furthest paranoid reaches – perhaps this whole thing was some sort of ruse to kidnap me and suck me into some sort of cult? The 'Overly friendly and generous old people’s enema cult' perhaps?

As if sensing my concern, the lovely old chap informed me that Linzi would be there shortly, and offered me to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine. At the mention of her name I relaxed a bit, but only a bit mind you. This was someone's home - ok. But who were these old people? And where was the antiseptic chrome and glass chamber, or whatever they used for colonics? And where in god's name was Linzi? To those of you reading this, you’re most likely thinking – why didn’t I just ask them? Yes, that would have been the smart thing to do, but I was far too spaced out and disconnected and wrapped up in my paranoia at this point. So I sat quietly in my confusion, waiting and worrying.

Five minutes later Linzi arrived in a flurry with her new baby (15-days-old), and her son (two), amid apologies and explained that these were her parents, that she had meant to call me and tell me they'd let me in as she was running a bit late, and that her practice room was around the side of the house. She left small baby and two-year-old son with the bizarrely friendly and welcoming mom and dad, and we proceeded to her practice room. Deep sigh of relief.

My panic further evaporated as Linzi and I began talking, and my impression of her over the phone proved to be right. Slender, with long red hair, big blue eyes, and a hearty infectious laugh, she had a winning smile and warm sunny disposition that made it hard not to feel at ease with her.

Her consulting room was equally non-threatening. In fact, it looked very much like a doctor’s consulting room, with a desk, two chairs, and a consulting day bed. No weird tank or bath-like structure in site. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it – not scary at all.

We sat down and talked more about my bowel activity: poo consistency, how often I made one, etc. I mentioned a concern one of my commenters made about people with IBS and the possibility of perforating the bowel with a colonic, and to my surprise she burst out laughing. Not in a mocking way mind you, but with what appeared to be genuine incredulity. She said IBS was in fact the foremost reason people came to her to be treated, and emphasised that colonic irrigation was such a gentle procedure that a perforated colon was highly unlikely, and not something she had encountered in 20 years of practicing. She conceded that in extreme cases, there were possible risks – but these were extremely rare. But on the whole it is a process that has been in existence for centuries, and if administered by a professional under hygienic conditions, is a safe and more so healthy part of optimal bowel health.

Unfortunately there was only so much chatting we could do, and then it was time to get down to business. She gave me a hospital gown (the ones that are open at the back), showed me the loo (in a room next door), and told me to get undressed from the waist down and put on the gown. I then had to return to the bed and lay down face-up, with my bottom on this sort of disposable baby changing mat.

I took as long as I could changing, then went back into the room, lay down and nervously stared at the ceiling. Linzi reentered the room wearing an ominous-looking surgical mask and gloves.

Now the part that I was most concerned about, and I imagine a lot of people are too - the initial insertion of the speculum business. She asked me to turn onto my side and this is where my bottom was exposed to her (but everything else was thankfully covered up!). I've discovered that offering your bottom to someone to insert something into leaves you feeling remarkably vulnrable. It's not a part of our bodies we are used to touching ourselves, let alone having someone else touch (unless you are a seasoned porn actor), and lying there for those brief moments, not knowing what it was going to feel like, was in fact the worst bit of the whole process.

I did my best to relax, and the fact is, it was not painful - honestly. It’s was actually very quick. (No comment on the emotional damage.) What I will say is that the initial feeling (which doesn’t last past a few minutes) was the reflexive desire to push the speculum out – which is your sphincter muscle doing what it does, apparently. She held the speculum in place, and then inserted the pipes (I think there were two – one for putting water in, one for taking waste out). I did not feel the insertion of these pipes at all – they were very thin.

She then started to introduce warm water through one of the pipes, holding onto the bit in my bottom and asked me to gently turn onto my back again, straighten my legs, and relax.

The colonic process is a gradual and gentle one. Some people have this image of a hosepipe being stuck up your bottom with the water turned on full blast – which is where I can see the perforated bowel myth coming from. This is not the case. While working with the water pressure I felt a gentle warm feeling of water filling up my insides – it wasn’t unpleasant, it’s wasn’t painful – it was just a kind of neutral feeling. She then worked with the pressure and asked me to tell her when I had a feeling like I needed to void my bowels. When I said ‘yes now’ she released the pressure, which is when waste or gas bubbles began to come out.

The only unpleasantness, and I must emphasise this lasted for about 30 seconds only, was a feeling at one point of gripe (like when you have an upset tummy) or for women, a period pain. This is normal apparently, and everyone gets it. It’s what happens when the water breaks up the waste in your bowel. It passes quickly and that’s the only time I experienced it in the 40 minute treatment. This process of filling the bowel with water and then me saying when I felt the need to release repeated itself, all the while she massaged my stomach helping things move along.

The longer you can hold the water inside of you, ignoring that initial feeling of needing to void, the better apparently. As this lets more water in, and further into the bowel. It gets easier to do this the further into the session you proceed.

Well into the swing of things, stuff started to come out. “Ok, there’s some Candida!,” she enthused. “And there are some parasites – great!” I didn’t know what was so great about having parasites in my gut. I was quite repulsed actually, but she clearly felt that the colonic was being effective if these things were coming out at this point.

I just want to add here that while all of this was going out, I couldn’t see anything. I was staring up at the ceiling or at Linzi’s beautiful blue eyes as we talked about child birth (“Take the pain-relief options available!” she warned), and various other things. The pipes and stuff were at the bottom of the bed. She’d comment from time to time as to what was coming out (gas bubbles, coloured water etc), but for the most part we could have been having a coffee and chat at Starbucks. I felt very relaxed and only aware from time to time of the sensation of being filled with water, and in the background, the vague sensation of something in my bottom – but nothing I would describe as being painful or even uncomfortable.

At the end of the session I was advised to go to the loo next door, and take as long as I liked. She also had wet wipes for the purposes of cleaning up properly after.

I sat down on the loo and it was like I had a bad case of diarrhea – things just came pouring out – very watery. After five minutes or so I thought, ok, I’m done now. Oh but I wasn’t. Even more stuff came out, and more after that. Granted, it wasn’t pleasant, but what was pleasant was this feeling of being totally clean on the inside. Eventually I got dressed and we had a short chat about some follow up treatments.

In brief, because my taxi was waiting, she had a baby to feed, and this post is already far too long – the next steps are about replacing the good bacteria we had taken out. Because when you take out the bad stuff, you take out some of the good too, and it needs replacing. I have been given some healthy stuff like Aloe Vera and fiber etc to take over the next month to get the balance in my gut right so things work better. And I have also been given a course of something called Wormwood which will kill off the parasites over a 20 day period. The downside to this wormwood stuff, is that it’s not advisable to take when pregnant (which puts the baby-making stuff on hold), and you cannot drink dairy milk or alcohol while on the course – because the parasites thrive on these things. So no more hot chocolates from Starbucks, which is proably a blessing in disguise as I could stand to lose weight.

I’m seeing her again next Friday for another colonic, and we'll discuss further things like the effects of diet on the bowel – what to eat more of, what to avoid etc, and it goes without saying I’ll keep you posted.

Linzi Deayn can be reached on (UK mobile number) 07956 502 342

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