Wednesday, March 14, 2007

We do not speak of it

I met a massage therapist at a party on Saturday night, and we were discussing some of the ailments she treats. We also talked about cancer, and how bowel cancer is the third biggest killer in the UK. "It's because people in this country don't like to talk about going to the toilet," she said. It made me think of an account director I worked for for a short while back in my advertising days - someone we'd refer to as being a posh public school boy. One day, en route to the loo, he called out to me, "Mind my phone Lucille, I'm going to have a shit." It was not only unnecessarily crude and a case of too much information, but it also dispelled any theories I may have had about the English upper classes being too posh to poo, or rather, talk about it.

But the massage therapist was right about one thing - bowel cancer is the third biggest killer in the UK, and it's a real problem. Clearly diet and stress are the major contributing factors here, as is, quite possibly, a genetic predisposition towards digestive problems. The women in my family have all suffered from IBS (irritable bowel syndome) at one point or another, and we all tend to embody our stress in the form of stomach and digestive ailments.

I've long since thought about having colonic irrigation. A sort of flushing out of the system - getting rid of all the old nastiness that might be lurking in the nooks and crannies, and giving my bowel a fresh start so to speak. A friend of mine has become a big fan of having these done, and says it's made a huge difference to her all-over health - even her emotional well-being. According to a chapter in Isabel Losada's book, they can indeed find all sorts of nastiness in there - such as parasites (tract worms!), candida, and in one case a really old bit of sausage in someone who had been a vegetarian for ten years! Disgusting yes, and indeed so disgusting it makes you wonder what sorts of effect these things could be having - sitting in there rotting away causing toxins to spread throughout your system over the years.

I took it upon myself to call the person who did Losada's colonic irrigation (mentioned on her website), a lovely-sounding woman based in Kings Langley called Linzi. And before I knew it, I had scheduled an appointment for this Friday morning. God help me - I'm one of those people who can't even do a number two at a friend's house (forget public toilets completely!), never mind allow a complete (albeit trained) stranger to insert a pipe up my bottom and examine what comes out.

Going to the loo fits into that category of bodily functions (like flatulence), that I'm completely uncomfortable with. I've never found jokes about these embarrassing, albeit necessary facts of life, funny, and the mere thought of needing the toilet at a dinner party or in a public place provokes instant anxiety. I don't know what sort of Freudian explanation you might come up with for the genesis of my 'issues', but as far as I'm concerned these are things done in private (preferably in one's loo at home), and certainly not things one discusses, or makes jokes about.

Ah, but Linzi (my soon to be colonic buddy), had other ideas, and even over the phone was asking me such things as how often I go to the loo, and if I feel a sense of completeness after each visit. Fortunately this was over the phone and she couldn't see how bright red I had become, or the fact that I was shifting uncomfortably in my seat. But I did my best to answer her, all the while thinking - 'this is going to get 200 times worse on Friday.'

Updated: I've had a comment, and an email from a friend re. the potential hazards of colonic irrigation. Thanks for sending those in. I think it's worth pointing out that the person I am seeing is a licensed practitioner and she uses disposable equipment. Two fairly important things. Also she told me over the phone that treatment only commences after a full medical history - which I imagine gives her the opportunity to spot any potential red flags. If I've missed anything important in this post, it's because I haven't had the full breakdown of things. I assure you following my consultation, and (if all goes well) treatment, I will post about it in full. Also, I will ask my practitioner if there are any useful websites about this treatment worth including for your perusal.

Finally, much like the list of worse-case scenario things on the back of any off-the-shelf cough mixture or even plastic toy, there are always potential dangers with any treatment, and it's worth doing your research before proceeding.


Anonymous said...

A friend of mine who has had IBS for years once told me that IBS sufferers should not have colonics as it can actually upset it more and there is increased risk of perforating the colon.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and neither is my friend so salt, take, pinch of.

letters from london said...

Thanks for your comment. I have investigated numerous websites re. colonic irrigation, all of which site it as being particularly useful in treating IBS.

However, I decided to do some further investigation from more objective sources. The NHS (British National Health Service) website had this to say: Colonic irrigation is known as an alternative therapy and there is no real medical evidence to prove that it is effective. However, some people believe it can help with conditions including bloating, flatulence (wind), diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), fatigue, allergies, indigestion, constipation, multiple sclerosis (MS), and back pain.

The Harvard Medical School website states the following as potential dangers: Colonic irrigation can potentially cause severe adverse effects and must be carefully administered. People receiving frequent treatments may absorb too much water, leading to electrolyte imbalances in the blood, nausea, vomiting, heart failure, fluid in the lungs, abnormal heart rhythms or coma. Infections have been reported, possibly because of contaminated equipment or as a result of clearing out normal colon bacteria. There is a risk of bowel perforation (breakage of the bowel wall), which is a severe complication. Deaths have been reported.

Colonic irrigation should not be used in people with diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, severe or internal hemorrhoids or tumors in the rectum or colon. It also should not be used soon after bowel surgery (unless directed by your health care provider). Regular treatments should be avoided by people with heart disease or kidney disease (renal insufficiency). Be sure that the equipment used is sterile and that the practitioner is experienced. Colonic irrigation should not be used as the sole treatment (instead of more proven therapies) for severe conditions, and it should not delay consultation with a qualified health care provider for a potentially severe symptom or illness.

letters from london said...

Also,I think it's worth stating that the person I am seeing is a licensed practioner, and told me that preceeding treatment she would take a full medical history. I imagine if there is anything in my medical history that red flags as a potential danger with regards to this treatment, she won't do it.