My adventures in colonic irrigation (yes, really)


There's been this ... well, I want to say "odd", but when you think about it, it's not odd at all ... perhaps confusing trend of referring to "colonic irrigation" (that is to say, the insertion of a pipe up one's bottom and the use thereof to flush other things out of said bottom) as "colonic hydrotherapy". To me, the latter sounds a bit as though one's colon is removed and sent to a spa for the weekend while you just chill out at home. Digression! Who, me?

These past few months I've been experimenting with a variety of "health" practices, as a result of my agreeing to partake in Midday's (don't act like you don't watch it) "Punish the Panel" programme, wherein myself, Caroline Grace Cassidy and Fiona Looney were given over to poor, ill-done-by Brian Lee of Fit Studios, Aisling Cleary of River Medical and Lisa Manley of Cleanse Within to be overhauled.

In everyone's defence, the Midday team reported that ours was the worst Punish the Panel group in the show's history; previous groups have lost stones between them, while I lost about 2kg (but, in my defence, got really strong, deadlifting 113kg) and Caroline managed to stay exactly the same. We won't talk about Fiona because, well, no one likes a teacher's pet*.

Anyway, I was the only one who dutifully high-tailed it to Cleanse Within to have my insides spring-cleaned by the lovely Lisa, and I thought that, because most people refuse to talk publicly about their back passages, you'd appreciate hearing all about it. I don't have those kinds of pedestrian qualms. So here's what happened:

I arrive at Lisa's feeling, well, a bit nervous really. It's not every day you meet a perfect stranger and invite them to ... well, let's not finish that sentence. No judgment! But it's an unusual set of circumstances.

Forms are filled out, detailing dietary habits (bad), toilet habits (worse), exercise patterns (ahem) - and I'm sent off for three days to prepare myself. Take these probiotics, says Lisa, and these vitamins, and, oh yes, psyllium husks - which look a little like barley powder but, when mixed with water, take on the consistency of tadpoles and end up being the most disgusting part of the whole thing.

So what happens during a colonic irrigation?

You take off your bottoms. On one of the three occasions, I made the mistake of wearing one of those tummy-tucking vests - really, it's best to wear loose, comfortable clothing, if only because you want to be as comfortable as possible while this is going on. You wrap a towel around you (which has been pre-heating on the radiator) and then you hop up on to the bed.

This next part all takes 30 seconds, max: you roll on to your side, the pipe is inserted, you roll on to your back again, knees up, deep breaths, relax. It's all ready to rumble (it is incredibly difficult to write about colonic irrigation and not make puns - did you miss that "high-tail" I threw in, above?).

What follows are a series of circuits: water flows in, you fill up, you begin to feel uncomfortable, it all releases. You get to watch what's going on via a mirror set up above your knees, aimed at a polite distance below your crotch. It's kind of mesmerising (if you're into that sort of thing) - and, for a while, it's not too uncomfortable.

Each time, I could endure the first 75% of it well enough - but the last few minutes just made me feel like weeping. Yes, there was slight cramping, but mostly it was just that I really, really wanted to have control of my bottom back - and a speedy run/waddle to the bathroom is a must (it kind of builds up inside of you until you feel like you have to go THIS! VERY! SECOND! and then, when you do, it's usually just a load of water and gas).

Afterwards, I was super careful with what I ate - once, about five years ago, I had a bowl of pasta after my first colonic irrigation and my body was incredibly unhappy with me. So this time, it was salads and chicken all the way.

And how did I feel? In all honesty, I felt deadly. Bear in mind that, while this was going on, I was "eating clean", working out 3-4 times a week and generally treating myself really well - when I indulged in a bold Eddie Rocket's, I felt seriously rubbish.

I know that the "science" on colonic irrigation can be very skewed; practitioners are (understandably) gung ho, while others say there's no scientific basis for it whatsoever. I may not know much about science books, but I do know that my stomach felt flatter than it has in years, I was less gassy than I've ever remembered and my skin was super clear.

If it was a choice, say, between two colonics (€85 a go) and a Clarisonic Aria (€199), I'd go for the colonic every time. (I know, it's an odd comparison, but my ill-fated decision to buy a Clarisonic has been on my mind for a while now - more on which at a later date.)

* She was deadly. An example to us all. So jealous.