[Editors note: Colonic hydrotherapy is just one of a long line of “alternative” therapies particularly popular in Asheville — and purported to cure what ails you. What follows is one man’s personal odyssey into his innermost being.]
The journey into my inner “self” began innocently enough, with an article I read in a men’s magazine. A journalist went to the island of Barbados for a week-long regime of fasting and colonic irrigation — which resulted in the brave man losing 17 pounds and expelling 62 inches of what he creatively referred to as “gunk” from his body. While his methods of almost constant enemas and a strict diet of chicken broth, water and vitamins immediately struck me as more than extreme, I was impressed with the results. Being a hefty 250-plus pounds — and somewhat unsuccessful with conventional diets — I gave my doctor a call to see if he thought a modified method of this madness would work for me.
“It certainly isn’t the most comfortable alternative,” my somewhat-perplexed physician replied, “but give it a try, and see if it works for you. A lot of people swear by it — and, if it’s too much for you, there are always other ways of losing weight.”
With those words of wisdom, I began calling around to find a place that offered said service. My main criterion was to find someone who was qualified to perform the procedure (after all, who wants to have a trainee shove a tube up one’s rectum?) at an out-of-town office (in order to avoid any embarrassing chance meetings on the street). I settled on a place in Asheville (I live in Charlotte) that met both of those conditions, and scheduled an appointment to coincide with my 27th birthday.
I made the trek up the mountain with a friend — just in case things went horribly awry and I needed someone to drive me back. As we neared the clinic, an unexpected thick fog rolled across the highway, obscuring the parking lot of the strip mall we were trying to find. I hoped this was not an omen of the events to follow.
We got lost looking for the clinic, and showed up 20 minutes late for my appointment. I apologized profusely to the receptionist and made sure she informed the doctor of the reason for the delay. After all, this person was about to insert various appliances into a very private part of myself, and I did not want an enemy invading this territory.
A kind, middle-aged female practitioner greeted me in the examining room and said that, because of my tardiness, she would only be able to offer a 30-minute massage following the procedure, instead of the hour-long session I had scheduled. I told her that would be fine. She went about explaining colonic irrigation, and asked how I had become interested in it. I explained that I was not some kind of kinky freak, and that I simply hoped this procedure would aid in weight loss. She noted that this was actually a fairly common, and even popular, procedure — and then suggested that I disrobe and change into a paper gown, so she could get down to business.
After she showed me some diagrams of what was going to happen, I got my first look at the speculum (it resembles a demonic dentist’s device). The speculum inserts warm water into the colon and then flushes it back out. After assuring me that said insertion would not be painful — but merely “uncomfortable” — she proceeded.
It didn’t hurt as much as I’d imagined it would (I had experienced more discomfort from the dreaded “hiney poke” during my annual physical). After the speculum was sufficiently inserted, the doctor began slowly flowing body-temperature water into me, and said to let her know if there was too much pressure.
She somewhat humorously began guessing what I had for breakfast, based on the contents flowing into the clear tube of the machine beside her. “There’s the carrot juice I suggested you drink on the way up here,” she noted with clinical detachment, “and I believe that is Slim Fast, the chocolate flavor.”
“Good guess, doc,” I answered. “Kinda looks the same way going out as it did going in, huh?”
She thought that was funny and asked what I did for a living. “Can’t you tell? I’m a professional comedian?” I replied. “This is really just research into the next level of ass jokes for my act.”
“Well, you certainly came to the right place,” she said with a laugh. “About a week ago, I had a patient who was much like yourself,” she went on. “He was a bit skeptical about the [procedure], but nonetheless willing to go through with it. About 10 minutes into the procedure, he actually became so relaxed that he fell asleep right here on the table.”
“What? Fall asleep?” I asked.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” she replied. (Amazing ain’t the word, doc.)
She went on to recount such oddities as finding a tapeworm in one of her clients.
“Did you tell her?” I asked.
“Of course. She saw it in the tube and asked what it was.”
“What was her reaction?”
“She made a face a lot more fearful than when I inserted the speculum, that’s for sure.”
We both laughed uproariously, which coincided with a bout of what she referred to as peristaltic action — the natural contraction of the bowel muscles during the procedure. To assist in getting things moving more smoothly, the doctor then pulled out what looked like something out of the latest Star Trek movie, and plugged it in.
“This is a medical vibrator,” she said, switching on the device. “It will loosen up some of the blocked passages and help the body move out the matter.
“Whoa, doc! Don’t you think I’m already occupied enough down there?” I cried with alarm.
She laughed again. “Oh, no! I just use it to massage your stomach muscles. It’s not for ‘down there.'”
I had to admit I was a bit embarrassed by my assumption, but a quick wave of relief washed that away as she began to gently move the machine across my gut.
More minutes passed, and an astonishing amount of gunk made its way out of my body — so much gunk, in fact, that it (humiliatingly) blocked the good therapist’s tube.