Before I start, let me just get this out of the way: It's not as bad as you think.
A colonic is a procedure where water is infused into the colon to flush out all of the toxins and collected plaque. Think of it like a teeth cleansing for your colon, save for the fact that you'll be a little more exposed.
I had my first colonic last week, after years of researching the process and countless Yelp searches for the "best colonic in NYC." I'm not sure why I finally decided to go through with it now, but it certainly had something to do with spring cleaning and wanting to detox. What better way to start the season than with a good ol' colon cleansing to help clear me out?
I scheduled an appointment at Paul Labrecque Salon and Spa at the Core Club, a members-only club with a spa and colonic facility located in Midtown Manhattan. I chose this spot after discovering that the Core Club's hydrotherapist, Birgit Krome, is known as the "Colonic Queen of Manhattan," having performed thousands of procedures over the course of her 33-year career.
Here's how it went down, plus everything you need to know should you decide to take the plunge:
Dr. Gina Sam, MD, MPH, Director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Center at The Mount Sinai Hospital says, "There are risks associated with colonics which include perforation requiring surgery, infection, dehydration, nausea and vomiting," and adds, "They're not recommended by gastroenterologists." Proceed at your own risk - which I did.
During my (unforgettable) time with Birgit, she assured me that she has not once witnessed any negative side effects from a colonic. That said, if you want to experience one for yourself, definitely discuss it with your doctor beforehand.
You should know that there's some prep work involved. Here's what the experts recommend:
1. Be sure to ask if all of the supplies used during your colonic are disposal and sanitary - of all the services out there, you really wouldn't want any of these supplies to have been used by somebody else beforehand, would you?
2. Make sure your hydrotherapist is licensed (this is a must). Also find out how many years of experience they have, and if they have a background in nutrition to ensure you're getting an expert on the service.
3. Don't eat for 3 hours before your procedure.
4. Don't eat gassy foods like broccoli, beans, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and similar picks for 24 hours before your colonic.
5. Skip the booze (yes, even if you want to calm your nerves) for 24 hours before your appointment.
The Infrared Analysis
After walking into the Core Club and being promptly ushered to the locker room, I changed into a cozy white terrycloth robe. Then, I was brought into a dimly lit room to meet Birgit. In her endearing German accent, Birgit welcomed me and showed me to where things were about to go down.
I received a packet of brochures - my reading homework - as Birgit explained the steps of the colonic and that she would be using infrared technology to help improve the procedure. According to Birgit, the infrared "magic wand" helps to balance the nervous system and increase circulation. She runs a heated wand over your stomach and back in search of "hot spots," places on your body that feel warmer than others and can indicate that there is a fecal blockage in that area.
During this process I sat on a comfy massage table coated with a soft sheet and pillow. You start by lying down on your stomach, as though you were getting a massage, while the heated wand glides across your back. Eventually, you flip over so that your stomach can be examined by the "magic wand" as well. This process not only relaxes your colon but also alerts Birgit is there's a specific area that she should to work on.
After applying her infrared tool, Brigit started massaging my belly with castor oil, a method invented by Edgar Cayce who was a famous healer from Virginia Beach. Cayce used castor oil for many ailments and found that when applied to your stomach it penetrates deep inside your colon, helping to loosen up any impacted waste that might have been sitting there for years. As Birgit massaged my belly, she proclaimed, "You have a clump of old stuff sitting here." It was probably those nachos from last week. "It feels like a muscle or a hard-boiled egg in there - can you feel it?" My reply: "Uhhhh … I think so…"
Now for the main attraction: the 45-minute colonic (according to Birgit anything shorter wouldn't be effective). First, your robe is turned to the front so your booty is accessible. Before we got started, Birgit assured me that "the speculum that will be inserted is very small and they say it's the same one that is used for teenagers." She asked me to turn onto my side and bend my left leg, similar to the fetal position, and she quickly inserted a small tube into my behind (shudders). After the insertion Birgit asked me to turn my right foot around the tubing and lay on my back, kind of like a Pilates posture. With my hips up and my left foot up and down I finally got it and was lying down in a relaxed position ready for my cleansing.
Birgit turned on the colon hydrotherapy unit's pressure and warm filtered water started to flow into my colon, each flush of water lasting just a few seconds long. I didn't even feel my first fill of water since Brigit applied it so gently (thanks for that, Brit!), but when she turned the pressure up I felt a bit of cramping similar to menstrual cramps - the only uncomfortable part of the entire colonic. This selfie pretty much captures how I felt:
I was assured that this is a common side effect and to just breathe though it, which I did. The pain subsided and suddenly I was a believer. Birgit decides on the amount of pressure you will receive depending on your size, so, for example, a 200-pound dude could take a lot more pressure than I, a much slimmer person, can. After that, the rest of the colonic was easy breezy. And as everything started flowing, she pointed out a transparent tube where I watched my waste float by, which left me with a deep, cleansed sensation.
Birgit is a self-proclaimed intense talker, so we spoke during the entire colonic about nutrition, health, and wellness, and I asked her questions about the aftercare. (More on that in the next section!) When my colonic was finished, the tube was quickly removed, but don't worry - it doesn't hurt. I was then brought to the bathroom to expel any excess water. Hey, everyone poops.
As I learned, you'll have to go to the bathroom after your colonic and may go several times over the next few hours, so I wouldn't make any fab plans after your treatment - and I recommend staying close to a toilet. Birgit advises resting and consuming light meals, like soup or a salad. Don't drink alcohol right after, as Birgit warns that you'll absorb alcohol faster and will become intoxicated quickly. I was able to start consuming coffee in moderation the following day, and was told I would likely poop an hour after every meal.
To be honest, I didn't feel that much different in the following days. As Dr. Sam says, "The thought is that a colonic will get rid of accumulated stool and waste in your colon. However, your colon is designed to do this by you having bowel movements." Would I ever do it again? Well, Birgit says you need to do a series of colonics to really see the results, so the verdict is still out.