Add excreting waste to the list of things you've been doing wrong all these years. That's what people offering colon therapy—in which water is fed into your butthole through a hose to sluice out crap—would like you to do. If these Roto-Rooters of the rectum are to be believed, a mess of your old poop is hiding out in your guts and it's what's making you feel bloated, pimply, tired, and in the wake of absorbing this information, understandably revolted.
Given that the digestive tract has been evolving for more than five hundred million years, I'd always been wary of these shit-talkers' claims. But, as I grew older and came into contact with people with more time and money than they knew what to do with, I began to hear near-miraculous first-hand accounts about what outsourcing a hearty BM to a professional every now and then can do.
"It was amazing," said one declogged bougiesta. "I felt so much lighter. I lost six pounds of poop immediately and had so much more energy."
Another wide-eyed hoser told me that it caused her skin to glow and kick-started a 15-pound weight-loss. A third woman told me that her colon therapy experience had caused her to eschew meat, dairy, and gluten immediately after the backlog was professionally cleared.
"When I saw it all come out of me, I knew that if I didn't change my diet, I'd spend the rest of my life like, literally poisoning my body three times a day," she said Goopily.
While I remain skeptical, I do love to poop and take steps to optimize the post-dump feeling known as poo-phoria, much like a MDMA aficionado painstakingly would curate an eight-hour playlist of ambient house music to heighten their roll. To that end I eat All-Bran Buds daily, I drink plenty of water and even installed a $600 electric bidet on my toilet—the most expensive (non-Apple) thing I own. Given how much time and effort I put into the pursuit of BM perfection at home I agreed to put my misgivings to one side and discover whether the rumors about there being a whole other level to this are true.
I want to believe, and Cassie Karopkin—owner of Colon Therapy NYC—is nudging me towards a conversion on sight. She seems to glow with health and vitality and, unsurprisingly, she attributes this to colon therapy and an associated lifestyle engineers to keep her poop chute cute.
"I experienced a lot of the typical problems our clients report," she says shortly after I meet her with her at her Manhattan office. "Fatigue, bad skin, constipation. When I changed my diet and discovered colon therapy, I felt like an entirely different person. It was night and day."
Karopkin reiterates what I'd heard in people's first hand accounts of colon therapy: I should expect an immediate lightness from the release of moldering old poop that is somehow not finding its way out of my body naturally. If I made colon therapy a habit she also said that I could expect more glowing, less blemished skin. When I ask her why my body is unable to properly get rid of this stuff, she explains that it's mostly a consequence of the modern Western diet. She calls out dairy in particular but also meat and processed foods. A plant-based diet, she says, is the the best hedge against the inside of your lower gut looking like a bombsite.
"People are just eating things that they really should not be eating," she says. "As a result, stuff is not not traveling through your digestive tract but getting stuck there."
Douglass Drossman from the University of North Carolina Center for Functional GI and Motility Disorders begs to differ. He says that there's no scientific evidence to support the idea that fecal matter gets jammed up in one's guts.
"The lower gut or colon functions to absorb water and move stool along," he explains. "It begins as liquid waste and as water is absorbed it becomes firmer—the usual consistency of stool. If the motility or movement of the colon is slowed (constipation) the stool gets firmer or even hard and in pellets. But it can come out. It's not 'stuck' but may take longer or may need assistance such as with laxatives or medicines for constipation at times."
I myself had wondered how on Earth accumulated patties of putrefied feces could get stuck given that there's new waste behind it that presumably would push it along and eventually out. I did some digging—please excuse the mental image that conjures up—and found colon therapy proponents commonly describe rotting detritus—"mucoid plaque"—as coating the walls of the gastrointestinal tract.
At first blush, mucoid plaque has a ring of truthiness about it but I soon learn that it's a pseudo scientific term coined by naturopath and entrepreneur Richard Anderson. Anderson just so happens to sell a range of products purported to work like Liquid Plumr for your guttiwuts, thereby ridding you of your mucoid plaque. A testimonial from Sandy W. posted on his website reads: "It's almost unbelievable—the stuff that's eliminated!"
Karopkin invited me into a room containing a massage table pushed flush against a wall. On the wall at the foot of the table is a rectangular white box with a tube protruding from its bottom, the other end of which will presumably be inserted into mine. Before leaving the room, Karopkin asks me to undress from the waist down, lie on my side and pull a disposable drape sheet over my bare ass. She reenters and affixes a slim disposable nozzle onto the end of the tube. While she's doing that, I voice a few concerns. Firstly, I want to know the probability of my showering her and my VICE colleagues with rusty water should something go terribly awry.
"That's actually very unlikely," she says with confidence.
As for the risk involved, Karopkin assures me that the likelihood of me getting hurt is remote, given her many years of experience and the fact that gravity and not suction will be used to sluice out my lower intestines.
Drossman however says that the main problems that are reported with colonic irrigation are bowel perforation and infection of the bowel "both of which can occur due to the high pressure generated from the irrigation."
But a wrecked rectum isn't even my chief concern at this very moment.
"Um…is it going to smell like poop in here?" I ask.
"No," she says with cheer. "It's going directly into the tube and doesn't have any contact with the air. Are you ready?" she asks.
I tell her that I am—albeit unconvincingly—and she inserts the nozzle, which feels much girthier than it looks. Before she starts the water flowing, Karopkin tells me to expect a gradual feeling of being filled. The water is warm and for the first minute or so, it's not terrible feeling. Then, I begin to feel a sharp intestinal cramping and make my discomfort known.
Karopkin tells me to breathe through it while tantalizing me with promises of how great I'll feel in just a moment…any moment now….soon this is going to get crazy….shit's about to get real.
But it didn't. What did happen periodically was a bubbling sound, similar to a giant pull on a bong.
"That's gas," says Karopkin. "I'm guessing you eat a lot of dairy." She's right, and I try to ignore the slight air of judginess in her hypothesis.
Several more minutes pass and sounds of a busy hookah bar emanating from the apparatus intensifies. Karopkin seems disappointed that she hasn't yet managed to loose my mucoid plaque. I ask her if every session results in the scads of poop flying into the tube.
"Well sometimes it doesn't and people just sit on the toilet and push it all out themselves," she says. "Some people can be pretty neurotic."
Her implication seemed to be that I was both a literal and figurative tight ass for not wanting to run the risk—however remote—of letting go and shitting all over the distractingly attractive colon therapist and a handful of my colleagues. Maybe it was her intention to provoke me into action but, try as I might, I couldn't produce the muddy money shot we were all increasingly desperate to see.
After five more minutes, Karopkin called it. She and the crew left the room and I was prompted to use the toilet on my own. I anticipated a column of water lifting me into the air. Instead, I let out a short, sharp burst of surprisingly clear liquid. I stayed on the toilet for ten minutes afterward, because I'd heard horror stories of people leaving a colon therapist's office and riding the subway home when the need to urgently rid themselves of a pint of piping hot bilge water presented itself.
As I said at the beginning, I wanted nothing more than to be a colon therapy convert, skipping through life light a feather, my colon all squeaky clean and and bubble-gum pink. Unfortunately, that wasn't my experience. Maybe that was because my poop game is on point already or perhaps Karopkin is right and I'm just too uptight to shit like no one's watching. The only thing colon therapy did successfully bring out in me was my wont to be a contrary fucker: After my session, I headed to a restaurant for a giant plate of fried chicken and mac and cheese.
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