The Irritations of Modern Life 41. Colonic Irrigation

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The Independent Culture
IT'S ONE of the most baffling success stories of the Nineties. Diana set the trend, Fergie followed it, and now thousands of women are having hosepipes shoved up their butts as a fashion statement - and paying for it.

Once, it was considered cranky. Now, alternative medicine is so mainstream that it won't be long before colonic irrigation is as routine as a trip to Tesco. Many complementary medicine centres offer colonics, but there's no proof that it does any good.

Anyone of a squeamish disposition should stop reading now, because what the process involves is inserting a steel-capped hosepipe and infusing large quantities of water in and out. There's a current trend for chasing this up with a rectal dose of wheatgrass juice, to replace lost nutrients (if you've tasted wheatgrass juice, you'll agree that's the best thing to do with it).

Therapists say the process cleanses the colon of waste, which makes the body vulnerable to illness. However, see how healthy the therapist looks before you fall for this. The therapist may try to impress you by using pseudo-scientific terminology, by wearing a white coat, and by calling themselves "Doctor": chances are that they've only done a weekend course, if you're lucky.

The therapist might say that regular colonics can reduce the risk of cancer, but there have been suggestions from researchers in the US that the process can damage the colon wall, and equipment that has not been sterilised properly can even cause septicemia. The long-term effects are not yet known. Just cross your fingers and hope for the best.

I didn't know any of this when I decided to try it out. Naturally I was expecting to find a glittering array of starlets in the waiting-room. However, it was just me and a couple of OAPs who'd come down from Yorkshire for a day trip. I stripped from the waist down, lay on the couch, waited nervously while the water was warmed up... then lost my nerve.

It suddenly struck me that she uses the same nozzle for every patient. "It's sterilised, to get rid of infections," said the therapist, cradling the hose lovingly, but it was too late. I was already halfway up the stairs, and I was still doing my trousers up as I sped out.

Some things, very definitely, are better in than out.