Colonics: Experts Said No, I Said Yes.
* This story is continued chronologically from my previous article, Be Your Own Doctor.
After four tortuous months of waiting for a gastroenterology appointment, I was relieved to finally find myself in good hands. The doctor asked me questions about my medical history, lifestyle, and stress levels; NOT ONCE did he ask about my nutrition (that didn’t phase me then, but I’ve now learned that doctors hardly undergo nutrition training which is a major flaw in our system).
Within a short seven minutes of my consultation, he was able to prescribe me an antibiotic which I later found out was a generic one to clear out infections from the body. According to the many medical exams that were administered, though, I was infection-free. “It might help in the case that you have a different infection than the one that was tested,” the GI assured, “there are no side-effects besides mild skin sensitivity.” I was open to trying it, and indeed, two weeks later I felt normal. It worked like magic.
Relief was temporary: My symptoms exacerbated in the month to follow. The knots in my stomach lasted through the night and beyond to the next day as unabated flares plagued me. I went back to the same doctor for a second round of antibiotics. This time, they had no effect whatsoever.
The doctor’s next idea involved another set of pills to treat a condition they thought I had, but couldn’t be tested for due to COVID complications. The new drug also reported no side effects, and besides, they were free samples! Anything to help, right? Why not?
Four months had elapsed over which I had taken three rounds of medication. I saw no positive changes in my symptoms– only negative and different ones emerged. Almost nightly, I was crying myself to sleep, and would wake up every morning with more pain than the day before. Other than tremendous burning and aching, my head pounded, my heart palpitated, and my stomach was protruding over my lean, muscular legs. I hadn’t passed a single bowel movement or even gas for two weeks. What is happening to me? I felt like a zombie in the body of a dinosaur, if only you can imagine!
At the tail end of this two-weeks, there came a point where I was stationed on the couch. Even five minutes in the car induced the most crippling nausea, to the extent that I’d have to pull over to the shoulder of the highway fearing that I’d crash if I kept driving. There have been a few incidents in which I’d call my mom to come pick me up from the nearest exit’s gas station; a few hours later, when the pain and nausea subsided, we’d return to pick up my beloved Audi.
One afternoon, my mom and I were running errands; I begged her to pull into the Target parking lot for a breath of fresh air on our way to the grocery store. We phoned the gastro clinic over and over again. No response. “I need relief, please! It needs to come out!” I cried each time the call went to voicemail, “Why mom, WHY?!? WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?!”
A pandora’s box of innovative and efficient solutions, my mother proposed a crazy idea– one that sounded effective, but dangerous and invasive– a colonic. Because she had suffered from similar IBS in her twenties, my mom had been treated this way before; she knew that it was safe if administered properly. Despite my resistance, she called a close friend of ours versed in holistic medicine to see if she knew anybody trustworthy who could administer one–and she did.
It was Christmas week, so of course, all appointments were booked. My mother begged via text, email, and phone call: “My daughter is suffering, please, she needs relief. We will come any time, anywhere you need us.”
Confined to the couch, I was shooting up blends of cilantro, parsley, and ginger; “just chug it!” my mother exclaimed, “it’s for your health!” I downed the elixir from a shot glass, my face cringing in disgust. All the while, I was drinking coffee and senna tea several times daily, taking miralax and suppositories, getting massages, cupping, and relaxing in magnesium baths. I tried everything–you name it. Nothing worked.
Finally, after two long days of pestering for an appointment, she agreed to squeeze me in.
It was the day before Christmas Eve. Just ten minutes away from my destination of relief, the nurse from the gastroenterology clinic returned our call: “You’re getting a what?!” she was outraged, “that’s very dangerous! There are many risks, the doctor would not be pleased with that at all.” My body began to shake as I waved at my mother frantically, imploring her to cancel the colonic and return home. But I was left with no choice. My mom hung up with the nurse and assured me that our close friend trusted this woman to help me. She called our friend again so I could hear her testimony first-hand.
While somewhat comforted by hearing a primary source affirm that the treatment was safe, I was still curious as to why my nurse so adamantly rejected the idea. There was no more time to think. The car was parked, and before I knew it, my mom was holding me up as I struggled to waddle across the street.
As much as the colonic was physically painful, it was mental torture to surrender my body to someone I had never met before, even more so allowing someone to manipulate its natural functions. The hardest part of all was the constant flood of thoughts streaming through me, only thinking of the impending risks the nurse had asserted.
Then I gave it a second thought: What had the doctors done to help me until now? What hadn’t I tried myself? Did they have an alternative to provide me relief? Because the answers were “nothing,” and “no,” my options were slimmed to zero. The blockage was bad enough, and I wasn’t about to pop another round of pills that could potentially exacerbate my situation. No, not again.
In the aftermath, I couldn’t have been more grateful for firstly, how I felt afterward, and second, for my mother’s insistence that we take the nurse’s admonishment with a grain of salt. This became a major epiphany for me, in that each individual must examine their personal situation and the implications a specific remedy will provide. The experts may not be completely aware of them either.
Today, I know that in my moments of agony, there is always a worst-case-scenario solution available if I need it. In order to feel comfortable with the woman performing my treatments, I took it upon myself to understand the range of her expertise, her story, and background. Opening up to each other strengthened our bond over my various visits. Instead of dreading the thought of such a traumatizing experience, I’d come to embrace the pain by focusing on building my friendship with her and learning about my condition. Despite me crying, the tears I wept were joined by those from our laughing together; rather than feeling defeated and weak, she empowered me to feel strong and capable of healing. Not only has she become a resource to me per se, but has extended the resources in her hands to help me tackle my IBS from different angles.
Those we deem experts are not always fit to help us just as the best solution for one person may not apply to an entire group. In emergency cases of course, one needs to trust an expert for mere survival just as in this case, where I was left with no choice but to stick through the treatment.
When it comes to something that is manageable, however, one must examine a variety of sources that provide temporary relief amid searching for a sustainable approach to the cure. This search may be painful and lengthy, but building a support system with a positive attitude removes feelings of loss and hopelessness. Learning opportunities and sparks of inspiration may emerge from a support system committed to your personal healing journey.
I’ve applied my same sparks of passion for human rights to human health, seizing opportunities to educate myself, spread awareness, and support to be supported. By sharing my story and engaging in communities with similar objectives, I can now learn from and help others who reach out to me. All the while, what I’ve come to appreciate most about my journey are the qualities that have been ingrained in me because of it. Along with resilience and grit, I’ve become my own examiner, advocate, and cheerleader. I’ve come to understand the importance of connections because they can bridge us to new ones who become life-long resources and friends.
My message is not that doctors shouldn’t be trusted, nor is my point that colonics were the cure to my condition. These treatments, in fact, weren’t always the most effective, and colonics are NOT a sustainable, healthy solution. At that very moment however, the cleanse was something I needed; the status-quo was unbearable, and it would be riskier to go another day living it. If I hadn’t had my mother doubt the nurse’s advice, I would have never found that remedy, the additional guidance/resources, or the friend I made through that experience.
When deciding whether to follow an authority’s advice, one must weigh personal risks and rewards. This is exactly why being your own expert is essential, even when you’re seeing a whole care team trained at the highest ranks. Nobody knows you as well as you do, and no doctor can force a treatment plan upon you. Get second, third, and even fourth opinions. Reach out to family and friends who are versed in the field.
The avenues to healing are endless when you share your story and connect with others who can relate to you. Your treatment plan may not even require medication: maybe it involves simple lifestyle changes. Maybe it’s one food, one herb, or one daily ritual that you practice. It’s all about knowing yourself by using your symptoms and feelings as the indicator of your health’s lifeline– even if it means a full extraction, a transformation of your habits, and a fresh start.