DETOX INTERNATIONAL - Testimomy
by Emile Sholtz
A week long juice fast with daily enemas is not the sort of thing you undertake on a whim. People commit to a detox retreat when virtually all else has failed in treating a myriad of illnesses, or at best yielded mixed results. Desperation can be the best of motivators, as a man in his 40’s suffering from persistent headaches for 25 years pithily expressed: “I’ve seen every doctor except a gynecologist.”
On arrival at the Bodhi Khaya Retreat Centre in the Overberg, Western Cape, as myself and the other 10 participants sat down to meet the Detox International team of highly trained nutritionists and complementary therapists, any comforting notion that this would be a leisurely saunter to glowing health was promptly (but gently) dispatched. What we had to look forward in signing up for this, however, was an unusual opportunity to not only re-set our body chemistry and initiate its healing power, but also a chance to ‘wake up to ourselves and our lives.’
In our welcome gift bags were two items which would become integral fixtures of the healing process over the next 6 days: a travel enema kit and writing journal, representing the difference between Detox International’s comprehensive, holistic approach and other detox-lite options which don’t, er, plumb the same depths in treating the root of disease. No; this was going to be intensive, both physically and emotionally. As self-introductions moved around the table, nervous quips about the intimate business of enemas and prospect of hungry bellies betrayed anxieties about what real, lasting healing might ask from each one of us.
From auto-immune disorders and chronic headaches to fibromyalgia, intractable weight problems and disastrous hormonal imbalances, what we all had in common was a frustration with the prescriptions of the conventional medical model. For me, it was years of laboring through the smallest of daily tasks, my thinking shrouded in a perpetual, exhausting fog. Chronic fatigue syndrome and adrenal burnout were the diagnosis proffered by a range of specialists- apparently straightforward definitions for what is, in reality, a notoriously confounding combination of symptoms with no clear treatment plan, other than hit-and- miss antidepressants, plenty of rest and the rather obvious counsel to ‘stress less’.
It was no mystery how I arrived here, though. Having lived with chronic anxiety and depression for my adult life (I’m 31 now), there came a point about 6 years ago when my body could simply no longer withstand the barrage of worry and nervous tension that was my everyday world. Work and future plans became circumscribed by persistent headaches and an immoveable weariness that no amount of sleep could satisfy. In the intervening years some hard-won internal changes were achieved, but somehow I couldn’t shake the physical hangover of all the damage my uncontrolled mind had done. I found myself in the paradoxical yet powerful position of being physically stuck and mentally mobilized for change. What this detox offered was the chance to heal at a deep cellular level and finally turn a corner in my life. I was ready.
Juice fasting and colonic cleansing formed the basis of the detox regimen, with a raft of daily supplements to support the body in eliminating toxins safely. The most heavenly of organic fresh fruit and vegetable juices we served up with clockwork regularity throughout the day, helping restore the body to its optimum PH level – the ideal conditions for healing to take place- whilst supplying plenty of essential nutrients and enzymes. It’s said that when the digestive system is freed from its duties for even short period, the body has up to 60 – 70 % more energy which can then harnessed for healing. For the uninitiated like myself, the coffee and herbal enemas, self-administered in the morning and evening respectively, sounded worryingly ominous at first, but they quickly became as routine as the morning dry skin brushing and yoga. Pretty soon I was beginning to enjoy the energizing lightness they brought, even going so far as thinking the idea of a ‘travel enema kit’ - we all roundly scoffed at taking an enema bag anywhere after the retreat- wasn’t so absurd after all.
The more acidic your body’s PH, the tougher your detox is sure to be. Despite following reasonably well the pre-cleanse instructions to cut out all acid-forming foods (sugar, bread, meat etc.) from my diet at least a week before the retreat began, I found myself in a weakened, petulant stupor by the end of the first day. No food was not fun. My refusal to reign in my tea habit in the preceding days had also left me with a head aching for its caffeine fix. Fortunately, being sequestered on the remote and gorgeous old farmhouse grounds of Bodhi Khaya made defecting impossible. We all gamely persevered through the inevitable and unattractive slumps as toxins began to shift from their murky hiding places and move through our systems. Our hungry bellies adjusted surprisingly well to having their only solids coming from the psyllium husk lumped in our juices to brush the colon clean, and if fantasies of food were strayed into it was from psychological mourning more than any legitimate need .
Intermittent moments of real well-being, brightness and clarity–something my generally woolly thinking and exhausted body were not accustomed to – gave me hope that this detox retreat wasn’t just another red herring on the path to better health. I soon discovered to my chagrin that progress didn’t always proceed in a linear fashion, however. It’s apparently quite common during a detox to go from upbeat and vital to withdrawn and lackluster in the passage of a few hours, but I was surprised at just how susceptible I was to these constant vicissitudes.
Day three was declared ‘liver day’ by the detox team, with three coffee enemas delivered throughout the day to stimulate a greater release of toxins through the colon and to increase the production of bile, an important outlet for toxins. The liver is known as both the primary organ of detoxification and the ‘seat of emotion’, and we were warned that this was when things really began to shift; a critical halfway point in the process, emotionally and physically. Detox International strongly advocate the mind, body, spirit relationship and whilst nutrition and the physical mechanics of healing acted as the bedrock of the retreat, the inextricability of our emotions and health was equally stressed. Deeply embedded beliefs and habitual mental patterns had as much to do with the origins of illness as genes, food and environmental factors did, we were told.
True to their prediction, old feelings indeed began resurfacing as the day progressed; impossible to hide from and unnerving in their abrupt return from exile. Curiously, even though I had, on a mental level, processed and conciliated myself with these familiar feelings countless times before, they returned with their raw energy perfectly intact, but without any specifics or narratives of memory attached. It was as if I was finally unhanding the damaging beliefs and attitudes that played such a big role in the development of the anxiety and depression (and consequently the chronic fatigue which followed) I lived with for so long , feelings I had tried my utmost to shed but which still clung like an inerasable watermark. Transparent and vulnerable as I felt, I somehow knew these difficult experiences of the past were finally, definitively moving through me.
Although the detox team prepared us for the probability, I was dismayed to encounter the infamous, diabolical sounding ‘mucoid plaque’ in the days that followed: a rubbery, fetid black mass of intestinal matter which can pass out in chunks from the body during the colon cleanse. Built up over the course of years (and sometimes, even, our entire lives), it constitutes an obvious toxic burden on the body, but is also said to be capable of retaining imprints of some of our most deeply affecting memories. The colon is the literal and symbolic centre of the body, and as the enemas dislodge this undigested matter, many deeply held beliefs are capable of being flushed out with it.
Feeling empowered, I took to my trusty writing journal with an exhilarating, new found awareness and with the help of the experienced complementary therapists on hand, I was able to further let go into a sense of self understanding and autonomy I hadn’t known for the longest time. As the retreat drew towards its final days, the furtive renewal of vitality I had begun to experience steadily grew, and whilst the detox wasn’t a miraculous panacea for the fatigue itself, I felt a marked improvement in my strength and was quietly confident that this was just the beginning. The relief of being unburdened of tenaciously strong negative beliefs was worth as much to me as the physical rejuvenation many come to a detox seeking.
As we said our goodbyes on the final evening, it was clear from the candid and emotional testimonies that it had been a transformational and profoundly healing experience for everyone, each in their own way. We had been given a veritable re-education in many taken for granted areas, from the food we eat and the household and personal care products we choose to the fundamental role our attitudes about ourselves and the world play in the state of our health.
While not everyone experienced immediate relief from the conditions which brought them here, every one of us felt stronger and better equipped in navigating the road forward in our lives. We felt more like ourselves again. For some, their breakthroughs came in the form of subtle internal shifts not visible to the eye, but in a few cases the changes were nothing less than astonishing: the man who suffered unceasing headaches experienced his first entire day of relief exactly halfway through the retreat, and didn’t have a single one thereafter. Watching the joy and lightness emerging in his embattled demeanor was heartening to see, and gave incontrovertible proof that a full-scale detox can trump some formidable odds.
Copyright © Detox International South Africa 2013