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February 19, 2007 | by  | in Opinion |
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Detox: The Grisly Aftermath

When the lights go down on the last Orientation gig, some of you may be left feeling like your liver needs to be replaced. While surgery is one option, Salient feature writer Nicola Kean spent seven days testing a healthier and cheaper alternative…

Routinely criticised by doctors as quackery, and endorsed by numerous celebrities, detoxifi cation is, the process of removing toxins from your body for improved health.

No longer exclusively the ritual of hippies, the detox fad is a tempting idea, but does it actually work?

After a year of eating badly, teamed with the excesses of the holiday period, I was feeling tired, run-down and intolerant. According to the nice lady at Health 2000 on Willis Street, I would have more energy, improved digestion, and lose weight after paying $60 for a detox kit.

I was sceptical, very sceptical. Surely the human body is designed to get rid of toxins without the aid of diet and herbal pills? If that’s not happening, you’ve got serious problems. A somebody-call-an-ambulance level of seriousness.

But then again, if it’s good enough for Beyonce – it’s good enough for me.

I chose a seven-day detox programme because it would be less painful than the 15-day option. The instructions in the kit stated that while I can eat as usual, I will have to cut out animal products, white fl our, processed and canned goods (bye bye, versatile 99c canned tomatoes!), sugar, margarine, and, hardest of all, chocolate, alcohol and caffeine. I also have to take four different types of pills each day, to cleanse my bowel, liver, stomach and intestines.

Day 1: I get up and rifl e through the fridge to fi nd something detox-friendly to eat. The best I can come up with is hummus on brown toast. After eating I have to take a ‘bowel cleanse’ herbal pill. Half an hour later I have a violent urge to visit the bathroom. Fortunately it was a false alarm. Originally I suspect this had more to do with last night’s Lamb Korma – how wrong I was.

Mid-afternoon rolls around and after an uninspired lunch I’m beginning to feel very tired and weak, and generally grumpy. The booklet says this is a normal side effect, but it’s not so fun when you have to sit through a lecture. An unsympathetic friend waves a bottle of V in my face.

Day 2: Despite eating regularly and snacking on nuts and seeds, I’m still feeling weak and having mild stomach cramps. I’ve spent what seems like half the day so far on the loo, and my arse is suffering. I also almost choked on my ‘liver cleanse’ tablet.

I find grocery shopping fairly annoying at the best of times, but today it is painfully so. To my disgust, after painstaking inspections of the back of the packets, not one brand of muesli is sugar-free.

Day 3: I’m beginning to wonder if I’d picked the right type of detox. Perhaps I should have gone for the so-called ‘lemonade diet’, where you drink nothing but watereddown lemon juice for several days. That way, at least, I wouldn’t be spending so much time memorising the back of the bathroom door.

Spending the day mall-trawling in the ‘burbs was defi nitely a bad idea. The options in the food court are limited. Eventually I fi nd a juice bar where I can get a fruit smoothie. I slurp it resentfully and eye up the delicious-looking curry belonging to the woman at the next table.

It’s Sevens weekend, but it’s non-alcoholic indoor activities for me. Can’t drink, not even a little bit. Not even Tui, which is basically just hops-fl avoured water anyway.

Day 4: I’m failing to get the point of this whole detox fad. I’ve suffered and shat for three days, and I feel even worse than when I started. Today, for example, I’m hungover without drinking at all last night. Probably haven’t been drinking enough water (I’m supposed to drink 8-12 glasses a day, but I have a small bladder). Resolve to drink at least 4 today.

Day 5: Surprisingly, I’ve not yet suffered from caffeine-withdrawal. And, even more surprisingly, I think I’ve recovered from my sugar-withdrawal. One of my fl atmates made cupcakes and I stared at them for a little while, but then decided I didn’t even want to eat any. This is a signifi cant milestone. I wonder if the detox is making me stink.

Day 6: I’m beginning to feel pretty normal again, even though I’m still running to the toilet all the time. Now, though, just to make it worse, I’ve got constipation and a zit as well.

Day 7: The leftover cupcakes stare at me from the fridge shelf. I feel them calling out to me to eat them. In time, I will, I assure them. My last meal is honey-soy-marinated tofu, which is surprisingly good for healthy food.

A liking for tofu has become my secret hippy shame. Coming out of the detox, I don’t really feel all sunshine and lollipops. In fact, I barely notice a difference. I even still have nasty diarrhoea for the fi rst few days. I curse the nice lady at the health shop for being a total liar. Then something weird happens. People start to tell me how “healthy” I look and how “happy” I seem. Maybe it did work after all.

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About the Author ()

Nicola Kean: feature writer, philanthropist, womanly woman. Nicola is the smallest member of the Salient team, but eats really large pieces of lasagne. Favourites include 80s music, the scent of fresh pine needles and long walks on the beach.

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