Because the writer's job is to write about what he or she knows, it's sometimes necessary in this profession to experience something you probably wouldn't do in your personal life in order to write an accurate story.
For example, in 1959, John Howard Griffin ingested large doses of an anti-vitiligo drug and spent days under an ultraviolet light to darken his skin tone so he could write the highly acclaimed book "Black Like Me." In late 2007, Current TV journalist Kaj Larsen volunteered to be water-boarded to help viewers understand the controversial torture technique.
And today, in order to write this article, I got a colonic.
Colonics -- also called colonic hydration and colon hydrotherapy -- are slightly controversial. They are not as controversial as water torture, but generally, health care providers have different opinions on their effectiveness. Most Western doctors do not believe colonics provide healthy benefits, but colonic practitioners say a variety of illnesses stem from an accumulation of fecal matter in the large intestines.
Colonics might help with constipation (some from prescription drugs), carbohydrate indigestion, diarrhea, gas, bloating, hemorrhoids, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, diverticulitis, colitis, parasites, skin conditions such as psoriasis, shingles and eczema, inability to lose weight, scar tissue and adhesions from surgery.
I have none of the above, but heard that colonics are good for proactive health, that you feel really "clean" afterwards and you might loose a few pounds and / or have a flatter stomach. This was enough for me to give it a whirl.
Milwaukee isn't loaded with colon hydro therapists. (OK, I realize I just used the verb "loaded," but from this point forward, I am going to try not to include poopy plays-on-words in this article.) Eventually, I found a few names online and in the phone book, and made an appointment with Sue Domer who runs a business called Nature's Balance.
When I arrived for my colonic, I filled out a medical form and chatted with Domer about my diet and bowel movements. Then, she brought me to a room that looked like a small massage room, with a table and, among other items, a large plastic container. I removed my jeans and undergarments, laid down on the table and covered up with a sheet. Then, Domer came in, inserted a lubed proctoscope in my rear, and almost immediately replaced the proctoscope with a tube that was connected to the container.
For my colonic, Domer used the Woods Gravity Force Method. Most modern colon therapists use machines to administer a colonic, but Domer prefers the old school method which features a large container propped above the person getting the colonic, allowing gravity to direct the water downward and into the person's anus.
"Some of my clients have said they get a more complete release through (the Woods system)," says Domer, 52, who was certified in colon hydrotherapy 20 years ago through the Woods Hygienic Institute in Kissimmee, Fla. (The school was in Illinois when Domer attended.)
At first, I felt water flowing into my lower gut for about five minutes (and this varies from person to person), followed by warm liquid coming out of my body. This, I was told, is stool. Throughout the course of the colonic, Domer switched between injecting cool water and draining out the warm watery waste.
In some settings, colonic clients can actually see the feces flow through the tube, but because of the set-up of the room I was in, I didn't actually see my waste. I admit I was slightly curious, like after I used ear candles and had to unroll the tip of the candle to check out the Milk Dud-sized ball of wax that came out of my ear. Gross, but oddly fascinating.
I felt slightly uncomfortable during the colonic, mostly because it feels exactly like going to the bathroom, and it felt "wrong" to be laying a table and not sitting on a toilet. A few times during the colonic, I got a bloated feeling and felt flushed, much like one does while passing a large stool on the toilet. Domer explained that I had passed a constipated stool, which is basically poop that has sat around in the colon for a long time. (Thar she blows!)
"Regular stools can come out around constipated stools," she says.
During the process, soft music and the sound of waves filled the small room. I would have preferred to hear The Butthole Surfers, but that's just my bizarre sense of humor, I guess.
During the process, I felt light cramping. Domer countered the cramps with massage on the lower spine where there are trigger points that soothe the colon. At times, she massaged my stomach, too, which really helped with the bloated / crampy feeling.
Diet, exercise and stress affects what comes out during a colon cleanse. From my stool, Domer could see that I have a relatively healthy diet (which is true) but that I need to eat more fiber and drink more water.
"Each colonic is totally different," says Domer.
After about 40 minutes, the colonic was over, and Domer removed the tube from my derriere and told me to sit on the toilet. This was a good idea because I remained there for about 15 minutes, pooping almost the entire time.
Prior to my colonic, I read on the Internet that when not administered properly, colonics can perforate the colon or cause an electrolyte imbalance. I knew such instances were probably few and far between, but I called my physician, Dr. Claudia Koch at the Bay View Clinic, just to get her take on it.
"This is coming from a Western perspective," she said.
Dr. Koch said she didn't think colonics were dangerous. She thinks they are, for the most part, unnecessary, but she gave me the green light to get one -- along with a little ribbing about why on earth I would want to start the year by sticking a tube up my butt. (Excellent question, Dr. Koch.)
For a healthy colon, Domer recommends fibrous foods, plenty of water and exercise. Many of her clients come weekly for a colonic, and recently, some have requested even more because Kevin Trudeau, popular author of "Natural Cures They Don't Want You To Know About," recommends up to 15 colonics in a month.
Some people get colonics because they believe the process makes their stomach flatter. Indeed, my stomach was slightly flatter after the process.
"I've heard that colonics are popular in Vegas with show girls for that reason," says Domer.
The cost of a colonic is about $60. For a few extra dollars, you can have additives put in the water, including aloe vera, which helps with hemorrhoids, tree tee oil, which is a natural antibiotic, black walnut, which gets rid of parasites, and more.
After a colonic, it's recommended you drink lots of water, much like after a body massage.
"It stirs up lots of toxins, so you'll need the water," says Domer.
Driving home from the appointment, I was a little chilly and shaky but OK. I can't say my insides felt particularly clean, but I definitely felt a little more energetic about an hour after the process. All in all, it was a good experience and not painful, just uncomfortable at times. I'm not sure I will get a colonic again just for the heck of it, but I would definitely have one if I contracted a health condition that colonics are believed to help.
Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.