Health

Death begins in the colon. I had incorrectly placed its origins in algebra class; nevertheless, I have it on good authority (Dr. Natura, as seen on TV, creator of the Colonix Program) that death begins in the colon. On this happy note, we enter into spring, a time of rebirth, renewal, refunds, and spring cleaning. Imaginative people who don’t get out much have extrapolated spring cleaning well past the edge of reason, to that Pat Robertson for the intestines, the bulldozer of the digestive tract: the detox diet.

By taking a vacation from ladling in “toxic” foods at one end and by vigorously flushing them out at the other, you can clear out stuff that’s been plugging up the works and allow your systems to do their jobs with a merry whistle. Proponents list colorful and various ills a detox diet can alleviate: fatigue, bloating, bad breath, allergies, acne, malaise, ague, ennui, you name it.

As heartily as they are endorsed by the colonically pure, science doesn’t have much to say about the benefits of detoxing. “Everyone wants to feel lighter and cleaner. They’re so appealing because no one wants to be dirty,” says registered, licensed nutritionist, Rasa Troup. “I don’t recommend detox diets because they don’t teach people how to eat healthy as a lifestyle.” Common sense and exercise, though, cannot hold a candle to the image of a pink and glistening colon.

Many versions of the detox regimen exist. Generally speaking, these diets encourage fruits, vegetables, rice, grains you don’t know what the hell to do with, steamed fish, olive oil, beans and legumes, nuts (except for peanuts), and Niagara-like quantities of water. Foods non grata include meat, sugar in all of its delicious forms, dairy products, wheat, caffeine, alcohol, artificial colors and flavors, and fried or excessively fatty foods. If there is any doubt, ask yourself whether life would have any meaning without this food. If the answer is no, out she goes.

My first exposure to organ cleaning was at Mississippi Market Co-op, where many of my co-owners relish all opportunity for frank discussion about bodily functions. One of the worst things about devout detoxers, following from their obsession with their colons, is all the vivid descriptions they offer of bowel movements, analogies that help the unwilling share in the moments—or the movements, as it were. “Remember that prom dress you wore junior year? That color!” I was served this unsolicited report: “Black and lumpy for three days.”

OK, of the big four—coffee, chocolate, wine, and wheat—which was the hardest to forego? It was wheat, the bread of … of bread. Instead, I drank green tea. It tasted like Como Lake, heated. I had fruit for dessert. It was like me in a low-cut dress—not that satisfying. I made this quinoa pilaf for dinner and Daughter commented that it tasted “like ass.” My old toxic self would never have stood for that kind of sass but the toxin-free me lacked the energy to refute such a charge. Besides, it was so awfully true.

I gave up after six days, not because I couldn’t handle the cravings but because I didn’t have any cravings. Black coffee with the hair still on it? A steaming bowl of pasta swimming in butter and sticky with parmesan? Didn’t care. A friend offers a chunk of seventy-seven-percent cacao chocolate the size of a paver brick? No thanks; I’ll have this celery. And even beyond the realm of food, I experienced a marked apathy toward such life-affirming activities as peering into people’s windows at night, nurturing petty jealousies, and dressing vulgarly. Now if that isn’t an early symptom of death, I don’t know what is.

While I appreciate Troup’s common-sense approach to dieting, an acquaintance who knows a thing or two about detox offered some earthy advice that also resonates: “Don’t mess with your addictions, man.” —Sarah Barker