Hitting the Reset Button - My detox experience in Thailand

During my first day at Atsumi Healing Centre in Phuket I was asked in my induction, what bought you here?

Well… a couple of things. Firstly, moving from New Zealand to Singapore meant a big shift in the way I eat. Singapore has a melting pot of cuisines, and it’s safe to say I’ve indulged in all of them! As a result my digestion has been sluggish, I’ve experienced acne for the first time in 15 years, and half my wardrobe no longer fits me. Secondly, I’ve spent 12 months doing fertility treatments that have meant overloading my body with HRT (hormone replacement therapy) alongside a cocktail of medications and supplements. I needed to give my body, and my mind, a break from the rollercoaster that this fertility journey has been. My secret hope was that by detoxing my body I would be in a stronger position to deal with the next round of IVF and we’d have a better chance of a positive result. 

Atsumi offers a range of programs; a full fast, a juice fast or a raw food cleanse. I choose a 5-day juice fast, with the option to move to a raw food cleanse at any stage if I needed to. I was pretty nervous about how I’d cope with hunger during these five days, plus I had visions of my metabolism grinding to a holt and my muscles wasting away if I wasn’t taking in food of any kind, so juice fast was a safer option. The juice consisted of 2 small bottles per day made up of greens (kale, cucumber and celery), hemp hearts and coconut water. 

I was given my program for the week that consisted of a morning and evening activity, a variety of optional workshops on detoxing and other health related topics, twice daily self-administed colemas (colonic irrigation), massage, and a bag full of herbal pills and potions that I was to take at fairly regimented timing during the day. 

This was a typical day at Atsumi. I was surprisingly busy! 

  • 7:15am Morning activity of either yoga, a mountain or beach walk, meditation or fitness class, Fresh Juice (350ml), Inflammation drink, spiralina tablet and colon cleanse tablet
  • 8:15am Group meeting, Wheatgrass shot, coconut kefir shot and unlimited ginger tea
  • 9:45am 1st colema
  • 10:30am Bentonite clay and psyllium drink
  • 11am Optional workshop
  • 12pm One fresh coconut *drink the water, do not eat the flesh! Detox drink with a spiralina tablet
  • 2pm Bentonite clay and psyllium drink
  • 3pm 2nd colema, 2nd Fresh coconut
  • 4pm Massage
  • 6pm 2nd fresh juice (350ml)
  • 7pm Evening activity - anything from a trip to the markets to a walking meditation
  • 8.30pm Vege broth, colon cleanse tablet
  • 9:30pm Liver Cleanse drink (consists of cold pressed oil, garlic and lemon)., Lights out - must be asleep before 10pm as the liver does most of it’s work during 10pm-midnight while you’re sleeping.

So for the times in between when you’re not figuring out what drink or pills to take next, I would lie by the pool with my book, have a sneaky nap, or chat with any of the other detoxer’s to share how we were feeling. 

The program is set up so that your body is given exactly what it needs at the right time to support the releasing of toxin’s. Because your body doesn’t have anything to digest, it can focus on supporting the liver and kidneys while they release toxins. The bentonite clay acts as a magnet to toxin’s and pulls them through the body and into the colon, where the colema’s do the job of flushing the toxin’s out. This process is pretty ick, but also fascinating as you can use a colander to capture the waste matter for closer inspection if you wish. I did this once and grossed myself out so much I couldn’t do it again! If you’ve never experienced colonic irrigation, self administered colema’s could be enough to scare you off doing the program altogether. But once you get over the shame of putting a tube up your back passage it’s quite a relaxing and refreshing process. Anyone that’s done colonic irrigation will tell you, immediately afterwards you feel light and internally cleansed. 

My energy levels over the five days were all over the place. I’d have moments of next to no energy, these would usually come when I hadn’t had a juice or a coconut for a few hours, to moments of great energy, usually post juice or coconut. I didn’t suffer hunger pangs as much as I feared, except when I let myself fantasize about eating - which did tend to happen quite a lot! I think hunger is very much mind over matter. I was putting so much into my gob in the way of herbal supplements and pills that I think I tricked my brain into thinking I was eating. It’s amazing how long a drink of bentonite clay and psyllium can fill you up even though your body doesn’t get anything in the way of calories for energy. 

In general, when fasting you move very slowly to conserve energy. You shouldn’t exercise when you fast because the energy required for exercise is not coming from food, so your body will break down muscle tissue as fuel. There was a lady in my group that went out running daily during her 10 day full fast and I watched her over the 5 days that I was there get very skinny and frail looking. This can be dangerous. However when I asked her about it she said she felt a high from running when fasting. Being an inquisitive person I researched why this ‘high’ may happen and it’s due to a spike in cortisol, which can then lead to an imbalance in your hormone production. 

My toughest moments during the five days were post liver flush. We were told to drink the liver flush slowly right before bed and then lie on your right side to go to sleep. Every night I would fall asleep easily but then wake up an hour later with awful nausea. This would keep me awake and feeling horrible for 2-3 hours each night. Luckily I supplemented this lack of sleep with snoozes during the day, but it wasn’t pleasant at the time.

"I consoled myself by imagining the back up of toxins I’d be rid of from my poor overworked liver. "

After 5 days of fasting I left Thailand 4 kgs lighter, my eyes were brighter and I had a spring in my step that had been missing for some time. My skin was still breaking out but I was told this could take a few weeks to clear up. I won’t lie, I was starving for some solid food, and if I had to drink another clay/psyllium mixture I would have gagged. 

I was under strict instructions from my Detox Master to follow their post-detox eating plan, which involved another green smoothie for breakfast the next day (come on, a girl needs to chew!) then small but regular amounts of fruit and vegetables only for the next 3-5 days. This is important to make sure the body gets the right nutrients but doesn’t get overloaded with too much to digest. They prescribe plenty of exercise to help fire up the metabolism, and after 5 days you can introduce eggs and oils, then after a week you slowly reintroduce meat, dairy and grains. 

"Post detox is a great time to learn more about your personal food intolerances. By keeping a food journal you can identify which foods your body doesn’t agree with if they result in gas, bloating or other digestive upsets, or even in the way they affect your mood and general feeling of wellbeing."

I’ll admit I fell off the bandwagon 4 days post detox. A girlfriend wanted to catch up for dinner at an amazing new restaurant, and I went with best intentions of only choosing the vege dishes alongside my sparkling water. But the temptation was too much and I chowed down on rich and decadent entrée’s with a massive glass of pinot noir. I was so full after the entrees I ordered a salad as a main and only made it through half. But when she ordered dessert I thought I’d better help her finish it :-) and boy did I pay for it! Later that night I awoke to stomach pains, heart racing and night sweats as a reminder of how sensitive my system was post detox. The next day I was back on the vege and fruit bandwagon and determined to finish out the program the correct way. 

So would I recommend a fast to my friends? Absolutely. It’s a great way to fix digestive issues as it heals inflammation in the colon. You can reset your tastebuds and easily move to decreased portion sizes when embarking on a more healthy and balanced approach to eating when you’re finished. 

I’m not a fan of doing juice fasts that you can ordered online and do at home. They usually give you six massive bottles of fruit juice per day which gives you a lethal sugar hit and far more juice than you need. But I understand that not everyone has the time or the cash to jet off to Thailand for a week, so if you choose to do a juice fast at home, choose the green based juices and don’t feel you need to drink them all. I’d also pay a visit to your local colon therapist during your last day or two so you can clear out any toxin’s that have been released as they will all pass through your colon. 

Alternatively, you could add a green smoothie or juice into your daily routine as a way to top up those amazing energy giving nutrients, you’re body will thank you for it!

The science behind fasting

• 3-day fast: eliminates toxins along with cleansing the blood.
• 5-day fast: the immune system begins to heal and rebuild.
• 10-day fast: helps in the prevention of illness, together with common degenerative diseases caused by environmental pollution.

Your body goes through 4 distinct phases when you fast. 

Gastrointestinal Phase: after your last meal, the body looks to your digestive tract for any nutrients or calories that it might need. This source of nutrition might last 8-12 hours. Once your body had depleted this source, it goes to the liver for glycogen stores.

Glycogenolysis: of all the nutrients available to the body, the only one that the body must have 24 hours per day is glucose. The body goes to the liver stores first as it provides the most readily available source of glucose.

Gluconeogenesis: the liver’s glycose stores will last between 8-12 hours, at which point the body goes to the next most readily available source of glucose – muscle tissue. In a process called neoglucogenesis, the body converts muscle tissue to glucose. Don’t worry,  if you are fasting correctly and minimizing your activity (and therefore your calorific needs), you won’t consume much muscle tissue during this stage of the process.

Ketosis: your body doesn’t want to lose any more muscle than it feels it can afford, so as your fast continues the body will switch over to a less-efficient, but safer long term source of fuel: adipose tissue, or long term fat stores. Through a process called Ketosis, ketones are produced using fat sources to provide the body with energy. 

After the fast

Once the fast is broken, the fasting process is reversed. Blood glucose from the food is taken by liver and muscle and stored as glycogen. Body tissues use glucose as fuel. Excess glucose is converted to fat. Amino acids are taken up by muscle cells to replace proteins broken down during the fast.

The science behind fasting is courtesy of Atsumi Healing Centre, for more information visit http://www.atsumihealing.com/

Written by: Kristy Kong