Lifestyle

I learnt these valuable life lessons after 8 days at a Thai detox retreat

"The focus here is more on nourishment than denial. Not once over the week did I feel I was missing out"

‘Detox’ can sometimes be code for ‘deprivation’, but after eight days of the Comprehensive Detox Programme at Kamalaya Koh Samui, I learnt that the focus here is more on nourishment than denial. Not once over the week did I feel like I was missing out.

Designed to detoxify the liver in two stages, the majority of toxins are predominantly eliminated during the first three days. In the second phase, these substances are neutralised, metabolised and removed from the body through elimination. Guests can opt for seven, nine or 14 nights, in which the approach blends the five elements of traditional Chinese medicine with Western medical research, to rediscover physical balance, and create a foundation for personal development and better lifestyle choices.

 

Detox Eats


Image: AsiaSpa

At Kamalaya, an individual consultation with a naturopath is the starting point for any programme. Deidre takes me through the Bioimpedence Analysis results, which are compared to those of my last visit, and generally lets me know what to expect. She explains correct portion sizes when ordering off the detox menu, exercise intensity over the crucial first three days, and the order to take the staggering number of supplements (20 each day), in addition to vegan protein shakes and fibre-probiotic concoctions.

A key programme draw is that hunger just isn’t an issue. Guests have access to a generous breakfast buffet, with detox items marked in yellow. These include low-sugar fruit, anti-inflammatory vegetables, seed milks and ‘butter’, and even a few ‘breads’ and jams, to be followed with a shot of wheatgrass and gotu kola.

My concerns that ‘hanger’ would rear its ugly head dissipated after realising that feeling constantly full actually takes more getting used to, from drinks and supplements in addition to three square meals. Lunches could be hearty mung bean ‘risotto’ with a fresh coconut. A typical dinner might look like coconut kale soup, followed by peach cobbler and coconut sorbet (detox approved), and I slept soundly each night, free from the rumbling of an empty stomach.

 

Clean Slate

Image: Kamalaya.com

A daily far infrared sauna is included as part of each package, said to burn an average of 600 calories in the half-hour session while toning and conditioning, at the same time stimulating the release of toxins while boosting endorphins. It’s also a great time for quiet reflection and sipping the electrolyte drink afterwards is sure to become a soothing ritual, and oddly the red-faced sweatiness does feel like you have finished working out.

An equally vital, but less pleasant, element are the three Colon Hydrotherapy sessions. An apprehensive colonic newbie, I was told that the Chi Nei Tsang immediately prior would help relax the abdomen, even if not my nerves. Designed to remove waste from the large intestine through gentle filtered water infusions, Colon Hydrotherapy complements the detox by enhancing gut health. The FDA-approved machine uses water warmed to room temperature for your comfort, and a ‘closed’ system which means no mess or odour. You are draped throughout to maintain modesty, and can see everything eliminated, should you so wish.

Kamalaya is apparently the place for first-timers to have a colonic, and I can see why. The nurses are reassuring, and have such a fantastic sense of humour, that any procedure would be more bearable in their company. They were skilled at distraction, turning my attention to the sunset outside the window, or massaging my legs and feet so I would concentrate on those areas instead.

There was no pain, only the sensation of an upset stomach, albeit in front of two complete strangers, a nurse who performs an abdominal massage, and the other who mans the main line! At the end of the hour-long treatment, chlorophyll is flushed through added to oxygenate, build blood and alkalise the system. Manageable overall, and I’ve never laughed so hard during such an awkward situation before thanks to their excellent medical staff. Interestingly the difference in the before and after weigh-in was 1.5kg.

 

The Upside

The advantages of the Comprehensive Detox Programme, as opposed to its basic and introductory counterparts, is extra spa time. Treatments include the Vital Essence Oil Massage, a wonderful way to unwind. Another is the Oriental Herbal Detoxifying Body Scrub and Wrap which exfoliates and improves circulation, the latter using white mud traditionally used by Thai women to cleanse and brighten the skin, and is recommended to ease water retention.

Perhaps not as soothing was the Chi Nei Tsang, where the navel and abdominal area is massaged to stimulate the flow of qi, also lending the elimination process a helping hand. Kamalaya’s version is more vigorous than I had previously experienced, which may have something to do with my ramped-up intake of shakes and liquids. As three are included in the package, I was able to relax as I became accustomed to them.

Deidre mentioned the Lymphatic Drainage Therapy might be overly gentle given my preference for firm pressure. In contrast to the rigorous Chinese technique, this version uses light, gentle rhythmic strokes to increase circulation of lymph, while flushing out toxins. Surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed the soothing treatment, which lulled me to sleep despite only having been awake a few hours. My favourite afternoon treat was the heavenly Royal Ayurvedic Traditional Massage in an open-air pavilion perched above lush foliage, with the hint of a breeze coursing through. Utter bliss.

 

On the Wagon

Popping supplements, mixing the fibre and probiotic drinks, and stopping in at the Wellness Centre twice a day for protein shakes quickly become second nature. Other than a mild headache, I don’t experience any of the side effects I was warned about. Food cravings only kicked in when I make the mistake of glancing at the à la carte section of the menu, with desserts in particular almost screaming ‘eat me’.

And despite Deidre’s advice “not to be a hero in the gym” during the first three days, as intense workouts can make the detox less effective, my energy levels were adequate for additional exercise after morning yoga classes. I find myself over the hump on the third day, as she told me I would, with the crucial first phase of detox complete.

It was particularly eye-opening that I didn’t miss the coffee I buy religiously as part of my daily routine, convinced it will combat an afternoon slump. Rather my energy levels in Samui remained on an even keel all day, as opposed to the jittery peaks and precipitous troughs I sometimes experience back home.

Having completed detoxes where you white knuckle your way through a liquid-only diet, Kamalaya’s was a breeze in comparison. This not only makes it easier to stick to, as you still have access to a plethora of menu options, but more importantly, teaches you how to incorporate healthy habits. It offers a positive message that juice and broth alone are not the answer to health. In fact quite the opposite, here the intention is to concentrate on what you can add to your diet, making it sustainable, not to mention a whole lot more fun.

 

Article first published on Asia Spa

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