High colonics may seem an odd thing to be called a trend, but there you have it.
Some people will do anything for beauty. And it's almost a shame that they will, because when they do (endure plastic surgery, electrolysis, or peels, for instance), we have to chronicle it in gory detail - partly to help guide and protect potential initiates and partly out of a fascination with the extremes to which some people will go.
Even so, when we heard about the latest fad, called high colonics - otherwise known as giant "detoxifying" enemas performed by non-medical practitioners - it seemed that perhaps the beauty quest had gone too far. But the list of famous and fabulously beautiful women subjecting themselves to the seemingly humiliating treatments just kept getting longer. Princess Diana, Maria Trump and Madonna were labelled as colonic veterans. So we decided we could no longer ignore the trend.
Word got out that one of the knock-down-and-drag-out, stratosphere-sailing, world-class, anyone-would-kill-to-look-like -her supermodels (who shall go unnamed) was getting her bowels hosed down - to keep her skin clear.
One locates a colonic therapist either by word of mouth or by looking in the yellow pages under "colonic irrigation". American mega-enema centres are typically equipped with New Age furnishings, sitar music or percussive beats from the rain forest play over speakers, and a smell of incense or herbs is often in the air. (Practitioners say this is aromatherapy for relaxation, but some - anal-retentive types - might suspect that it's masking some foul odour connected to the procedure.) Books about colon health, detoxifying, food combining, spiritual cleansing, and natural healing are usually on conspicuous display, and people dressed doctorishly in white coats address clients in self-consciously mellifluous voices.
The coloncentric worldview ranges from odd to simply in poor taste. One therapist in New York City who's been known to give high colonics to models displays in her enema room a picture of a toilet with a man's and a woman's face looking up from the bottom of the bowl.
She says that they are two dear friends of hers who broke up their relationship, but she likes the photo so much that it stays up.
Colonic therapists, who are largely unregulated, can have anywhere from no training to a week's instruction at one of the colonic schools mushrooming in the United States and the UK, to years of experience. Most of these therapists have a long - completely unsubstantiated - laundry list of things they claim to prevent or cure, such as acne, abdominal bloating, PMS, constipation, and colon cancer.
The colon therapists have also been known to send oxygen, wheat grass, aloe, and ozone up inside their client's bowels. Not surprisingly, the effects of those substances on the colon are completely unstudied in the medical literature, though common sense weighs heavily against the practice.