Nothing says I love you like an internal clear out, apparently. Shahid Naqvi reports on an alternative therapy that is finding favour with health conscious gift-givers
When it comes to deciding what to buy a loved one, a course of colonic irrigation is probably not the first thing that springs to mind.
But according to a Birmingham health and beauty clinic, it's proving an increasingly popular gift among health-loving couples.
Clarendon Health and Beauty Clinic in Bearwood supplies customers with vouchers for the treatment - and says they are a big hit as an unusual present.
"We got people coming in asking for gift vouchers for Christmas, usually it is people who have had colonics and found it beneficial and will recommend it to friends and family," said Parveen Shah, owner of the centre based on Hagley Road.
"After New Year is the busiest time because people have taken resolutions to look after themselves and be healthy. It is people who are looking for a more natural way of getting healthy and losing weight."
The gift of colonic irrigation is something people pass on at the most unlikely of occasions, said Ms Shah.
"The interesting one is Valentines Day presents. We get people coming in asking for vouchers to give to loved ones." The Clarendon claims to be the first clinic in the West Midlands to have offered colonic hydrotherapy, a treatment which in recent years has become increasingly popular among celebrities.
"I took over this centre seven years ago," said Ms Shah, who has become a strong advocate of the treatment based on personal experience.
"The lady before me had been doing colonics for about 10 years. Every few months I'll have it. My body tells me when I need it. Usually I feel bloated. I feel lethargic. I go home and I fall asleep on the settee.
"These are indicators that my body is starting to suffer a bit. If you are healthy you are more in-tune with your body. If you feel bloated and lethargic all the time you think you are well because you think that's normal.
"It is not until you start to detox that you start to know what it is like to feel good."
According to the clinic's information leaflet, the United Kingdom is "the most constipated nation in the world" and acutely in need of a colonic clear out.
"We are a nation that drinks a lot of tea and coffee and white wine and fizzy stuff," said Ms Shah. "They are all stimulants and over-stimulate the bowel so bowel is going too fast. Beer guts are just pure bloating. It is bloating because it has hops in it. Hops are from wheat which contains gluten which is a glue.
"If the inner lining of the gut is all glued up even the healthy food like chicken and salads also have to go through that.
"They stick to the glue and it builds up layer on layer. Your blood supply is looking for vitamins and minerals but if it can't get to it, it passes straight through so you are not getting enough nutrients.
"What a colonic does by getting water in and soaking all that rubbish and getting the muscle to relax and do a big squeeze is get that rubbish out."
According to Ms Shah de-clogging your bowels has wide-ranging benefits from making your skin look better to putting less strain on the liver and even helping to avoid diseases such as cancer.
Convincing as the clinic's claims may sound, it must be said the idea that a burst of water up your colon is the answer to all evils has not been scientifically proven.
That, however, has not halted the increasing popularity of this alternative therapy.
What it involves: Clients have a consultation before treatment about their diet and eating habits. The treatment itself takes anything from half-an-hour to an hour and involves inserting a lubricated torpedo-shaped hose into the anus which is connected to a machine called an aqua zone.
This will gently introduce water into the colon via the rectum while the therapist uses special massage techniques to stimulate the release of stored matter.
Waste is transported via the machine and out of the room for disposal meaning, allegedly, there's no unpleasant aromas to contend with. The procedure works by filling up the bowel with water which stimulates the muscles to naturally contract push out wastage. It doesn't hurt, though clients may find the sensation unusual.
The clinic says there is no danger of bowel perforation and the treatment improves the tone of the colon meaning it will work better in the future.
A session costs between £65 and £75. Are its beneficial claims true?: Professor Richard Gray, a bowel cancer expert at Birmingham University, said: "The only way to evaluate it properly would be to do a clinical trial where half of people had it and the other half didn't.
"But many complementary medicines like this have never been properly evaluated. There is no evidence to say it does work and there is none to say it doesn't.
"But I would say the same about main stream medicine. Unless you have proper clinical trials if people are making these claims you have to ask what is the evidence to support it?"