Hubert Burda Media

Detoxing at The LifeCo Phuket

The LifeCo opens its first retreat in Phuket, drawing us in with its supermodel-approved health and wellness programme.

I can’t imagine Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell lying by the pool, discussing their poo. But that’s pretty much what must happen when the supermodels travel to their detox and wellness resort of choice, The LifeCo, a place where clay- and-psyllium-husk drinks form the bulk of your diet and self-administered colonics are on the daily agenda.

But wait – I’ve scared you. The truth is, if you’re a meat or carb lover; if the idea of putting anything up your behind gives you the heebie jeebies; if you aren’t a fan of needles; or if you’re in total denial about the current state of your health, then yes, visiting The LifeCo will be scary – but mainly because it will change your life.

I’m not a health freak by any standards. I like salads but I also love cake. I exercise regularly but I do fall off the wagon sometimes. I drink water when I’m thirsty, but definitely not eight glasses a day. I take vitamin supplements – if they’re in the form of gummies, or tablets that become fizzy orange sodas. Anyway, I figure my liver at least must be in a better state than Naomi’s or Kate’s.

Founded in Turkey in 2006, The LifeCo has been a hit with the international set for a decade, and opened its first Asia outpost in Phuket last year. The property, which sits just a five-minute drive away from the resort island’s airport, is beautiful, and though it isn’t mandatory, most participants in its detox programmes choose to stay there. Whether you’re a supermodel or an average Joe, your detox begins with a pinprick on your finger for a blood test. Good blood is grey with blobby blood cells that flow fast and free across the screen connected to the microscope – mine is orange (toxin-filled) and stuck together in chains like a group of well-behaved tai-tais lining up for a sample sale (which means I need hydration).

Yoga on the beach at The LifeCo Phuket

Yoga on the beach at The LifeCo Phuket

Based on that droplet of blood, a body-fat analysis and some other health concerns I present verbally, they suggest a programme that is essentially a variation of the same tune. They will propose the Master Detox for anyone who can take it, featuring juices mixed with bentonite clay to absorb toxins and psyllium husk to provide fibre, as well as lots of digestive and probiotic supplements. Otherwise there’s a low-calorie diet, which is raw, vegan, and for the most part, surprisingly delicious.

There’s also a daily “Angel of Water” session, which is a light version of a colonic and can be done without assistance. It’s not as intense or fully cleansing as the regular version, but neither does it come with the shame of a nurse watching (and hearing) everything that happens. Of all the treatments I have, this is definitely the least pleasant, but by the second or third day it’s more of an inconvenience than a real chore.

The auxiliary procedures differ from person to person. Mine includes IV drips – there’s a shorter mineral-intensive one for general health, and on day two a liver specific one that helps boost the organ’s detoxification abilities. Cleansing isn’t just about ridding your body of the bad stuff; it’s also about making sure your system runs smoothly even after you leave the resort.

A coffee enema is one of their other suggestions – the caffeine is said to “wake up” the liver and trigger it into working harder, a theory that makes perfect sense to a flat-white addict like myself. “Don’t hold it in too long,” the nurse warns. “You might not be able to sleep tonight!” She’s not joking. I’ve had so many experiences back there by this point, that pumping coffee up the wrong entrance is child’s play. In reality, the biggest struggle is resisting the sweet aroma of a lovely light brew ... until I come to the realisation that my synapses are ring over a smell that’s coming from – well, we know where it’s coming from. But hey, at least I’m not the guy who accidentally drank the coffee before the nurse came in the room to administer the enema.

Ozone therapy is another treatment I’d only heard about – a friend I hadn’t seen in almost a decade had visited me recently, his wife and three new kids in tow, but with nary an extra wrinkle upon his smooth, tanned visage. “Ozone,” he had intimated with a wink.

Vegan fare at The LifeCo Phuket

The concept is that the introduction of ozone into the body increases its oxygen level, with potential benefits for patients suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis or any number of ailments. There are a few ways to administer the ozone, and at The LifeCo they offer four: rectally, vaginally, in an ozone “bag” for localised limb treatment and intravenously, which involves a nurse taking about a wine bottle’s worth of blood from you, shaking it up with the ozone, and then returning it to the body.

It’s an alternative medical treatment, yes, but one whose results are fairly instantaneous, so you can decide for yourself its merits. The next morning, I’m stretching in bed and marvelling how very soft the sheets are when I realise it’s actually my own skin that’s so silky smooth. I run to the bathroom mirror and from it peers a poreless face. Just like that, I’m addicted.

Over the next couple of days, my scary detox programme devolves into a challenging game of (mostly supportive) one-upmanship. Whether you’re with close friends or a group of journalists with whom you’ve previously only had professional contact, chatter will revolve around what contents you were able to expel from your stomach that day, how long you were able to hold your enema in for, how many track marks you have on your arm from doing IVs, and other bizarre and previously considered impolite topics. It’s a weird bonding experience, but one we grow to love as much as our in-water yoga sessions, or the great massages that help the body’s ability to expel toxins. Like horror movies, detox retreats are much less scary with company.

All detox programmes end as they begin: with the blood test. We await everyone else’s results as eagerly as our own – will three days of veggies, juice, IVs and colon cleansing give us the grey and blobby blood cells we saw in the pamphlet?

The answer differs by individual – we’re told results generally manifest after four or more days, and of course, they’re right. One journalist whose work schedule only allowed him a two-day retreat sees his blood go from light carrot orange to angry tomato – “all the body’s toxins being released into the blood stream”, they explain. Another who’s managed six days sans solids has the textbook blood for which we all aim, plus some strengthened white blood cells, too. As for me? The orange cast remains, but the chains of cells aren’t quite so tightly packed. My body-fat report also says I’ve shed over one percent of blubber – and my eyes tell me I’m retaining less water than usual, too.

Lest we break our fasts in the worst way possible – with an ungratifying and unhealthy airplane meal – there are farewell takeaway boxes ready for all of us upon departure. More than that, though, we’re also armed with knowledge and awareness we didn’t even realise we were missing; simple and easy things that are easily implemented: the importance of chewing more, the way that health supplements can bolster a diet that’s not entirely healthy and why it’s so very important to stop eating at least three hours before bedtime.

Old habits do die hard, though and while the slip and slide back to bad normality is almost inevitable, The LifeCo is only a short plane ride away. If the lure of health benefits isn’t enough, the chance to talk toxins with Kate and Naomi is always a possibility.