Thailand: Detoxing in Paradise
By Buzzy Gordon
My fond memories of the island of Phuket in Thailand bring back images of lolling at the beach while sipping a refreshing cocktail, followed by a blissful dunk in my villa’s private plunge pool.
It is no wonder I was anxious to return — although this time with a purpose: I was going to detoxify, lose weight and rejuvenate — all while still enjoying every one of the aforementioned sybaritic pleasures of this tropical paradise. (Full disclosure: The cocktails were still delicious, except this time they were virgin.)
The LifeCo Detox Centre — whose motto is “Adding Years to Your Life, and Life to Your Years” — is an international wellness company that is expanding globally, thanks to its reputation for improving its guests’ health in the framework of an enjoyable vacation. Based in Turkey, it now has two resorts on the Aegean Sea, one in Thailand on the Indian Ocean, and soon, another in Dubai, on the Persian Gulf.
LifeCo’s original retreat, in Bodrum, on Turkey’s southwest coast, is where actress Kate Moss and model Naomi Campbell have been regular guests for the past five years. Long-time vegan Woody Harrelson had this to say after his Lifeco experience: “I feel like I am insured against illness.”
A visit to LifeCo in Phuket begins with a refreshing fruit shake — identified as an “immune boost” — after a mercifully short drive from the airport. A second driver whisks you in a golf cart to your villa with plunge pool in front, although nothing on the grounds is more than a short walk from anywhere, and you are encouraged to exercise. For this reason, bicycles are available at all times as well.
A program specialist provides an introductory tour of the grounds: main building (reception, juice bar, dining area and library), spa, clinic, yoga sala, and gym, complete with wet and dry sauna, all fronting a scenic lake. The juice bar is stocked with all sorts of exotic herbal teas, as well as a bottomless pot of “detox soup,” both available in unlimited quantities.
There are six wellness programs to choose from, ranging from four to 21 days: three detox programs and three healthy nutrition programs. The detox regimens are: the Master Detox program, The Green Juice detox program, and the Green Salad Detox program.
Since I was there to detox, I wanted the maximum bang for the buck, which I was told is the Master Detox. Offered for up to three weeks, the standard length is seven days.
But first, I was in for a hi-tech surprise.
I had been on juice fasts before, including twice with one of the leaders in the field, Dr. Gabriel Couzens. It was held in a beautiful environment, a place known known for its healing energy (see our coverage of this experience.)
At LifeCo, there is an important added dimension: a clinic and therapy building equipped with state-of-the-art instruments. A quick, painless pinprick, and a drop of my blood was under a powerful microscope, and the image projected on a screen on the wall (see photo). A comprehensive three-page report details the Live Blood Analysis.
It was pointed out to me, among other things, that my red blood cells were clumped together — not exactly the optimal situation for each cell to receive and absorb vital oxygen and nutrients.
“We’ll take another look at the end of your week of detox,” said Saniya, my program specialist, “and we’ll see if there is any improvement.”
Next, I stepped on a scale with handles that displayed a lot more than mere weight. After a few moments on the Body Composition Analyzer, I was handed a printout with diagrams and a slew of statistics: body weight, body mass index (BMI) — amount, percentage and distribution of fat and muscle in the body (including the all-important visceral fat) — percentage of water in the body, and more. Once again, the process would be repeated in a week, and comparisons made.
In the meantime, for a week that promised to be unstructured, the days would soon be filled with activity.
The daily Master Detox schedule commences with a morning fruit smoothie, alternating with tall glasses of green vegetable juice, for a total of five per day. With each drink comes supplements: herbs with minerals and enzymes, as well as probiotics, that continue to nourish and support the body, even as the digestive system is given complete rest.
In addition, there are two shots of wheatgrass juice per day, for boosts of energy. Not to mention the pick-me-up afforded by generous servings of soup, seasoned with dashes of turmeric, cayenne pepper or other condiments.
Detoxers are encouraged to get some form of aerobic exercise every day. For this reason there is an early morning shuttle to the nearby beach, for an hour of walking. As I am not an early riser, I availed myself of the other alternatives: jumping on the mini-trampoline, playing ping-pong, riding a bicycle and swimming.
Also recommended is yoga, two sessions of which are offered every day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The teacher is excellent, especially for beginners.
Most days also bring opportunities for other activities: tai chi (all too rarely), breathing exercises, and food workshops in raw vegan cuisine, given by the resident chef. All participants are entitled to a private nutrition session with the talented European chef, Donatas Certovskich.
Another free consultation for all detoxers is with medical director Dr. Thomas Lodi. Formerly associated with Columbia Medical School, Dr. Lodi practices now primarily as an integrative oncologist; Lifeco Phuket is also a center for patients receiving intensive natural treatments for cancer. The ketogenic diet, the cornerstone of LifeCo’s nutrition program, is an anti-cancer diet, as well as the optimal diet for diabetics and pre-diabetics. As he explains: “Both diabetes and cancer are sugar games.”
Dr. Lodi also delivers a lecture in the library every Tuesday evening, Afterwards, as is the case every night, a movie from LifeCo’s digital collection is screened.
One of the side benefits of being at LifeCo is the serendipitous opportunity to meet other interesting people. For example, Dr. Rohan De Silva of London happened to be there to work with Dr. Lodi; from him I learned about intriguing new forms of treatment — frequency therapy and photon wave therapy — and other important tips for safer daily living.
Fellow detoxers from around the world also offer insights and encouragement. Sandy Poole, 50, from Perth, Australia, was there (with her mother) on her fifth visit to Lifeco.
“After my first Master Detox, I not only felt wonderful,” she relates, “when i returned home, people noticed a difference; they saw the glow in my face.”
Her experience at LifeCo not only improved her health, it changed the course of her life. “After discovering the benefits of colon hydrotherapy, I went out and became a certified colon hydrotherapist myself. Now I have a business with a partner I trained.”
Colon hydrotherapy — washing out the intestines and stomach to purge toxins from the bowels — is absolutely key to any detox process. Toxins first and foremost are stored in the linings of the intestines, where undigested food and unexcreted waste build up and eventually rot and become toxic. When no solid food is ingested and the digestive process is at rest, the bowel toxins have a chance to work themselves loose from the linings, where they can be washed out — in full, heartening view through a window on the hydrotherapy machine.
Rinsing the bowels does not always require the expense and expertise of colon hydrotherapy. A fascinating machine called the Angel of Water enables self-administration of an enema. It is one of those treatments that are free during the week, along with unlimited use of the steam room and the infra-red sauna, which facilitate perspiration — i.e., the expelling of toxins through the body’s largest organ, the skin.
A complimentary detox kit provides implements for ridding the body of other toxins: a brush for dry brushing of skin and sloughing off dead skin cells, and a tongue scraper, for use first thing in the morning. Halitosis-causing bacteria are excreted through the tongue every night as we sleep; it is a good idea to spend five seconds to clean the tongue as part of daily morning hygiene throughout the year.
Fortunately, a week of detox does not mean being cooped up in the same compound all the time, no matter how comfortable it is. LifeCo has its own beach bar just a 10-minute drive away in the complimentary shuttle that operates four days a week. There are also beach chairs for relaxing in the shade of palm trees as gentle waves lap the shore.
Two evenings a week, LifeCo organizes trips to colorful night markets on the island, where bargains are to be had on clothing, sarongs and handicrafts. The juice bar packs your liquid “dinners” for the outing.
A week on vacation — even one dedicated to detoxing — flies by very quickly, especially when floating in one’s private pool with the warm sun beaming down on your face is the highlight of your daily routine. The last day of the program has its rewards: real food — raw vegan delicacies prepared by the chef. It is not only a safe way to ease back into solid food, it was actually delicious: the wrap filled with macadamia feta and crisp veggies was as good any burrito I have ever had.
The last day is also when the long-awaited Part 2 results of the “Before and After” sequence is revealed. First, the slide with the drop of my blood goes under the microscope — and the projection on the screen shows dramatic improvement. For one, the red blood cells had broken free of whatever had been gluing them together; and this time, with more plasma now visible, there was a dynamic view of white blood cells moving around and going about their business.
The weigh-in takes place in conjunction with phase two of the Body Composition Analysis. This news is also good — in fact, better than expected: I had lost 15 lbs in the seven days. True, it was mostly water weight, but there was a start on losing fat, and my stomach sure felt — and looked — flatter.
A last long, brisk walk on the beach reinforces the feeling that sluggishness is down and energy level up. But the memories I take home go beyond the encouraging physical results of the detox: the constant smiles of the ever supportive, helpful and friendly staff linger in the mind and buoy the spirits until the return visit.
Over the course of a 35-year career that has spanned more than 80 countries, award-winning journalist Buzzy Gordon has been a reporter, editor, and travel writer on five continents. His work has appeared in USA Today (where he was a regular travel columnist), National Geographic Traveler, The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post, among other leading publications. Buzzy is the author of Frommer’s Jerusalem Day by Day Guide, a contributing editor at Jax Fax Magazine, and a regular contributor to LuxuryLatinAmerica.com and TotallyJewishTravel.com. He lives in Israel.