India Somerset made sure she left no stone unturned in the quest for wellness. Her fridge hadn’t sported anything as harmful as cow’s milk since sometime in the mid-1990s and her life was a dizzying waltz of adaptogens, heavy-metal cleanses and activated charcoal chai.
Yet while her turbulent, on-again-off-again relationship with coconut oil made Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor seem the very pattern of constancy, it was as nothing compared to the fickleness she displayed when it came to her coterie of holistic healers. Most recently she’d been all about Larissa The Burper. In the early days when she and Larissa “worked together”, India simply held a chicken’s egg in her left hand and Larissa would burp up any unresolved issues she had with her ex-boyfriend or her chakras. Like a dyspeptic baby Larissa could expel India’s bodily aches and emotional pains in a series of satisfying, if expensive, belches. But lately India had started to feel a little low Qi again.
Luckily, her friend Xochi knew of a man who could give you back the microbiome you were born with. “Literally, everyone’s talking about him, darling.”
Having suspected for a while that her sinuses were desperately trying to communicate with her about the woeful state of her microbiota, India made an appointment with the Gut Guru who turned out, rather disappointingly, to be called John.
India had been warned by Xochi that John’s space in Colliers Wood wasn’t quite Chiva-Som, but having paddled in the Ganges in Varanasi, India was completely prepared for the gritty realism of the journey south. On the drive down (and down) through the suburbs, she did begin to wonder why someone so fêted for his gut work would choose to be so far away from the very people who care most about their intestinal flora. Surely, she reflected as she pulled up in her Uber, there couldn’t be many people in this particular 1970s cul-de-sac tripping over themselves to join John’s cancellation list.
The premises were awful – a Portakabin with cheap laminate flooring and a stained chenille sofa. India braced herself, reasoning that if Xochi could hack it, so could she. But when Jenny the receptionist handed India eight plastic pots with lids and a fistful of wooden spatulas, her nerve began to falter.
“Toilet’s that way,” said Jenny, pointing with her vape in the direction of a Formica cubicle with a broken lock.
“I have to… fill all of them?” India asked wanly, as the unpalatable truth began to dawn.
“If you can manage it…” Jenny shrugged. “John does like a good scoop.”
After her ordeal in the cubicle, India was further alarmed by the man himself. John was not remotely seraphic, as she’d come to expect of her healers. He had a crew cut and wore leather Crocs. India watched silently as he forensically pored over her samples, wearing latex gloves.
“So, your symptoms?”
“Oh, my skin’s very dry and I have some insomnia,” India replied eagerly.
“That’s all?” India wondered if she should invent a chronic condition.
“I get migraines after Pilates,” she proffered.
“Good.” John sat down to take notes. “And do you ever experience post-evacuation euphoria?”
“Gosh, never.” India’s spirits soared. “Does that mean there’s something wrong with me?”
Two weeks later, having avoided nightshades and wholegrains and swallowed 30 billion bacteria a day, India met Xochi for a prebiotic lunch of kimchi.
“So, when are you seeing John again?” Xochi asked, and India turned the same shade as her cima di rapa juice at the memory of Colliers Wood.
“Oh, that’s the miracle,” India exclaimed. “I never have to go back again. I’m cured.”
“Doesn’t it take a few months for your microbiome to replenish?”
“Not in my case,” India replied as she struggled to block the memory of wooden spatulas. “It was instant. The second I got into my taxi home, I felt so much clearer and healthier.”
“Even your headaches have gone?” Xochi asked in disbelief.
“Even my headaches,” India lied as her head began to pound. “My intestinal tract is flourishing. I even had post-evacuation euphoria yesterday. See, no more healing necessary.”
“Pity,” Xochi sighed. “I’ve found this incredible woman who works with your angels to rid you of pain. But you clearly won’t need her now…”