Detoxification: Foundation of Health

Every chronic disease starts with Toxemia and a toxemic crisis. The crises are repeated until organic changes take place. The chain of symptoms range from cold or catarrh to Bright’s disease, tuberculosis, cancer, syphilis, ataxia, and other so-called diseases; all, from beginning to end, symptoms of the cumulative effects of crises of Toxemia. J. H. Tilden, MD. Toxemia Explained, 1926

For over two centuries detoxification has been a primary focus for natural medicine practitioners. The Thompsonian herbalists of the early 19th century believed in “puking and purging” patients to effect a cure. The Eclectic Physicians of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including J.H. Tilden (quoted above), understood “toxemia,” a backlog of waste products in the body, as the root of all disease.

In 1953 Professor Alfred Pischinger posited that health rested not solely on the health of the cell, but rather the combination of cellular health and the surrounding extracellular matrix (ECM). This matrix consists of glycoproteins; mesenchymal stem cells, including fibroblasts, mast cells and macrophages; capillaries; nerve endings; and lymphatic vessels. The ECM unites the entire body and provides a substrate for communication within the matrix and between organs. The matrix also regulates or “screens” substances and information that reach cells, thereby regulating metabolic processes, electrolyte levels, pH balance and cell proliferation. Pischinger recognized that this “ground system” could be compromised by toxins, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and chronic stress.

In the late 20th century, natural medicine physicians continued to refine their understanding of the precise impacts of environmental exposures on both intracellular and extracellular function. Dr. Walter Crinnion, ND has emerged as one of the leading researchers and practitioners of environmental medicine in North America, offering an understanding of the impact of particular chemicals and heavy metals on the cell mitochondria, lipid metabolism, nervous system and immune function. Dr. Crinnion also has refined natural medicine approaches to detoxifying the body.

An important note here: some classical medicine practitioners (i.e. those trained to view the body as an organism rather than a mechanism) are uncomfortable with detoxification, believing that a fanatical focus on removing waste depletes the body and instills a view of the body as “dirty” and degraded. Some of these practitioners believe that nourishing the body will allow it to rebalance itself without taking drastic measures such as the “puking and purging” model that likely destroyed as many patients as it delivered from disease. Ideally, detoxification is balanced with nourishment. Pushing the body to the point of eliciting severe detoxification symptoms can do as much harm as good for a patient, a concept we will explore further in the text below. The key concept here is balance in all things.

How do toxins accumulate in the body?

Many conventional physicians trained in environmental medicine believe that all toxic exposures are cleared from the body within a maximum of six months. Clearly these physicians have never worked with Viet Nam veterans struggling with the effects of Agent Orange 40 to 50 years after exposure. Nor have they understood patients who develop environmental toxicity slowly, as the result of small repeated exposures to a myriad of toxic substances.

When the body is exposed to toxins, the lymphatic system, liver and kidneys immediately work to clear the toxic substances. What the excretory systems cannot immediately remove is stored, primarily in fat and lymphatic tissue for solvents, chloro- and fluorocarbons; and in the bone and nerve tissue for heavy metals. These wastes can remain in the tissues for many years, even the entire remainder of a lifetime, and some of them may be passed on to children through intrauterine exposure.

Each person has an innate carrying capacity, or, metaphorically, an internal “trash can,” for tolerating toxic wastes. Once that person has reached carrying capacity, symptoms begin to surface. Sometimes the carrying capacity is reached in one traumatic exposure, e.g. a patient who lived down the street from a paint factory that caught on fire. She filled her “internal trash can” in one afternoon. More commonly the carrying capacity is reached with repeated exposures over time, e.g. washing hands with turpentine after using an oil-based paint; spilling gasoline on hands when pumping gas; eating mercury-laden fish on a regular basis (the amount of mercury in one tuna sandwich can take up to two years to clear completely from the body); living in a new home with off-gassing carpets, furniture, and particle board; or breathing in herbicides sprayed on a neighbor’s lawn.

Open the gates

The body has four primary exit gates for removing waste: the colon, bladder, lungs and skin. These gates need to be open with the waste removal systems in excellent condition to support detoxification.
Imagine trying to remove furniture from a room with the door opened only one foot wide. No matter how hard you push and shove, you will not be able to move a three-foot wide desk or a bed through the door. After exerting tremendous effort without success, you likely will move the furniture back into place.

Similarly, trying to push the body to detoxify large amounts of waste with the exit gates only partially open, the body expends tremendous energy without being able to remove the waste. Instead, the body reabsorbs the waste (analogous to moving the furniture back into place).

Ideally waste removal is paced to stay within the body’s “carrying capacity”, the amount of toxic material that can be removed without further stressing the body. Using the analogy of clearing the room, you may be able to move books and photos through the narrowly opened door. You also could remove the desk over time by breaking it into smaller pieces and passing it through the door.

How does the body signal that it is beyond carrying capacity? Generally through detoxification symptoms such as headache, fatigue, diarrhea or constipation, mood swings, skin rash, nausea and flu-like symptoms.
Of course sometimes these symptoms may occur short-term, e.g. during a classic “healing crisis” or return of old symptoms (a concept we will explore in more depth in a future newsletter). With good preparation and appropriate supplementation, these symptoms can be minimized by supporting, not suppressing, the detoxification process.

Lifestyle choices that support detoxification

Patients can help “open the gates” wider by assisting the organ systems responsible for detoxification. These are primary suggestions, available to almost any patient, not an exhaustive list of available treatment modalities.

Colon:
Constitutional hydrotherapy treatment; water irrigation (“colonics”); acupuncture

Bladder:
Plenty of clean, filtered (not distilled) water

Lungs:
Deep breathing exercises (caution: forceful inspiration and expiration are not appropriate for lung cancer patients)

Skin:
Brushing, toward the heart, with a rough washcloth or nylon cloth designed for this purpose. Vegetable fiber skin brushes tend to harbor bacteria and are quite rough on the skin. Lymphatic massage, exercise.

In addition, consider remedies specifically formulated to support these excretory organs as well as the lymphatic system, kidneys,liver and intestines. Bolstering these organs and systems in turn supports the extracellular matrix and cellular mitochondria.

The Hevert detoxification formulas were specially designed to support lymphatic, kidney and liver function as well as to balance the intestines during detoxification. These homeopathic medicines help “open the gates,” to allow safe, effective waste removal from the body.

References:

Crinnion, Walter. Clean, Green, Lean: Get Rid of Toxins That Make You Fat. Wiley, 2010.

Pischinger, Alfred. The Extracellular Matrix and Ground Regulation: Basis for a Holistic Biological Medicine. North Atlantic Books, 2007.

Thomson, Samuel. New Guide to Health, or Botanic Family Physician (Classic Reprint). Forgotten Books, 2012.

Tilden, J.H. Toxemia Explained, Revised Edition. Copyright 1926. Republished 1960, Mokelumne Hill, CA: Health Research.