Restoring Health Naturally – Judith Boice, ND, LAc, FABNO

Most of us entered naturopathic medical school with some knowledge of herbs, homeopathic remedies, vitamins and minerals. We were passionate about the power of nature’s gifts to heal the body. Few, if any of us, though, had any direct experience in curing late stage illnesses with natural medicines.

During our first year of medical school, my classmates and I eagerly awaited Friday afternoons because our last and crowning class of the week was Naturopathic Philosophy, taught by Dr. Jared Zeff, N.D. His case reviews of seemingly miraculous recoveries—resolving tumors, discarded wheelchairs and restored vision—provided proof of the potential power of natural therapeutics.

Dr. Zeff had spent time with Dr. Harold Dick, N.D., observing his assessments of patients’ food intolerances using a testing method developed by Dr. O.G. Carroll. Patients also came to the clinic for constitutional hydrotherapy treatments that restored both their immune and digestive systems.

Dr. Zeff was impressed with the improvements he witnessed in the patients’ health. He returned to Oregon and began offering the same test and treatments to his own patients. To his amazement, the patients improved. He also read ancient medical texts, searching for the secrets of healing. “I read Hippocrates, who would often say, ‘I saw so-and-so, and they were eating a diet of such-and such. I told them to stop eating this and to eat more of that.’ It finally dawned on me that guiding a patient in eating the most appropriate diet is the foundation of healing. Supporting the digestive tract, correctly nourishing the body, and properly eliminating waste in turn support all of the other systems in the body.”

Dr. Zeff’s list of recommended texts for the class included Toxemia Explained, by J. H. Tilden, MD., who states, “Cause is constant, ever present, and always the same. Only effects, and the object on which cause acts, change, and the change is most inconstant. To illustrate: a catarrh of the stomach presents first irritation, then inflammation, then ulceration, and finally induration and cancer. Not all cases run true to form; only a small percentage evolve to ulcer, and fewer still reach the cancer stage. More exit by way of acute food-poisoning or acute indigestion than by chronic diseases.”

Dr. Zeff distilled the wisdom of Tilden and other imminent physicians into a deceptively simple paradigm, one that has guided my work with patients for over two decades:

Our bodies begin in a state of balance, or optimal health. A wide range of stressors—physical, mental, emotional and/or spiritual—can disturb that balance. The body responds to a disturbance by creating inflammation, expressed in the body as rubor (redness), calor (heat), dolor (pain) and/or tumor (swelling).

A fever is a classic example of an inflammatory response. The body knows that if it can increase the core body temperature even one or two degrees, most bacteria and viruses, reliant as they are on very stable temperatures, cannot survive. If the body is supported in this acute inflammatory process, the body discharges the disturbance and returns to a state of balance. This is illustrated in the upper part of the paradigm: optimal health > disturbance > inflammation > discharge of disturbance > optimal health. Tilden alluded to this progression at the end of the quoted paragraph above: “More exit by way of acute food-poisoning or acute indigestion than by chronic diseases.”

Most of us, however, are trained to interrupt this inflammatory discharge process. We take aspirin or acetaminophen to stop a fever, swallow antihistamines to quell a runny nose, and rub steroid creams on rashes. These suppressive therapies propel the acute inflammation deeper into the body.

Treating eczema with corticosteroids, for example, often drives a superficial skin inflammation deeper into the body. The skin rash may improve, but the patient often develops asthma. This is an example of pushing what was a superficial inflammatory response on the skin deeper into the body, in this case to the skin’s paired organ, the lungs. In the reverse direction, when the asthma improves, the eczema usually will return.

If someone does not understand this relationship, they may view the return of the rash as a worsening of symptoms and once again apply the steroid cream, causing the asthma to return.

This alternating suppression and eruption may continue for years until the lungs finally are too tired to “push” the inflammation back up to the surface. At this point, the suppression progresses from chronic inflammation (asthma) to degeneration, or actual tissue breakdown. Cancer and tumor formation are examples of degeneration, as are emphysema, cardiovascular disease, strokes, and multiple sclerosis.

Restoration of Health

The good news inherent in this paradigm is that the body can be catalyzed to reverse the progression of disease and restore health. The concept of restorative medicine—the upward flow in the chart above—has been lost in conventional medicine. Without this understanding of the reversal of the disease process, degenerative conditions inevitably become terminal illnesses. Applying the principles of restorative medicine, true healing is possible.

Examples of restorative therapies include:

  • Homeopathy
  • Dietary changes
  • Herbs
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Nutrients and other supplements
  • Qigong
  • Restorative yoga
  • Tai chi
  • Meditation
  • Prayer

This is a representative, not an exhaustive list. Many classical therapies may be incorporated that strengthen the body to the point that it can push whatever the initial disturbance was back to the “surface.”

If “suppression” drives inflammation deeper into the body, as with the example of suppressed eczema catalyzing the development of asthma, then the restoration of health entails pushing these deeply buried illnesses back up to the surface.

The classical term for this return of old symptoms is “healing crisis.” I prefer the term “house cleaning.” Think of suppression as sweeping an illness under the carpet. Even though the acute symptoms have resolved, the illness has not been completely discharged from the body. Instead, it is buried deeper in the body, or “swept under the carpet.”

As the body increases in strength, it gains enough energy to “lift up the carpet”, which then brings the old illnesses back into view. Thankfully, the body usually does not sweep this “debris” to the surface all at once. Usually, one or two symptoms return, often in a milder form than their initial occurrence. This process is repeated again and again, sometimes over many years, until the backlog of suppressed inflammatory conditions is finally completely cleared.

Someone with a history of numerous bouts of bronchitis, for example, might have a runny nose but no fever or cough for a few days during a bout of “house cleaning.” A patient recovering from asthma might have a mild outbreak of eczema that lasts for a few days or weeks before resolving. If these episodes of “house cleaning” are well managed, the symptoms are mild and pass quickly.

Even natural medicines, if inappropriately prescribed, have the potential to suppress symptoms, but this is much less common that with the arsenal of conventional medications. Ultimately, natural medicines have three primary purposes when appropriately applied: to tonify and strengthen the body so that it can “clean house”; to speed the discharge and resolution of acute inflammation; and to build greater levels of vitality.