Health is not simply the absence of disease, as it is defined in “allopathic”
medicine. Health is a positive state of the body and mind, where organ
systems are in balance and reserves of nutrients are adequate to meet
the normal stresses of life which come down the line. Health is something
which does not come as a right, but a privilege. It must be maintained
and cherished, just like a relationship. If we give our bodies chemicals
instead of food, or if we are exposed to excessive doses of toxic metals,
or if we allow ourselves to perpetuate toxic emotions, in all likelihood
we will become ill. It may take 40 or 50 years to become ill, but illness
is inevitable. If we give our bodies good nourishing food throughout our
lives, and if we are able to move past toxic emotions – by whatever
means is necessary - then in all likelihood we will be healthy into our
old age. So… we are at the point of “reality check”.
It is never too late to engage in practices which will lead to health.
The symptoms and illnesses that we develop are our bodies’ best effort
at maintaining homeostasis, or equilibrium, and maintaining survival of
the body. We develop symptoms in different organ systems, depending on
our genetic predisposition, and the epigenetic toxic load or how the genes
are affected by their environment – the higher the load, the less
our ability to detoxify that load, the earlier we develop symptoms.
Remember that all physical manifestations also have their resonance in
the emotional and mental bodies.
Physical symptoms can be considered a signpost, pointing to disturbances on the energetic level. That does not in any
way discount the severity of the physical symptoms, nor the necessity
of working with the physical body for healing. Do we really intend to
have cancer? Surely not. But it does suggest that healing on the physical
level often – indeed very often – also needs to occur on the
emotional or mental level as well, in order for true healing to occur.
To give an extreme example, consider the Monday morning heart attack victim.
We know that there is a markedly increased incidence of heart attacks
on Monday morning, when we go back to work. We know that stress causes
an increase in blood pressure, mainly through the mechanism of narrowing
blood vessels due to a surge of norepinephrine (a stress neurotransmitter).
We know that heart attacks are caused by a decrease in blood supply –
whether due to a clot, or to sudden narrowing of an artery is immaterial
to the heart muscle which is starving for oxygen. So we can stent the
artery, modify the diet, lower the bad cholesterol, reduce the physical
inflammation, but the patient him/herself still has to deal with the stress
which caused the artery to narrow in the first place, or the condition
will simply recur.
Our treatment plan is based on the following principles:
- We need to figure out anything which might be contributing to the total
body load of toxins, so that we can remove as many things as possible
which are toxic to both body and brain function. This may include foods,
chemicals, tumors, environmental agents like pollens or dust, heavy metals
like mercury or lead.
- We need to make sure that the intestinal tract is capable of absorbing
the nutrients that are eaten.
- If there are deficiencies of nutrients within the cells themselves, we
need to correct those deficiencies, so that the cells all over the body
(including the brain) may function at top capacity.
- And above all, we need to make sure that the body’s bioelectric field
is restored to health, on the physical, emotional and mental levels, so
that illness does not simply pop out somewhere else.
The body is an incredibly complex system, each part influencing and being
influenced by every other, as you can see from the following diagram of
the matrix of the brain/body function.
All living systems exist in a state of dynamic equilibrium. Think of a
kid on a skateboard, or a tree growing in a forest. There is constant
motion, and yet the organism stays upright, continues to move its parts,
and has sufficient balance that a pebble, or a breeze, or a bump on the
slope will not cause the organism to crash. Of course too big a perturbation
will indeed cause the organism to crash. And a series of minor perturbations
may cause the organism to falter, to be less steady on its feet, more
susceptible to other perturbations. We are that organism. Our bodies are
built to withstand lots of perturbations – poor food, toxicities,
injuries, infections. But if we get too many of them, or any one of them
is too overwhelming, then our systems will be disturbed, and we may reach
a different point of balance – less healthy, more symptomatic.
Now, think a little more outside the box.
Think dynamic. That means (in physics) pertaining to force related to motion. Dynamic
equilibrium means a state of balance achieved by two (or more) forces
in motion. We see this in our normal physiology all the time – neurotransmitters
of opposite effect are in a state of equilibrium in the body such that
we function appropriately, without having to think about it. Or not…
in which case we realize that we are no longer in equilibrium.
Now a little further outside the box. Think about
moving forward. You came to see a physician who is deeply into holistic medicine because
you were tired of the equilibrium in which you found yourself. Perhaps
you were tired of having your disease managed. Perhaps you felt yourself
in a state of mild depression because nothing was changing, nothing was
moving, despite your best efforts at helping yourself get out of the starting
gate. You came because no matter what you did to help yourself, you found
that you were unable to move forward, to get out of your disease state,
to lose that weight, to lower that cholesterol or blood sugar, and you
thought there must be another way.
What is it that keeps us from moving forward? What are the blocks to healing?
Is it genetics? Not much we can do to change that one. Is it epigenetics,
i.e. what information our genes are given once we are born? Is it that
loaf of bread that we just can’t do without? Is it genetically modified
food? Government insistence on “fortifying” food, or putting
fluoride in the water? Addiction to drugs or alcohol? Addiction to relationships?
Fear of change? Is it that infection which we acquired as small children?
Is it the world in which we grew up as small children? Were we abused,
sexually, physically or emotionally? Did we feel helpless and hopeless
as small children, or even as adults? Do we not see any way out of our
current predicament? Do we feel that we do not deserve to be healthy or happy?
There are so many possible blocks to healing, it is difficult to explore
them all. Some of them may not even be in our conscious minds. Sometimes
we store particularly powerful experiences in different places in our
bodies, if our minds are not able to handle those experiences at the time
we have them. And when, later, we begin to have symptoms in those places
of our bodies, this may be a signal that it is now time, and we are now
able to handle the experience – if only we could remember it. Symptoms
can be sign posts that something is out of balance.
I offer you the opportunity of spending some time looking at things in
your life which may be acting as blocks to your healing, keeping you from
moving forward. We have a CD which you can use to help you get into a
meditative state so that you can more easily see if there are any areas
that need to be investigated. You may also wish to schedule a session
of guided imagery with Steven Swerdfeger, PhD, CH, to help you discover
areas which seem to be resistant to change, and what you can do about it.
Toxicity is the major cause of chronic illness in our 21st century world. One out
of every 6 women in the United States today is mercury toxic, according
to data from the NHANES study in 2002. Infants are born with an average
of over 200 toxic chemicals in their blood. In order to remove toxicity,
it is necessary to clean up both the intestinal tract and the liver, so
that they can function as the toxic filters and excretors they are meant
to be. It is equally necessary to remove as many sources of toxicity as
possible from the body, including self-administered toxins like nicotine,
alcohol or “recreational” drugs, in such a way that the body
does not suffer from too harsh a treatment.
Toxicity can involve physical substances – heavy metals, foods, chemicals,
organic pesticides, etc. Toxicity can also involve the emotions –
history of childhood traumas, battlefield trauma, ongoing difficult relationships.
And the emotions, of course, have an effect on the physical body. The
essence of all toxicity is the fact that it is retained within the body.
If we could get rid of it, it would just be trash, and would no longer
affect us. So… we will do our best to help you turn the toxicity
into trash and unload it. Cleaning up the house goes a long way toward
restoration of function. It may not be the only thing that has to be done,
but it is certainly a necessary condition for health.
Inflammation is a major cause of chronic illness – whether it be joint pain,
bowel discomfort, muscle aches, abnormalities of sugar metabolism, or
brain fog. Inflammation causes chronic stress to the adrenal glands, resulting
first in high cortisol levels (decreased resistance to infection, high
blood sugar levels, memory loss) and later in low cortisol levels (chronic
fatigue, panic attacks, brain fog). Inflammation is a major inciting cause
of such chronic “diseases” as diabetes, heart disease, high
blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, irritable
bowel, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s dementia …
the list goes on. Inflammation is most definitely associated with cancer,
as a causative factor.
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are toxic substances released into the environment, having adverse effects
on health of ecosystems, wildlife, and people. They are stable chemical
compounds and can last in the environment for many years. They accumulate
up the food chain through algae, fish, birds, mammals and humans, and
are further concentrated from human mothers into their unborn infants.
They have been found in as remote locations as the Arctic Circle.
POPs fall into three broad categories:
- Pesticides (DDT, chlordane, etc)
- Industrial chemicals (benzene, PCBs)
- Byproducts and contaminants (hexachlorobenzene, dioxins, furans)
Heavy metals are toxic metallic elements which have been linked to neurobehavioral
abnormalities (lead), chronic kidney damage (cadmium) and sensory and
neurologic impairments (mercury). The fetus is especially susceptible,
because of the significantly neurotoxic effect of these metals on the
Heavy metals are known to induce autoimmunity in mice. Mercury is neurotoxic
in all forms, both organic (like the mercury preservative thimerosal which
is in vaccines) and inorganic (like the mercury that used to be in thermometers,
and which is still used in dental amalgams, “silver” fillings).
Mercury has been shown to be related to autism, Alzheimer’s disease,
heart disease , autoimmunity and cancer . Arsenic, found in drinking water
in much of the United States, poses a significant metabolic, hormonal
and genetic toxicity at levels below 1 ppb (part per billion). Cadmium
and nickel have similar toxic risks, being linked to heart disease and
cancer. Lead has been linked to chronic kidney disease, as well as attentional
difficulties in school children.
Blood levels of heavy metals are not representative of tissue levels, and
frequently fail to identify significantly toxic tissue levels.
Blood will reflect recent exposure to toxic heavy metals, before the body has had a chance to sequester these heavy metals in brain,
soft tissues or bone.
The most valid test for heavy metals is the provoked urine and stool test, where both urine and stool, and sometimes hair, are collected and analyzed
after administration of an anionic surfactant agent which complexes with
heavy metals, allowing their excretion from the body.
How do we know if we need detoxification?
If we are ill, and are unable to find an easily fixable cause – e.g.
acute pneumonia, treat with antibiotics – then we should consider
that our bodies may be so full of pollutants that they cannot remain healthy.
We are all exposed to increasingly large loads of toxins – they
are in the air we breathe, in the water we drink, in the food we eat,
and in the chemicals with which we cover our skin. Some of these compounds
are extremely useful, in their place (e.g. formaldehyde makes fabrics
look strong and beautiful, gasoline makes automobiles run, aluminum hydroxide
makes our sweat glands stop functioning). However, when they get into
the body, they can slow down or completely stop many important cellular
processes, leading to fatigue, symptomatic illness, and even to autoimmune disease.
Some signs that detoxification is needed:
- Diagnosis of autism
- Diagnosis of attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder
- Diagnosis of any chronic disease
- Unexplained pain – headaches, back pain, etc
- Poor or failing memory
- Lack of energy, mild depression (or even severe depression)
- Brittle nails and hair
- Abnormal body odor, coated tongue, bad breath
- Unexplained weight gain
- Psoriasis, other skin diseases
- Chronic hormone use, chronic steroid use
How does the body detoxify itself?
Detoxification proceeds in two basic processes. First, in
Phase I detoxification, the compound is made water-soluble. In this state it is occasionally
more toxic than the parent compound.
Phase II the water-soluble compound is attached to some molecule which renders
the compound harmless. It is then eliminated from the body, either in
urine or stool (and sometimes in the sweat). As long as there is sufficient
water in the system, the compounds can be safely eliminated. If water
is lacking, the compounds can precipitate in the kidneys (causing kidney
stones or even kidney failure), or in the gall bladder (causing gallstones).
The production of energy within the cell comes at the expense of producing
oxygen free radicals, which then must be detoxified. If the body has sufficient
materials with which to detoxify, then all is well. If, for some reason,
these substances are missing from the body, toxicity is the result.
Some people have a genetic problem with detoxification – they lack
the protein enzymes required to carry out the required processes –
and are therefore much more easily damaged by levels of toxins which would
not affect another person whose detoxification system was intact.
An example of genetic predisposition to development of toxicity is those
autistic children who have problems with their methylation or sulfation
pathways. They are the ones who clearly developed their disease after
vaccination – the addition of a viral load AND toxicity in the form
of mercury in the thimerosal was enough to overwhelm their detoxification
systems, and the result was the development of autism. Obviously not every
child develops autism after vaccination. But some children clearly do,
because their systems are unable to detoxify those particular chemicals
Sometimes the system is simply overwhelmed by an excessive body burden,
not of one toxin, but of the layering of toxins. For example, severe stress
for several months or years, combined with chronic exposure to airborne
chemical like formaldehyde, may eventually result in toxicity manifesting
as chronic fatigue syndrome or, in the worst case scenario, inability
to live in the world because of symptoms like syncope, Reynaud’s
disease, wheezing, brain fog or other physical manifestations.
Once a sensitivity has developed, it becomes much easier for the body to
react to other compounds as well. Eventually a condition known as multiple
chemical sensitivity may develop. If the detoxification system is addressed,
the sensitivities may well diminish and even disappear, as the body heals.
How can we help the body with detoxification?
Which exact treatments we use depends on the heavy metals involved, and
the response of the person who is being treated. Nutritional status is
extremely important. At the same time, increased levels of heavy metals
and organophosphates may be part of the cause of poor nutritional status.
Frequency of treatment depends upon the nutritional status as well –
the less healthy, the more unstable the patient, the less frequent the
treatment, and the less the dose of medication used. Liver enzymes and
kidney function are monitored periodically, and levels of heavy metals
are tested every two months to monitor progress. Minerals like zinc, magnesium
and calcium are replaced, since they too are removed in the process of
Treatment ends when clinical progress is made, the patient feels better,
and levels of heavy metals in collected samples are at low levels or near zero.
Remember that metals and persistent organic pollutants are only part of
the story. We also need to treat the gut, since many unhelpful or even
actively harmful bacteria can take up residence there, when the normal
gut flora have been eliminated by the antibiotics which we may have been
forced to ingest to preserve our lives. These harmful bacteria can produce
toxins which we then absorb, and which can cause significant disruption
of normal metabolic processes – irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s
disease, ulcerative colitis, allergies like skin rashes, and asthma, immune
disorders, arthritis. Some of the antibodies which we produce against
these bacteria may cross react with our own body structure, leading to
auto-immune diseases like thyroiditis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis.
Much of the therapy is dietary. Fruits and vegetables have tremendous amounts
of fiber which promotes the excretion of toxic bacteria from the GI tract.
We can also replace the toxic bacteria with helpful ones, using probiotics.
Adequate amounts of water help the kidneys eliminate toxins through the urine.
When the body is functioning poorly, the brain suffers as well. Deficiency
of neurotransmitters, destruction of neural pathways by exposure to mercury
or other heavy metals, deficiency of nutrients because of poor gut function
– all these affect the function of the brain. Neurotherapy, in conjunction
with the metabolic work, is extremely helpful in re-establishment of neural
pathways, helping the brain’s nerves to heal themselves. Several
studies have shown improvements in brain function after EEG neurofeedback.
Most recently, results have been presented of a study using the most technologically
advanced form of brain imaging - functional magnetic resonance imaging
(fMRI) - in order to assess changes in brain function after EEG neurofeedback.
This study showed that EEG neurofeedback with children with ADHD resulted
in normalization of brain activation levels in the frontal circuits in
the brain that are involved in attention. As shown in pre- and post-neurofeedback
fMRI studies, blood oxygenation levels of 24 ADHD participants normalized
with EEG neurofeedback training, with increased blood oxygenation in the
prefrontal cortex bilaterally, and in the anterior portion of the cingulate
gyrus. No such changes were seen in non-treatment controls.
Principles of detoxification
- Remove – through adequate emptying of the large intestine, adequate
production of urine, elimination of all unhealthy “foods”
– sugar, refined flours, food colorings, food additives, chemicals.
Treatment with EDTA, DMPS, ozone, etc may be required at this stage. Exercise
is helpful, as soon as it is possible, to eliminate toxins from the skin,
and to increase circulation to all the organs. Even breathing exercises
will help, if more active physical exercise is not possible. If constipation
is an issue, and bowel movements are not daily, regular and easy, then
colon hydrotherapy can be very effective.
- Replace – that which has been removed by antibiotics and unhealthy
GI function, including digestive enzymes, bile salts, even hydrochloric
acid if the stomach is unable to produce it. Antioxidants are used during
this phase, to replace those which have been depleted from the body, to
repair DNA damage and to help the body produce the cellular energy required
for its metabolic processes.
- Reinoculate – with probiotics, to push out the toxic or unhelpful
organisms currently residing in the gut
- Repair – through, dietary fiber, consumption of adequate amounts
of fruits and vegetables from organic sources. Silymarin, dandelion and
chamomile are herbal supplements used to help repair the liver. Phosphatidylcholine
is another supplement, soy derived, which has remarkable liver regenerative powers.
Food, environmental and chemical allergies – many children with frequent vomiting, colic, or early ear infections
or strep throats are allergic either to their formula (whether it be cow’s
milk or soy) or, if they are breast feeding, to something which their
mother is eating which is passed through the breast milk. As the children
get older, they may “outgrow” the ear infection phase, only
to enter a tonsillitis phase, and eventually either a lung irritability
phase (with wheezing, pneumonia, asthma) or an intestinal irritability
phase (with stomach aches, diarrhea, constipation) or a brain irritability
phase (with severe behavior problems, like irritability, rage, inattention,
lack of focus). Even if there are never any physical symptoms, foods can
still have a marked impact on behavior and performance. Any allergen has
the potential for causing behavioral issues in susceptible children. These
may include inhaled pollens, grasses, weeds, or molds, as well as animals
(especially dog and cat) and dust mites. Chronic allergic response sets
up a climate of irritability in the entire system, which can affect many
different organs in the body, starting with the adrenal glands, and progressing
through the intestinal tract, the lungs, the skin, the detoxification
system, and the brain.
In the adult, allergy tends to express itself with “deficient”
symptoms like plugged sinuses, wheezing, chronic fatigue, headache, arthritis
or depression, whereas in children, allergy tends to express itself in
hyperactivity, irritability or uncontrollable bad behavior. Allergy or
sensitivity in the adult may also express itself as chronic arthritis
(osteo- or rheumatoid), irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea
and other bowel complaints, memory loss, adult onset asthma, and many
other medically defined illnesses.
Blood Sugar Control: The body attempts to keep its blood sugar levels within a fairly narrow
range, so that the tissues (including the brain) will have a constant
source of energy to support their metabolic activity. When the blood sugar
levels fluctuate wildly, both the adrenals and the pancreas are called
into play. Under conditions of high stress, the adrenals produce both
epinephrine and cortisol, which both serve to increase blood sugar levels.
If the blood sugar falls at night, and epinephrine is called into play,
there may be awakening with sensation of panic attack, because of the
physiologic response of the body to the epinephrine. The pancreas then
produces insulin to get the blood sugar into the cells, where it is turned
into energy. Eventually the adrenals become exhausted, and can no longer
produce enough cortisol to stabilize the blood sugar levels. With continued
stress and continued high carbohydrate intake, the pancreas becomes exhausted,
and cannot produce enough insulin to get the sugar into the cells. At
this point, we can make a diagnosis of diabetes. However, the functional
disturbance of metabolism has been in play for many years before a “diagnosis”
of a disease can be made.
Insulin resistance is caused by prolonged and excessive requirement for
insulin release, as can happen with years of high carbohydrate meals in
a person who is predisposed genetically to carbohydrate intolerance. Eventually
the cells become less responsive to insulin, because of the prolonged
high levels (this is called down-regulation of receptor sites), leading
to production of insulin in higher and higher amounts, to overcome the
resistance. High insulin levels lead to alteration in fat metabolism and
elevation of cholesterol and triglycerides. We still do not have diabetes,
but at this point we can make a “diagnosis” of high cholesterol,
or high triglycerides.
When the pancreas can no longer produce sufficient insulin to maintain
blood sugar levels within normal limits, blood sugar rises, and we can
then finally make a diagnosis of diabetes.
Intervention at stage 1, decreasing the body’s intake of carbohydrate
and improving the diet, can prevent the development of most cases of high
cholesterol and type 2 adult onset diabetes.
Issues with blood sugar control can start as early as childhood. Falling
blood sugar levels can be associated with temper tantrums or other emotional
instability, usually about 2 hours after the last intake of food. Insufficient
intake of protein causes a decrease in the production of enzymes which
are required to maintain normal energy production within the cells. Insufficient
intake of vitamins and minerals has a similar impact on those enzymes,
resulting in poor nourishment of the cell, poor energy production in the
body, and poor processing of information in the brain.
Metabolic syndrome is related to both the genetic predisposition and the diet. The components
of metabolic syndrome are abdominal weight gain, high blood pressure,
insulin resistance and high cholesterol, leading eventually to type II
diabetes and to cardiovascular disease. People with predisposition to
metabolic syndrome do not tolerate carbohydrate well, but they tend to
crave the carbohydrates. Ingestion of a high carbohydrate load causes
a surge of insulin in the blood stream. At the same time, there is increased
transportation of tryptophan from the intestinal tract, leading to increased
synthesis of serotonin in the brain – thus explaining why carbohydrates
are “feel-good” food. Unfortunately, the carbohydrates lead
to big metabolic problems in later years. Fortunately, when we modify
the diet and decrease the carbohydrate load, most of the signs of metabolic
syndrome go away, and health is restored.
The child who eats the classic “American diet” – high
simple carbohydrate, high saturated fat –will, in all likelihood,
suffer from the classic “American” metabolic syndrome as he/she
gets older – diabetes, hypertension and heart disease are the three
most likely physical results. Why do some of us preferentially eat that
way, while others are perfectly happy on a diet of meat, vegetables and fruits?
The intestinal tract is a prime player in this scenario. Tryptophan, the
amino acid which is crucial for the production of serotonin has to compete
with several other similar amino acids, both to get across the intestinal
lining, and to get across the blood-brain barrier, where it can then be
turned in to serotonin. If there are problems getting tryptophan across
the intestinal lining, then the production of serotonin will be decreased,
and our neural processing will automatically slow down. We can increase
the transportation of tryptophan by raising our insulin levels (i.e. eating
a high carbohydrate meal), so if we have low serotonin levels, the body’s
automatic response would be to eat lots of carbohydrate, raise the insulin
levels, increase tryptophan transport, and then manufacture more serotonin.
Unfortunately, like most emergency responses, this is a two-edged sword,
because pretty soon we develop insulin resistance and need to maintain
higher glucose levels in the blood in order to get the same effect. High
glucose levels on a sustained basis will exhaust the pancreas, leading
to decreased insulin production and the development of diabetes. Of course,
it generally takes several years for this situation to develop, so it’s
hard to see the immediate connection.
So which comes first, the low serotonin? the poor intestinal barrier function?
the high carbohydrate diet? It’s hard to tell. We do know, however,
that if we change the diet, we can change intestinal function and support
the pancreas without having to take drugs to control the blood sugar.
So… it seems only reasonable to work on the diet at an early age,
so that diabetes does not occur at a later age.
The immune system is a key player in the health of the body. This system tells our bodies
what is healthy for us, and what is not. The Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue
(GALT) comprises easily over half the lymphoid tissue in the body. It
is not surprising that the gut is the earliest and primary arbiter of
what is OK for the body to ingest, and what is not OK. Our bodies learn
to distinguish “friend” from “foe” from the earliest
age. Depending on what we are exposed to in our earliest years, we may
develop a predisposition to specific organ inflammation, or to generalized
inflammation. Unfortunately, if there is a great deal of irritability
in the GI tract from whatever cause, our bodies sometimes over-react,
and begin producing antibodies to things which normally should not give
us a reaction. In the worst case scenario, we produce antibodies to our
own tissues, and develop the so-called “auto-immune” diseases,
which include rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, lupus, Sjögren’s
syndrome, thyroiditis, the demyelinating diseases (like multiple sclerosis,
Lou Gehrig’s disease), and many others. GI irritability is generally
due to abnormal bacteria and yeasts in the intestinal tract. These abnormal
and unhelpful GI flora can take hold in susceptible people when they are
given frequent courses of antibiotics.
The digestive (GI) system is a major player in many people’s medical
problems, and most particularly in children with ADD/ADHD, or in adults
with chronic stress-related illness. The GI system is the last system
to develop, and the most easily injured after birth, by food, antibiotics,
chemicals, and anything else which an infant ingests. If the intestinal
lining is injured, in most people it heals without any problem. However,
in some susceptible people, the intestinal lining fails to heal, and continues
to cause problems long after the initial insult is history.
Susceptibility may be a genetic factor, due to a lack of specific enzymes
required to digest certain kinds of food, or a lack of enzymes required
to manufacture certain proteins, glycoproteins or neurotransmitters. Susceptibility
may also be a matter of toxicity, either from specific foods, or from
heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium. These metals can be absorbed
by breathing our polluted air, by eating our foods grown in polluted soil,
or by drinking our mother’s milk which becomes contaminated by breathing
and eating in our 21st century world. Susceptibility may have been induced
by early exposure to antibiotics, with subsequent overgrowth of more pathogenic
bacteria (ones which can injure the gut lining).
The patient may have an inherent sensitivity to certain foods. If the patient
ingests these foods for a prolonged time, the GI tract becomes irritated,
and more susceptible to colonization or infection by unhelpful organisms,
like candida yeast, or pathogenic bacteria. Initially the symptoms are
more characteristic of so-called “irritable bowel”, with pain
and chronic diarrhea/constipation. In any case, the sensitivity causes
inflammatory changes in the bowel, which affect the rest of the body.
There is often “failure to thrive”, or delayed growth. Over
a more prolonged time, the patient may even develop colitis, ileitis or
Crohn’s disease. They may also develop symptoms in the skin (as
with severe acne) or in the lungs (as with asthma).
Pharmaceutical medication can be a cause of GI distress.
If the GI tract is not absorbing and processing food correctly, it cannot
manufacture the neurotransmitters which nerve require in order to communicate
with each other and with the organs of the body.
If the GI tract becomes leaky because of the prolonged irritation, it may
allow large molecules to leak through into the blood stream. The body
makes antibodies to these molecules, because it recognizes them as “foreign”,
not belonging in the blood stream. However, sometimes the molecules are
very similar to the body’s own tissues, and the body begins to manufacture
antibodies against its own tissues. This may well be the origin of the
auto-immune diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and even multiple
sclerosis. Sometimes the body is so sensitive to foods it takes in, that
it reacts very badly to them, with immediate symptoms (e.g. anaphylactic
shock from peanuts or shellfish) or with slightly more delayed symptoms
(hives or vomiting). Some children even react with central nervous system
symptoms (poor attention, poor concentration, irritability, anger, defiance).
When large molecules leak into the blood stream, this puts an extra burden
on both the immune system (which has to make antibodies to these molecules)
and on the liver (which has to detoxify them), as well as on the large
intestine and kidneys (which have to excrete or get rid of them). So,
the GI tract dysfunction works its way into all the other body systems,
causing problems and symptoms in areas which seem very remote from the
GI tract itself.
Nerve impulse conduction depends largely upon the state of the membranes,
and is controlled by the amount of essential fatty acids and phospholipids
which are present at the synaptic junction (where two nerves meet).
If the GI tract cannot absorb the essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6),
or if for some reason the correct fatty acids are not eaten, then the
body is unable to manufacture cell membranes of the correct structure
Essential fatty acids come from vegetable oils (safflower, sunflower, soy,
corn) and from flax seed or fish oils. Most of us eat vegetable oils every
day, without realizing that if those oils are heated (as in fried foods),
their structure changes, and they are no longer flexible. The body still
uses the fatty acids, but because of the lack of flexibility in the oils,
the membranes which are manufactured are also no longer flexible. All
the cells still have membranes, but they are stiff, and do not easily
allow passage of nutrients and wastes.
The membrane of every cell in the body is composed of two layers of lipids,
3.5 microns (nanometers) thick. It would take about 10,000 membranes layered
upon each other to make up the thickness of a piece of paper. The membranes
control how nutrients get into the cells, and how wastes are expelled.
If the membranes function poorly, then the body is unable to either nourish
or detoxify itself properly. All cellular processes slow down, including
the function of the brain and the nervous system.
The function of the membrane depends largely on how the lipids are aligned.
Lipids in the cell walls are comprised of both structural lipids (oleic,
stearic, palmitic acids and cholesterol) and of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty
acids, which are called Essential Fatty Acids because they cannot be manufactured
by the body, they must be ingested (eaten). Symptoms of fatty acid deficiency
include skin rash, dry hair, dandruff, brittle nails, excessive thirst,
poor mental processing, and fatty liver.
Various proteins and glycoproteins are also part of the cell membrane,
forming the receptors to which molecules attach, and cellular gates through
which ions and other molecules pass. All the organelles within the cell
are encased in a membrane of approximately the same thickness and composition
as the cell wall. Vitamins and minerals are also important in the construction
of the cell membranes. For instance, biotin deficiency is associated with
accumulations of odd-chain fatty acids, useful only as fuel, not good
for membrane function.
The brain is about 60% lipid. Nerve cell processes (dendrites and synapses)
are up to 80% lipid. It is clear that lipids are extremely important in
the regulation of body functions, and particularly in the proper functioning
of the brain. When the lipid balance of the body is corrected, brain function
is improved markedly.
If the cell membrane becomes stiff, because it is made up of the wrong
kinds of fatty acids, then the fluidity is lost, cellular metabolism is
no longer as efficient, detoxification slows or stops, and the cells themselves
become stiff. The red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues,
may become too stiff to get through the tiny capillaries, resulting in
tissue starvation (hypoxia). If this happens over a large enough area,
for instance in the legs, it is called “claudication” –
the person is unable to walk without severe pain, because the muscles
cannot get enough oxygen to function correctly. If it happens in the brain
of older people, it is called “dementia”. In young children,
it is often called “ADD” or “ADHD”, and sometimes
“developmental delay”. In the intestinal tract, it is called
“irritable bowel” or “leaky gut”.
Brain dysfunction, fatigue, and ineffective neural processing can occur because of any one of several reasons. In addition to incomplete
development of neural pathways, there can also be metabolic insufficiencies,
or traumatic injury. The major issue with all these conditions (aside
from the obvious structural issue) is one of nourishment to the brain.
If, for any reason, the brain does not have sufficient fuel for cellular
processing, it cannot function at top capacity, nor can it function for
long periods of time.
Nutritional fuel may be lacking because of a metabolic abnormality. It
may be lacking because of a congenital abnormality of sugar metabolism.
There may be a lack of vitamin or cofactor necessary for energy production,
either because of insufficient intake or because of poor absorption through
The cells may be unresponsive to insulin, for whatever reason. Insulin
is required in order for glucose to get across the cell membrane. If the
body becomes resistant to insulin, as happens with metabolic syndrome,
Syndrome X, then it cannot utilize the glucose which it ingests. High
cortisol causes insulin resistance; low cortisol causes lack of energy.
Neurotransmitters may be out of balance, or simply lacking, because of
dietary or genetic issues (incomplete absorption of nutrients, lack of
proper receptor sites). Serotonin is the body’s master neurotransmitter.
When serotonin is low, there is nothing to counteract the effect of the
neurotransmitters secreted under stress – the catecholamines –
and the result is a person who is depressed and anxious or irritable at
the same time.
Serotonin is manufactured from an essential amino acid called tryptophan.
Tryptophan must be eaten; our bodies cannot manufacture it from any other
nutrients. It is transported across the blood brain barrier, and turned
into serotonin through a two-step process, dependent on specific enzymes
and vitamins (B3 and B6). Unfortunately, tryptophan competes with five
other amino acids, all of which are in greater supply in the normal diet,
for transportation across the blood brain barrier, so eating more protein
does not necessarily equate to getting more serotonin in the brain. Under
conditions of high stress, elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol
will cause an increase in break-down of serotonin in the liver –
being mellow is not what the body needs, if under severe stress, so the
mechanism makes sense in the short run. However, in the long run, if the
stressful conditions continue, cortisol remains high, serotonin levels
fall to very low levels, and clinical depression is the result.
In Chinese medicine, the Liver is the organ in charge not only of detoxification
(on both physical and emotional levels), but also of creativity and movement.
If someone is stuck in a place where they do not wish to be, the Liver
is affected, because “stuckness” creates friction, which creates
heat, which injures the organs. Other manifestations of energy stuck in
this organ may include irritability, depression, hepatitis, gall stones,
abdominal pain, inability to stay focused, hyperactivity. These factors
operate on all levels, not just the physical level. Acupuncture treats
the system at the interface between the physical and the energetic (or
electrical) levels, and so can have a major effect. It is important to
realize, however, that it takes a good deal more input to affect the physical
level, and so we often use other more physical modalities as well –
herbal preparations, vitamins and other supplements – to strengthen
the physical organism, so that the acupuncture may work more quickly and
Brain pathways may simply never have developed, or may have developed incompletely,
because of the influences of childhood ear infections, leading to auditory
processing disorders, poor vestibular function, poor rhythm and balance,
and diminished capacity for cognitive and planning tasks (executive function).
The detoxification system is made up of the liver and gall bladder. Liver
manufactures bile, which is stored in the gall bladder for use in digesting
fats. The liver also is a major player in detoxification of chemicals
which enter our bodies. Examples are heavy metals – mercury, cadmium,
antimony, arsenic, etc – pesticides (which we spray on our lawns
and in our houses) – pharmaceutical medications (aspirin, Tylenol,
antibiotics, high blood pressure medicines, etc) – and chemical
substances (alcohol, polysorbate 80, all the chemicals which are put into
processed foods). Poisoning with some of these heavy metals can cause
acne-like symptoms, as a manifestation of toxicity.
The liver detoxifies in three stages. First, the substance is made water-soluble,
through chemical reactions. Sometimes the resulting compound is even more
toxic than the parent compound. Second , the substance is combined with
other molecules in the body, to form a complex which can be safely circulated
and excreted in the stool or the urine. Glutathione is a major player
in this step. Third, the chemical is excreted from the body, either by
mixing with bile and going into the intestinal tract, or by going into
the bloodstream, being filtered by the kidneys, and excreted in the urine.
All three phases must work correctly, in order for toxic compounds to be
excreted from the body. Phase II molecules are easily depleted by chronic
stress, exposure to toxic substances, or any chronic illness. Often we
see a genetic deficiency of certain of the enzymes used in the detoxification
pathways – mostly those involved with methylation and sulfation
– such that large amounts of specific vitamins and cofactors may
be required, so that the weak or deficient enzymes can function at their
maximum capacity. Not everyone has a genetic issue, but for those who
do have this problem, sometimes the large doses of vitamins etc can make
the different between function and non-function.
Oxidative stress is caused by accumulation of toxic products of metabolism
(reactive oxygen species) which are not cleared by the body because of
insufficient supply of reducing agents like glutathione, ascorbic acid,
Vitamin E, lipoic acid or cysteine, or because the required enzymes are
blocked by toxins. Symptoms of oxidative stress may include destruction
of cell membranes (membrane lipids), dysfunction in many different organs,
extreme fatigue and destruction of nerve cells (as in Parkinson’s
Disease). Oxidative stress particularly affects the mitochondria, those
organelles within the cell which are responsible for energy production.
Several different nutrients are required to relieve oxidative stress.
These include specific cofactors and antioxidants required for proper
function of the energy-producing cycle within the cell.
The adrenal glands are two small glands which sit on top of the kidneys.
The adrenals are responsible for secreting epinephrine (the “flight
or fight” hormone) to help the body deal with acute stress, and
cortisol, to help the body deal with more prolonged stress. Epinephrine
is what is secreted when we see a needle approaching our arm to draw blood.
Cortisol is secreted within a few hours of being hospitalized with lots
of needles in our arms. In the acute case, epinephrine raises our blood
pressure, stops the functioning of the GI tract, empties our bladder and
bowels, and puts us into a state of high alert. Cortisol’s effects
are not as dramatic, but they are more lasting, and enable us to sustain
high levels of concentration over a period of a few hours to days. With
chronic stress, however, resulting in high levels of cortisol over a period
of weeks or months, many metabolic changes can take place. The blood pressure
goes up, triglycerides and cholesterol increase, blood sugar goes up,
insulin resistance goes up. The intestinal (GI) tract becomes symptomatic
with things like irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, peptic ulcer disease,
heartburn, bloating, diarrhea. The bones eventually begin to lose their
calcium, and osteoporosis develops. Eventually the adrenals fatigue, and
can no longer maintain the high levels of cortisol. Then the body attempts
to shunt its normal hormone production into cortisol, and levels of sex
hormones decrease. The end result is fatigue, loss of sex drive, and brain fog.
And so the spiral goes, circling the drain… Or rises out of illness
into health… It all depends on our interventions, and your ability
to heal and to grow. We are here, both for investigation and for support,
to be your companion and guide on your journey toward health.