d

Find the silence
   which contains thought.
       --Hakuin       

    
Detoxing

Am I really “toxic”?  Truth vs. Fiction

  • Truth:  We live in a time where our environment is filled with pollutants, our food is filled with chemicals and preservatives, and our lifestyles are overly taxing on our bodies making it difficult for our digestive system and our Liver and Kidneys to effectively do their jobs of cleansing us of waste.
    • Air Pollution: Our immune system is incredibly efficient when it works properly. Under ordinary conditions, it fights off far more than we can imagine. But when it is faced with a constant assault like air pollution, it can weaken and then you might begin to experience allergies-- a sign of an over-reactive immune system constantly on the defense.  Or you may experience frequent colds and flus- a sign of an under-reactive or compromised immune system.
    • Mold Exposure:  I have numerous patients of mine who have been exposed to mold either in their house through water damage, in the office through unclean air conditioning systems, or through a plane flight.  Fungal infections can wreak havoc on our immune systems.
    • Food, Water and Soil Pollution:  Though we are fortunate to be living in a country where toxicity from food is relatively low, the cumulative effects from a lifetime of eating non-organic food can contribute to a build-up of toxicity in your digestive system, especially if your tend toward constipation.  Here, you may experience various forms of indigestion, low absorption, changes in bowel movements, or even malnutrition.  The first step is to identify the foods that are most likely causing you problems and eliminate them from your diet.  A good place to start is with my Basic Food Guidelines.
    • Heavy Metals:  The heavy metals we should be at all concerned about are Mercury, Lead, Copper and Aluminum, which is not actually considered a heavy metal.  The signs and symptoms of metal toxicity cover practically every system in the body, that to make this diagnosis is more a matter of a process of elimination.  When you come in to see me and I prescribe herbs for you, I can test for heavy metal toxicity.  More often than not, this comes from dental amalgams that have eroded and have begun to leach into your system causing all kinds of damage.  And at times this can also come from excessive intake of large fish like tuna.
    • Over-Medication/Over-Supplementation:  One of the roles of our Liver and Kidneys is to process medication and supplements.  When they get stressed through overwork, they can be prone to dysfunction, which can lead to a slowed excretion time from our bodies and hence a build-up of toxicity.  The first step here is to cut back on your supplements or talk with your doctor about possible drug-drug interaction that may be causing you your discomfort.
    • Parasites:  These are generally picked up in unclean foods we may eat.  The diagnosis of which can be difficult and is usually made by ruling out other types of GI problems like infections.  Common symptoms include:  excessive appetite, abdominal pain, vomiting, loose stools, and itchy anus at night.  Diagnosis is made using a stool sample with your Internist.  I am also able to detect parasites when I prescribe herbs.
    • Stress:  The #1 most common diagnosis in Chinese Medicine for patients is Liver Qi Stagnation.  The Liver is the traffic cop of the body for the smooth flow of Qi, or energy.  When it is happy and relaxed, traffic flows smoothly in all directions; but when it is having a bad day or is stressed, it gets erratic with its signals leading to accidents and traffic.  Thanks to our current on-the-go, you-can-rest-when-you’re-dead lifestyle, this can be an all-too-frequent occurrence creating a “jammed up” Liver which in turn can no longer cleanse the blood of toxins.  Here, the key is stress management.
  • Fiction:  Today, many patients are interested in Detoxing.  It seems to be the latest fad diagnosis.  While it is good to have choices in your health care and to experiment with foods and supplements, doing so, unsupervised by a qualified practitioner, can be hazardous.  There are two main risks:
    • You could be mistaking your signs and symptoms, like fatigue which can be due to many causes, for “toxicity.”  And if you were to then do a detox program, you might do yourself more harm than good.
    • You could be self-prescribing or being given too many supplements that are reacting in your body in ways that can be misinterpreted as today’s fad diagnosis of “toxicity.”  The first step would be to cut down, if not stop all-together, your supplements to see if your “toxicity” resolves itself.  Why add yet another supplement to an already clogged system?

So How Do I Make Sense of all this?

  • Knowledge is power:  The more you know, the better you will be at taking care of your own health.  Become your own health detective.  Part of the problem with following fad diagnoses stems from not clearly understanding what signs and symptoms you are actually experiencing.  Start a journal of what you are experiencing, when you are experiencing it, and what foods or things you may have done that brought the symptom on.  Then you can approach a solution logically by eliminating from your diet anything that might be the offending agent.
  • If you are then still at a loss, find a physician or health care practitioner who practices medicine in a way that speaks to you.  Be sure that you are comfortable communicating with them and that they are willing to be your strongest advocate in your pursuits of optimal health.
  • Signs of toxicity includeheadaches and migraines, skin conditions, insomnia, joint pain, frequent colds and the flu, indigestion, allergies, and the list goes on.

My Approach to “Toxicity” through Chinese Medicine

  • Less is more:  After an extensive history and intake, the course of treatment I always start with is one that is logical, cautious and simple.  I would rather work with you and your current lifestyle to make small modifications than to ask for wholesale changes.  I also highly prioritize teaching you to make your own connections between your habits, patterns and foods that may contribute to your present state of imbalanced health.  But when intervention and treatment are necessary to “detox”, then the following are the customary treatment principles:
  • Regulate the Intestines:  Constipation is the main concern here.  Under ordinary circumstances, your gastro-intestinal tract is very efficient at absorbing what your body needs and excreting what it doesn’t.  But if you are not regularly moving your bowels everyday, ideally 20-30 minutes after each meal or at least once per day, then the longer the fecal matter stays in your intestines, the more toxicity can be absorbed back into your blood stream.  The causes of constipation range from excess heat in your system drying out your stool, to Qi deficiency where your system is too weak to properly propel the stool through and out your GI tract.  Proper diagnosis is paramount as self-prescribing an over-the-counter laxative may be of short-term benefit but can be a long-term detriment.
  • Soothe the Liver:  As mentioned above, Liver Qi Stagnation is an extraordinarily common pattern of disharmony in our culture.  When coupled with lifestyle changes and greater coping skills, Acupuncture and Chinese Medicinal herbs are profoundly effective in treating the results of stress in the body.
    Support the Kidneys, Liver, and Lungs to break down and excrete toxins that have been causing your challenges to your health.
  • When appropriate, I will suggest going through my 28-Day Cleanse Program where you will make food changes, take some essential nutrients, and feed yourself properly to comfortably achieve more optimal health.
  • The most important point to understand is that every individual is different, what works for one person on a given day may not work for the next.  Proper treatment requires good detective work to determine the exact cause of your systemic imbalance.  Under the proper care and guidance, this can be done accurately and with lasting results.

 

 

© Jordan Hoffman, L.Ac., Dipl. OM, 2007. All Rights Reserved.

 

 
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This site and any articles on this site are not medical advice and are not intended as medical advice and are intended to provide only general, non-specific information related to Chinese Medicine and acupuncture and are not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed. You should consult a licensed health practitioner before using any of the information on this site and any articles.