Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How to Avoid a "Healing Crisis": The Detox Cycles

Our bodies are very smart, working hard doing whatever it takes to function as smoothly as possible. With regard to the regular onslaught of pollutants in our environment, health robbing toxins and heavy metals eventually accumulate deep within our tissues and organs. We need them "out of the way" of daily metabolic cycles, and not circulating heavily in our blood stream. In a situation of tragic irony, our bodies can even create tumors in this way, as a "buffer" to survive the buildup of toxins. But what happens when we try to release the toxins all at once, with methods such as fasting, herbal formulas, and weight loss?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is what’s called the Detox Cycle, with two distinct phases, however, it is frequently overlooked. It depicts a more complex physical and energetic flow than often realized, and if we are not well prepared, there can be significant short and long-term side effects to detoxing. One of our major goals therefore, is to design an effective cleanse program without having to experience a "healing crisis."

What is a Healing Crisis? 

A "healing crisis" is caused by the dumping of toxins from the organs and tissues into the circulatory system, or a shift in the areas where the toxins are stored. While "healing crisis" is a valuable term, it is often used as an excuse for an aggravation that could have been prevented. To this end, there are different tools which can support a healthy, crises-free cleanse: sophisticated herbal formulas, trigger point injections, acupuncture, infrared saunas, and nutritional IVs, all of which now provide opportunities for cancer and chronically ill patients to detox with little or no side effects.

These therapies can work wonders by supporting the body’s natural detox cycles and rhythms, but unfortunately, they aren’t always available, or affordable. The good news is, there are some simple, natural supplements which I will discuss in a moment, that are effective in gently cleansing the body without side effects, in preparation for a deeper, more thorough phase of detoxification. What I want to discuss first however, is the process of loosening toxins from the organs and tissues where they are stored. This is known as drainage, and it is phase one of the detox cycles. But where are the toxins going after being drained from wherever they are stored?

Phase One Detox: The Circulation “Stations” 

When we look at what is happening in phase one detox, toxins are being released into the circulatory system from different tissues and organs, with the liver leading the process. Though more emphasized in the spring, the liver as a powerhouse of metabolic functions works hard to filter and recycle the blood, so it has enormous capacity to hold toxins, and release them. From the liver, blood flows to the right atrium of the heart (also where the lymph system empties), and with the contraction of the heart, into the lungs. Therefore, the first “station” in the detox cycle where toxins get stuck, is the lungs. Often times, the initial side effects presenting themselves in a detox program are excess phlegm, respiratory congestion and symptoms of common colds and cough.

When the lungs do their job and eliminate, the blood then goes to the left heart, which is station two in the detox cycle. In TCM, the heart and mind are closely connected, a relationship that correlates to emotional release, insight, dreams, insomnia – all of these are part of the heart stage.

After the heart, the blood circulates through the body. The third station is the digestive system, and if our digestive tract does not remove the toxins efficiently, they reabsorb back into the bloodstream. Symptoms in this stage of detox are constipation, bloating, and flatulence, among others. The body then tries for the joints, the fourth station of the detox cycle, and a common area where toxins get stored. As blood continues to circulate in the body, it reaches the kidneys, our filtration system, which are able to eliminate some of the burden through the urine. But toxins that are not excreted here, travel right back to the tissues and the liver.
What we have just described is one cycle of blood circulation. On one level, this can be a fast process, but on a larger level, the detox cycle can be quite slow. We can get stuck at each stage along the way, sometimes for months. Or we can get stuck for a long time at one stage, the lungs, for example, and experience chronic respiratory symptoms. Insomnia, which relates to the heart-mind connection, is another common issue with inappropriate detox, as toxins and blockages (such as phlegm and inflammation) linger in the heart channel. In fact, when assigning detox to a patient with chronic health issues, it is valuable to see which symptoms may start after a detox program. It will help us to understand where the issues are coming from, and following this cycle, where are they progressing to.

Cleansing the blood: Prepare for a deeper Phase Two Detox

In the detox cycle, the distinctions between drainage (phase 1) and excretion (phase 2) are significant when planning a cleanse. Organs and tissues first drain, or release toxins into the circulatory system, which are eventually excreted by our sweat, breath, urine and bowel movements, as well as with emotional/psychological, and spiritual release. This component of emotional release is especially significant in the Fall season. If the burden of toxins released into our circulation is manageable, and our excretion channels are supported to function efficiently, we can successfully cleanse with little or no side effects.

One metaphor is that of the kitchen drawers. If we open one kitchen drawer and throw everything on the floor, we can clean it up easily. If we open all the drawers and throw everything onto the floor at once, we have a huge mess.

With any cleanse, it is important to move gently and gradually. So one of the most essential first steps is to have a system in place to begin cleansing the blood of circulating toxins, and continue this process throughout both detox phases. It is important to cleanse the blood without causing the organs to release too many toxins all at once, and this is the unique value of the modified citrus pectin/modified alginate complex supplement. It gently and systemically purifies the blood, and through a concentration gradient it also cleanses the tissues and the organs. The mcp/alginate complex functions by binding to toxins and heavy metals and allowing them to be excreted, thus preventing re-absorption. Another important nutritional adjunct is a high quality medicinal mushroom formula. Medicinal mushrooms can act like sponges, traveling to hard to reach areas of the body to mop up toxins and pathogens.

A phase two detox supplement can be introduced after the toxins in blood and tissues have been reduced. This phase two detox supplement helps to cleanse the blood, enhance the drainage and excretion phases by supporting detoxification within the organ systems, and protect organs and tissues from the stress of an increased burden of toxins and heavy metals. Additionally, the phase two detox formula will aid circulation and overall energy production, which is essential, since we cannot detoxify if we are depleted of vital energy.
Gently cleansing the blood and tissues first will prevent the discomfort many people experience when trying to cleanse, or lose a lot of weight, too quickly. Instead of a "healing crisis," we can create "healing spaces" -- by clearing out toxins in the blood and tissues initially, we make room for the body’s natural process of cleansing and regeneration to occur.

How many layers -- of toxins, obstructions, and afflictive emotions -- are you ready to peel away?

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