Good morning everyone! It is rainy and cloudy here today… weather that I absolutely love! To bad I have to experience it at work instead of on my couch at home =) Today we are going to jump back into Clean. As always credit goes to Dr. Alejandro Junger, author of Clean.
GLOBAL TOXICITY: ANOTHER INCONVENIENT TRUTH
Doctors used to pride themselves on diagnosing a problem by observation and deduction: they’d take a good patient history, listen, and observe. Modern doctors, pressed for time and fearful of lawsuits, heavily rely on blood tests, X-rays, sonograms, endoscopy, and many other laboratory evaluations.
Eastern schools of medicine don’t see patients as isolated from their environment – including family, village, and spiritual path. Changes in environment or the predominant quality of one’s thoughts are considered equally important as changes in body temperature. All aspects of a patient’s life are believed to affect each other significantly and play a role in the maintenance of well-being.
Physical, mental, emotional, social, and environmental symptoms are all taken into consideration when making a diagnosis. Finding the common thread that ties them together often reveals the underlying imbalance at the origin of disease.
Back in the United States, chronic diseases were on the rise, often with such difficult and intimidating names that patients and doctors forgot to ask how and why. The name “became” the disease. The meaning of the word “diagnosis” changed. It became the title of a list of symptoms and test results that matched most of the ones the patient presented with. It had become a code. A diagnosis could be entered into a computer and a list of medications that were covered by insurance companies for that specific code would appear on the screen. What the doctor thought did not matter anymore.
It doesn’t make sense. On one hand, science and technology were advancing in giant leaps. We had broken the genetic code, invented nanotechnology, and created robots that perform surgery. There was a false sense of security and hope that, sooner or later, medicine would discover the cure for everything. Yet, when I looked around, I saw that everybody was sick. Everyone was on medications. Judging by the results, our medical system was not working. The more technologically advanced we became, the sicker we got. We had not improved health on the planet or our planet’s health. On the contrary, things were getting worse, sooner and faster.
I noticed a quieter, but even bigger problem, one that existed off the radar, that was not reported by the media, and had no clinical studies and research: a stream of people who did not have major health problems, yet were physically, mentally, and emotionally “off.” Bloated, tired, itchy, moody, sneezy, constipated, foggy, swollen – it seemed as if most patients had some type of disorder about to surface.
Curiously, the blood and other tests routinely ordered as a physical examination were absolutely normal. Without an explanation and reassured that nothing was really wrong by the normal test results, these people accepted their complaints as part of ordinary modern life, often justified as the wear and tear on our body parts, the expected result of aging. But left unattended, these conditions were the beginning of a more serious disorder. Looking at the patients’ bigger picture, one would invariably find parallel social, financial, or emotional distress.
As above, so below. This universal rule guides the holistic thinking that is the backbone of most Eastern traditions of healing. To fully understand a cell, one has to understand the organism of which that cell is a part and how it relates to the other cells in it. In the school of meditation in India, I learned to look at planet Earth as a living organism. According to this analogy, the rivers are its arteries, the forests its lungs, the mountain chains its ribs, and human beings, circulating by the billions, are one of the many cells that inhabit these organism. Humans were getting sick, but what about the planet, the organism they are part of? That was also in the news, just not in the health section. In those days, it was starting to make headlines: global warming, “an inconvenient truth.” The Earth had a fever.
A fever is a symptom that reveals there is something wrong somewhere. It is a nonspecific sign. Many different diseases can cause a fever as one of their symptoms. It is important to find out what exactly is causing it, so we can treat the real cause, not just bring the temperature down.
In modern Western cultures, because it’s so common, cancer is on the “suspect” list when a fever persists. It is in everyone’s mind even when getting a routine checkup.
Cancer cells are also cells that forgot how to do their chemistry. But cancer cells forgot how to do their math as well, and their geography, and their grammar, and even how to behave within a community. When you look at cancer cells under a microscope, you see cells that kill each other and every other cell in the neighborhood; they grow and reproduce unusually fast, disregarding the natural laws of space, population density, and food availability. They also have a tendency to travel to distant places and conquer new territories. When that happens, it’s called metastasis, and it means the cancer has spread. Cancer cells eat different foods than healthy cells. They waste products they eliminate into circulatory system are often toxic chemicals that affect the whole organism that hosts them.
The planet has a fever. Random chemical analysis and laboratory tests of the planets’ fluids and gases show something alarming. There are toxic chemicals everywhere. These chemicals are affecting everything and every other cell in this organism. The planet is in critical condition. If nothing changes, the prognosis is fatal in the short term.
One type of cell on the planet, the human cell, is behaving erratically, killing its own kind and every other type of cell. This cell has eating habits that are very different from those of all other cells. The human cell manufacturers toxic chemicals that are mixed with food and used for many other functions as well as released into the circulation, through which they kill other cells even in distant places.
My question was finally answered at the cellular level. My cells had never forgotten how to do their chemistry. They were actually desperately trying to do it. But the toxic chemicals I was consuming in my food and exposed to living in a large urban center such as New York has changed the inner climate. Many of these toxins were obstacles to normal cell functioning, causing irritation and inflammation. Toxins had damaged cells and tissues, and many systems had started to malfunction. My body’s natural ability to heal itself was further weakened because the chemicals needed for cells to do their chemistry, the nutrients from foods, were no longer present in sufficient amounts.
Toxicity: The Making of a Diagnosis
Toxicity continues to be a condition that modern medicine barely registers. When the word is used in hospital settings, it describes cases of acute poisoning or getting off alcohol or drugs. And when asked about detox from the Clean perspective, many physicians discard it as quackery. Doctors who are skeptical about the value of detox programs such as Clean will argue that there is nothing in “the literature” to support it. What they mean is that when you search the medical database, you find no scientific studies or published research on such detox programs.
Databases only contain what the editors decide to include, making them biased toward Western medical studies with Western protocols. This perpetuates and strengthens the status quo, which too often discards valuable approaches like chelation as anecdotal or quackery.
It is not good for business to prove that vegetables and fruits can be the most powerful medicine. But the new field of functional medicine is rapidly filling this void by validating a new database of its own design, taking into consideration the multi-dimensional matrix of influences that play a role in health. Functional medicine is the perfect blend of Eastern thinking and Western technology, and the results are great.
Toxicity is not a disease or one specific symptom. It is a condition that exists right now, one we are responsible for and one that is threatening the planet and all life. I use the word toxicity to describe the wider, low-grade state that, to one degree or another, everyone who breathes today’s air, eats today’s food, and lives in today’s cities, suburbs, or rural areas is experiencing inside.
Toxicity, as is presented to you in Clean, is a problem that reveals an evolutionary glitch. Evolution is what happens as organisms adapt and overcome obstacles and threats. The human body has developed a very effective and incredibly sophisticated system of organs and functions that complement each other in the effort to achieve one sole purpose – to detoxify. Somehow our physical body has evolved just right. But that evolutionary state must be helped by our thinking and behavior.
The evolutionary glitch stems from the fact that, despite an exponential increase in the exposure to and damage by toxins in modern life, our modern “lifestyle” has slowed down the single most important evolutionary tool that was so intelligently designed for our bodies.
Toxins that cannot be eliminated in a timely manner remain in circulation, causing irritation and damage. Cells and tissues trap these toxins and coat them with mucus in an attempt to buffer the irritation. This survival mechanism, like inflammation, is life-saving for a while, but can turn fatal when turned on continuously for a prolonged time.
In Eastern traditions, one of the first things practitioners check is the ability of the body to eliminate toxins. They look for signs like dullness in the skin, white coating on the tongue, or gray, yellow, or pink tones in the whites of the eyes. They want to know if you have regular bowel movements, urinate a lot or a little, and when and how much you sweat. Their traditions, thousands of years old, consider the ability to detoxify – to eliminate toxic waste and toxic thought and emotion – as the “root” source of your physical and mental health. The loss of this ability helps explain why you might have allergies, headaches, constipation, nightmares, fertility problems, and unidentifiable pain among a host of other ailments.
Long before we added the burden of human-made chemicals to our bodies, toxic buildup could occur from eating too much, especially too many heavy or hard to digest foods, and eating under stress. In Europe and America, there were early proponents of cleansing who taught that damage to the intestinal tract from overeating and ingesting refined foods was the main cause of disease affecting civilized, affluent society. They called the condition that resulted “autointoxication.” Some of them, like the famous turn-of-the-century naturopath Arnold Ehret, put his patients on a “mucus-less” diet to promote health and longevity, which was his form of the Elimination Diet, which you will experience as part of Clean.
What is a Toxin?
A toxin is something that interferes with normal physiology and negatively impacts bodily function. Toxins are of many different kinds, with totally different qualities, from an infinite number of different sources; just as varied are the complex mechanisms by which they cause irritation and damage.
Some toxins, known as endotoxins, are waste products from the normal activity of cells. Uric acid, ammonia, lactic acid, and homocysteine fall in this category. When these toxins build up, they cause diseases. Some are very specific; for example, when uric acid lingers, it causes gout. Exotoxins, are xenobiotics, are human0made toxins that we are exposed to intentionally or inadvertently. Thousands of chemicals are being invented every year. These chemicals, alone or in combination, may cause disruption of the normal cell function. Throughout the following chapters, Clean will continually point out the toxins you need to be aware of (including specific names), where they are, and how to measure them. It will also describe how these toxins affect your health and what you can do to prevent disease or repair the damage that has been already done.
Where are Toxins Located?
THE FOUR SKINS
Studies now show that every person living today carries measureable levels of several hundred synthetic chemicals in his or her body. These contaminants did not exist prior to the twentieth century and have no role in our body chemistry.
Exotoxins have names scary enough to make any smart person want to avoid them. The evidence is now undeniable that what we don’t know can hurt us. To understand the way we are exposed to toxins, it is useful to imagine four layers separating our inner chemistry from the rest of the universe, as if we had four skins.
The First Skin
The first skin is what separates our blood, tissues, and organs from the outside world; it is the outermost edge of our physical bodies, just one layer of thick cells. To the naked eye, it may seem like a barrier, deceptively leading to a sense of separation, even protection. But under the microscope, things become less clear, since the first skin is in constant motion, selecting from the environment what to reject and what to actively capture and absorb.
The first skin uses two types of cells to form our body surfaces, depending on the location.
- Epithelial Cells. We see epithelial cells (dry, tough) at a simple glance. They form what we commonly call skin. The major source of toxins entering through this skin are the cosmetics and toiletries we use. Your choice of products should be guided more by the ingredients list than the promised effect. Dyes, fragrances, foaming agents, heavy metals as stabilizers, tanners, inks, alcohols, and hundreds of other potential poisons are frequently included in cosmetic formulas. Nail products, hair products, deodorants – all the ordinary products in your bathroom cabinet and makeup kit as well as the ones in your neighborhood beauty salon and nail spa have chemical compounds that don’t exist in nature. They can cause irritation, allergies, and sensitivities, just like food. Endocrine-system disruptions are problems linked to a group of chemicals found in skin and hair products called parabens.
- Mucosal Cells. Mucosal cells (wet, soft) form the walls of the first skin in areas that are hidden from sight without using instruments. Many of my patients think of these areas as inside their bodies, but technically this type of first skin separates in and out as much as the epidermis.
Of all the “first skins,” the one coating the inside of the digestive tract is the largest and busiest; it is the most important site of exposure to the toxins of modern life. The chemicals of modern life enter our circulatory system starting with our mouths. The small intestine is about twenty feet long and an inch and a half in diameter. The large intestine is wider, but shorter (about five feet). When food enters the digestive tube, it is broken down in small pieces and absorbed into our circulatory system by the cells that form the intestinal wall.
In order to increase the surface area for the purpose of maximizing absorption of nutrients, the walls have folds (villi), which in turn, have folds of their own (microvilli). If we opened and completely stretched out an average intestinal tube, its surface area would cover a tennis court.
Besides food, everything else that enters the tube is absorbed, such as prescription and over-the-counter medications. Prescription drugs have important uses, and there is a time and a place for them. I prefer to prescribe them as a “bridge” – something to help the patient transition while we work together on boosting the body’s own ability to heal.
The Second Skin
What I call the “second skin” is the layer that we put on top of our epidermis. It includes clothing and everything used to clean, process, color, and perfume it.
The Third Skin
The next skin, slightly farther out, is our living-space environment – our homes and workplaces. It is calculated that one-third of the planet’s pollution comes from the chemicals we use to manufacture the materials for building and the carbon gases generated in doing so. Included in that is everything we use for furnishing, decorating, cleaning, and maintaining our homes.
Just use your common sense. Anything with a smell that can trigger a headache is causing a disturbance in the cells and should be avoided. And a combination of these products used a the same time? They’re going to react together as you inhale them and cause even greater damage.
The Fourth Skin
The fourth skin is a gigantic layer that ends at the edges of our planetary atmosphere. It contains an innumerable number of different toxins, many of them by-products of agriculture, industry, and transportation. Emissions from cars, trucks, and planes pour out into the air. Here in the fourth skin we also find toxins in the form of electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs).