Why You STILL Have Low Back Pain

Low back pain has been, and continues to be, one of the enigmas of neuro-musculoskeletal medicine and rehabilitation.  Roughly 60% of the American population experiences low back pain on any given day.  Eight and a half out of ten adults will experience low back pain at some point in their lives.  If you are reading this, the odds are very good that you or someone you know has experienced low back pain at some point in time, and will likely experience it again in the future. 

Yet even with the advent of new and exciting diagnostic testing (MRI, CT, PET Scans, etc.) many people are not finding the relief they desire from traditional approaches to this modern day problem.  In addition, research demonstrates that those who are afflicted with low back problems will experience problems in the cervical spine (neck) within 3-5 years, and vice versa.  As well, an overwhelming majority of patients with low back pain receive a final diagnosis as having idiopathic pain.  What this means essentially is that no one really knows why you hurt.  Some statistics estimate that as much as 50-60% of patients with low back pain do not have a firm, accurate, anatomically defined reason for their pain.    

 

Perspective is a Good Thing

 

While there are many myths surrounding low back pain, a few of my favorites are:

 

Myth #1: Imaging Studies such as MRI accurately identify etiology (source) of pain.

Think of it this way: An MRI is a picture which tells you about the structural integrity of the spine (vertebral bodies, facet joints, discs, dural or nerve root impingement, etc.).  As an analogy, we can also take a picture of a car and see its color, make, model, etc., but the picture does not tell us whether or not the car actually “runs” properly. 

The fact is that imaging studies, such as MRI, offer a structural assessment only and may or may not accurately identify the source of pain.  Whatever the imaging study may be, it must be correlated with objective orthopedic physical assessment for somatic dysfunction to accurately identify the source of pain.

Myth #2: Back pain is genetic.

I personally have never read any convincing research that accurately demonstrates that back pain is purely genetic.  In fact, the science of epigenetics is currently demonstrating that there are very few things that are purely genetic in presentation.  

 Myth #3: If you have low back pain, you are just going to have to live with it.  

You do not have to live with low back pain.  There is no “magic pill” that will eliminate the cause of your low back pain.  Sure, anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxers, and pain killers can mask the pain, but the source of that pain is still alive and well. A multi-disciplinary approach is the best option for permanent pain relief.               

 

Heads up – Where You Hurt is NOT the Problem

There are some very real steps you can take (yes, they do require work) to get rid of your low back pain. The simple fact of the matter is that most low back pain sufferers are suffering needlessly due to the compartmentalized approach utilized in conventional orthopedics and rehabilitation.  If someone is experiencing low back pain, all anyone ever looks at is the low back – completely ignoring the influence of some key higher order reflexes on the lower quarter.  This is an all-too-common mistake.  As Karol Lewit has stated so eloquently, “He who treats the site of pain is lost.” 

 

In many cases of low back pain (80% plus of cases) the issue creating pain is mechanical in nature.  What that means is that something in the locomotor system, from foot to head, is creating altered movement, and the low back is the loser of that game.  The low back pain is not actually the problem itself.  Rather, the low back is the primary site of compensation for the problem.  Over time, the low back is no longer able to maintain its compensatory effort and this leads to pain.

 

Think Outside “The Box”

 

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Photo credit: http://www.myrlandmarketing.com/2013/10/law-firms-when-making-announcements-think-outside-the-box/

 

If you, or someone you know, have not been able to overcome low back pain despite the best of rehabilitation efforts, it is time to start looking where no one has looked before. 

Here are some of the issues that I assess with clients that have not been able to overcome low back pain:

Respiratory Mechanics

To quote Karel Lewit again, “If breathing is not normalized, no other movement pattern can be.”  The way you breathe – your respiratory mechanics – drastically influences the health of your spine.  Without the ability to ventilate, you have roughly 3-5 minutes to live.  As such, it stands to reason that the body will sacrifice just about any structure necessary in the cranium and below, including the low back, to accommodate breathing.    

If your breathing is not mechanically sound, it is likely that you will begin to lose lateral expansion in the rib cage.  As a result of that, the thoracic spine (middle back) is likely to lose mobility and become very stiff.  The areas above and below the thoracic spine, which happen to be the cervical spine (neck) and lumbar spine (low back) become “buffer zones” for the lack of movement in the thoracic spine.  What this frequently leads to is lower cervical spine (C3-C7) degeneration and disc bulges and the same thing is likely to occur in the lumbar spine. 

Mechanical low back pain, in my experience is frequently found coupled with dysfunctional respiratory mechanics.  One scenario for this occurs when many of the accessory respiratory musculature become facilitated (chest breathing).  The scalene group is one such muscle group likely taking the brunt of the load.  Due to their attachment to the first and second ribs respectively, scalene facilitation will lead to an increase in superior movement during respiration, particularly when the rib cage does not move as well laterally.  As an antagonistic response, the quadratus lumborum (QLO) will be facilitated and produce inferior movement of the rib cage via its insertion to the inferior border of the 12th rib.  This forces the QLO to perform function that it would not normally perform, and as a result will likely develop latent and/or active trigger points.  Since the QLO also attaches to the transverse processes of L1 through L4, eventually, the result will be low back pain and possible radicular pain into the glutes and legs.   

 Cranial Issues

 

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Photo Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gray145.png

 

Your cranium (skull) has tremendous influence over the low back.  In the cranium, the sphenoid and occiput (base of skull) are mechanically linked to the sacrum (tailbone) and coccyx.  If there is a lesion in the basisphenoid, the mechanics of the sacrum are going to be altered.  This mechanical alteration will “trickle” up and create aberrant mechanics in the lumbar spine.  Before long, the altered mechanics leads to irritation of joint structures in the low back accompanied by – you guessed it – low back pain. 

 

Temperomandibular Joint (TMJ) Dysfunction and Malocclusion

 

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Photo Credit: http://www.mcardledmd.com/do-i-have-tmj-.html

 

The subtle effects of TMJ dysfunction and malocclusion (a bite that is “off”) can easily lead to issues in the low back.  Ideal function of the TMJ and occlusion provides even pressure through the force vectors of the cranium and cranial bones as well as providing an optimal position for the length-tension of muscles and ligaments of the joint.  To put it simply, a jaw and teeth that line up and are mechanically sound help to keep things in the cranium and TMJ moving the way they should.  Any threat to function in the region will lead to compensation. 

There are 136 muscles in the head and neck region.  Structural imbalance or injury to any of them can lead to issues with the temporal bone (a major cranial bone) and the mandible.  According to Fonder and Guzay, any dysfunction of the mandible and its relationship with the cranium will lead to muscular spasm in the area of the upper cervical spine (C0/1, C1/2).  This leads to mechanical issues at the atlanto-occipital joint (the point where your head sits on your neck).  This will in turn affect the mechanics of the lower lumbar spine, particularly L4 and L5 (this occurs through something called the Lovett-Brother Relationship). 

As a result, any number of issues, from shoulder pain to low back pain can manifest.  “Treating” the low back will lead to poor results at best when the issue is stemming from a problem in the TMJ and/or cranium.  This is another example of low back pain being the “branch” of the real issue.  Here, correcting the issues at the TMJ/cranium will address the “root” of the low back pain and produce lasting pain relief.            

 

Vision Issues

Most people have not heard of something called an occulocephalagyric reflex.  Through this reflex, the muscles of the eye can influence the position and mechanics of the upper cervical spine (C0/1, C1/2).  This is important because the upper cervical spine has tremendous influence over the lower cervical spine and the lumbar spine as mentioned in the TMJ section above.  Imbalances in the intrinsic muscles of the eye can therefore contribute to your chronic low back pain. 

 Upper Cervical Spine Issues

 

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Photo credit: https://www.ptonthenet.com/articles/Scientific-Balance-Training—Part-4A-1783 

Upper cervical spine issues are very common.  The National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association (NUCCA) estimates that somewhere near 37% of newborns are born with atlas (C1) subluxations (basically means the atlas is not in its proper position and has various motion restrictions).  Again, through the Lovett-Brother Relationship, this can and frequently does lead to compensatory issues in the pelvis, sacrum, and lumbar spine.  It is possible that your low back pain is actually a neck issue! 

 

Pelvis and Sacrum Issues

Issues anywhere in the pelvis, sacrum (tailbone), and sacro-iliac joint are often contributing factors to low back pain.  By observing the clinical anatomy of the lumbar spine and sacrum, it is easy to see connect the dots and understand how the pelvis and sacrum influence the lumbar spine.  One such influence is via the ilio-lumbar ligament.  The ligament extends from the transverse process of L4 and L5 vertebral bodies and reaches the iliac crest.  There are taut bands of this ligament which form “hoods” over the L4 and L5 nerve roots.  These hoods are in fact capable of compressing those nerve roots.  This can lead to pain that radiates down the leg and mimics sciatic-type pain.  The main function of the ligament is to resist motion at the lumbosacral junction, especially in side-bending.  Asymmetrical position of the innominate bones can alter tension through the ligament and influence the mechanics of L4 and L5 and even spinal segments above. This can easily lead to low back pain.  There are countless other somatic dysfunctions of the pelvis and sacrum that can lead to low back pain.  Bottom line, if your pelvis and sacrum are not doing what they should, your back will suffer.   

 

Issues with Your Foot/Feet 

 

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Photo credit: http://www.healthcommunities.com/foot-anatomy/foot-anatomy-overview.shtml

 The foot is commonly completely ignored in cases of low back pain.  This is unfortunate as the foot and its 33 joints can contribute greatly to spinal issues in upright posture.  Tiny movements in the bones of the foot can heavily influence the posture of the sacrum and pelvis.  As mentioned above, the sacrum and pelvic compensations for these movements can lead to issues in the spine itself creating low back pain.  Pronation (involves eversion of the heel, abduction of the forefoot, and dorsiflexion of the subtalar and midtarsal joints) and supination (involves inversion of the heel, plantar flexion of the subtalar and midtarsal joints, and adduction in the forefoot) when occurring unilaterally, have the ability to influence the rotation of the pelvis, which in turn, influences the function and mechanics of the lumbar spine.  Bottom line, with about 80% of the population having foot issues, it is not at all far-fetched to say that your low back pain may actually be a pain in the foot! 

Inner Unit (Trunk) Dysfunction

The Inner Unit of the trunk consists of the diaphragm, transverses abdominus, external fibers of the internal oblique, the pelvic floor, and the lumbar portions of the longisimus and iliocostalis musculature.  All of these muscles operate on the same neurological reflex loop.  As such, dysfunction in one basically inhibits the system as a whole.  In the case of aberrant respiratory mechanics, loss of diaphragmatic excursion is often seen.  This disrupts Inner Unit function and leads to loss of segmental stabilization via disrupted mechanics within the intra-abdominal pressure, thoraco-lumbar fascia gain, and hydraulic amplifier mechanisms.  There are some rather simple assessment strategies for determining if someone’s Inner Unit is dysfunctional and contributing to low back pain. 

Viscero-Somatic Reflex

Consider as well that the origin of your low back pain may not be due to a muscle, ligament, bone, or any part of the neuro-musculoskeletal system.  Rather, it may in fact be an issue in an organ!  To make a really long story short, any organ from diaphragm to pelvic floor can shut off the Inner Unit of the trunk (see above).  This occurs through something called a viscera-somatic reflex.  Basically, an organ that is stressed will decrease muscle function to muscles that are on the same “nerve channel” as that organ.  So, for example, if someone has an issue with the small intestine (the “nerve channel” for the small intestine runs from the T5 to the T9 spinal segment), certain abdominal muscles will begin to behave in a dysfunctional manner.  This can lead to segmental instability in the lumbar spine and low back pain.

The $64 Question

How do you figure out where your back pain is coming from?  The answer is rather simple – Have a comprehensive orthopedic physical assessment performed that takes into account all of the potential factors listed above.  There are many professionals within musculoskeletal and manual medicine that can help you with such an assessment.  A Canadian or European trained Osteopath is a great place to start.  As well, some Chiropractors, Physical Therapists, Massage/Neuromuscular Therapists, and high level C.H.E.K. Practitioners may also have experience in assessing these issues. 

I have worked with clients with chronic back pain since 1999.  My experience has taught me that comprehensive assessment followed by a multidisciplinary approach to correcting the threats to optimal movement is invaluable.  Accurate assessment cannot be overestimated.  Assess, correct, and progress the movement program based on follow-up assessment of the neuro-musculoskeletal system. 

If you have questions or comments about the contents of this post, please feel free to send them to me directly or leave them in the comments section below this post.

 Thank you for reading!

 Suggested Reading and Study:

  1. Posture and Craniofacial Pain by Paul Chek (a chapter in Chiropractic Approach to Head Pain, edited by Darryl D. Curl
  2. Movement, Stability, and Low Back Pain by Vleeming, Mooney, et al
  3. WTF: What the Foot? by Gary Ward
  4. Cranial Osteopathy: Principles and Practice by Torsten Liem
  5. Orthopedic Physical Assessment by David J. Magee
  6. C.H.E.K. Level 3 Module /Internship with C.H.E.K. Institute Faculty
  7. American version of Neuromuscular Therapy for Cranio-Cervical Mandibular disorders (CCMD)

Detoxification: Separating Fact from Fiction

I have said for a long time now that detoxification, as currently used in the health industry, is nothing more than a buzzword.  Anyone and everyone trying to make a dollar is peddling some “detox” product or program of some kind.  I probably receive the second most e-mails each week with questions surrounding detoxification issues and programs.  The e-mails usually say something like, “Why don’t you have a detoxification program?” or “You should offer some kind of detox boot camp for new clients.”  The word “detox” seems to be synonymous with colon cleanses, liver and gall bladder cleanses, kidney cleanses, and even a seemingly weird obsession with pushing coffee up one’s rectum.  Personally, I am not a fan of any of it…here is why:

First, some background is necessaryTaber’s Medical Dictionary defines detoxification as, “ the reduction and chemical alteration of the toxic properties of a poisonous substance, which when taken into the body by ingestion, inhalation, injection, or absorption, cause damage to structure and interferes or disturbs normal physiological function.”  The fact is that our bodies are in the constant presence of potentially harmful substances and agents.  I remember seeing an episode of the show The Doctors some years back where one of the physicians on the show made a moronic statement something to the effect of (paraphrasing of course) – Everyone is talking about all these toxins…I don’t see them anywhere…show me the toxins…show me where they are.  Such statements only confirm that you do not have to have a clue what you are talking about to be on a televised program, and in fact, the more nonsensical you can be – the greater the likelihood they will plaster your statements all over the ridiculous mind-controlling device we call a television. 

To that physician, I offer this – environmental toxins are frickin’ everywhere!  Let’s consider a few sources of toxic exposure: 

In Our Food: We have added over 3,000 (some estimate 10,000) man-made chemicals to our food supply in the last 100 years.  Phthalate esters from the plastics that cover meats, fruits, and vegetables are a huge issue.  Chronic exposure to something called di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) can lead to decreased kidney function and certain forms of liver cancer. 

Dioxins, which are created in part in the manufacture of plastics, pesticides and other chemicals, contribute largely to the overall toxic load.  Dioxins also are released from industrial smokestacks, taken up by clouds, rain out into soil, and are taken up by plants, which we ingest.  Styrene, antibiotics, hormones, preservatives, stabilizers, fillers, colorings, dyes, and additives also contribute to the toxic load of our food today.     

Pharmaceutical agents: All prescription and over-the-counter medications have toxic effects on the body.  Acetaminophen, as an example, exerts its toxic effects by lowering hepatic (liver) glutathione and sulfate reserves effecting Phase I and II detoxification capacity.    

Toxic Metals: Cadmium, aluminum, mercury, antimony, lead, arsenic and other metals are littered throughout our environment and food supply.  These metals can significantly disrupt normal physiological function of the nervous and endocrine systems. 

The Air We Breathe: Industrial chemicals and transportation exhausts are a couple of outdoor pollutants that we are exposed to; while organic hydrocarbons (formaldehyde and toluene) a part of a group of hundreds of indoor air pollutants.

In Our Home: Consider for a moment that the average carpet outgases over a dozen chemicals, including benzene, toluene, xylene, formaldehyde, butadiene, styrene, methacrylates, and many more.  Simple wool blankets can emit trichloroethylene (TCE) and moth-repelling pesticides.  Air fresheners, candles, and nearly all common household cleaning products add to the total toxic load on the body.

In Our Water: Fluoride, chlorine, and chloramines are commonly found in drinking water.  Often times many bottled waters are not much better.  Hell, about 20 years ago USA Today reported that the average water was known to contain over 500 chemicals!

Internal Toxins (toxins in the body, particularly the gut): There are substances, namely LPS (lipo-polysaccharide, or endotoxin) produced by pathogenic bacteria through the putrification of undigested foods.  LPS can easily overload the detoxification capacity of the liver by down-regulating the cytochrome P450 biotransformation pathways.   

There have been studies done by the EPA that demonstrate that 2.2 BILLION pounds of toxic chemicals were released into the U.S. environment alone in 1994.  That number was estimated a tad higher at 4.7 BILLION pounds by 2002.  I cannot even imagine what the number would be today!

So, THERE are the toxins that mis-informed physician was looking for (and that is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg)!

 It is the role of the organs of the detoxification system to perform the function of detoxification defined above.  The detoxification system consists of the liver, intestinal mucosa, kidneys, colon, lymphatic system, and the skin. 

The liver is the chief organ of detoxification in the body filtering somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 fluid ounces of blood every minute.  The liver actually performs over 500 functions in the body and goes far beyond detoxification.  It does function sort of like a washing machine removing all of the dirt and grime (toxins) that we are exposed to and getting rid of them in the “wastewater” of the detoxification pathways.

There are two detoxification pathways in the liver which allow us to rid ourselves of toxins.  They are referred to as Phase I and Phase II detoxification respectively.  In a nutshell, Phase I detoxification involves a group of 50-100 enzymes referred to as cytochrome P448 and P450 pathways.  These enzymes use oxygen to form a reactive site on the toxin and make it a little less toxic in a sense.  Phase II detoxification involves something called conjugation (glutathione conjugation) as well as methylation, sulfation, acetylation, sulfoxidation, and glucuronidation.  These particular enzyme systems require specific nutrients to function optimally.  When the specific nutrition is not on board, the detoxification capacity of the liver slows down and toxins are allowed to accumulate. 

Some of the potential symptoms of toxicity include, but are not limited to:

  • Weight issues
    • Inability gaining or losing weight
    • Fatigue and Lethargy
    • Joint Pain
    • Headaches
    • Depression
    • Muscle Pain
    • GI Issues
    • Poor Cognitive ability
    • Anxiety
    • Auto-Immune issues
    • Arthritis
    • Sleep Issues
    • Hormonal Imbalance and Disruption

So, all of this begs the $64 question – What the hell can we do to improve our detoxification capacity?  Should we be doing colon cleanses and shooting coffee up our rear ends?  Should we just attempt to dilute the toxins and drink huge amounts of water?  Should we attempt to seal ourselves off in a cool little bubble and bounce around our ever-so-toxic world like Jake Gyllenhaal’s character in the 2001 movie Bubble Boy?  These are hardly real solutions to the total toxic load we all carry with us.

A point of contingency with cleanses is this:  If you have a system and a physiology that is overloaded, what sense does it make to further burden the system by mobilizing a host of toxins with a cleanse of some kind?  I have been e-mailed by many overweight individuals telling me that they are having major issues losing weight and wondering if a liver or colon cleanse might be the answer.  This is a completely asinine concept and makes no sense whatsoever.   If you are having difficulty losing weight, or you are chronically fatigued, or you are chronically constipated, or you are having sleep issues – these are all signs of a damaged metabolism and a physiology that is likely more stressed than not.  Your physiology/metabolism must be healed in order for those things to be eliminated and in 99.9% of cases, a cleanse will not give you that end result.

Let’s say you have not cleaned a room in your home in 30 years.  One day, you wake up and say to yourself, “Self, that room really needs to be cleansed of dust and other stuff.  Let’s get in there and cleanse it.”  To do this, you go into the room, close all the windows and shut the door behind you.  You then start dusting and cleaning in a frenzy.  After about 17 seconds you are coughing and sneezing and realize that the “dust and other stuff” has no way to leave the room!  You leave the room and all of the “dust and other stuff” settles right back where it was before you did your “cleanse.”  That is what a kidney “cleanse” will do, and the same thing can be said for a colon “cleanse,” or any other “cleanse” for that matter in the presence of a physiology/metabolism that is overloaded.  In order for these “cleanses” to have any real benefit, one has to improve his/her overall physiology and decrease the load on the detoxification system as a whole.  

Given that many of these sources of toxins are not going away, here are some things to consider to help with optimal (and real) detoxification:

First, take very seriously the quality of your food.  Yes, I am aware that you have to work with what you have near you.  Finding certified organic or biodynamic foods are not an easy task for some folks.  Of course, there are a number of resources online for having excellent quality food delivered to your door (and yes, I am aware that finances come into play).  You simply have to do the best you can with what you have.  I have a resource list that I use for ordering some food in my house over the years.  When in doubt, do what you can to buy from your local farmers at Farmer’s Markets, etc.  Even if these are not certified organic foods, it is likely to be far better than what you will find in the average grocery store.  

Once you have addressed the issue of food quality, consider eliminating foods that are difficult for the body to digest.  Many foods that are considered “healthy” are very difficult for the human body to digest, particularly in the presence of damaged metabolism.  Foods high in cellulose and pectin are particularly problematic in individuals who are hypo-metabolic.   Often grains, nuts, seeds, beans, cruciferous vegetables, and crisp fruits (unless cooked) are best avoided.  When was the last time you saw meat, berries, or potato in your stool?  Probably never, unless you have severe GI issues.  That is because these foods are easier to digest.  (Note: I am aware that some people have difficulty digesting animal flesh when in a hypo-metabolic state so please do not blast back with some digestive anti-meat campaign).   I typically encourage red meats, wild meats, tropical fruits, root vegetables, the occasional rice, dairy (if you can handle it), and high quality self-made broths (bone and meat).  Ultimately, for me, that is typically the best place to start your efforts. 

A Brief Word on the Gut Mucosa

The intestinal mucosa is essential for optimal nutrient absorption and is a protective barrier against pathogens and undigested food particles.  If the microvilli of the intestinal mucosa are damaged due to inflammation, the tight gap junctions of the gut are “opened” more than they should be.  This leads to what medicine might refer to as increased intestinal permeability, also known as, Leaky Gut Syndrome.  In the presence of increased intestinal permeability, undigested food particles can make their way into circulation and initiate an immune response.  This can create issues for the detoxification system because immune complexes, which in this case are formed by the antigen (offending food) and the immune system “soldier” that is sent to “deal” with the antigen, must be brought to the liver, broken down, and then excreted.   As well, anything contributing to malabsorption issues, will also inhibit the CYP3A4 enzyme from performing its detoxification duties.  Bottom line, if the gut is leaking and/or there is malabsorption, this will eventually overload the immune and detoxification systems.  Not good for health.     

Consider that anything that irritates the gut (such as indigestible foods) will increase endotoxin (LPS) and will down-regulate detoxification capacity of the liver.  In particular, endotoxin interferes with estrogen detoxification and allows estrogen to accumulate in the body.  This is a major issue.  According to Ray Peat, PhD, “Estrogen activates the adrenal stress reaction by way of the hypothalamus and pituitary, by direct actions on the adrenal glands, and by a variety of indirect effects, such as the increase of free fatty acids. It activates the excitotoxic glutamic acid pathway, and interferes with protective adenosine inhibition of nerves. It has both direct and indirect ways of promoting the formation of nitric oxide and carbon monoxide. These, and other estrogen-promoted factors, quickly and seriously interfere with mitochondrial respiration. Many of these effects contribute to increased intracellular calcium and free radical production, contributing to both the excitatory excess and the energy deficit.”

Instead of running to some cleanse in an attempt to “fix” the problem, simply eliminate the foods that are creating the issue in the first place.  Just because a food is labeled as healthy does not make it so for everyone.  One has to consider the inflammatory response created by the foods that are eaten.  Removing such foods takes the load off of the gut, takes load off of the liver, and gives your physiology a chance to recover.

Consider the quantity and quality of the water you drink. There are all sorts of recommendations out there for how much water one should drink.  Dr. Batmanghelidj in his book Your Body’s Many Cries for Water: You are not Sick, You are Thirsty, recommends half of an ounce per pound of bodyweight.  I don’t necessarily disagree with him but for some people that can be too much water.  In more general terms, I typically recommend that an individual seek to consume at least 1.5-2 liters of water per day and usually not more than 3 liters.  Optimal hydration depends on way more than just the amount of water you drink – electrolyte excesses and insufficiencies come into play as does urine output, etc. 

When it comes to water quality, it is important to use a filtration system that filters fluoride, chlorine, and chloramines.  For me, this is essential.  My “go-to” company for filtration systems is Friends of Water.  You can find the best filters for really good prices at their website www.freindsofwater.com.  It does not do much good to drink the right amount of water if the very water that you are drinking is toxic.  Also, I would avoid things and gimmicks that claim health benefits by making water more “alkaline.”  An entire article and perhaps a book could be written on this topic alone.

Do what you can to reduce toxic exposure in the home and office.  Focus on your home – cleaning products, cosmetics, etc.  Find the least toxic options and make a move to replace what you are currently using with those options.   The Environmental Working Group has a great database of resources for things like this.  Visit their website at www.ewg.org.  Mountain Rose Herbs and Young Living are also excellent sources for non-toxic skin care, household cleaners, etc.  www.mountainroseherbs.com and www.youngliving.com are their respective websites.

Consider glycine:  Glycine is a great amino acid for aiding in the detoxification of petrochemicals.  One gram of glycine three times per day is an excellent way to help the body with its detoxification responsibilities.  I personally get this from either bone broth or the use of Great Lakes Gelatin – one tablespoon of gelatin has around 1.6 grams of glycine in it.  Be warned however, ingesting too much glycine too quickly can be irritating to the gut and may lead to explosive diarrhea.  Just a heads up… 

Air Quality: This is an area most people ignore.  There is not much you can do about the outside air quality in the region that you live.  Personally, I live in one of the most toxic regions of the country, hence the name “Cancer Alley.”  You can do things about the air quality of your home.  There are numerous purifiers that can be placed throughout the home to “detoxify” the air.  If interested in air filters, I would invite you to check out Austin HealthMate series of filters at http://austinair.com/products/healthmate-series/

As well, certain plants are also known to detoxify certain chemicals in the air.  There are around 18-20 common household plants which can help clean the air you are breathing. I would be lying if I said I have looked into that extensively, but I know of people that have done so in an effort to improve air quality. 

Supplements n’ Stuff:  There are certain nutrients that can be used to “up-regulate” Phase I and Phase II detoxification.  There are combination supplements that can up-regulate both Phase I and II pathways without mobilizing more toxins than the liver can process.  I am personally not a fan of using supplements unless the individual in question has at least 6-9 months worth of really solid nutritional work in place.  “Nutritional work” in this context would be improving water quality and quantity (if necessary), food quality, eating digestible foods, learning what macronutrient combination and meal frequency are best for their body, etc.  Then, and only then, would I give the green light for a given supplement and it would have to be the right supplement at the right time for the individual in question.    

At the end of the day, you will likely have to pick your battles and use what methods of decreasing toxic load work for you.  High quality water and food are likely to give you the most “bang for your buck.”  Remember that every BODY is different and this is very evident when it comes to detoxification abilities.  What is important is that you do the very best that you can using the resources that you have available to you to ensure that you have adequate nutrition on board for your liver and other detoxification organs’ ability to do their job.  Do what you can, take things slow, and enjoy the process of creating health!

Recommended Reading & Study:

  1. Our Stolen Future by Theo Colborn
  2. Achieving Victory over a Toxic World by Mark Schauss
  3. Detoxify or Die by Sherri A. Rogers, M.D.
  4.  Laboratory Evaluations for Integrative and Functional Medicine, 2nd edition, edited by Lord and Bralley
  5. Under the Veil of Deception:  Everything Uncle Sam Isn’t Telling You about how Organic Farming and Organic Foods Relate to Our Future by Paul Chek, HHP
  6. The Future of Life by Edward O. Wison
  7. The Nontoxic Home & Office by D.L. Dadd
  8. An Agricultural Testament by Sir Albert Howard
  9. Textbook of Medical Physiology, 7th edition by Arthur C. Guyton
  10. The Metabolic Blueprint Program by EastWest Healing & Performance, http://www.eastwesthealing.com

 

Food Resource List (by no means is this meant to be a definitive or exhaustive list)

http://www.baldwingrassfedbeef.com/shop/pc/home.asp

www.organicconsumers.org/purelink.html

www.organicconsumers.org/btc/BuyingGuide.html

www.vitalchoice.com

www.grasslandbeef.com (personal favorite for all things meat)

www.drrons.com/index.html

www.radiantlifecatalog.com

www.wallacefarms.com

www.brokenarrowranch.com (excellent game meats)

www.grassorganic.com

www.organicpastures.com

www.freshdirect.com

www.doortodoororganics.com

www.organickitchen.com

www.goldminenaturalfood.com

www.shopnatural.com

www.tropicaltraditions.com

www.sunorganicfarm.com

 

The Economics of Nutrition & Regeneration

The stress response is the stress response in the human body.  Your body does not differentiate one stressor from another.  Whether the stress response is initiated from financial pressures, marital stressors, too much sunlight, poor food choices, etc., the general stress response from the body is the same.  The greater the total load of your stressors place on the body (this is called physiological load), the greater the nutritional demand placed upon your body.  The poorer your nutrition practice happens to be, the greater a nutritional deficit you will accumulate.   Creating health, therefore, is about having enough nutrition in your health “savings account” so that your body can mount an effective stress response and remain with a positive balance (homeostasis).  For most of the general population, the amount of nutritional “debt” that they accumulate over a lifetime leads to chronic, degenerative conditions.  In effect, what people are doing when they eat garbage foods and do not match the nutritional demand that they place on the body, is the equivalent of “deficit spending” in the body.  You are spending nutrition to attempt to regenerate without having any nutrition in the bank – and very soon you are waking up each day with a negative balance in your health account.  In such cases, the creation of health is never allowed to manifest in any real sense.
 
Deficit “Health” Spending
Stressors, regardless of source, affect every cell and every physiological system of your body.  Nowadays, everyone is quick to blame adrenal fatigue for every health related problem they have, particularly if the individual in question has low energy and sleep issues.  While the adrenals do play a role in the body’s general stress response, it is worth mentioning that the real problem is that you have used up all of your nutritional “reserves” and your health “account” is essentially bankrupt.  While this does involve the adrenal glands, the “adrenal fatigue” is likely the result othe issue(s) at hand rather than the cause.   
 
The adrenal glands are one very important component in body’s stress response and the hormones associated with them help to regulate and influence virtually every metabolic process in the body from bone turnover to nervous system repair.  The adrenals are involved with a simplex of other systems, glands and organs of the body, which continually strive to maintain a nutritional debit, or homeostatic balance. The function of the adrenals can become compromised for any number of reasons. For me, the principle reason the adrenals begin to become “fatigued” is because of a lack of nutritional “income” to help the body produce and conserve energy effectively.  Some of the primary stressors, in my experience, of the inability to produce and conserve energy and hindering the body from maintaining physiological balance (homeostasis) are as follows:
  • Being over worked – particularly when one does not truly enjoy the work being done
  • Poor nutrition – not eating enough foods to make effective “deposits” and eating too many foods that create “debt”
  • Poor Sleep Quality (often due to the other factors on this list and choosing poor bed time – after 10:30 p.m.)
  • Too much/Improper exercise – many people who are already “negative” in their health bank account mistakenly think that they will create greater levels of health by exercising themselves nearly to death – this is a grave mistake
  • Overconsumption of sympathetic stimulants such as synthetic sugars, caffeine, and highly processed foods
  • Dehydration
  • Ignoring Respiratory (breathing) Mechanics
How many people do you know in your immediate circle that fit into this clinical picture? If I were to speculate wildly, I would say that most of them fall smack dab in the middle of this scenario.  Unfortunately, with the above practices, these stressors drain the body’s health account and it is only a matter of time before a loss of function, a loss of homeostasis, is the result.  In other words, the individual is now no longer able to effectively adapt and regenerate.  Rather, s/he will now begin tripping lightly down the degeneration pathway. 
 
If the nutritional “income” does not match the nutritional demand placed on the body, the body will begin to use its nutritional “reserves” to attempt to match the demand.  But where do we keep these nutritional reserves?  Simply put…in our own cells, tissues, organs, etc.  As this situation continues, catabolic degeneration has disastrous consequences for the health of the entire body.  Namely, it produces illness and disease.
 
Physiological Economic/Regeneration Rebound
To quote Ray Peat, PhD, “The ideal therapy is one which restores the cellular energy thoroughly, so the organism regains its full capacity to adapt, and seeks appropriate stimulation.”  This is perhaps my favorite quote when applied to nutritional science.  Since the cell is the basic, fundamental unit of Life, it makes sense to me that restoring the cell’s ability to produce energy to match the energy demand (stressors) placed on the body day in and day out is the way to go in terms of rehabilitating one’s health bank account.  When a person’s nutritional/health bank account has been overdrawn, and they have been operating on deficit spending (degeneration) for some time, you must support the entire organism, from the cell level up, the entire person, body, mind, spirit, in order to effectively pay back your nutritional debt plus the interest.  In other words, it goes WAY beyond the adrenal glands. 
 
It must be remembered that creating an environment favorable for this “rebound” to occur does take time and attention to Self.  It is foolish to think that any individual will wipe out all debt accumulated throughout a lifetime in just a few months.  There is no such thing as winning the nutritional “lottery” and suddenly paying back all debt in a short period of time.  That is simply not how the body works.  Erasing a lifetime of “debt” is a long-term process and really never ends.  When given what it needs, however, the human body does demonstrate a remarkable capacity for regeneration.  There is evidence that suggests that within as little as 24 hours after consuming a meal, the body is using the nutrition from that meal to begin replacing and repairing cells.  Research also suggests that the body can regenerate any living tissue within a 1-2 year period of time, again, provided it is given what it needs in terms of nutritional “deposits” and nutritional “debts” are avoided.  
 
 
Towards New Health
Making such “deposits” always requires change.  That is just the reality of the situation.  Change is a necessary component to creating new levels of health and vitality.  One has to decide to embrace these changes in order to foster effective transformation and healing, or simply continue to do things as they have always done them and experience a downward spiral of health issues and degeneration.  That is just the bottom line (and not because Stone Cold said so!)
 
Change is very frightening for so many people because it requires that an individual begins to get closer to Self and what his/her Core Values actually are.  This is scary because, in my experience, few of us actually know anything real about our Self and what we truly want to use our Life’s energy for.  I know I had no idea until I went through this entire process for myself.  Long story short, I was a very sick kid – constantly sick with sinus issues to GI problems, etc.  I decided when I was about 15 years old that I did not want to continue to live that way as an adult and I began making radical changes to my diet, exercise, and thought processes.  I also decided that I wanted to share what I would learn along the way with anyone willing to listen.  I have done so ever since.   
 
Along the journey towards new health, you will likely encounter LOTS of people who are likely to ridicule and “poo-poo” the changes that you will need to make.  Nearly everyone will  critique the changes you will make from their own unique perspective of reality.  Many of them will be within your own family.  As Will Smith’s character in The Pursuit of Happyness tells his son, “You have a dream, you have to protect it……people can’t do something themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it.  If you want something, go get it.”  This is where “knowing your why” and communicating with Self come in very handy.  Making your changes from a place of Self Love is an essential tool for overcoming the doubts and ridicule of the naysayers.  I have written about this in a previous post entitled How Much Love Do You Have?    Learn to listen to the voice of Self and your choices will become crystal clear and the mindless chatter of outsiders will become silent.
 
I have dedicated a large portion of my life towards educating people on the how’s, what’s, and when’s of effective nutritional and lifestyle changes that are required to create optimal health and wellness.  If you are willing to operate from a position of Self Love and embrace the journey of creating optimal health, climbing out of nutritional/health “debt” and achieving boundless nutritional wealth is well within your grasp….IF, you really want it! 
 
Recommended Reading & Study:
     1.     Perfect Health: The Complete Mind/BodyGuide by Deepak Chopra, M.D.
     2.     Creating Health: How to Wake Up the Body’s Intelligence by Deepak Chopra, M.D.
     3.     Generative Energy by Ray Peat, PhD.