Starting a new health program is an exciting time.
You're motivated to make major changes in your health and you're excited to try everything your health practitioner told you to do. However, two days into the health program, you start to question if you can keep it up. You feel tired, have headaches and itchy skin, and you feel worse than you did when you went to see your practitioner. If it's going to be complicated and you're going to feel like crap, then why would you continue? Because it's the start of feeling like your best.
Any time one of my patients starts a new health program, especially if it's radically different from their current lifestyle, I warn them that they could, and will likely experience a "healing crisis." The symptoms of a healing crisis vary from person to person and can be experienced on various levels, like physical, emotional and spiritual. Common physical symptoms are headaches, body aches, body odour, fatigue, rashes, bowel changes, increased urination, congestion and menstrual changes. Some people may experience a worsening of symptoms related to a chronic disease they have, like arthritis. Common emotional symptoms are increased irritability, restlessness or mood swings. Common spiritual symptoms are an increase or change in symbolic dreams. So why does this happen? The most most common reason is that a healing crisis is a detox reaction. When you change your lifestyle to include more water, more plant foods and less toxic substances like coffee, cigarettes and alcohol, your body starts to heal and to detox. Our bodies are designed to detoxify regularly because we are always taking in substances from the outside, like food, water and air. When we reduce the toxins going in, our body starts to detox from the inside out. These toxins get released from their storage areas (fat, joints, liver, cells, gut bacteria), and they become active in our blood stream as our body attempts to release them. We feel this toxin release in the uncomfortable symptoms that result soon after we start a new health program. How do you make the best of it then? Know that these symptoms will pass in a few days and the most important thing to do is rest and give your body what it needs. If the symptoms persist, then your practitioner must reassess why. Some of your detox organs may need support.
The most important organs to support during a detox are your bowels, kidneys and liver. Ensure your bowels are moving daily by eating 25 to 35 grams of fibre, drinking two litres or more of water and getting some gentle movement in like walking or stretching. Drinking water will support your kidneys and eating four to five green veggies daily will support your liver. Herbs, nutraceuticals and homeopathic drainage therapy are also beneficial to supporting detoxification and can reduce the intensity of a healing crisis.
Another strategy is to start more slowly and with low doses when starting a new health program. This could mean starting with changing one meal at a time or stopping one toxic substance at a time, like coffee. This is important to consider: some people are too worn out to detoxfiy and should in fact have more nourishing type therapies first, to build their reserves, heal their adrenals and bowels before encouraging detoxification. This may include nourishing herbs, nourishing diet changes like soups, warm foods and acupuncture. Some therapies that can help with emotional healing are acupuncture, homeopathy and EFT.
A healing crisis is a sign of healing, as long as it lasts only a few days and the symptoms are manageable. Once you move past these challenging days, then increased energy, deeper sleep, radiant skin and clearer thinking result! This is why many people choose to detox regularly.
Dr. Yasmin Snippe is a Naturopathic Doctor at Apple A Day Natural Health Clinic in Barrie, ON. She's passionate about type 2 diabetes and reversing it with diet and lifestyle.