Naturopathy

What is the root cause of illness? Toxicity & Deficiency.

September 3, 2020

I’m Dr. Lindsay
I'm a naturopathic pediatrician based in Colorado Springs offering primary care, chronic care & telemedicine appointments. I'm so glad you're here!
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Toxicity & Deficiency

Dr. Smith was arguably my most influential mentor. He was the first to introduce me to holistic healing, and he had a tremendous impact on my personal health. This gold nugget he shared with me may or may not have been his original words, but regardless, they came from pure wisdom he obtained over decades in practice. 

“All disease is rooted in either a toxicity or a deficiency.” – Dr. Duane Smith, DC, author of Healing by Divine Design. 

Toxic Burden

As we live our daily lives, we come into contact with a number of toxins. Many of them are unavoidable, like car exhaust, chemical fragrances, cleaning products and air pollution. If we live near an agricultural site or a manufacturing plant, there’s off-gassing from that. We’re exposed to chemicals in our water, food, clothing, packaging, furniture, and flooring. 

Some of the toxins are avoidable – or at least we can minimize them. See below for more on that. Despite our efforts, it’s rather impossible to avoid accumulating some degree of toxins in our body. Our immune system and digestive system work constantly to stay on top of it, but when they fall behind, the leftover toxins need somewhere to go. They end up being stored in our tissues, typically in our fat tissue. 

When toxins accumulate

Eventually, the body is so overwhelmed by an excess of toxins, that other problems start to develop. Toxins cause damage to healthy cells, leading to inflammation. Toxins interfere with our hormone signals, causing imbalances all over the body from the brain to our vital organs. 

It’s impossible to list everything that goes wrong, because it’s really just the beginning of a downward spiral if it’s not addressed. Here are just a few diseases that are linked to high toxicity levels:

  • Acne
  • Attention deficit disorder
  • Autism
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Cancer
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Depression and other mood disorders
  • Digestive diseases like Crohn’s disease, ulcers, and colitis
  • Eczema 
  • Food allergies and sensitivities
  • Frequent infection and illness
  • Insomnia and poor sleep patterns
  • Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
  • Menstrual problems

Everyone has their limit

I often give parents the example of a water park attraction you’ve all probably seen before. You know that lopsided bucket that hangs overhead and slowly fills with water until it eventually falls off balance enough to tip over and dump water out all over the place? That’s a perfect example of toxic body burden. We all have different sized buckets, and they fill at different rates depending on our lifestyle and genetics. 

Minimizing toxic burden

How can we avoid developing disease from toxins? 

  • Eat Clean: Know your dirty dozen, clean fifteen. Choose your meat and fish wisely, being aware of mercury levels, farmed vs. wild caught, and sustainability.
  • Drink clean water: Check the safety of your water and get a trusted filter if necessary
  • Reduce household chemicals: Know how to select furniture, paint, flooring and decor that don’t harm your health
  • Personal care products: use this helpful tool to choose the safest hygiene products and cosmetics 

Deficiency as cause for disease

Even if we eat clean, whole foods 3 meals a day plus snacks, odds are we would still fall short of our nutritional requirements. Simply put, food today is not as nutritious as it used to be. 

On top of that, we burn through certain nutrients more rapidly than our predecessors did because of our chronic stress levels and all of the toxic exposures we discussed above. What I mean is, when toxins cause injury to our cells, our body has to generate building blocks and energy to repair the damage. This burns up key nutrients like B vitamins, magnesium, CoQ10 and zinc to name a few. When we lack key nutrients, every body system and every vital organ pays the price. Here a just a few examples to paint a picture for you:

  • Vitamin A deficiency : night blindness, impaired immunity, tissue regeneration, brown skin spots
  • CoQ10 deficiency: diabetes, cancer, heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, neurologic diseases
  • Vitamin B6 deficiency: irritability, depression, seizures, impaired immunity
  • Magnesium deficiency: muscle spasms, constipation, hypertension, personality changes
  • Zinc deficiency: hair loss, skin rashes, sexual dysfunction, loss of taste and smell

How to recognize a deficiency 

Hold on there! Don’t assume that just because you have some of those symptoms you have the associated deficiency. There can be a lot of variables that work together to cause a symptom. That said, you’re probably wondering, “How can I find out if I’m deficient?”

This is the fun part. I love naturopathic medicine because we get to ask these questions and find answers to them. It’s not always helpful to have plain old blood tests that come back “normal” and don’t really give any clear answers about overall health. 

Specialized lab testing has been rapidly evolving over recent years and now has the ability to look at urine and blood samples to evaluate our nutritional health. The same tests can also assess for toxins, infections, and microbial imbalances. 

How Society Handles Nutrient Deficiency

When my daughter was 8 months old, she was diagnosed with failure to thrive. She had struggled since birth, so this was not a huge shock. The real surprise came when we found out the medical solution was to install a feeding tube and pump her with a manufactured blend for children that has this on the ingredients label: 

Maltodextrin, Sucrose, Milk Protein (Whey and Potassium Caseinate), Vegetable Oil, (High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Low Erucic Rapeseed Oil, Sunflower Oil), Medium Chain Triglycerides, Minerals (Potassium Phosphate, Sodium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Calcium Chloride, Magnesium Chloride, Ferrous Sulphate, Zinc Sulphate, Manganese Sulphate, Copper Sulphate, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenatte, Chromium Chloride, Sodium Molybdate), Prebiotic Fibres (Acacia gum, Fructo-Oligosaccharides, Inulin), Emulsifier (Soy Lecithin), Nature Identical Flavour (Vanilla), Choline Bitartrate, Acidity Probiotics (Cultures of Bifidobacterium Longum, Lactobacillus Paracasei), Taurine, L-carnitine.

This worked to fatten her up, which was the goal, right? It was their goal, but our goal was to help her get healthy!  Sure, she was gaining weight – but she was projectile vomiting regularly, often in the middle of the night and she wasn’t developing a palate for real food. This problem carried into her elementary years as she continued to be underweight, but did not have an appetite for nutritious foods because she had grown accustomed to sugar and simple carbs. 

How Nutrient Testing Can Help

After years of struggling to get her nutrition up to par, I decided to get some specific metrics that would help me know what exactly to feed her. I used a test from Genova Diagnostics which required a blood sample and a urine sample. From this test, I learned my daughter was deficient in over a dozen key nutrients, including: magnesium, glutathione, B vitamins, amino acids, omega 3 fatty acids, probiotics and digestive enzymes. This has allowed me to tailor a diet that meets her needs. Testing isn’t always necessary, but it can be a helpful tool. At The Organic Cure, our policy is to only perform testing if the results will have a direct impact on the course of treatment. 

What Should I do?

If you feel like testing would be beneficial, or if you need help evaluating your child’s toxicities and deficiencies, contact us to book an appointment. 

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