According to the tenets of Naturopathic Medicine, a healing crisis is the phenomenon people experience in the beginning of making significant lifestyle changes. It can involve days to weeks of feeling ill before feeling dramatically better. What would cause our bodies to react like this?
Stored toxin release: As changes are made and our physiology becomes more efficient, organs like the liver that were formerly congested start to work more efficiently. Certain nutrients like essential vitamins and co-factors are replenished, allowing the enzymes in the liver to do their jobs more quickly than they were previously. This process allows for a liberation of built-up toxins from the fat, like hormones, chemicals, and other metabolic waste and by-products. Unfortunately, some people may start to feel ill-effects of the newly released toxins in their blood stream. Once the body has “caught up,” and the toxins have been excreted through sweat, urine, bile, etc., typically the person starts to feel better. This process can take a little while!
Re-establishment of a healthy gut microbiome: Due to diet and other lifestyle factors, many people have an unhealthy gut environment. Chronic ingestion of refined grains and sugars feeds a population of bacteria in the gut that have a negative or harmful relationship with us, and depletes the growth of good bacteria that have a healthy, symbiotic relationship with us. Once proper diet and supplementation has been established, a power struggle between the “good bugs” and the “bad bugs,” may ensue. Die-off of the bad bugs, as well as biofilm disruption, can cause GI stress, brain fog, and other side-effects.
Overcoming dietary “addictions:” Believe or not, our brain chemistry can cause us to become addicted to the foods that we eat. Long term consumption of refined sugar suppresses our appetite and sets the stage for cravings that can only be alleviated by getting that “sugar fix.” Certain partially undigested proteins from foods like gluten and dairy can “leak” into the system through a permeable gut wall and bind weakly to opiate receptors-causing your body to “think” that it needs these proteins to function! These “addictions” can lead to upsetting withdrawal symptoms and can make people feel like they “felt better when they were eating gluten, dairy, sugar, etc.”
The healing crisis is a natural and well-accepted side-effect of all lifestyle overhauls. The key is NOT TO GIVE UP! Often, if you can make it past the first 7 days, you will be feeling much better than you have felt in years. You can do it!