WHAT IS HEALING?
I have been in practice as a Homeopath, Acupuncturist and Functional Medicine Practitioner for nearly 20 years now, treating many fertility issues, chronic diseases, children’s illnesses and so much more. I have raised my 3 extremely healthy children on almost 100% Natural medicine, each having had one antibiotic, as yes, there is a time and a place that conventional medicines are appropriate in the overall management and healing of an illness; we cannot and must not ever be so aligned to one ‘belief’ or ideology that logic does not prevail. Their systems are strong and can easily fight off most infections in a few days. They have had/expressed all the childhood diseases having breezed through them with minimal symptoms in a much shorter time than was written in my epidemiology textbook. This is due to the Natural Herbs and Homeopathic remedies given throughout in support of Healing (and in a later article I will discuss the relevance and integral nature of these childhood diseases in the development of a child’s immune system). Our immune systems are stronger than you think, so let’s understand how we heal.
First, let’s explore what we understand of the word HEALING. In the medical dictionaries, the definition of healing is the following:
- the natural process by which the body repairs itself
- the act or process in which the normal structural and functional characteristics of health are restored to diseased, dysfunctional, or damaged tissues, organs, or systems of the body. (Mosby’s Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. © 2009, Elsevier.)
- the process of recovery, repair and restoration.
- the return to wholeness. (Jonas: Mosby’s Dictionary of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (c) 2005, Elsevier.)
- the process of returning to a previous state of health (McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.)
- Healing is the process of the restoration of healthfrom an unbalanced, diseased, damaged or unvitalized organism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healing).
First thing to remember is: The body is programmed to repair itself – this means that the HEALING RESPONSE is a normal process of natural bodily functions and reactions that brings about the necessary recovery, repair and restoration of the diseased, dysfunctional or damaged tissues and a return to a previous state of health. Yes? YES! You may want to read that again…
Important key words there: NORMAL, NATURAL, NECESSARY, PROCESS, RECOVERY, REPAIR…HEALING is NORMAL, normal, normal…its normal to heal, normal for your body to respond, arguably essential! And therefore, normal to have symptoms related to that healing…it may not feel great, but its normal and needs understanding and support and not fear.
In Natural Medicine there is a term – Healing Crisis. This is when the intensity of healing symptoms reaches a climax, when they (the unpleasant symptoms you feel when sick) are at their most intense, this lasts for a variable amount of time, depending on what is being healed and is the pinnacle point of the system throwing the illness off or out. Symptoms usually soon dramatically improve and the condition most often rapidly resolves if either supported or left alone (is self-limiting). This is very evident in a fever reaction, where when the fever spikes and the child feels the hottest and things seem to be at some kind of danger point, it soon begins to fall resulting in a much more healed child and a rapid resolution back to health (See article on Fevers).
In the healing of Reproductive Health issues, there are a few weeks when Estrogen and Progesterone levels are at their peaks or lowest ebbs after regaining traction in the system and there are emotional mood swings, soul-searching episodes and menstrual symptoms that are extremely intense. However, when this calms, the peace and menstrual regularity that follows is well worth it and the healing is clear. I’ve nicknamed that phase “The Wobbles”.
Definition of a healing reaction: Symptoms of bodily defence (that) are observable and successful. (Jonas: Mosby’s Dictionary of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (c) 2005, Elsevier.)
Successful – is an important word there. The reaction must bring about the desired effect of successfully restoring the system to a previous state of health. Observable, yes, healing symptoms are definitely felt and observed.
Healing PREVENTS CHRONIC DISEASE. Now there’s a statement.
Healing is the ELIMINATION of the CAUSE of the symptoms, not the symptoms themselves, the symptoms are the feelings experienced during the process of healing. So, if we allow healing to occur and restore the system back to a previous state of health, we in effect repair the damage and there is no longer an underlying cause. Chronic disease ensues when the healing response is not allowed, is prevented or interrupted and the body has had to continue with improper functioning or suboptimal structural integrity due to the previous unhealed damage, thus weakening it and predisposing it to the next level of degradation. Added to that, bad lifestyle habits, living in our polluted, toxic world and other factors continue the abuse on our systems and it is easy to see how our systems degrade.
This is how a disease pattern begins, where structural integrity is compromise in multiple systems and functions are impaired, needing constant support or even complete replacement to continue providing any kind of function. This is then not healing, but panel beating and temporary fixes to buy us some time…
But thankfully, Nature is all forgiving and without too much intervention we can begin to rehabilitate our internal landscapes and begin restoring the balance of health. Obviously each person’s body is also unique, so an individual assessment of every person is paramount in understanding what course of action is needed in order to support healing and get us on the road back to health. Our chronological age does not have to be our biological age, we can be younger or older depending on our health.
Healing reactions/ crises are not well understood in allopathic circles as they hardly ever occur during drug therapy as this is largely suppressive of the body’s symptoms. And when they do, they are perceived to be a worsening of the condition instead of a critical phase in the healing process and are then suppressed. Many complications then occur because the healing process and healing crisis is blocked leading to a worsening of the condition in the long run.
I would like to go through a few normal body reactions to invasion or threats of any kind to illustrate the point, and all the way through I’d like you to ask yourselves whether the drugs that you have used are helping to achieve the goal of HEALING and whether they aid the body’s natural healing processes or whether they hinder them?
The healing reactions and phases when dealing with chronic disease are complex, but what I can say about healing chronic disease is that it can be done, does take time, is often not an easy journey and needs to be taken in a step-like manner. As body functions are slowly restored, the system is able to function in differing degrees resulting in changeable symptoms at each stage of healing. So, you have to be ready for a journey and be able to tolerate your body’s response and efforts to heal. But just as things going wrong knock onto each other as a disease progresses, so do they knock back into place as healing happens.
But let’s focus more on simple, acute reactions that you will be familiar with. It helps to have a keen understanding of normal physiological processes (how biology works) to then understand what has gone wrong and what is needed to achieve healing, a return to the normal structure and function. This does not need a medical degree, but an open mind to understand the logic of Nature. It’s not that complicated really, you can delve deep into the biochemistry and make it as complicated as you like, or you can understand the basic functions and see the simplistic and predictable way in which Nature restores order.
Case 1: Food Poisoning:
In the case of food poisoning, very quickly the body’s instinctive reaction is to literally throw out the toxins, get them back out from where they came or move them along the bowels as fast as possible, flushed with fluids in an attempt to dilute them and expel them, quickly. Although understandably unpleasant, are the vomiting and diarrhoea the disease process? Or are they the healing symptoms, the
very necessary responses which prevent the toxins being absorbed via the intestinal barrier? Our bloodstream is the most vulnerable place for an infection and therefore every effort is made to prevent entry into the bloodstream.
Is there any sense in stopping either of these reactions? Obviously, one would need to watch for dehydration and rehydrate with a drip if needed, but if these toxins were to be contained, they would have the ability to cause a lot more harm, complicating and worsening the condition, so its best we get them out no matter how bad it makes you feel for a few hours or even days…sorry!
Case 2: Insect bite / Sprain or Strain:
As soon as a toxin is injected or a mechanical injury is inflicted onto the soft tissue and/or skin, there is an immediate inflammatory response. The entire surrounding tissue swells and becomes red hot. Why this response? Obviously, when a toxin has entered the system, it cannot be immediately expelled as in the case of food poisoning, it must be contained, quarantined if you will, so that the toxin is retained locally and does not travel through the system. We all know how much more severe a snake’s venom is if it circulates quickly to the heart, the precise reason why some venom contains anticoagulants that assure its spread in the victim.
Inflammation assists in 2 ways; firstly, creating a barrier/ containment area for the toxins. This barrier or swelling is achieved by the sudden dilation of vessels entering the site and concurrent constriction of out-going vessels, modulated by histamine. Secondly, the increased blood flow brings with it the mediators of inflammation, those that will continue the response and turn it off when the job is done, endorphins for pain relief, lymphocytes and macrophages (white blood cell soldiers) to kill off bacteria, degrade toxins and help repair damage and all other cells and molecules involved in the healing process. Those toxins need to be disarmed, degraded and removed and the tissue that has been damaged needs to be repaired…think motor vehicle accident, emergency response vehicles immediately, then vehicle damage removal and road repairs before order is restored.
The same healing response is seen in a joint injury, as soon as the joint becomes unstable, the area swells, immobilising it so that no further damage occurs (the splint/bandage) and bringing with it the substances that quickly get to work healing the joint; “recovery, repair, and restoration.” An Inflammatory process is therefore healing in its efforts and needs to be allowed some time to work.
What do you think the effect of repeated anti-inflammatory medications would be on this process? After many attempts to heal, to recover, repair and restore, the body gives up and rather lays down thicker collagen fibres and scar tissue to restore stability rather than heal the joint so that it remains usable…this has long-term repercussions resulting in chronic and often painful joints or arthritis in years to come.
Case 3: Fevers – this is my favourite one and the most controversial…
We must stop and ask ourselves the question, would the body instinctively react with something that could intentionally harm it? I think not. Research on this one is easy. The reason for the fever is the body’s attempt at rapidly killing off the majority of pathogens in one foul swoop as the infection has become a bigger threat to the rest of the system. The bacterial and viral proteins denature (break apart) at temperatures btw 38C to 42C. The body’s proteins only begin to be affected at temperatures exceeding 45C, and a fever will never get that high. The reason for the rise in temperature is thus to kill the bugs! How do we sterilise things normally, steam, autoclave? Heat. A secondary function of the rise in heat is to activate levels of the immune system that have not yet been needed and to increase the efficiency of the normal lymphocytic (white blood cell) reactions and reduce viral replication.
What is the benefit in reducing a temperature while the pathogens double their numbers every half hour? Why is there always a significant rebound fever when the fever meds wear off? The fever itself can kill off all the germs in a few hours, which is why, if it is left to work, will break, reduce and the patient will wake remarkably better. In the case of children, they will often jump up and play like it was a normal day, when you have been up all night thinking they were dying. Realising that there are risks of convulsions occurring, but these are small in comparison to the benefits of the fever. The fear or “fever phobia” created is way out of proportion to the incredible healing function. My children understand why they have the fever and tolerate the discomfort in understanding its value, and I have yet to see this not be the case (please see my Fever article for a more detailed explanation).
Case 4: Coughs and Colds
I’m sure you’re now getting the gist of what I am saying…when the flu is about to come on, it usually starts with a lot of sneezing and a watery runny nose. Soon after thicker nasal congestion follows, the tonsils and lymph nodes may swell, and we feel thick and congested. The next day a cough often starts, usually dry at first and then proceeding into a wet productive cough with phlegm. Sometimes a fever accompanies it and the joints ache and muscles are stiff. So far, I’m sure you could have suggested 10 different OTC’s that could relieve any or all of these symptoms, for a short while. What would that be doing? What is the body’s response telling us?
At the first sign of entry, the body tries to expel it, sneezing a hurricane’s force to expel the pathogens, sends fluid flushing through the passages to lift the mucus layer that has trapped more bugs (anti-histamine medications stop sneezing and fluid production). Thereafter, it blocks up the nasal passages so that the pathogens cannot travel (Nasal sprays open nasal passages). As the pathogens get into the system, the tonsils and lymph nodes swell and become harder, due to their increased drainage of the surrounding tissues to pull many pathogens through for elimination and their full capacity of white blood cells to carry out this function (tonsils are often surgically removed because they swell often). The chest becomes phlegmy as the billions of goblet cells increase their mucus production to increase the amount of pathogens that it can retain, as well as acting as the medium in which the conquering immune cells can dump their refuse. Remember that the respiratory system is also an elimination pathway (Bronchial meds try to stop mucus production).
If the system is supported at each stage, then each reaction becomes more efficient in its function, thereby increasing the speed at which the body can return to balance or heal. Slowing or stopping these reactions rapidly increases the pathogens ability to take hold and decreases the body’s ability to protect itself, especially the important organ systems it is trying to protect.
We should understand that each reaction of the body is an attempt to heal and bring back into balance which therefore should never be stopped. It is a total misconception to presume that because a symptom is unpleasant it should be eliminated. Obviously, there are life threatening situations where drugs and surgery are the best option, trauma cases or other necessary interventions. This is where I believe conventional medicine fits in, it is here that it is unparalleled. However, it may not be the best or even the most logical choice for day to day healing reactions. In fact, if the body was allowed to heal correctly at each chance, many diseases could be prevented.
Why are pharmaceuticals so commonplace then? Because drugs were designed for the inhibition of pain or distress. Healing symptoms often cause pain and distress, even though necessary, so the seemingly obvious choice in the moment is to not feel what the body is trying to do, to stop the sensation or symptom because it is unpleasant and it makes us feel bad. This gives the illusion that the problem has been resolved. Chemicals have the ability to stop, start and expertly manage/ manipulate body processes, however their ability to heal, to recover, repair, and restore is questionable.
Plants are well known to have significant chemicals that cause physiological and psychological change in the body eg: Magic mushrooms, Psilocybin, a Fungi well known for its mind-altering effects or Belladonna, known for its toxic reactions and pupil dilating effects. A story: a traditional herbalist who experimented with some plant concoction inadvertently, and sadly poisoned his entire family…surely this in itself proves that there are some significant biological-altering substances found in plants? Surely then some may be of benefit to the system and not only toxic or only nutritional? Different forms of Natural Medicine work in various ways, however all work towards the same goal of HEALING.
And this is where the 2 schools of thought differ, for me. Please understand that a lot of what I am saying is not out of texts and cannot be specifically quoted, but could be researched and backed up if need be. It comes from my studies, my reading, my experience with patients and using my medicine tools to facilitating healing. The ability to kick-start a completely dormant reproductive system, regulate menstrual cycles and help a lady conceive in 6-9-12 months? That is healing and that is what we are able to achieve over and over again. One of the key elements of a positive study is if it is reproducible. Studies need to be aimed at tracking the efficacy of treatments and measuring the level of true healing of the system, rather than the efficacy of a single herb/remedy or drug over a restricted period. Natural Medicines and treatments are used in combination and changed or altered as the differing needs become evident, as the system heals. It is a process, not a single attempt at fixing or controlling a condition.
One needs to not only look at the effects of hindering natural healing responses in each individual episode, but the cumulative effect of continuously halting each attempt of the body to heal. It is a slow, but progressive demise of the immune system and the resultant degradation of the health of the body. This is what scares me. This is, in my own personal opinion, one of the reasons for cancer’s rapid and explosive increase in all ages, the reason for the rise in chronic disease across all systems and ages, and the enormous state of ill health of most of the population. Everyone is on some drug or 6, which is yours? Women talk about which pill has been the best or worst for them and which one clashes with their antidepressant…this does not seem like a sustainable model to me.
In short, Natural Medicine, in all manner and forms, works with the body’s natural attempts to heal. Supporting and stimulating natural body processes that assist in the process of recovery, repair, and restoration. They do not remove the symptoms and the patients will often not get immediate relief from the symptom, due to the process that must be followed to bring about healing. All those who have trusted me and pushed through these symptoms could attest to its value and efficacy.
If I have tweaked your interest, then I am happy but if I get you thinking, reassessing and searching for more, then I am thrilled. Trust Nature, She has all the answers…
Dr Catherine Knight
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