Friday, January 22, 2016

The Detoxification of Women's Bodies

Detoxing is all the rage.  However, its definition is a tad fuzzy and there are tons of  unscrupulous folk willing to scam you out of your money over it.  My first clue regarding the definition was when I told my CFS doc that I was having detox problems with my glutathione IVs.  He asked me what exactly I meant by that and I had to go into a lengthy explanation of what was happening to my body.  This should have cued me into the ramifications of detoxification language but I was messed up enough at the time to only get slightly aggravated with my doc for being so dense.  Lately, however, I've noticed something that I find disturbing.  I don't know if this is new since I'm relatively new in the chronic illness sphere.  It might have been around for years or decades.  Also, this is fairly difficult for me to describe since the evidence for my disquietude is subtle.  So let me start with language.

Language is a powerful thing and the way we use language can give us insight into how the mind is functioning both in a neurophysical sense and a psychological sense.  An example of a neurophysical glitch would be word loss/substitution.  Calling your pets your furbabies might be an indication that you are substituting your pets for actual children on a psychological level.  What is disturbing me is the way women tend to discuss detoxification.  

Our bodies do indeed have many real detoxification pathways that can break.  The methylation (MTHFR) pathway broke in me and I got very sick as a result.  I needed glutathione IVs, activated charcoal, bentonite clay and B12 to get thing working again. There are also liver pathways (CY9 SNPs), the lymphatic system and probably a few others I don't know anything about yet.  Our bodies can also break in another way; for example leaky gut, where toxins that normally wouldn't be allowed in, sneak in through gaps between the cells lining the gut.  So there are ways that we can break that allow stuff in (leaky gut or leaky brain barrier or even broken skin) and ways that we can break where we can't adequately eliminate toxins from our system (MTHFR, CY9 defects or even not being able to poop regularly).  These are biochemical and physical glitches in our system.  They can be tested for and for the most part fixed or worked around given the right supplements and/or meds and/or diet.
We can also reduce the toxic burden on our bodies by eating clean, removing toxins from our environment, using air and water filters, etc.  The idea is that the fewer toxins we are exposed to then the less the body has to work to eliminate because the toxins were never ingested/absorbed in the first place.

Now here is where it starts to get weird.  When I first started the B12 and folate protocol for MTHFR I started bleeding heavily for weeks on end.  It took me a while to figure out that it coincided with the vitamins.  When I asked about it I was told by several women "Oh that is just the body detoxing.  Don't worry about it.".  I accepted this explanation and tried to continue with the protocol.  This lead to anemia from the excessive blood loss.  I even ended up in the ER at one point with a UT probe up my hoohoo (very uncomfortable BTW) with no evidence that there was anything causing the bleeding.  Taking high doses of fish oil leads to the same thing for me.  I was put on high doses of progesterone to halt the bleeding and there was even talk about cauterization of my uterus to prevent it from happening again.  Not a route I wanted to go so I stopped taking fish oil, B12 and folate which stopped the bleeding.  But this idea that my uterus was detoxing started niggling at me.

Other women were experiencing the same side effects as me but I have yet to find a scientific explanation for it.  The male docs I talked to had never heard of it and the women assumed that their bodies were toxic/dirty and trying to self correct through a detox process that doesn't exist.  While you do indeed detox via breath, sweat, pee and poop, I've never EVER heard of detoxing through the uterus.  I certainly didn't bleed heavily while I was on glutathione IVs even though the detoxification was so drastic that I had to take charcoal or clay after a treatment to reduce the herxing.  

Now you have to realize that women have been told for centuries that bleeding is dirty.  Our lady parts are dirty.  They must be cleaned, deodorized and sanitized.  Companies make a fortune convincing us to use tampons, pads, deodorants, soaps, shampoos and, more recently, shaving all our hair off.  So the idea that our uterus must be detoxed isn't a stretch.  In fact I just found this article:

Doctors Warn Against Using Herbal Tampons To "Detox the Womb"

which describes little herbal sachets that go into your vagina to cleanse it.

I've noticed in some of the patient pages that women often go for the detoxing first.  They assume that their bodies are contaminated and dirty and need cleaning.  This is even before they get tested for ANYTHING, genetics, vitamin deficiency, glutathione levels, ANYTHING.  I never seen the guys do this.  True these spaces are mostly populated by female patients so my sampling is severely skewed, BUT given the history of "dirty women's bodies that must be cleansed" it isn't much of a stretch that women are now assuming that they must be detoxed with little to no evidence.  You see it in the huge sales of juice fasts, sugar detox diets, Whole30 resets, etc.   It is just assumed that our bodies are contaminated and must be fixed.

I'm still trying to work through these ideas.  There is some line that needs to be drawn between actual physical problems when the body breaks and this idea that we are necessarily dirty and must be cleansed at all costs.  If our bodies work properly, then they detox themselves just fine.  There are rumors about yoga gurus that can drink poison without any ill effects because they have trained their body to detox itself very efficiently, but I digress...  I guess I'm trying to get away from the idea that women are necessarily dirty, that our natural state is unclean or that because we are sick we must be toxic.  I keep seeing in the patient forums the language women use to describe detoxing in relation to their bodies and it often reminds me of the "women are dirty and must be cleansed" line of thought.  While we might break, we are most often fixable but we are not necessarily dirty.  It is very hard to find examples of the language I'm referring to since it is very subtle.  For me, it has been a cumulative thing rather than one big glaring example.   Never the less it still worries me.  We need to hold ourselves in higher esteem.  Get tested first.  Don't assume that you are dirty/contaminated.  Find out what is broken and fix that rather than going on random and possibly dangerous detoxification protocols that might not have any science behind them at all.  Our bodies are miraculous objects that can handle toxins when working properly.  And, no, you do NOT detox through uterine bleeding.  That is just plain nonsense akin to bloodletting with leeches.  If you are bleeding, stop the protocol before you get anemia.

However, I still have no idea why B12, folate and fish oil cause heavy bleeding.   In that regard, the medical mystery continues.   In the meantime, I do want to be more mindful about how I discuss and think about detoxification.  Language matters and my uterus does NOT need detoxifying, thank you very much.

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