Detoxification and Healing:
The Key to Optimal Health
by Sidney McDonald Baker, M.D.
Keats Publishing, 1997
If you ever had a teacher or professor who, without being harsh, really challenged your understanding of a subject to the point it became a subject you loved? If you have, you'll have an idea of what Dr. Baker's wonderful book, Detoxification and Healing, can do for your understanding of the processes by which the body detoxifies.
In his own words, Dr. Baker says
"When I speak of detoxification,... I mean the processes by which the body rids itself of unwanted materials. I do not mean what happens in the bathroom, whether that is bathing or emptying the bowels or bladder. I refer to the biochemistry of handling potentially harmful chemicals that appear within the system and which must be neutralized before they pass from the body."
But before the word biochemistry causes your eyes to glaze over, allow me to assure you that, as with any difficult subject, the right teacher can bring the subject to life for anyone willing to pay attention. With his use of anecdotes from decades of clinical practice, and imaginative visual models, Dr. Baker gives us a ringside seat and understanding to the newest developments in nutritionally related biochemical science. With this understanding, he predicts we will be able to watch several great changes in perspective that will occur over the next 20 years in the field of health and medicine.
"The case histsories I've recounted are intended to prepare you for a discussion of the 'whys and wherefores' of illness. If you understand some basic immunology and biochemistry, you will be better prepared to evaluate the kinds of tests and treatments that your medical doctor, nutritionist, psychiatrist, acupuncturist, personal trainer, coach, homeopath, naturopath, chiropractor, dentist, psychologist or sister-in-law may recommend in the name of good health. It is not likely that you will be bitten the ear canal by a tick [one of his stories], but it is certainly possible that some critter, allergen, toxin, bacterium, fungus or virus will cross your path and lead you to ponder your options for preventing or alleviating the consequences. You may need special lessons to make wise choices among your options when you are told to avoid fat, take antioxidants or minerals, avoid pesticides, hair dye, sugar, coffee, air pollution, medications, sunlight, indoor air, outdoor air, meat, wheat or long walks in the rain. If you develop chronic or recurring symptoms and wish to be an intelligent participant in your own detective work to sort it out, you definitely need special lessons. The lessons I have to offer will provide a point of view as well as some general principles of immunology and biochemistry that every adult should understand."
One of these great upcoming changes that Dr. Baker predicts and uses himself is a systems approach to health. Again, Dr. Baker has a marvelous way of explaining the systems approach through "The 'Tacks Rules'--1. If you are sitting on a tack, it takes a lot of aspirin to make it feel good. 2. If you are sitting on two tacks, removing just one does not result in a 50 percent improvement." Dr. Baker suggests you can substitute the word aspirin here with antibiotics, psychotherapy, vitamins, organic foods, but he states clearly that the proper treatment for sitting on a tack is tack removal. In other words, says Dr. Baker, "the body may be irritated by an unwanted substance. If not a tack, it could be a disagreeable substance such as a food that causes an allergy, it could be lead or a germ or a naturally occurring or manufactured toxin. The presence of some unwanted substance is a common root of illness." (page 2).
Dr. Baker doesn't look for one solution. He endeavors to help his patients in as many ways as possible. This can be through testing that eliminates the threat of major life-threatening maladies as predominant factors, then proceeds to improve health through general nutrition supplementation, makes recommendations for improved emotional health, and if a problem continues to exist, proceeds to investigate it with genuine concern, patience and open-mindedness.
Dr. Baker describes doctors as belonging to one of two different camps. "Those who see what they believe and those who believe what they see," the former being doctors who will not be persuaded that a person's health condition can be explained by anything that falls outside the conventional current mainstream AMA-endorsed, major-medical-school-taught, collegue-subscribed approaches to everything from allergies to warts (couldn't think of anything that started with a "z.") And Dr. Baker has seen the kind of punishment the medical profession can levy on doctors, especially researchers, whose work contradicts the prevailing approach. He has seen that they lose their positions. They lose their grants. But he has also seen that eventually, they may be exonerated by the gradual acceptance of their findings as accurate. Just knowing that there's one doctor (Dr. Baker) out there actually listening to his patients can give a person some hope. Dr. Baker believes a key phrase in his medical detective work is the question that begins, "Doctor, do you think my condition could be related to..." Dr. Baker believes in the individual's intuition with regard to problems.
Dr. Baker introduces us to a startling leap in medical science--that our central nervous system and our immune systems are the same, based on function. The perception and memory of the immune system being oriented to germs and allergens in the same way that our senses are oriented to sights, sounds, tastes etc.
"Only in the last three generations have scientists understood how this system, the immune system, works at a cellular and molecular level, and only ten years ago did I first hear a professor of immunology (John Dwyer at Yale) state that the immune system and central nervous system share the distinction of being homes for cells that remain intact from infancy to old age...A 'new discipline' of psychoneuroimmunology has grown up around observations linking the function of the brain and psyche with that of the immune system, which had been considered on anatomical grounds to be quite separate
.an alien being might reasonably ask: 'How does the human perceive the environment?' and 'Where is the memory?' If such a being had the capacity to see that there are nests of cells in our bodies that are permanent while other cells come and go, it would see that these same cells are the basis for the functions of perception and memory; that they are the 'essential cells,' the center of the abiding individual and the basis for the persistence of the self in a human being." (page 8)
Back to detoxification. Dr. Baker believes that by improving our bodies' abilities to handle toxic substances, whether those substances originate outside the body or are the result of natural processes of metabolism, we can strengthen our immune system, which along with our brains, constitute a "memory" system of permanent cells that it is essential to protect. Avoiding toxins can be part of the answer and improved detoxification processes can improve and/or protect anyone's health.
He cautions, however, that "Complete avoidance of offending allergens or toxins is not usually possible. Good nutrition to supply individual needs for certain basic nutrients becomes a top priority in improving efficient detoxification mechanisms." (page 2)
Nutritional supplementation is much more individualized, because according to Dr. Baker, there are more differences among individual humans than there are differences among other creatures of a given species. The optimum in terms of supplementation will be different for each person. In this perspective he agrees with and relies on the work of Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D., who wrote the foreword to Detoxification and Healing and is the author of another important book, The 20-Day Rejuvenation Program.