Last month I shared the idea of health as a state of balance. One of my mentors, Dickson Thom, ND, illustrates the concept of balance in the body with a simple metaphor that I often share with my patients, and would like to share with you.
Imagine the human body as a bucket. This bucket has a spigot at the bottom where it drains. The spigot represents our organs of elimination, or emunctories, which detoxify wastes from the body. In Naturopathic Medicine we think of the primary emunctories – the bowels, kidneys, lungs, and skin – and the secondary emunctories – the stomach, liver, pancreas, prostate, and (I would add) the uterus, emotions, and energetic body.
As we move through life, ‘stuff’ gets put in our buckets. This ‘stuff’ comes from inside us (byproducts from bodily processes,) and outside us in the form of unhealthy foods, electromagnetics, plastics, polluted air, stress, mold, sugar, etc. If our emunctories function optimally, the spigot drains the bucket as things enter the top. If they are not functioning well (i.e. we are not sweating, we have constipation or dehydration, etc.) then the bucket fills up and starts to spill out over the top. This is when we experience symptoms. Symptoms, in the form of fatigue, anxiety, joint pain, migraines, diarrhea, etc., are a sign of imbalance, and a clue that the emunctories are not working well together. If one of our organs is burdened, as in the case of smoker’s lungs, then we may see signs of stress in another, such as eczema on the skin.
I like this metaphor because it paints a picture of the body as a self-healing organism and illustrates an important first step in reversing chronic illness, which is to nourish and support the organs of elimination. It is inspiring because rather than suppressing symptoms through the use of medications, we can support the body’s innate healing capacity. This is where I begin with my patients. Over time we find the balance between what moves in and out of the bucket by caring for the mind, emotions, and body. Below are some general ways to maintain a balanced bucket:
Avoid putting unnecessary things into the bucket:
– Drink clean, filtered water
– Eat local, organic foods
– Avoid: fried / burned foods, plastic food storage
– Decrease time on devices
– Watch for stress, overwork, negative thought patterns
Help the bucket to drain effectively:
– Sleep, proper nutrition
– Exercise in fresh air
– Process emotional experiences. Laugh! Cry! Dance!
– Hydrotherapy (saunas, castor oil packs, dry skin brushing)
– Spiritual hygiene, supportive relationships
– Homeopathy (individually tailored)
– Herbal teas (burdock root, cleavers, turmeric, red clover)