Overdoing Healthy Things Can Be Unhealthy

The following is a transcript of an episode from the Pointers podcast on Apple Podcasts. Pointers discusses the science that points to vibrant health and provides pointers for getting there.

Do you sometimes overdo healthy things? It’s easy to do. It’s exciting when you hear about a compelling, new idea. The idea in and of itself may may be be beneficial, but overdoing it usually is not.

In part, overdoing it has to do with some of our common attitudes that include “All or Nothing” thinking. Instead of “Less is more,” “More is more.” And” No pain, no gain.” And yet, that’s not how the human body is designed to work. Pain, for example – whether it’s physical or emotional – is a sign that something’s wrong. And, really, that should be our guide. It’s important to understand that although the human body can be pushed to the limit occasionally, it isn’t designed to do that in the long run. Our bodies will always let us know. We just need to listen. Otherwise, we may pay a price.

Instead, we should embrace the principle: Everything in moderation.

I speak from experience. For me, it began in 2004 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and, as part of the treatment protocol, did some rounds of chemo. Chemo works on the principle of targeting cancer cells, though destroying other cells, which damages the body, but to the point where the body can still recover. It’s a balancing act. As rounds of chemo are administered, the body has time to recover in between rounds, but not completely, progressively breaking down the body over the course of the treatment, so that by the end of the treatment, the chemo will have done its job of destroying the cancer cells, and the body, though sick, will be well enough to recover. It isn’t in the interest of this blogpost to discuss about cancer treatments and their effectiveness. I’m merely presenting this as an example relevant to this discussion..

Generally speaking, I put western medicine on one end of the health practices spectrum. Though the goal is with health in mind, many of the practices are harmful to the body overdoing it. Prescription medications are another example. They may help to alleviate a problem, really, just the symptoms of the problem, but often they create other problems. For example, a common side effect of cholesterol-lowering medications is muscle pain. Even seemingly harmless antibiotics overdo it in that even though they destroy harmful bacteria, they also destroy good bacteria in the gut which make up a healthy flora, which affects, among other things, digestion, mood, and cognition. This is not to be taken lightly if down the road you were to suddenly develop new health problems.

After some rounds of chemo, I terminated my breast cancer treatment altogether in favor of natural healing. Generally speaking, I put natural healing on the other end of the health practices spectrum. Also with the goal of health in mind, the difference is that natural healing practices work with the body’s built-in healing mechanisms to heal the body. They don’t damage the body. And yet, some of the practices can be overdone, as well. Here’s an example.

After terminating my breast cancer treatment, I was under the care of an MD who practiced alternative medicine and put me on a program that included enzyme therapy. At first, I did feel better, but then I started to feel sick. It turns out that the program was inducing healing at a rate faster than my body could keep up with. It’s called a healing crisis. This, too, is a balancing act, albeit on the healing side. In effect, for every healing step forward my body was taking, it was taking a few healing steps back. So, what lies on the spectrum in between, and specifically what lies on the end of the spectrum nearer the natural healing practices. Because this is what I’m referring to in today’s podcast. In a sense, they may be things that are considered trendy: juicing, taking turmeric, bootcamp fitness training, detoxing, and more.

Well, here are some of the healthy things that I’ve overdone in the past.

I used to drink a lot of green drinks and smoothies, 2 or 3 mostly spinach-based green vegetable drinks a day. I felt amazing! In addition to obtaining a load of nutrients, green drinks are highly alkalizing. But it turns out that spinach is high in oxalate, a substance that promotes kidney stone formation and inflammation in some people when eaten in excess. That’s according to research that was published in the Nutrition and Food Science Journal in 2015. I must be one of those people, because one of my big toes started to hurt, a symptom of gout which is associated with kidney stones. I tried rotating other greens with less oxalate, finding out that parsley is also high in oxalate, which was disappointing, because I love parsley. Parsley also has a substance which is dehydrating. Today, I enjoy a green drink or smoothie every once in a while as a treat.

Another thing, I need to consume a little bit of caffeine in the morning to jump start my day, so there was a time when I would drink an espresso. The caffeine in espresso and coffee drinks is dehydrating, so after drinking the espresso I would drink a few glasses of water to rehydrate — and end up dehydrated. You see, drinking too much water too quickly can be dehydrating. The human body is mostly water, about 80% in adults. The body is like a reservoir for water, storing it and using it, as needed. Think of a bucket filled with water. On a hot day, the water evaporating would be like the body using water, and the water replenished when it rains would be like when we rehydrate. If you were to pour a lot of water into the bucket very quickly, the water would spill out of the bucket very quickly. This is like what happens when we drink too much water too quickly. You would know this because you would urinate a lot soon after. In time, I learned not to drink so much water all at once.

Drinking too much water too quickly can also upset the body’s delicate sodium/potassium balance that regulates water distribution. As you probably know, water dilutes salt, the sodium. Also upsetting electrolyte balance. Both sodium and potassium are electrolytes. On the flip side, I also used to drink a lot of coconut water which is very high in potassium. 

I used to drink a 16 oz bottle of kombucha every day. Kombucha is a tangy, fizzy, fermented black tea drink, a natural probiotic. I love it. But the caffeine and tannins in black tea are dehydrating. It wasn’t long before I noticed being parched. Eventually, I learned to drink about 2 ounces of kombucha at a time.

Coconut oil has many healthful properties. It kills viruses, bacteria, and fungus, boosting the immune system. It’s a natural blood thinner. It helps with weight loss; The body doesn’t store the medium chain fatty acids, it uses them as fuel. To obtain all these benefits and more, I would eat 2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil a day, right out of the jar. It got to the point where I couldn’t tolerate eating it anymore. It was a while before I could even cook with it again. Today, I couldn’t eat coconut oil on its own if I wanted to.

Raw, apple cider vinegar is incredibly healthy. It can lower blood sugar levels, increase good cholesterol, and reduce belly fat. I used to drink raw apple cider vinegar diluted in water several times a day. But because the acid can loosen the enamel on teeth, I began to drink it through a straw. Today, I just sprinkle some raw, apple cider vinegar on my salads.

I used to take a few drops of cayenne tincture in water to boost my circulation. It is also said that cayenne can stop a heart attack. I believe it, because once I drank too much cayenne in warm water on an empty stomach — all of which boosts the effect — and thought my heart would burst from my chest. Now, I sprinkle a little cayenne in cooking.

I did deep-tissue alkalizing. The idea is to take heavy doses of highly alkalizing compounds to draw stored acids from body tissues so they could be eliminated from the body. An acidic body is an unhealthy body. I took one proprietary blend that turned out to be mostly sodium. It worked — sodium is alkalizing — but the compound would also dangerously raise my blood pressure. I switched to a compound that was high in iron, which is also alkalizing, but the iron would upset my stomach. Today, I alkalize in other, moderate ways doing the 7 body basics.

Wheat grass would also upset my stomach and make me nauteous. I even chewed it. You have to do that to digest it properly. I no longer drink wheat grass.

I used to do HIIT or high intensity interval training to stimulate my body’s production of human growth hormone, which is called the youthfulness hormone. I followed a protocol that was developed by an expert but noticed that I was feeling stressed-out. It turns out that HIIT can increase the production of cortisol, a stress hormone, which can lead to weight gain, depression, sleep problems, and chronic fatigue. I stopped doing HIIT.

For those of you who have not overdone healthy things, you have to understand my perspective. Back when I had cancer, I beat it and wanted to avoid ever having another health crisis again. That’s when I got into the habit of overdoing healthy things because I believed that more would be more. I did what I felt was necessary to recover, and I don’t regret it. This can happen for anyone who’s had a health crisis. But, eventually, years later, long after I’d recovered, at some point I stopped overdoing healthy things. In part, I just didn’t want to do them anymore; it was too much work. In part, I began to question doing them. 

For example, I read about oil pulling, swishing preferably coconut oil in your mouth for 20 minutes, “pulling” it through your teeth. It’s an ancient Ayurvedic oral therapy that helps keep your mouth clear of bacteria and pulls toxins from your body. I believe in the wisdom of Ayurveda. It’s been around for around 3000 years, it has to have merit. But I wondered, for my purposes, why couldn’t just eating coconut oil be beneficial enough? I discovered that it could and decided to combine it with my daily oral hygiene program of brushing, flossing, and rinsing, and doing periodic detoxing instead.

At one point, I wanted to find a natural way of obtaining minerals. Scientifically, it made sense to me that high quality, organic egg shells might be an excellent natural source of minerals, but the truth is, I couldn’t bring myself to eating them. Instead, I found a liquid ionic multi-mineral formula that I take in water at breakfast, along with a multi-vitamin and fish oil pills. It’s easier and more convenient.

I looked into doing coffee enemas as an alternative to doing colonics. I’d done some colonics and felt great, but they’re expensive. Coffee enemas and colonics have many benefits but work slightly differently. Coffee enemas are included in the medical reference textbook, the Merck manual. But they seem too complicated to me, and I didn’t want to deal with the insertion part of either enemas or colonics anymore, if you know what I mean. Alternatively, I decided to periodically do an herbal bowel detox, and regularly eat fiber, stay hydrated, and eat fermented vegetables which taste delicious to keep my intestinal tract free and clear all the time.

Black salve has the property of eliminating cancerous skin growths without affecting the surrounding healthy tissue. Online people have reported that a 100% concentration works very well but can sometimes leave a gouge. I’d had a mole on my neck that had gotten darker through the years. I didn’t want to risk having a gouge in my neck. Eventually, I found a product that contains a very low concentration of black salve, along with some other ingredients. The product dried up the mole and fell off without a leaving a trace of the mole or a scar behind.

So, as you can see, I’d then gone through a stage of finding simple, alternative solutions. I was excited because I’d also reached a point at which I no longer wanted health to be at the center of my life. I didn’t want my daily routine to be consumed by doing, rather overdoing, healthy things. I wanted health to seamlessly blend into my day. I’d reached a new stage. It occurred to me that doing what turned out to be the 7 body basics in moderation was more effective. Because it complements how the body is designed to work. I’d finally come full circle and landed in the middle of the health practices spectrum, just slightly off center in the direction of natural healing. That’s where I remain today. And that’s where I encourage you to be, as well.

Here are some other instances of overdoing it that I know of. I mention them not to criticize, because remember, I’ve been there, done that, too, but to assist us in recognizing examples of overdoing healthy things.

A young man who passed out doing the a popular home remedy cleanse after 20 days. 

A young woman who passed out at a spa doing a 3 day monitored detox/fasting program.

A young man who got dizzy and vomited at a bootcamp class.

A yoga teacher and students who injured their necks doing head stands. 

A personal trainer who injured his achilles heel overdoing cross-fit training.

Another personal trainer who was awakened at night with pain in her arms from overdoing an advanced training class. She also ate very little fat and wasn’t happy about her facial skin thinking she looked older. Brown fat, healthy fat, from eating fat makes you look younger. Dr. James Lyon says in his book, “The Brown Fat Revolution.”

Turmeric has become popular for countering inflammation, which is the body’s natural response to damage. Inflammation is how the body heals damage, by flushing an area with water and nutrients and flushing waste away. Certainly, turmeric can be helpful in mitigating chronic inflammation caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, but a better solution would be to adopt the a healthy lifestyle, alleviating the inflammation that is caused by an unhealthy lifestyle.

A coconut-based ice cream place — and wonderful, if I might add — advertised a weight loss program based on the weight loss benefits of eating coconut oil. The program involved eating  nothing but ice cream for three days straight. Sounds like heaven, except the daily sugar consumption was 125 grams. A person who is pre-diabetic — which is common these days given our poor lifestyles — can become a diabetic.

That’s what can happen with juicing. An article in The Harvard Gazette entitled, “Skip the Juice, Go for Whole Fruit,” reported that “today’s popular daily drinking of fruit juices and smoothies is too much of a good thing, associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.” It stands to reason. A single glass of juice may have the equivalent sugar of 4 or 5 pieces of fruit. A middle-aged woman who didn’t know she was pre-diabetic went into a sugar coma doing a juice program for weight loss. She was drinking a gallon of orange juice a day. She ended up in the hospital and today she’s a diabetic.

Do everything in moderation. It works.

Following the 7 body basics, I eat fresh food, protein that’s mostly animal-based, a lot of vegetables, some fruit, a lot of fat, and and even some bread; stay hydrated drinking mostly water; move vigorously riding my bike, dancing, hiking, and taking walks; get enough restful sleep; keep an eye on my breathing taking deep breaths throughout my day; have several effortless bowel movements a day; do some simple daily detox and periodic deep detoxing; and do what makes me feel good, whether it’s loving and laughing or letting go of buried pain from past experiences. It’s simple. It’s convenient. It’s moderate. And it works.

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