Bruce Fife, ND
I often receive letters and emails from people expressing gratitude for making them aware of the many benefits of coconut oil and how it has helped them lose excess weight, raise energy levels, improve thyroid function, stop sugar cravings, improve digestion, and so forth. However, sometimes people complain that the oil seems to have brought on new problems. For instance, one such person recently said, “After reading your book, I was convinced that coconut oil would help me lose weight and ease some of my other health problems. I dived in head first, pouring the oil onto everything I ate, consuming between 6 to 7 tablespoons a day. Almost immediately I began to experience some nausea and diarrhea and within days I developed a most horrific skin rash on my legs that itched terribly. I thought coconut oil was going to make me feel better, but right now I feel awful.”
For this reason, some people ask, “If coconut oil is so good, why do I feel so bad?” Coconut oil can have a very potent healing effect on some people. When they start using it daily, the oil stimulates their metabolism, boosts their immune function, and kicks their body’s innate healing process into overdrive. As a consequence, symptoms of cleansing, known as a “healing crisis” may arise.
The body has an amazing capacity to heal itself. When we get a cut, break a bone, or get an infection, the body immediately goes to work to repair the damage. As the body responds to injury or illness, a variety of symptoms appear. These symptoms, although discomforting at times, are crucial to the healing process. They are the means by which the body heals and repairs itself.
For example, if you break a bone, swelling immediately follows. The purpose of the swelling is to keep the broken ends of the bone immobile so further damage will not be done and so that healing can take place. If you get a cut on your finger it is followed by inflammation and pain. These symptoms increase circulation into the injured area bringing in blood to fight off infection and repair the damage. Pain is present so that you are consciously aware of the injury, which keeps you from using the finger and making the injury worse. A respiratory infection can be accompanied by a fever and sinus discharge. The fever develops as a means to kill the invading organism, which is sensitive to body temperature. Fever also increases circulation and stimulates white blood cell production. White blood cells fight invading germs. Dead white blood cells and germs are expelled from the body in the mucus. Food poisoning is often accompanied by diarrhea or vomiting. Both of these symptoms result as the body tries to expel dangerous toxins as quickly as possible.
Symptoms which accompany illness or injury are signs that the body is working to overcome a problem. For the most part, they should be allowed to run their course in order to give the body time to heal and repair itself. Medications designed to suppress symptoms may help you feel better but they interfere with and slow down the healing process. This is why I prefer to use herbs and diet rather than rely on drugs to treat illness and poor health.
Transitioning from the high-carb, sugar-laden diet, typical of our society, to a low-carb or ketogenic diet can bring about a dramatic change, especially when it is combined with coconut oil. With the proper nutrients available, the body has an amazing capacity to repair itself, flush out fat, toxic waste, and diseased tissues and rebuild and rebalance itself. At times, this cleansing process can become so intense that a number of symptoms appear.
This period of intense cleansing is called a “healing crisis.” It is referred to as a “crisis” because it involves somewhat unpleasant symptoms such as fatigue and nausea. It is regarded as “healing” because that is what is happening—the body is experiencing an accelerated period of cleansing and healing.
As you change your diet and begin consuming coconut oil and healthier foods, you may experience a healing crisis. Therefore, it is important that you understand what is happening.
When the body is provided with the proper nutrients necessary for cleansing and rebuilding, it will start removing stored fat and toxins at an accelerated rate. During this cleansing process, dead and diseased cells and toxic wastes throughout the body are washed out and dumped into the bloodstream to be removed through the body’s channels of elimination—kidney’s, bowels, lungs, skin, sinuses, etc. You may experience any number of symptoms as your body purges this garbage. Symptoms you could encounter include: nausea, diarrhea, frequent urination, nervousness, irritability, depression, fever, mucus discharge, cramps, headaches, skin rashes, swelling, nausea, excess gas, and fatigue. In fact, any symptom is possible. Often, the symptoms are mistaken for a case of the flu.
The symptoms and their duration will vary with each individual. No one experiences all these symptoms, only a few or as little as one or two, if any at all. Sometimes the symptoms are so mild they go unnoticed. Just because you change your diet and add coconut oil doesn’t guarantee that you will experience a healing crisis. Most people who go on the Coconut Ketogenic Diet don’t notice any particular “cleansing” symptoms. Although it is common to experience some withdrawal symptoms as you cut out sugar and grains. The healing crisis is only temporary. Typically, symptoms last only a couple of days, but may last a couple of weeks or longer.
Keep in mind, the symptoms are processes that facilitate healing. Let them run their course. There is nothing to fear from a healing crisis. It is not an illness and you need not take any medications to relieve symptoms. In fact, taking medications will suppress the symptoms and stop the cleansing process.
If you experience a healing crisis, it means your body is working to become healthier. This should be welcomed as a sign of improving health. Once the symptoms subside, you will feel a heightened sense of health and vitality. Health parameters such as body weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, blood lipids and such will also improve. This is the way natural healing works.
To learn more about the healing crisis, how to recognize it, and what to do and what not to do if it happens, I recommend you read my by book The Healing Crisis.