She saw various doctors: the first suggested a double mastectomy; the next wanted to do that plus chemo; the third doc wanted to do both of those plus radiation. The fourth doctor she saw told her that she had 90 days to live, that none of those treatments would help her, and that she should go home and put her affairs in order. She did go home: but she decided to not put her affairs in order (having spoken to her, I would conclude that her emotional and spiritual affairs were already in order). She decided to pray and fast. On the third day, she felt the presence of Jesus, and she started sweating. She understood her sweating as a message, and she began a practice of sweating with a vengeance. Three times a day, she took herself into a hot sauna. We are now three years later, and Shirley is cancer-free, telling her remarkable story of healing. (She has a book, Stage 4 Cancer Gone.)
I am a long-time advocate of sweating as the easiest, and perhaps most powerful form of detoxification. We at La Casa have understood the necessity for detoxification, and colonics remain our most popular therapy. But sweating has not been generally understood to be as powerful as colon cleansing. It's been unfortunately understood to be a poor first cousin.
However, there is now a groundbreaking study that confirms the importance of sweating in detoxification. A 2011 study published in the Archives of Environmental and Contamination Toxicology explored the effects of bioaccumulated toxic elements within the human body and methods of excretion from the body:
"Toxic elements were found to differing degrees in each of blood, urine, and sweat. Serum levels for most metals and metalloids were comparable with those found in other studies in the scientific literature. Many toxic elements appeared to be preferentially excreted through sweat. Presumably stored in tissues, some toxic elements readily identified in the perspiration of some participants were not found in their serum. Induced sweating appears to be a potential method for elimination of many toxic elements from the human body."
The researchers make the important observation that "Biomonitoring for toxic elements through blood and/or urine testing may underestimate the total body burden of such toxicants." They recommend sweat analysis as an additional method for monitoring bioaccumulation of toxic elements in humans. (Thank you Sayer Ji, and Green Med Info, for this reference.)
I get my daily sweat-fix by doing yoga in a hot room. These days I take Prana Yoga, which is a heated room to about 100 degrees. (There's a Prana studio in the neighborhood of La Casa, as well as in Brooklyn.) But 15 years or so ago, I started with Bikram, whose room is heated to 104 degrees.
Bikram calls the room a "torture chamber," but defends the practice by saying a warm body is a flexible body. He doesn't talk specifically about detoxification, but I do remember when I was doing Bikram that the teacher would quote him saying that taking his classes gives you a mini-heart attack now in order to prevent the big heart attack later. I think the same can be said about sweating, which essentially constitutes the artificial induction of a fever.
In Defense of Fever
Since we began our journey as humans (about 3 hundred million years ago when we began as cold-blooded vertebrates), fever has been one of the body's natural defenses against pathogens. A pathogen enters our body; some aspect of our immune system recognizes that an enemy has taken up residence within us; and the defense mounts. Inflammation is one of the body's three main defenses. The others are isolation--as in a cancer tumor, and regeneration--as in new, healthier cells being formed. (These attempts by the body to self-regulate, and how and why most of us today have lost this ability is described in detail in my book, Deceits of the Mind and Their Effects on the Body.)
Unfortunately, those of us living today have seriously compromised our bodies' abilities to utilize the acute inflammation defense. Children are no longer getting the febrile afflictions that were common when I was growing up: measles, mumps, chicken pox. Those illnesses were crucial for the periodic exercising of our immune systems. They lasted a few days, and then we were romping around again with healthy bodies. Today, mono is more common for teenagers. My daughter, like many of her classmates, had a bout of mono last winter, and was down and out, with a high fever that morphed into a low-grade fever for three months.
It needs to be said here that there is a large difference between acute inflammation and chronic inflammation: acute conditions have a beginning, middle and end, and at the end, you are healthier than you were before the inflammatory response. (Once I got mumps and such, I never got them again because my body had developed antibodies.) Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, leaves your reserves depleted from fighting too hard and for too long. Many holistic clinicians say that most modern ailments are caused by inflammation. But they are referring to chronic inflammation.
Until recently, the mainstream medical community thought that all the modern health threats--from cancer to heart attacks, strokes, to diabetes and Alzheimer's--were all caused by different things and demanded different treatments. But, one scientific study after another has turned all of what medical researchers thought they knew upside down. Because all these afflictions do have one factor in common, and that factor is systemic chronic inflammation.
Now, instead of getting periodic acute inflammatory responses to pathogens, in the form of fevers, we are plagued with the degenerative diseases wherein our immune systems are exhausted, and seem to be sleeping on the job of fighting pathogenic materials (like cancer cells, like plaque that is involved in heart disease).
Thus, I would like to modify Bikram's phrase, and say that hot yoga gives an acute mini-fever now in order to prevent the chronic inflammation that is evident later in the serious and life-threatening degenerative diseases.
When I was Ruth Sackman's assistant at the Foundation for the Advancement of Cancer Therapies in the 1970's, we put together a program with Dr. Donald Cole for whole-body hyperthermia. We worked with a hospital in Queens, and subjected cancer patients with large tumors to over five hours of an induced high fever--over 105 degrees (the temperature at which cancer cells begin to die).
Hyperthermia is being offered today in the US on an experimental basis, but only as a localized treatment, usually using radio waves to heat the tissue, and in conjunction with chemotherapy. The process of heating the tissue was described to one willing patient with breast cancer as being like "microwaving" her breast. Hmmm. Not something I would want to do. I believe the method we used with Dr. Cole is currently performed only in Germany. The clinics there do not use radio waves, and the treatment is not a localized therapy. The German clinics embrace the same concept that Ruth Sackman worked with--that cancer is a systemic disease, and, thus, the treatment should be systemic, as well.
Anthropological medicine (formulated by Rudolf Steiner) has researched the history of cancer patients, and found that they often show a history of not having had the usual childhood febrile diseases that can serve as life-long protection against cancer.
La Casa has two sweat "torture chambers." We have a salt sauna, which is specifically good for the respiratory system. And we have the ozone steam (which Shirley had called about), that not only heats your body, opening up your pores, but then pumps in activated oxygen (ozone). Ozone kills every pathogen known to mankind, and it kills cancer cells upon contact. It is used in the medical practice of 70% of the physicians in Germany. As well, there are whole hospitals in Cuba and India devoted to ozone therapies. You may be wondering why these specific countries have embraced ozone--India and Cuba have in common that they are poor. Germany was essentially bankrupt after the war, and that is when ozone began to be used there. Oxygen is free. That's the commonality. Poor countries look to nature for healing. Nature is free.
Thank you Shirley Mitchell Williams for your inspiring story, and your reminder about the miraculous effect of detoxing through sweating.