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Be Your Own Nurse in a Healing Crisis

Getty/Aja Koska

A healing crisis brought on by a holistic health treatment is no cause for panic. Rest and replenish with these whole-body remedies.

Every one of us has experienced a healing crisis—whether or not we recognized it as such. Our bodies are constantly working towards a state of health and balance. Healing crisis symptoms range from acute inflammation (such as the swelling around a sprain) to full-body malaise.

Conventional medicine pathologizes the symptoms of a healing crisis. For example, doctors will often prescribe chemical creams to suppress a rash without ever pausing to consider what caused it. Instead of exploring the root causes of depression or anxiety, they will prescribe drugs that force the body into a simulacrum of equilibrium (which only causes more harm in the long run).

Holistic medicine recognizes that each symptom is a part of the body’s efforts to heal itself, and practitioners delve deeper to treat the body as a whole. Modalities such as acupuncture, reiki, chiropractic, and functional medicine are all about harnessing the innate healing power of the body. As stuck energy begins to move, new symptoms may emerge.

Healing Crisis Symptoms

“You can’t just treat a limb and not affect the root,” explains Starla Rae, LAc. When her patients schedule an acupuncture treatment, she warns them not to plan on doing anything strenuous after the appointment. Even if they’re coming in for a shoulder injury, traditional Chinese medicine (which includes acupuncture, herbal remedies, cupping, and even massage) can affect them in unexpected ways.

Potential symptoms of a healing crisis include aches and pains, disturbed sleep, gastrointestinal issues, rashes, headaches, and fatigue. Some people go through chills and sweats every time they experience a minor injury. Others will simply feel exhausted for a week or more. Some healing crises center on fevers; high temperatures help the body to release toxins from cells and mobilize them to rid the body of accumulated poison.

Your symptoms are unique to you. The most important thing that you can do is to slow down and get curious about what your body is trying to communicate and what it needs to heal.

Nursing Yourself Through a Healing Crisis

True healing is a whole-body process, and the last thing you want to do is suppress your symptoms. Avoid medication (this includes decongestants, pain meds, and fever reducers) whenever possible. Your body’s needs are simple: rest, hydration, and nutrition.

My dad had the right idea when I was a kid. (Well, minus the Nyquil and antibiotics. The guy was raised by a surgeon and a nurse; it’s what he knew.) Whenever I was feeling ill, he would keep me home from school, wrap me in a quilt, and make a big batch of chicken soup while I sipped orange juice. Love, rest, and nutrition worked every time.

When you’re feeling unwell, the first thing you need to do is prioritize rest. Cancel as many commitments as possible—ideally all of them—and take the time to rest. Working from bed or scrolling through social media on your phone don’t count. Sleep is best; reading a book or spending quiet time with family is good too.

Classic Recovery Food

As you rest, it’s important to stay nourished and well hydrated. Heavy meals and a pitcher of water are not the best approach. When your body is struggling, it has limited energy to devote to digestion. This is one of the reasons that soup is such a classic recovery food. You want nutrient-dense foods that are hydrating and easy to digest.

Most of the water available to us isn’t all that hydrating. If it’s coming from the tap or a plastic bottle, you’re only adding more toxins for your body to contend with. Even pure filtered water is dehydrating because it strips your body of minerals and electrolytes. Simply adding a pinch of unrefined salt to your water works to add these back in. Coconut water is an excellent choice.

Bone broth is deeply hydrating and nutritious. Including a variety of vegetables along with your meaty bones will make your broth more nutritious still. Homemade stock is an excellent source of minerals, including magnesium, phosphorus, and sulfur. The amino acids in bone broth support digestion and decrease inflammation. Broth also supplies glutathione, which is a powerful detoxification agent that helps to remove heavy metals from the body.

[Read: “Wake Up to Bone Broth.”]

Fresh fruit is another excellent choice because it’s both hydrating and nutritious. Most fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C; ripe fruit that was locally grown without chemical sprays is ideal. Foods high in vitamin C include red bell peppers, orange juice, kiwis, guava, and strawberries. Sauerkraut is an excellent source of vitamin C that also supplies probiotics.

After Rest, Seek Heat and Movement

Gentle movement will help you to recover from a healing crisis. Rest is important, but you don’t want to stay in bed for so long that you feel stagnant. Once you’re rested and well-nourished, begin to move again. A slow walk in nature is rejuvenating. Jumping for a few minutes on a rebounder or trampoline will get your lymphatic system moving, which helps to move toxins out of the body.

Heat and sweat are wonderful healing tools. Your body may accomplish this all on its own with a fever. If not, you can help it out with external heat sources. This will give you many of the benefits of a fever without the energy expenditure or unpleasant symptoms.

If the weather’s fine, rest in the sunshine for as long as you can. If the sun is mild enough or your skin is dark enough to stay outside all day without getting burned, do it! Set yourself up in a comfortable spot with nourishing drinks and recuperate outside. The cultural notion that healing has to happen between four walls is deeply misguided.

If there’s no sunshine to be had, get some heat indoors. Saunas and red lights are great, but simply taking a hot bath is wonderful too. It will raise your heart rate and get you sweating, which helps your body to mobilize toxins. Just be sure to keep sipping your broth and juice.

The bottom line? When treatment brings on a healing crisis, support your body’s natural processes with nutrition, hydration, rest, sunshine, and gentle movement. Honoring your symptoms and caring for yourself will set you on the path to optimal health.

Continue the journey with Shayla and “Be Your Own Healing Crisis Guide.”