From a physical perspective, our bodies are made up of organs, organs are made up of tissues, and tissues are made up of cells and the fluid-filled space that they swim around in. And for all of the very complex health problems that we see as naturopathic doctors, many of the cures to those problems start by working on that fluid-filled space – referred to in biology as the extracellular matrix.
The extracellular matrix provides a “soup” of various proteins, sugars, and other components that give tissues their structure and elasticity. Of course, different tissues will have different “soup recipes” but the extracellular matrix provides a supportive environment for cells of that tissue to thrive within.
Nutrients are obtained from food and then absorbed into the blood. The blood then transports those nutrients to various tissues throughout the body and then are floated through the extracellular matrix to the cells. The cells absorb the nutrients and excrete their waste products back into the extracellular matrix. The waste materials then flow into the the lymphatic system to be carried back out of the body.
When everything is functioning in a healthy normal way, the extracellular matrix is fluid and allows for efficient exchange of nutrients and waste. This is the healthiest environment for cells to exist in. However, diets that are high in sugars and chemicals and deficient in water and minerals can gradually turn the extracellular matrix into a viscous sludge. Lack of physical exercise and a sedentary work environment results in reduced lymphatic movement and increased congestion in the extracellular matrix.
Imagine how difficult it would be to float nutrients through a nasty, sticky, soupy mess like that. It would probably take a lot of extra effort and reduce your overall energy, right? To compensate, the body raises the blood pressure to push nutrient through the congested muck. However, if dietary and lifestyle changes are not undertaken then the body vicious cycle continues and you will need medication to suppress the increasing blood pressure to save your heart from the additional wear and tear (or to prevent a blood vessel in your brain from popping). The irony here is that the drugs and other toxins add to the pile of garbage that are congesting the extracellular matrix.
An unhealthy extracellular matrix in the body is a lot like unhealthy soil in a farmer’s fields – the crops you want will struggle and you’ll end up with a lot of unwanted weeds. Mineral-deficiency and toxic build-up of wastes creates a more acidic tissue environment. While your body’s cells have a difficult go of it, microbes can proliferate. They can even start to use the proteins and sugars in the extracellular matrix to shield themselves, forming a protective biofilm that houses chronic mixed infections (bacteria, viruses, yeast, fungi, etc.). As the pH drops more and the tissue inflammation grows, the conditions for cancer cells to flourish in are established.
Naturopathic medicine incorporates many therapeutic approaches to reclaim the extracellular matrix. There is rich heritage of German biological medicine and biotherapeutic drainage that specifically addresses the body on this level. Also, our South Surrey clinic offers treatments such as ozone and IV nutrient therapy. Needless to say, however, it is all for naught unless you adopt simple but effective dietary and lifestyle measures. Drinking adequate amounts of water, eating nutrient-dense foods (such as mineral-rich veggies!), avoiding processed foods, minimizing use of prescription medications, and getting adequate physical exercise are all absolutely essential. Without fixing the extracellular matrix first, it’s hard to do anything else.