The Role of Vagus Nerve and Inflammation in CRPS Patients

When we think of inflammation, we think typically think of injuries, such as and inflamed ankle or an infection, sometimes as innocent as a pimple. We all know the signs of infection; heat, redness, and swelling. Chronic inflammation is quite a different animal, however. It is silent, for the most part, which is why it has been called “the hidden disease”. It can wreak havoc on your internal organs and it can lead to serious health conditions, such as arthritis, cancer, and CRPS.

Chronic inflammation starts with the immune system. When you are injured or sick, your body sends an army of white blood cells to the sight(s) of the infection. White blood cells are meant to kill off bad bacteria, malignant or cancerous cells, viruses, parasites or any other potential pathogens or foreign invaders that are capable of causing disease. These white blood cells respond to these invaders and kick start the healing process. In small doses, inflammation is crucial for your health: It helps heal injury and infection. When you get an infection, like a cold, break a bone, or suffer any other sickness or injury, your immune system recognizes that your body is in danger and sends an army of inflammatory cells to fight foreign invaders. These cells rush to the site of injury or infection and release powerful chemicals to attack invading bugs.

As mentioned above, inflammation is the first response to an injury or infection, that causes a rush of blood plasma and immune cells to a targeted area. Injured tissues release a number of special signaling molecules which cause blood vessel dilation and increase blood vessel permeability, and causes cells that line the blood vessels to present adhesion molecules on their surface. These adhesion molecules are recognized by immune cells in the blood, which attach to the adhesion molecules, much like Velcro, and causes them to stick to the blood vessel walls. These signaling molecules now cause the immune cells to leave the blood vessel and move to the site of injury.

When harmful unwanted invaders are healed or killed, your inflammatory cells retreat, causing your immune system to calm down again and the inflammation to subside. However, the inflammatory cells don’t always retreat. Sometimes they keep attacking, turning on your own body. This results in your immune system remaining in a state of constant stimulation, resulting in a chronic destructive inflammation. Your body was not designed to accommodate this type of faulty immune activity, and eventually, the army of white blood cells will start damaging the body from the inside.

When this happens, the immune system becomes misguided and is sent out on an unnecessary mission. The white blood cells are sent out to attack, but there is no enemy target. Those misguided white blood cells still mobilize just like they would if you were actually under the weather or suffering from an infection, but because there’s no infection for them to attack, they end up just hanging around, often for years. You want your immune system to work like a focused sniper attack on viruses, bacteria, or cancer. But when you have chronic inflammation, your immune system works more like a sustained shotgun blast, damaging everything in its path. This may also cause damage to cells that your body needs on a daily basis to fight off diseases like cancer, leaving the body vulnerable.

All the other players Responsible for inflammation:


One of the best known inflammatory signaling molecules is histamine, which is capable of dilating blood vessels, increasing blood vessel permeability, allowing immune cells to leave the bloodstream and enter the damaged tissue.


The very first immune cells that arrive at an injured site are neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that respond quickly to the site of injury or infection, and once there will recognize and destroy bacteria. Neutrophils are the most numerous types of white blood cells in the blood, and their job is to immediately respond to inflammation and kill bacteria by phagocytosis, a process by which these cells engulf, destroy and digest other cells, bacteria or cellular debris. Think of the old game Pacman, where invaders are simply “eaten up”.


T- cells are a type of white blood cells called lymphocytes. They are produced in the bone marrow, after which they spend some time maturing and developing in the Thymus, a small organ with two lobes located in front of the heart, or inside the tonsils. Inside the Thymus, ninety- eight percent of T-cells will die by either positive or negative selection. After the lucky remaining two percent mature, they are located in the blood and in lymph nodes.

T-cells are at the core of adaptive immunity, where your body is trained to recognize specific invaders and tailor its present and future plan of attack to it. T-cells are broadly divided into killer cells, circulating and scanning the body like soldiers on a mission, looking for cancerous or infected cells, simply by scanning their surfaces. These cells are then destroyed. The other type of T- cells are helper cells. These cells regulate different immune responses in the body. If there are methylation cycle problems or mutations in the body, as is the case in MTHFR abnormalities, you may have trouble making the bases that are needed for new DNA synthesis. If you cannot make new DNA, then you cannot make new T cells and as a result you may lack immune system regulatory cells.

Methylation also plays an important role in the ability of the immune system to recognize foreign bodies, pathogens or antigens that it needs to attack. Research has shown that methylation is decreased in humans with auto immune conditions.


Macrophages are types of white blood cells formed in response to an infection or accumulating damaged or dying cells. They are large cells that are specialized to recognize, engulf and destroy target cells. Think of macrophages as your body’s garbage men. When a macrophage digests a microbe, it presents the microbe’s antigen on its surface, serving as an alert system to other white blood cells. This causes the immune system to remember the invader, resulting in future responses to be more targeted and faster.


Cytokines are tiny diverse proteins produced by different types of immune system cells. Their function is to act like messengers between the cells of the immune system, regulating immune responses like the inflammatory response, immune response, and your body’s response to cancer. Cytokines regulate the immune response in the body’s fluids outside of the cells, as well as the immune response inside the body’s cells. They act through receptors on cell membranes, as each cytokine has a matching cell surface receptor, much like a lock and a key. They also regulate the growth and excitability of certain immune cells.

Cytokines can even inhibit the action of other cytokines, or trigger the release of other cytokines. For this reason, cytokines are crucial in the over or under response of the immune system, and play a crucial role in chronic inflammation. While generally good, cytokines may turn ‘rogue’, becoming dysregulated and pathological. In this scenario, cytokines have been linked to many disease processes like Rheumatoid Arthritis, cancer, major depression, Alzheimer’s, and CRPS.

When cytokines really become out of control, cytokines can trigger a dangerous reaction in the body known as a ‘cytokine storm’, a reaction that occurs when the feedback loop in the immune response becomes unchecked by the body, and cytokines keep triggering the T-cells and macrophages to travel to the site of the infection, as well as causing more cytokines to be released. This reaction is often fatal.

Free Radicals

Free radicals are small destructive unstable molecules in your body that, like unwelcome squatters in your house, will destroy it from the inside out. While outside chemicals can cause free radical damage, it can also come from within your body. When the mitochondria inside the cells create ATP (adenotriphosphate, the fuel that drives the cells), they create free radicals as a by-product. Luckily, the body naturally has a mechanism to deal with these molecules. How? The body uses antioxidants to neutralize the free radicals. This is why we are urged to consume lots of fresh veggies and fruits, such as berries.

However, there is a catch. Due to the fact that most people don’t eat healthy diets and therefor their bodies lack in nutrients, and the sheer overwhelming volume of chemicals we are exposed to from the environment, our bodies do not have enough antioxidants left over to neutralize both the free radicals created inside the cell naturally and the toxins we are bombarded with from the outside. The body uses glutathione to fight these toxins. However, it takes four ATPs to produce just one molecule of glutathione. In a sick body overwhelmed by toxins and already short on energy, this is a very expensive exchange, that it cannot afford.

As a result, your cells are drowning in free radical buildup like tiny cess pools. When cells are unable to keep up with housekeeping due to a lack of energy, the result is inflammation inside the cells, called intracellular inflammation.

Nitric Oxide (NO)

Nitric Oxide (NO) is one of the most versatile players in the immune system, as a large number of immune cells respond to NO and also produce it to attack pathogens in various ways. Its role essentially is that of an intercellular messenger. It actually starts off the inflammation cycle. Macrophages, for instance, releases NO in order to inhibit pathogen replication. Think of NO almost as an Agent Orange of sorts, used by our own immune cells in the war against pathogens. It also regulates the growth, death and functional activity of many inflammatory and immune cells.

NO has also proven itself to be a crucial factor in acute and chronic inflammation. NO gives an anti-inflammatory effect under normal physiological conditions. On the other hand, NO is considered as a pro-inflammatory mediator that induces inflammation due to over production in abnormal situations. In these situations, it has therefor been indicated in being a proinflammatory agent, meaning that it encourages inflammation.

If your body is not equipped with enough antioxidants to get inside the cell and stop NO from increasing inflammation, it results in NO becoming like a freight train racing out of control, causing NO to combine with a free radical called super oxide. This results in one of the most toxic free radicals inside your body known to man to be created: peroxynitrite or OONO. As if that isn’t bad enough, OONO has twenty-two different ways to create more NO, which in turn creates even more OONO. This results in a vicious cycle like a wildfire raging out of control on a windy day. Our bodies need antioxidants to stop this vicious cycle. In addition, when you suffer from the MTHFR gene mutation, your body will be depleted in glutathione. Superoxide rises because of glutathione depletion, which produces a rise in hydrogen peroxide (causing superoxide to rise).

MTHFR gene mutations can hurt you in other ways. Remember how it causes problems in the Methylation cycle? As a result of the block in the methylation cycle, NO rises, causing lowered production of asymmetric dimethyl arginine, which is normally the main inhibitor of Nitric Oxide synthase. A partial methylation cycle block causes less production of this inhibitor, and that also allows nitric oxide to rise.

The Role Of The Vagus Nerve

CRPS vagus nerve stimulation

Let’s talk about the anatomy of the Vagus nerve in just broad terms. Deep inside the neck, a fibrous structure called the carotid sheath is located. The Carotid sheath is a fibrous structure that surrounds the Vagus nerve, the Internal Jugular vein, and the Carotid artery, essentially holding them together. The Carotid sheath runs down the neck, and happens to be located just anterior to the lateral masses of the Atlas bilaterally. The lateral masses are two bulky masses of bone located on the sides of the ring shaped Atlas (uppermost vertebra), almost like ears. Therefor, any abnormal movement of the Atlas may affect the Carotid sheath on one or both sides. Let’s discuss the all important Atlas vertebra in just a bit more detail.

The Atlas and The Vagus Nerve

The Atlas is the very top bone in the spine. It is ring shaped and positioned right beneath the skull, where the brain stem turns into the spinal cord. This makes it a critical factor that may affect the Central Nervous System function. It is pretty much the portal to the entire spinal cord. It is also part of the most moveable joint in the body. Just think of all the ways you can move your head. The Atlas helps to make this possible.

Normally, this bone sits in a neutral position, held in place by various ligaments. It is not too forward, not too far back, nor rotated to one side or the other. However, when this bone moves from its normal position (called a subluxation), due to some kind of direct or indirect trauma or biomechanical stress, it may have devastating effects on the nervous system. Since the nervous system is the most basic system affecting every other system, organ and cell in the body, this will have a global impact on your health. The Vagus nerve in particular, as mentioned above, is sensitive to misalignment of this bone. Misalignment of this very important bone in the spinal column is often part of the perfect storm resulting in the monster known as CRPS.

Vagal Tone

Vagal tone is the internal biological process referring to the activity of the Vagus nerve. Vagal tone may either be increased, or decreased. It is possible for the Vagus nerve to be compressed externally by malposition of the Atlas (as mentioned above), calcified or tight muscles and/or ligaments, and bone spurs (abnormal bony deposits in the spine, found when arthritis of the spine is present.

The Vagus nerve may also be compressed internally. How does this happen? When the pressure in the internal Jugular vein increases, it takes up more space in the carotid sheath. Since the Carotid artery won’t give (due to the high pressure of the blood flowing through it), the bulk of the pressure will affect the Vagus nerve instead, since something has to give. I credit this discovery to Dr. Diana Driscoll, OD. Dr. Driscoll specializes in the treatment of POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) and EDS (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome). You can read more about her work in The Driscoll Theory®. Other things that may affect the pressure in the Jugular vein are heart conditions (such as right- sided heart failure), lung conditions, or kidney failure.

It is also possible that infections may affect the Vagus nerve. This infection may be present in the gut, or viral, such as a Herpes infection. The inflammation caused by an infection may adversely affect the Vagus nerve, causing systemic inflammation in return.

Vagus Nerve And CRPS

As discussed in the previously, if you suffer from CRPS, you suffer from an abnormally functioning Vagus nerve. This may be a result of an injury to your upper cervical spine (neck) directly, such as a whiplash injury, or as a result of an abnormally functioning autonomic nervous system. Either way, malfunctioning of the nervous system is involved (by definition) when the Vagus nerve is messed up. What does the Vagus nerve have to do with inflammation? A lot, as you may guess.

Dr. Kevin Tracey, a neurosurgeon in New York, has done extensive research regarding this topic. Dr. Tracey set out to prove his hypothesis that the brain might be using the nervous system, and more specifically, the Vagus nerve, to tell the spleen to switch off inflammation everywhere in the body. He derived at this idea after injecting an anti- inflammatory drug into a rat’s brain in an effort to minimize the effects of a stroke. To his astonishment, he found that this action not only turned off inflammation in the brain, but turned off inflammation in the entire body.

If Dr. Tracey was right, inflammation in body tissues was being directly regulated by the brain. This was an extraordinary idea. Before, no one has ever really explored whether the cells of the immune system were being directly controlled by the Vagus nerve. Now, it was emerging that it was entirely possible that the brain, via the Vagus nerve, was the force that governed it all.

His first study involved cutting the Vagus nerve in rats. When Tracey and his team injected the anti-inflammatory drug into the brain, the drug no longer had an effect on inflammation in the rest of the body. Viola! The second test was to somehow stimulate the nerve without any drug in the system. “Because the Vagus nerve, like all nerves, communicates information through electrical signals, it meant that we should be able to replicate the experiment by putting a nerve stimulator on the Vagus nerve in the brainstem to block inflammation in the spleen,” he explained. “That’s what we did and that was the breakthrough experiment.”

The Vagus nerve works as a two-way highway, passing electrochemical signals between the organs and the brain. In chronic inflammatory disease, Tracey figured out, messages from the brain telling the spleen to switch off production of a particular inflammatory protein, tumor necrosis factor (TNF), weren’t going through. Low Vagal tone (or function) causes inflammation in the body. High Vagal tone (or function) causes the reversal of inflammation.

Good communication between the immune system and the brain is therefor vital for controlling inflammation. The inflammatory reflex is a mechanism in which afferent (body to brain) Vagus nerve signaling, activated by cytokines or pathogens, is functionally associated with efferent Vagus nerve-mediated output to regulate proinflammatory cytokine production and inflammation. Vagus nerve stimulation suppresses local and serum proinflammatory cytokine levels.

Of course, the problem in the body of a CRPS patients is that, the Vagus nerve is anything but communicating with the body, and vice versa. It is much more like a traffic- clogged freeway, where few signals are making it through in either direction. Is it any wonder then that CRPS patients are literally burning alive from the inside?

How chronic inflammation causes pain in CRPS

Remember cytokines? It has been shown that certain cytokines are involved in not only the initiation but also the persistence of pathologic (abnormal) pain by directly activating nociceptive sensory neurons (nocireceptors are the nerves which sense and respond to parts of the body which are damaged). A good example of nociceptive pain is the pain experienced after burning.

Certain inflammatory cytokines are also involved in nerve injury (and inflammation-induced) central sensitization. For now, just know that it fits the pain of CRPS to a T.

Certain inflammatory cytokines in dorsal root ganglion (or DRG, a collection of afferent sensory nerves that exists just outside of the spinal cord), injured nerves or skin are known to be associated with specific pain behaviors and with the abnormal spontaneous activity from injured nerve fibers or neurons. Following a peripheral nerve injury, immune cells that gather around the injured nerve(s) secrete cytokines. Localized inflammatory irritation of the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) not only increases pro-inflammatory cytokines but also decreases anti-inflammatory cytokines. There is abundant evidence that certain pro-inflammatory cytokines are involved in the process of pathological (abnormal) pain.

Sympathetic Sprouting

Nerve sprouting is the process whereby nerve cells generate additional branches (outgrowths) to establish new synapses or to alter the strength of existing synapses, most often after nerve injury. In the nervous system, a synapse is a structure that permits a nerve cell (or neuron) to pass a chemical or electrical signal to another neuron. In animal models of pathological pain, abnormal sprouting of sympathetic fibers around large- and medium-size sensory neurons has been observed in dorsal root ganglia (DRG). Pro- inflammatory cytokines play a facilitating role in sympathetic sprouting induced by nerve injury, and its effect on pain behavior is indirectly mediated through sympathetic sprouting in the dorsal root ganglia (DRG).

Following peripheral nerve injury, sympathetic efferent fibers extensively sprout into both the DRG and spinal nerves. Sprouting fibers sometimes form distinctive basketlike webs (called sympathetic “baskets”), wrapping around DRG nerves. Pain induced by localized inflammation of the DRG or mechanical compression of the DRG in the absence of nerve injury can also be accompanied by sympathetic sprouting. Nerve sprouting usually causes proliferation of sensory nerve (in other words, instead of a nerve here and there, you now have a dense network of nerves).

Sympathetically Mediated Pain(SMP)

The specific pain accompanied by hypersensitivity that CRPS patients suffer from is called Sympathetically Maintained Pain (SMP). SMP is the result of efferent (away from the brain to the peripheral nerves) noradrenergic pain. Noradrenergic means that the nerves use norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter released by the sympathetic nervous system. Keep in mind that CRPS patients suffer from sympathetic dominance. Remember the schoolyard bully? SMP will sometimes respond well in the early stages to a nerve block, which is why CRPS patients are told that it is crucial to get treatment early on.

In addition, the evil monster that is SMP is created when there is abnormally enhanced communication between the sympathetic nervous system and the sensory nervous system. This enhanced communication may happen either in the central or peripheral nervous system. Pain induced by localized inflammation of the DRG or mechanical compression of the DRG in the absence of nerve injury can also be accompanied by sympathetic sprouting in the DRG.

Painful Triggers

CRPS Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Pain anywhere in the body, not directly related to the pain of CRPS, will usually amplify the pain caused by CRPS. I will give you a simple example: One of my favorite patients, Barbara, suffered from CRPS in her arm and hands. She also suffered from plantar fasciitis (inflammation in the bottom of her foot). When she walked long distances, and her foot hurt, it would trigger her CRPS pain. After undergoing care in my office, her CRPS pain has been mostly under control (she now rates her pain at a 0-2/10, without medication). We also treated the plantar fasciitis extensively, as it seemed to be an active trigger of her CRPS pain. She occasionally still suffers from brief flares, after which time it will calm down again. Luckily, she also has times now when she has absolutely no pain. She can also walk long distances again.

Suffering from a cold, the flu, or any other condition or disease will usually have the same effect. Stress in one part of the body affects the CRPS in another part. Again, if you view the body as a unit, this makes perfect sense.

The Dreadful Spread

It amazes me that so many doctors still do not acknowledge that CRPS may spread to other sites, when I have seen such clear wide- spread evidence of it in the CRPS community. This spread may happen even in the absence of a new injury, for apparently no logical reason at all. In my opinion, the general malfunction and continuous degeneration of the Central Nervous System, rather than a new injury, is most often to blame for this phenomenon. At least one study has pinpointed three possible patterns of spreading in the CRPS community.

  1. A “continuity type” of spread where the symptoms spread upward from the initial site, e.g. from the hand to the shoulder.
  2. A “mirror-image type” where the spread was to the opposite limb.
  3. An “independent type” where symptoms spread to a separate, distant region of the body. This type of spread may be spontaneous or related to a second trauma.

In my experience, understandably, few things strike fear in the CRPS patient’s heart as the fear of the pain of CRPS spreading. Even if CRPS has seemingly gone into remission, patients usually still worry that it may recur. I often get panicked phone calls from CRPS patients after they have completed my treatment program, after they suffer a new injury. One of these patients even injured the same joint that originally gave rise to the CRPS (her elbow). Luckily, not once has the CRPS spread in any of my patients post treatment. If the malfunction of the Central Nervous System is corrected, it seems to prevent the recurrence and/or spreading of CRPS.

Other possible inflammation triggers or contributors:


Why does a house get messy? There are two possible reasons, or usually a combination of both. The first reason is that you are too busy or overwhelmed to clean it. Things get put off (like vacuuming or folding laundry) and pile up. The other reason it may get messy is that you can’t keep up with it, since it’s being messed up faster than you can clean (if you have children, you probably know what I mean!) Think of your body as a house. Every day, toxins enter your body and your “house” gets dirty. Toxicity causes widespread inflammation.

What are toxins?

Toxins can enter our bodies from the external environment or be produced by us internally. Our body naturally produces internal toxins as a by-product of the metabolic functions it performs each day. Antioxidants are crucial in eliminating free radicals from your body. What exactly are free radicals? Free radicals are basically very reactive particles (small loose cannons, if you will) that move all around the cell damaging everything they come in contact with. Most are produced as a by-product of metabolism, but they can also arise from exposure to toxins, such as heavy metals.

In a nutshell, we are bombarded by toxins. When the body digests food, it produces toxins and waste. When it heals and repairs itself, it produces waste. Whenever we experience negative feelings like stress or anger, we also produce harmful toxins.

However, our bodies were designed to be able to naturally eliminate these toxins. We get into trouble when we are bombarded with the second kind of toxins, which are found in our food, water, and environment: human-made toxins. We eat them, drink them, breathe them, touch them, inject them, swallow them in our medications, and put them on our skins regularly and repeatedly. Our cells never get a break! We live in a toxic environment, and while you can control some aspects of your environment (such as the food you eat) it is impossible to avoid toxins altogether.

Consider this: according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), four billion pounds of chemicals are released into the ground and hundreds of millions of pounds of chemicals discharged into surface waters such as lakes and rivers each year. In the United States we allow more than ten thousand additives into our food supply. Americans each eat an average of about one hundred and forty-two pounds of additives and toxins each year. Typically, eight pounds come from salt, one hundred and twenty pounds come from sugar, and about fourteen pounds from coloring, preservatives, and flavorings. It is not a question of “if” we are toxic, but rather of how much it affects our health.

The body gets rid of toxins through breathing and sweating as well as through the colon, kidneys, and liver. When my patients mention a detox, they are most often thinking of a colon detox. However, the liver is incredibly overburdened and must not be ignored. Why may your liver be overworked? The liver performs over five hundred different tasks and is truly an amazing organ. However, your liver is essentially the filter of your bloodstream, and like any filter, it can become clogged with waste materials when it takes in more toxins than it can filter. When toxins overwhelm the liver, it can no longer perform as it should. Fat may accumulate in the liver or in other organs. Toxins build up and get into the bloodstream.

Among the signs of a toxic liver are weight gain (especially around the abdomen), headaches, bloating, indigestion, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, food allergies, memory loss, fatigue, acne, mood swings, depression, and even skin rashes. When the liver cannot do its work, the toxins that we are exposed to accumulate in the body and make us ill in an assortment of ways. They have damaging effects on many body functions, particularly the immune system. An overworked and undernourished liver is recognized as the root cause of many chronic diseases.

Heavy metals

Heavy metals include lead, mercury, cadmium, antimony, aluminum, arsenic, and many others. Many of the heavy metals, such as zinc, copper, chromium, iron, and manganese, are essential to body function in very small amounts. But if these metals accumulate in the body in concentrations sufficient to cause poisoning, serious damage may occur. Heavy metals enter our bodies in many ways. They may enter through cosmetics, amalgam dental fillings, water, improperly coated food containers and cookware, vaccinations, cigarettes, and many other things in our environment.

Symptoms of heavy metal poisoning include anemia, fatigue, musculoskeletal complaints, mood disturbances, neurological problems, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, kidney problems, liver dysfunction, endocrine problems, hormonal imbalances, and immune system dysfunction. Heavy metal toxicity causes systemic problems that may fit the symptoms of many other syndromes. It presents in various body systems, depending on where the biochemical imbalance or disruption occurs, or the area(s) of highest toxicity of the metal(s)—for example, the brain, kidneys, or pituitary. Long-term exposure may contribute to the onset of slow progressive conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer.

Laboratory tests routinely used for seriously exposed persons include blood tests, liver and renal function tests, urine tests, fecal tests, X-rays, and hair and fingernail analyses. Many of these tests are not routinely performed in your doctor’s office. However, your physician can take blood samples and send them to the appropriate testing laboratory. While it is widely assumed that hair or fingernail analyses are best, I prefer blood or urine analysis. Hair and fingernail analyses can give an indication of exposure that has occurred over time or in the past but will not show recent exposures. Blood and urine will reflect exposures that are chronic or that have happened in the last few days.

Heavy metal detoxification may be done in many ways. Many health care professionals use chelating agents. These include:

  • Dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA), which, although being FDA-approved, is mostly not recommended due to severe possible side effects, as well as unpredictable redistribution of mercury after being pulled from the kidneys, causing the mercury to be redeposited in the brain, kidneys, liver, or muscle tissue.
  • Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), which is not a natural supplement. Like DMSA, EDTA is FDA-approved. It has traditionally been used to treat lead poisoning. Unlike DMSA, EDTA is a weak chelator of mercury. Taking EDTA can be dangerous because it will chelate calcium and other essential minerals out of the body along with the toxic heavy metals.
  • Dimercapto-propane sulfonate (DMPS), an experimental drug used for chelation, not approved by the FDA. Some doctors question the safety of this drug, pointing to the lack of research on its long-term effects on the human body.
  • Chlorella, a variety of algae found in fresh water such as ponds or lakes. It is commonly used as a natural chelation supplement, meaning that it pulls out heavy metals such as mercury from the body. However, chlorella also pulls mercury from the water it is grown in, which naturally defeats the purpose of taking it in the first place. Analysis of at least one specimen of commercially available chlorella has shown high levels of mercury. You don’t want to take a supplement riddled with mercury in order to remove mercury; that doesn’t make sense.
  • Zeolite, volcanic rock that attracts toxins and physically removes them from the body. Think of it as a taxi, loading up all the bad guys. Zeolite has a negative charge and a “honeycomb” structure with lots of holes. It is thought that this negative charge acts like a magnet and pulls the positively charged toxins, especially toxic metals, into the cells of the honeycomb, where the trapped toxins are then allegedly eliminated from the body through urine, sweat, and feces. However, no clinical trials have been done on zeolite and its effects on humans to date. Some animal studies have shown promise, and it is not a harmful substance, although some good minerals may be pulled from the body using zeolite. Mineral supplementation is recommended while using this product.
  • The ionic foot detox, a footbath with an electric current. In a typical session the patient places their feet in warm salt water and an electrical array is turned on, creating electrolysis in the water. This electrolysis causes an electromagnetic field in the water that pulls toxins and heavy metals into the water through the sweat glands in the feet. During the session, the water changes color and small floating particles appear. Although many people claim that the color change of the water is due to oxidation only and that this method is a hoax, the truth is that 60 percent of the color change of the water is due to oxidation, and the other 40 percent is, in fact, due to the individual patient’s toxicity, and will vary depending on the patient. I have personally seen notable and immediate reactions in my practice to this footbath, and I not only use it as part of my treatment plan, but I also use it personally twice a week.
  • Fasting and dietary detoxification, generally consisting of cutting down on the number of calories you take in, eating very pure foods (consisting of lean organic grass-fed protein, raw nuts, and fruits and vegetables only, or juicing fruits and vegetables, or fasting and drinking lots of water. The general approach here is to provide the body with good nutrition while forcing it into ketosis, the process by which it is essentially burning its own fat for fuel. When the liver is overwhelmed, it does what any tired employee does—it puts its work off for later, to be detoxified when the liver isn’t quite so busy. The body does this by depositing the harmful toxins in fat, sort of like a messy storage room. This protects the body and its valuable organs from these free-floating toxins. However, for many of us that day of detoxification never comes. When we fast, or reduce our calorie intake, the body will burn this dirty fat, and that day of reckoning and processing all those old toxins will finally arrive.

Heavy metal/candida link

By now, you have probably heard of the possible benefits of treating a candida or yeast overgrowth in the body. Candida albicans is a parasitic fungus that normally occurs in the gut, vagina, mouth, and other areas of the body.

Usually, candida is kept in check by your body’s friendly or good bacteria. However, when the body is not well or when we take antibiotics that kill our friendly bacteria, this parasite will grow too rapidly and we may suffer from a host of different unpleasant symptoms, such as allergies, fatigue, sugar cravings, itching and burning, skin rashes, and many more. Candida can also damage the gut, leading to leaky gut syndrome. This will cause large particles to enter the bloodstream, in turn leading to autoimmune conditions and allergies (such as gluten intolerance) and affecting the brain and nervous system.

There are a variety of ways to kill a candida overgrowth in the body, one of which is to simply build up the body’s good bacteria again. It is a very difficult infection to treat; it may take many months to get it under control in severe cases. However, a somewhat unknown but crucial piece of the candida puzzle that must not be ignored is possible heavy metal toxicity. How are they linked?

Candida yeast serves the purpose of absorbing and sequestering heavy metals. Yeast overgrowth is one of the body’s defenses to try and keep mercury and other heavy metals from damaging body tissues such as the brain. In other words, candida absorbs and binds mercury, thus protecting your body. As mentioned before, your body is infinitely smart. In its wisdom, it will choose a symbiotic relationship with the candida parasite over mercury toxicity. While candida is unhealthy, it is not as immediately damaging as mercury. Therefore, the body is choosing the lesser of two evils. When the uninformed patient or health care professional then embarks on a war against candida, massive amounts of free mercury are released into the body, causing much more harm than good. If you suffer from a suspected candida overgrowth, it is therefore crucial that you get tested and treated for heavy metal toxicity first. Be especially diligent if you have or have ever had amalgam fillings in your teeth.

The danger in your mouth

Besides flossing, brushing our teeth, and getting professionally checked and cleaned a few times a year if we are diligent, most of us don’t give our teeth a second thought.

I was first introduced to the importance of teeth while studying biological medicine. Biological medicine recognizes that the human being is a part of nature and reacts like everything else in nature. It seeks to awaken the healing powers that lie within us all through the use of natural methods and remedies. I was introduced to this work by one of my mentors, Thomas Rau, MD.

Dr. Rau is the medical director at the world’s largest privately owned clinic, the Paracelsus clinic ( The Paracelsus clinic is located an hour away from Zurich, Switzerland, and employs about a hundred doctors, half of whom are dentists. People from all over the world come to this clinic to be treated for cancer, autoimmune conditions, and other conditions, often with astounding, unprecedented success.

Dr. Rau taught me that the teeth are linked to energy meridians, further linked to every organ in your body. It is crucial that the mouth be healthy. There is a reason why almost half the medical staff at this groundbreaking clinic are dentists. When patients enter care at the Paracelsus clinic, their mouths are carefully examined.

Here are a few things that could be of concern in the mouth:

Amalgam fillings

If you have any silver-colored fillings in your mouth, this is usually a bad sign. A typical amalgam filling consists of approximately 50 percent mercury and 30 percent silver, as well as tin and copper. Mercury is a powerful poison. Published research demonstrates that mercury is more toxic than lead, cadmium, or arsenic. No amount of exposure to mercury vapor can be considered harmless, especially considering its cumulative effect.

In spite of numerous published scientific studies over the years demonstrating the ill effects of mercury fillings in the mouth, and considering that the FDA has never approved the amalgam mixture as a safe dental device, mercury/silver/amalgam fillings are still the primary material used by dentists in the United States (approximately one hundred million fillings are performed yearly).

The American Dental Association maintains that mercury is safe to use and harmless in the mouth, as the mixing of mercury is supposed to “bind” the mercury safely and render it harmless. However, electron microscopes have shown tiny droplets of mercury on the surface of amalgam fillings. Also, mercury vapors have been proven to escape these fillings and enter the blood stream. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has concluded that dental fillings contribute more mercury to the human body than all other sources combined.

Let’s just ignore the controversy and look at a few facts about mercury: Mercury, before it is placed into the mouth, is a recognized hazardous toxin. The scrap amalgam that is removed from the mouth cannot simply be thrown away in the trash, or the dentist may be subject to a ten-thousand-dollar fine by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Instead, the scrap is considered a toxic waste and must be removed by a hazardous waste company in a specific way to keep the mercury from entering the water system.

It is crucial, if you have these fillings removed, that you have it done by an experienced dentist, as the removal is tricky and if done incorrectly may do more harm than good. Often the body is flooded with mercury during the removal process.

Root canals

A root canal is a common dental procedure that nearly every dentist will assure you is completely safe, despite the fact that scientists have been warning of its dangers for more than a hundred years. More than twenty-five million root canals are performed every year in this country.

Every day in the United States alone, approximately forty-one thousand of these dental procedures are performed on patients who believe they are safely and permanently fixing their problem. Sadly, the vast majority of dentists are oblivious to the serious potential health risks they are exposing their patients to, risks that persist for the rest of their patients’ lives. The American Dental Association claims root canals have been proven safe, but they have no published data or actual research to substantiate their claim.

Teeth that have undergone root canals are dead teeth that can become dangerous incubators for highly toxic anaerobic bacteria. These bacteria could make their way into your bloodstream to cause a number of serious medical conditions, many of which might not appear until many years later. A tooth has one to four major canals. This is what is taught in dental school, and what is cleaned out in root canals. What is lesser known and often ignored by dentists and dental schools are the additional “accessory canals.” A doctor named Weston Price did extensive research on these.

Dr. Price (1870–1948) was a dentist known primarily for his theories on the relationship between nutrition, dental health, and physical health. Dr. Price identified as many as seventy-five separate accessory canals in a single central incisor or front tooth. When we look at the structure of a tooth, we find three layers. First is the outer layer, known as enamel; then comes the second layer, known as dentin; and the inner part is the pulp chamber where the nerve resides. On the outside of the tooth is a ligament called the periodontal ligament, formed by fibers that come out of the tooth and intertwine with fibers coming out of the bone. Teeth are not actually attached directly to bone, but are attached by this ligament.

The second layer of the tooth, the dentin, is not really solid but composed of tiny tubules or canals. In a front tooth, if all these tubules were attached end to end, they would reach over three miles. Note that the tubules have adequate space to house many thousands of bacteria. Most of these toxic teeth feel and look fine for many years, which makes their role in systemic disease and inflammation even harder to trace back. In addition, these dead teeth may cause secondary infections in the bones of the jaw and face, not easily detected by the untrained eye on X-ray.

Many other problems can stem from teeth, such as other toxic materials or metals used in dental work, gum disease and infection, and the mixture of incompatible metals, such as gold fillings with certain metal fillings. If you suffer from CRPS or other chronic conditions, I urge you to have your teeth examined by a trained biological or holistic dentist.

The following organizations can help you to find a mercury-free, biological dentist:

CRPS patients beware!

When it comes to patients suffering from CRPS, it is very important that great caution be taken when detoxifying. Even for a healthy individual, detoxification is very hard on all the organs and can cause symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, tremors, crying fits and anger, and many other side effects.

People who suffer from CRPS and probable MTHFR gene abnormalities are especially vulnerable to the side effects of detoxification, and their bodies are not always equipped to handle the stress of it.

We recommend that you only embark on a detoxification program with the help of a health professional experienced in detoxification

How To Test For Cellular Inflammation

CRPS in the back

One of the best ways to tell if you have the condition is to get an hsCRP test, a test that will detect C- reactive protein levels in the blood. C- reactive protein is produced by the liver and is elevated when inflammation is present anywhere in the body. It should not be present in high levels when there is no obvious sign of infection in the body. While this test is growing in popularity, is still not commonly administered or even understood by some doctors.

In our office, we use a simple, inexpensive urine test called the Metaoxy test to detect cellular inflammation. This test measures how much cell membrane damage is occurring in your body by measuring something called aldehydes, especially malondialdehyde, in the urine and is fifty times more accurate than a blood test. How does it work?

With trillions of cells in your body, this outer protective shell that holds the cell together and protects the cell is critical. It’s literally where all communication takes place. The membrane is the real brain of the cell. Signals from our nervous system, endocrine system, and other cells in the body attach at this membrane and tell the cells what to do. This membrane not only plays a crucial role in telling the cell what to do, but also in allowing nutrients to enter the cell, and toxins to leave the cell. When the membrane becomes damaged, all the nutrition in the world, ingested by you through a healthy foods, or supplements, cannot make it into the cells.

Every cell membrane in the body is made up of fat and cholesterol. The more cellular inflammation and damage that is occurring, the more fats are metabolized. The more malondialdehyde in the urine, the greater amount of cell membrane damage. This cell membrane damage is known as inflammation.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Treatment Center – The Spero Clinic

The Spero Clinic focuses on treating the pain as a whole and has successfully helped CRPS patients enter remission. We don’t use opioids and refuse to mask the pain. Our goal has been and will always be to use non-invasive treatment methods to help patients lead pain-free life. Contact us today.

Start your patient journey with the Spero Clinic's neurologic rehabilitation program.

Have questions first? Call us! (479) 304-8202
CRPS treatment clinic patient Bria with dr.katinka