Sedona. The city’s name is musical, named for a woman who was an early settler and do-gooder in the fledgling community. Everywhere the eyes soak up the color of the soil and the towers of sediment hardened to rock: not quite scarlet, not yet ochre…simply magical.

The area calls to and accommodates the progressive, the spiritually-minded, the experimental and downright eccentric. Someone said that eavesdropping on conversations in the natural-foods deli was an entertainment value all its own. But I was only interested in two things: spending time amid the natural beauty of the place, and a visit to the Alternative to Meds Center.

The place to experience the magic of Sedona is in the vortexes, or power spots. What is a vortex, and are they real?  What can they do for an individual who seeks an experience there?

 A vortex is an energy field. The Sedona vortex fans claim that vortexes (no, it’s not vortices) facilitate spiritual and psychic experiences. I was game. I spent about two hours in one of the area’s main vortexes, in the literal lap of a rock formation called Kachina Woman. I was drawn to this spot on the periphery but had no less intense reaction than if I’d joined the other tourists dead center.

Perhaps it was the ceremony led by Dr. Mehl-Madrona just days earlier (read previous post) that primed the pump. I felt oddly open to a voice in the vortex. It seemed female, almost audible. And as we all know, hearing voices is permissible if the setting is prayerful and the result is healing. I shared some pretty personal stuff and Kachina Woman’s response was significant.  I was beginning to see why the Alternative to Meds Center chose Sedona to host their work.

So with great anticipation I approached the tour of the Center, led by Educational Director, Jason Good, culminating in a sit-down with founder Dr. Lyle Murphy DC. The residence is an artful, rambling former retreat center that sports a spare, Zen-like feel. I greeted some residents as they gathered for a Journaling workshop. Waiting for Dr. Murphy I hung out and chatted in the room where supplements were organized for the residents pre- and post-sauna.

This place is quite a bit about supplements. And the sauna is central: where detox happens.

Each patient/resident is evaluated and followed by the Center’s physician, Dr. Hutton. He is a graduate of Duke University Medical School with further training in neurology at Stanford—veteran of a 25-year practice of medicine, who later became a naturopath to fully practice integrative treatments.  Some of the lab tests given are your standard CBC with differential, thyroid and antibodies, BUN, creatine and metabolic panels plus, of course, a test for the toxicity of heavy metals within. Dr. Hutton will run a stool test if he suspects parasites, and the Center has seen real turn-arounds in mood and behavior when these were eradicated in the gut.

Dr. Murphy explained the evolution of the Center’s approach. He spoke of a core group within Narcotics Anonymous that was drawn to orthomolecular medicine, particularly the work of Dr. Michael Lesser MD, a pioneering Orthomolecular Psychiatrist. Yet in time Dr. Murphy found that supplements only—even in very high doses, the megavitamin approach—helped only about 40% of the addicts and “mentally ill” he was trying to help.

The epiphany that followed was that if toxins were not removed, it’s hard for the supplements to convert to maximum bioavailability. Hence the sauna and detox routine.

May I remind readers that this has for some time been the thinking within the autism community? Chelation (removal) of heavy metals from our toxic children—autistics representing perhaps the most toxic children on earth– is still what parents report as the most significant intervention. For my daughter it was so–using transdermal DMPS to remove mercury.  This was when Nattie began to show an interest in toys and in other children, not to mention her leap in language and cognitive skills. 

Way to go, Alt to Meds Center!

Though residents at the Center hail from all over, one concern in Sedona is arsenic, for its high levels in the water supply.  Dr. Murphy talked about what this can do to serotonin: maintain a downward plummet. He opined noticing this in the Sedona citizenry as a hypersensitivity to what others may be thinking about oneself.  

He was also kind enough to share with me the steps of their detox regimen. I wrote down ten of them. Known detoxifiers were in plentitude, from plant-based chelators like chlorella and cilantro, to the more hard-core DMPS and EDTA compounds.  He also feels that the good-guy Omega-6’s, such as Evening Primrose Oil boost detoxification. NAC and glutathione offer further support.

Antifungals are also part of the treatment plan: oregano oil and garlic, for example. There is concern about biofilm, and the Center addresses this with enzymes.  Biofilm has to do with the resistance candida can show to antifungal medicines.  It’s an important topic, so I’ve excerpted a scholarly article’s Introduction ahead; read the entire article here. I warn you this is a bit technical, just go slow or read it twice, only two paragraphs:

Our classical perception of microorganisms as unicellular life forms is almost entirely based on the pure-culture mode of growth; since microbial suspensions can be diluted to a single cell and studied in liquid culture, this mode of growth has traditionally predominated in the study of microbial physiology and pathogenesis in the research laboratory. However, many microbes in their natural habitats are found in biofilm ecosystems attached to surfaces and not as free-floating (planktonic) organisms. Thus, biofilms are defined as structured microbial communities that are attached to a surface and encased in a matrix of exopolymeric material. This is of particular significance since it is now estimated that a significant proportion of all human microbial infections involve biofilm formation.

Candida species are frequently found in the normal microbiota of humans, which facilitates their encounter with most implanted biomaterials and host surfaces. Devices such as stents, shunts, prostheses, implants, endotracheal tubes, pacemakers, and various types of catheters, to name a few, have all been shown to support colonization and biofilm formation by Candida.  Candida albicans remains the fungal species most commonly associated with biofilm formation, and the increase in Candida infections in the last decades has almost paralleled the increase and widespread use of a broad range of medical implant devices, mainly in populations with impaired host defenses. Strikingly, fungi (mainly C. albicans) are the third leading cause of catheter-related infections, representing the second highest colonization-to-infection rate and the overall highest crude mortality. The formation of Candida biofilms carries important clinical repercussions because of their increased resistance to antifungal therapy and the ability of cells within biofilms to withstand host immune defenses. Also, biofilm formation on medical devices can negatively impact the host by causing the failure of the device and by serving as a reservoir or source for future continuing infections.  The net effect is that Candida biofilms adversely impact the health of these patients with increasing frequency and severity and with soaring economic sequelae.

Sure enough, there are studies of biofilm on bacteria throughout the Mediterranean Sea, backing up the above assertion that hey, what you view under pristine and manipulated conditions in the lab may not be all there is to see.  In the body (a great sea itself), “exopolymeric material,” makes for microscopic, sticky particles that form a matrix shielding candida from antibiotics (or whatever treatment).

Please don’t think you are immune if you have no shunts, implants, pacemaker, prostheses or the like. Our naturopath recommends that our daughter with autism take special enzymes to break down biofilm. Fighting Candida has been the bane of her existence literally from day one (beware simple “thrush” in newborns—it could be a harbinger of worse things).

Candida is extremely resourceful in being able to hide and hold on. I too have to attend to it, especially if I start noticing my days dipped in unexplained fatigue and depression. And I eat hardly any sugar, and try to hold down the carbs, even complex ones. Then it’s oops–time to zap some candida! The result is most often an upswing.

The Alternative to Meds Center uses other supplements to support this rather aggressive detox process. They will give residents a very high dose of Vitamin C. They might address methylation issues with Sam-e, or seleno-methionine. Finally, care is taken to re-mineralize the body, especially after the sauna which can deplete potassium and magnesium.

Exercise is a high priority woven into the Center’s practices, alternating with the ingestion of chelating agents, and time in the sauna. Residents also participate in house meetings, peer support groups, and even rites of passage. There is an organic garden, harvested for meals.

This is a pretty cool place, and I enjoy daydreaming about how our world could heal if mental health treatments were all like this—going to the roots of so-called psychoses and disorders, and getting results. Thank you for having the courage, Alternative to Meds Center.  

And please, dear readers, if you have a chance to visit Sedona and sit in a vortex, don’t pass up this unique and potentially meaningful experience!