I have come to view health in this way:  We were all given a bucket at birth.  It signifies our ability to stay healthy by bouncing back from stressors and detoxifying harmful things thrown at us throughout our life.

When your bucket overflows you get sick with a chronic illness.  Cancer, auto-immune disease, diabetes, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome are a few examples of chronic conditions that are really signs of an over-full bucket.  The traditional-medicine approach does not do a very good job treating these conditions, because the goal is to prescribe medications that alleviate symptoms.  While relieving suffering is a noble goal, this does nothing to change the fact that the bucket is overflowing.  It tries to mop up the spills but does not stop the overflow.  This may be why more and more medications are needed over time, each with their own side-effect profile, and each possibly contributing to bucket fill-level by taxing the liver and kidneys with their metabolization.

Some people have very large buckets and others have small buckets.  A person with a very large bucket may smoke, drink, burn the midnight oil and live to 95 without any significant medical problems.  In contrast, one with an extremely small bucket may live a fairly healthy lifestyle but develop cancer at a young age.  I know—it’s not fair. 

What fills our buckets?

Poor Nutrition

The strain of poor nutrition is profound.  Cells don’t have the raw ingredients to get their work done and toxins build up.  It might be from not eating enough good foods that contain key vitamins and minerals.  It could also be toxins in the wrong foods that cause inflammation, like sugar, trans-fats, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners.


Trauma—either emotional or physical, not enough sleep, over- or under-training, aging parents, ill children, financial worries, a never-ending to-do list all have the same biochemical effect on our bodies—high cortisol and adrenaline.  The stress response, or fight-or-flight mode, is very important during brief emergencies, but staying there long term can eat us up from the inside.  This is a major bucket filler.

Think about it.  How many people do you know that developed cancer or some other illness not long after a very stressful time?  I bet we all can name more than one.  They were probably teetering along ok with a 3/4 full bucket, and then a major stressor tipped them to overflowing.


Heavy metals disrupt hormone function and enzymes.  The big ones are arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead.  Man-made chemicals, called organic pollutants, come from plastics, gasoline products, pesticides, herbicides, solvents and on and on.  These also mess up our biochemistry by interfering with hormones, membrane health, and enzymes that make chemical reactions happen.

Keep in mind these toxins do absolutely NOTHING good for your biochemistry.  They are just plain BAD, and the ideal level is undetectable.  The government puts out guidelines on acceptable safe levels, but for whom?  What size bucket you carry, and how full it is with stress or poor nutrition have major effects on your sensitivity to these toxins.

Biotoxins are chemicals secreted by a living organism like yeast, mold, and bacteria.  They can be a major problem for people who have the genetic sensitivity to them.  Luckily only 1 in 4 are sensitive.  But for those who are, exposures can rapidly fill their bucket to overflowing.

What can you do?

We have to lower the level of whatever is filling our bucket.  For those with a stressful life that they can’t change, stress reduction techniques will help; Even brief periods of time out of the fight-or-flight mode can have profound effects on health.  They also need to be very mindful of their nutrition and work to safely reduce toxin levels.

As a functional medicine physician I try to help my patients examine what is filling their personal bucket.  Then we look at what things they can control that will lower their load.  The goal is to decrease the level in their bucket to prevent overflow.  Decrease the rate of filling by avoiding unnecessary stress and toxins, and increase the rate of bucket drainage with stress reduction, nutrition, and safe detoxification.  Regardless of where you are at this time, teetering with a near-full bucket, or manifesting a chronic illness that is a sign of an overflowing bucket, the principle is the same.  Reduce the level to promote health.

How full is your bucket? 

I work on the premise that knowledge is power.  Let’s have an honest assessment of your bucket level and then work together to reduce whatever is filling it.  You are too precious NOT to.