top of page
  • Writer's pictureFMF

Episode 13: Toxic Truths About Our Environment with Dr. Charles Penick, MD

Updated: May 23

Podcast Drop Date: 3/22/23

Get ready to dive into the fascinating world of holistic healing with Dr. Penick, MD! In this episode we uncover the truth about toxins and the significant impact they can have on our bodies, and explore the critical role our environment plays in our overall health. Dr. Penick's insights and expertise will guide you through the process of getting your nervous system back to its best shape, including the importance of getting the vagus nerve back into parasympathetic tone and resetting the limbic system. You'll be amazed to learn how these simple steps can set your body up for optimal healing and wellness. Don't miss this informative and inspiring episode - it's time to get your body and nervous system in the right space to be ready to heal!

Dr. Charles Penick is an integrative board-certified family medicine physician who's passionate about promoting true vitality for every family member. Dr. Penick's extensive knowledge and experience in nutritional health, detoxification, medical fitness, and health optimization, coupled with the latest scientific technologies and breakthroughs, allow him to set the trajectory for a strong and healthy life. He practices an integrative approach to medicine in Eagle, Idaho, and offers telemedicine to patients worldwide.

Learn more about our newest program offerings:

5 Month Weight Loss

Radiant Woman

Optimal Man


Amber Warren, PA-C: Welcome to Functional Medicine Foundations podcast, where we explore root cause medicine, engage in conversation with functional and integrative medicine experts and build community with like minded health seekers. I'm your host, Amber Warren. Let's dig deeper.

Amber Warren, PA-C: Welcome back, everybody. Amber Warren, your host here. I am here with Dr. Charles Penick. And I'm so excited to be interviewing this brilliant and amazing human. So Dr. Charles Penick is an integrative board certified family medicine physician, passionate about setting the trajectory for a strong and healthy life while promoting true vitality for each family member. In addition to the knowledge and experience derived from obtaining his medical degree, Dr. Charles is well versed in nutritional health, detoxification, medical fitness and health optimization, utilizing some of the latest scientific technologies and breakthroughs. Dr. Penick attended college at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama. He obtained his medical degree at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California, and completed his residency training with the University of California, Riverside in Palm Springs, California. He practices an integrative approach to medicine in Eagle, Idaho. He also offers telemedicine to patients across the United States and also internationally. Welcome, Dr. Penick.

Dr. Charles Penick, MD: Thank you, Amber.

Amber Warren, PA-C: So, you know, we've had a couple stories like this in bringing on practitioners, but this is definitely one of my favorites. My husband and I met met Charles and his beautiful family and lovely wife, Ana. Gosh, has it been like a year and a half, maybe a year ago? Yeah. And Sam is a little bit he comes on a little strong sometimes and he meets someone he likes and he, you know, we'd be camping. We'd spend a lot of time with you guys camping this past summer, and, you know, we'd maybe make a couple margaritas, and Sam would pull you aside and be like, you know, you actually want to join our team, don't you, Charles? Like, come on. Like, we're fun. We're cool. And thankfully, he kind of stopped, stopped pursuing you and let you just kind of breathe. And then you came full circle. Now, this, this, this entering into 2023. And we're just so, so I mean, like, I'm I'm like, honestly just so honored and, like, almost pinching myself that I get to we get to do medicine with you. So you'll be joining our team I think by the time this airs and within within the week, um, helping us just heal people and bring life back to them out of our Eagle Clinic in Eagle, Idaho. So we're so excited. So today we're going to be talking about one of my favorite topics. And you and I have actually talked offline about this over the past few weeks as well. Just kind of principles of detoxification, the why and the what. Yeah. Um, so tell us a little bit about kind of your journey even lately, however much you want to share about how this has come to front and center for you. Sure.

Dr. Charles Penick, MD: Yeah. You know, I when I finished residency training, there's an amazing doctor by the name of Dr. Jeremy Kaslow. He practices in Santa Ana, California. And I learned quite a bit from him. I have many mentors who have poured into my life. Kim Shetty also, I would say is really one who is the reason why I practice what I practice. And through listening to these mentors, many of them have it named pouring into me, I began to realize how important it is to clean the body out. God designed our body to work a certain way, and when we start having health imbalances, often a large part of the reason why that's taking place is because something that doesn't belong in the body is present. Yeah. And so a principle, a key principle, I would say, of healing is removing the bad guys. Yeah. What we call toxins and detox has almost become kind of a fad word in the kind of functional integrative medicine world. But it's one of those things where it will never go away because it is so such a core principle of healing. And so I will touch on one thing that I feel like is a really amazing tool that Dr. Kaslow gave me, what he calls the these are these are foundations of health, basically, in order to get your body back into balance, there's six root causes and there's different ways of kind of spinning this.

Dr. Charles Penick, MD: But this is the way that he he taught me and I will always remember I actually use the acronym PIGS is the way that I remembered it when I first learned it some years ago from him. But nutrition, we have to make sure that we're getting what our bodies need and that we're also removing from a standpoint of what we're eating, what our bodies don't gel well with. Right. What causes more inflammation in the body. Toxins is number two. And so what we're going to focus on today, but that's a huge piece. Um, talk about psycho emotional imprints and I think you could also put toxicity into that category too, because sometimes the psycho emotional aspect is a is one of the major pieces. I think it always has some contributing factor to it, but sometimes it's one of the key, key pieces as well. And we could talk about emotional detox as well, and then infectious disease agents, things that that's also another form of toxins to some degree. We talk about viruses, bacteria, parasites, things that also need to be cleared out of the body that are causing blockages.

Amber Warren, PA-C: Because they're foreign to the body. Right? I mean, that's what we're looking at, is what can't the body recognize as self?

Dr. Charles Penick, MD: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And these things are in a sense, in a sense, the body is seeing them as attacking the system and it tries its best to rally the. Horses, but sometimes because of other toxins that are present, maybe it says, Hey, I want to clear this parasite out, but I also have mold over here or I have heavy metals over here. So my detox mechanisms are impaired and then genetics. And we as far as detox goes, we talk about another buzz word in genetics. Is MTHFR the R gene. Yeah. And that's that's one of many genes that, that do contribute to detoxification, but it just signals this idea that genes can either enhance or impair the body's ability to clear or remove things that don't belong. Yeah, and the last is structural and, and I'm, I'm speaking in this with regards to the topic today, which is detoxification. But it has many implications when we talk about structural imbalances. But things like scar tissue can impede, you know, clearing certain toxins out of the body or communication between one aspect of the body to another to signal the need to clear something out.

Dr. Charles Penick, MD: And so those six things are are key principles that I take into every case that I work with, every patient that I work with. How do we apply these principles to getting their body back into balance? So I just want to give credit where credit is due, and I really appreciate Dr. Cassel for giving me those tools. And I think it's something that everyone can start to run through as an exercise, because often your intuition is trying to speak to you and a lot of times people will already come to the room knowing where something may be wrong. They don't know necessarily how to adjust or how to get that moving in the right direction, but they often have an intuition about what's off, even in spite of what the doctor may have said. Oh no, that has nothing to do with your health. And they're like, I just have a feeling that there's something with this. And so so I love to to to pass that tool along because it's helped me a ton.

Amber Warren, PA-C: So yeah, that's amazing. You know, it was a few months back I was doing some reading just on as I was trying to kind of fine tune some detox protocols I'm using and reading how 1 in 3 people now, 1 in 3, I think it was Americans have liver congestion and most you can't. And most of the time you can't even pick that up on on labs right. Because we look at some biomarkers and some key findings in people's just blood work on on if there could be if toxicity could be playing an issue but it was pretty amazing to me. So I think you hear a lot about like how the liver is your body's detoxification organ and what the kidneys do and even just the skin. But they can get congested and they can have issues due to toxins. And so it sometimes it's not enough enough just to say I have a liver, I can detox. Right. Yeah. And we talk about this concept of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. And I think a lot of people don't realize that heavy metals, high fructose corn sirup glyphosate can be the main culprit behind fatty liver disease. Yeah, right. And it's not always just eating processed, poor quality foods. Yes. It's all these other toxins that are playing a role. Yeah. Um, are you. So how are you evaluating? Let's start here. How are you evaluating your patient? That potentially could be toxic. Yeah. And and be laden with these. With these chemicals.

Dr. Charles Penick, MD: Well, you know, I tell everyone, I work with both children and adults, and sometimes we have, you know, kids who are from day one just, you know, super clean, organic, you know, no added, no added unnecessary ingredients, you know, hard so.

Amber Warren, PA-C: Hard to do nowadays.

Dr. Charles Penick, MD: And and so and when I when I say that, I mean for the kid. The child the child is, you know, unadulterated from day one. And so the idea is what I tell parents is, though the world we live in, unfortunately, even though we do our best to to protect that child, inevitably there's going to be some toxins that are going to come into play. And so, yeah, I just I'm using this as an example of how toxins in every single client has a role to play in their imbalance. So let's just take this kid who's completely healthy from day one of life. Unfortunately, there's there's some studies that suggest that as many as 150 different toxins can be present in this child from day one, passed down from grandmother to mom and passed transplacental. And and so this kid who may have no logical reasoning why they may be having exhibiting some symptoms because we're like, well, there's nothing they do everything right. And I'll give you an example. My son actually, you know, we did everything kind of what we thought was absolutely best from day one of life. And then all of a sudden he pops out with eczema. And it started out as a little bit on his on his cheek, and then it starts to spread across his body.

Dr. Charles Penick, MD: And I remember my wife and I talking about it was like, man, it almost kind of feels embarrassing because we're like, we're doing everything that we know is right. And then where is this coming from, right? And only to learn that his body still has to clear, because unfortunately, whatever he was passed down, he has to get that out of his body as well. So it was a healing journey for him at such a young age, even though he was what we would consider to be, you know, how probably the purest. Oh, yeah. And so it just what it did for me was highlight the fact how much detoxification is needed for every single one of us because we can think of how many things we may have been exposed to in our life. You if we grew up near farming community or near train tracks or freeways or golf courses, you know, those are just a few examples of. Journal sources. And then whether we thought I know I wasn't taught to eat things, thinking about whether they were sprayed with certain chemicals or not. I know my mom. You know why she didn't take me to get everything. I know I had quite a few injections that maybe weren't that I know weren't the cleanest. And so you we look.

Amber Warren, PA-C: At now how many more vaccines are recommended by the CDC compared to even just when we were, which wasn't that long ago. That's right. It's it's it's insane.

Dr. Charles Penick, MD: It is. It is. And so the need is even greater for this generation. Right? And so, you know, we we don't want added heavy, heavy metals, chemicals, you know mold toxins and I'll talk that was kind of another thing you hinted at is like so recently this has come to a big forefront for me because whether or not it's the main cause, we do know that there is something that my wife has been dealing with that we think may be triggered by mold, and we haven't quite verified that yet, but it's really brought it to another level of consciousness for me to be able to realize that a lot of my clients coming in may be dealing with a hyper triggered immune system and nervous system from mold toxicity. And yes, there's many other contributors, but it just seems to be I'm learning how ubiquitous mold is. People are exposed to it without even realizing it may be in their HVAC system, it may be behind some drywall somewhere. It may have been in a house that they lived in previously at some point in their life, maybe their college dorm room could have been the school that they went to.

Dr. Charles Penick, MD: Right. So unfortunately, many of us do harbor mold toxins to the degree that it affects us is going to vary based on genetics and other factors, other toxins that you may have on board. For my wife, we believe that long hauler is perhaps was a part of that because having it may have been a mold background that was triggered with more inflammation by COVID and then this long haulers carries on and then it's a mixture of mold symptoms and COVID long hauler symptoms which actually are very synonymous. And she was pointing that out the other day, that they're almost identical when you look at them. So the idea is ultimately, if we can remove the toxins, then we can hopefully get the body restored. Now, that part is not always easy. I've learned for some people it's very simple. We know basic detox principles and we can chat about some of those and we can apply those to a certain person. But sometimes people are not ready. And so we have to prepare the body to actually receive the detox process. Absolutely. Yeah.

Amber Warren, PA-C: So yeah, so interesting. I think that people want you know, I'm having this conversation every day with my patients. People want to try and identify one thing that's driving their symptoms or their imbalances. And so in functional medicine, we talk about like the tack theory, right? So if you've got five tacks you're sitting on, if you pull out one, if you pull out the mercury, right, you get your amalgams out and you do mercury detox, you might not feel better. Right? And sometimes you have to conquer the mold and the chronic virus and and the mercury and the heavy metal and look at something like glyphosate. And until you pull all of out, all those tacks out, that's when you can get back into balance and and, you know, be free from your your disabling symptoms. Yes. So it is it is really interesting. Um, so let's let's just dive in to some of those like principles of detoxification that you focus so much on. Yeah, sure. Yeah. Where do you start? Like where if you, if a patient comes to you and it's very obvious clinically that this patient is suffering from some toxicity issues, where do you start?

Dr. Charles Penick, MD: Yeah, great. So first of all, one principle that we've learned is that the cells often become hidden stores of toxins. So once a cell, once a toxin enters the body, either orally or through the skin or whatever method, it may be something like a volatile organic compound that we breathe in. Ultimately, once it gets into the bloodstream, it will find its way to a cell and often end up making its way inside the cell as a hideout to be undetectable by the nervous system or by the immune system to clear, which would like to clear it out. One thing our body does intelligently, actually, is if it has the ability to, it will store it into fat cells because that's the least damage it can do. And so but sadly, a lot of these deposit in other healthy tissues, even many of them can cross. We have a protective barrier called the blood brain barrier that tries to keep certain molecules from passing into the brain. Unfortunately, you mentioned the vaccines. It's a really key one because a lot of the nano metallic particles in there readily cross the blood brain barrier unchecked and deposit into brain tissue. You also mentioned mercury. Mercury amalgams, the same thing that those mercury ethers are. Esters will will basically drop into the brain tissue. And it's very hard to pull them out because sometimes a lot of the molecules that we would use for detoxification also have a difficult time crossing the blood brain barrier. Right. And so what what I like to first we need to first think about is how do we get the cells to excrete the toxins, to kick out the toxins.

Dr. Charles Penick, MD: Right. So there are many ways that that may contribute to that. But there are two really neat things that we know work very, very well, tried and true. And so some people may have. Heard the term or of the supplement glutathione. It's very commonly used and recommended, but that's a really good one. If you can get a highly absorbable glutathione that really does a good job at helping the cell kick out something that is foreign to it. Another really commonly used one. But sometimes people don't know why they're doing it is infrared sauna or I was trying to say wavelength, infrared light. Thank you. Yeah. So the idea is if you are stimulating with this wavelength, that cell, it energizes the mitochondria to power the cell to kick out something that doesn't belong and stimulates the pathway. One of them we know is Nrf2. And it allows the body to just to say, Hey, this does not belong here. And now I have the actually capacity or the energy to remove it. And then, you know, we can test before and after, after a course of infrared sauna treatment, which is so awesome because that's a modality available with FMI. Yeah. To go and utilize the sauna and if you can use that on a regular basis, I tell people if you can use it a minimum of three times a week, but it would be awesome if you could use it every day.

Dr. Charles Penick, MD: Yeah. I also I understand time is a big factor in that, but then we realized that we can see if we were to test you before and after a certain period of time, 6 to 12 months, we will see that those toxins will ultimately, once they're out of the cell, the body will do what it needs to to start removing them. And they'll end up in the urine and the stool and in the sweat. And so really, really neat that those are two modalities for getting them out of the cell. Yeah, I'll mention a couple of other principles. Once it's out of the cell, then it ends up in the bloodstream, right? So where does it go from there? And we there's a number of different things that take place. But lymphatics is a kind of a sub circulation system that helps to pull and mobilize toxins from the tissues, bring them into the blood. And then once it's in the blood, we have a number of ways that it's filtered. The main organ is the liver, which you were talking about already, and how important that is in having a healthy, functioning liver. And so if you have, you know, fatty liver or you have liver congestion, you know, it's definitely impaired in its ability to kick out or dump toxins. But if you don't if you don't have a healthy liver, which is a key starting place, then we start detoxing you.

Dr. Charles Penick, MD: Then we have what I think of as a traffic jam and think of, you know, a really a really busy highway. And all of a sudden everything backs up and piles up. Eventually it's going to have really big implications. And that's where people start feeling unwell when they're detoxing. So making sure the liver is working well is a is a is really a first place to start if the person is not in a hyper triggered state. And I can mention that after, but just as a general principle, making sure the liver is working well because it will pull toxins out of the blood and put them into the stool, which is also another important piece. You can have a traffic jam there as well, right? Yeah. A lot of people say I have a problem with elimination and I, you know, I just live with it. But that means you're also probably full of a lot of toxins because you're not getting them out of the body. And so another thing we mentioned was sweat, right? So the ability to sweat toxins out. And that's a neat way that you can just get it directly often from the cells, sometimes into the lymphatics and then pour it out through the sweat. And that's the way a lot of toxins come out. But if you're not sweating and which is something I'm guilty of, I'm too busy and too busy. And if you're not sweating, then you're not you're not detoxing and.

Amber Warren, PA-C: Hydrating and kidney kidneys are really important in detoxification. Yes. A part. Yeah. You touched on some really important topics there. I think there's a lot of a lot of people that will go read about a detox protocol or, you know, put together their own protocol from what they read about online or hear on podcasts. But they don't have their pathways aren't open, right? Their detoxification pathways aren't open. So sometimes we do have to start by saying today we're going to get you hydrating and pooping right before we can even talk about testing you for toxins or bringing in the binders or other really important aspects of of of kind of some of our protocols. Yes. So, yeah, I'm so glad you touched on that. It is so important. Um, let's so I think it's appropriate to just go there because it's so important and you touched on it, making sure from a, I guess, nervous system standpoint that your body is ready to detox because that's another I think we can kind of put that in the same category as like making sure your drainage pathways are open. Yes. Yes, Right. Yeah. So what do you look at there? Yeah.

Dr. Charles Penick, MD: So honestly, if your nervous system is hyper triggered and think about it this way, like if you went to a fight in a war, right, we think of this term called PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. And what happens then is your nervous system is put into we talk about fight or flight or freeze, and that's sympathetic, dominant state. And it's also out of this desire for protection and safety that our body tries to protect us, but it often inhibits us from moving past that, that time of trauma. And unfortunately, our body's physiologically are living under this constant trauma or assault from something that doesn't belong in the body. Whether it's a virus or bacteria or mold or heavy metal, Right. So or other toxins that we could discuss. So the idea is that it does feel in a hyper triggered state. And so sometimes people have been so triggered that in spite of us trying to mobilize toxins and bind them and get them out of the body, we end up seeing that there's a lot of resistance to treatment. And that is often and this is this is a key principle that I just recently learned. And I have to say that this has been groundbreaking for me because I've always said, oh, yeah, you know, we have the general idea of principles. Principle of detox was get it out of the cell. You know, make sure the detox drainage pathways are open, bind it.

Amber Warren, PA-C: And throw you in a sauna. Exactly. Throw you under infrared.

Dr. Charles Penick, MD: Exactly right. Load them up and get it. Get it out and and three months max. Yeah, exactly. Right. Yeah. And then you realize it's not that way. Exactly. Right. It's really for a lot of people, it's actually gentle and slow. And it is truly about, first making sure the body is in a state of being receptive. So when we think of the autonomic nervous system, this is our the the the functions that are happening without us thinking, often operating sympathetic or parasympathetic. Right. And so sympathetic is we talk about fight, flight or freeze and the parasympathetic we think of rest and digest and repair. And so the healing phase really happens in that parasympathetic. And most of us are go, go, go, go, go, get up, go work out, go eat, run to work, you know, go home. Take care. Everything you do, stay up late. And and so we're just constantly in this sympathetic, dominant state and our body can't heal and repair in that state. And so also so adding that to the idea that our body already feels like it's under assault by this foreign organism or toxin. And so what we want to do is calm the body down.

Dr. Charles Penick, MD: And there's a number of methods for that. But that's something that I realize is a huge principle that I have missed honestly, in the past. And so, yes, people may be getting some amazing results from detox, but there are there's a definitely a large amount of people who should be getting much more, I guess, gains or results, if you want to call it that, from from this process. But because we haven't addressed the nervous system first, we're not we're not seeing those that headway is not being made. So absolutely. I actually have a client who she she told me that this is the biggest leap she's made in five years. She spent over well over $100,000 in her health from multiple different practitioners who I think were all well-meaning. And their understanding of detox was significant. It was just the principle of addressing the nervous system first was missing. And when we did this, she she made the biggest shift. She told me that she has in the last five years of her health. That's amazing. So, yeah, life changing.

Amber Warren, PA-C: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think a really important part of the activating that parasympathetic state of your nervous system is just gut health, right? So much detoxification happens in your gut, that relationship between the gut and the liver and when you're in fight or flight, you're not digesting food. You don't need to digest food and absorb nutrients when you're running from the tiger. So that's kind of a way that I connect those those two as well. I have a patient who this was interesting and I learned a lot from her, you know, in trying to improve her immune system and get her sleep back on track. We we used peptide therapy to try and get her sleep back. And, you know, she just wanted to rest, to feel better and have more energy. But when she came back after about 4 or 5 weeks on this peptide, I started her on, she's like, my brain fog is gone. Wow. And what we were able to do with the specific peptide we use is actually get her into that stage three. I guess there's no longer a stage four, but into that stage three sleep where your brain detoxes, right? It's only in that stage three when your brain can actually like take out the trash.

Amber Warren, PA-C: Wow. So by getting her sleeping in a deeper state, we were able to help her brain detox and her brain fog went away. Wow. And to get somebody who has really significant brain fog every day of their life when they're trying to work and she helps take care of her, her two grandchildren talk about life changing to have somebody have clarity of thought back. Right. So it was huge. It was huge. Yeah. So that that sleep component with just detoxification is important as well. Yes. Yes. Um, so I know our listeners are going to want to know the probably the biggest insults that we're seeing with regards to toxins in our world. And I could go on and on and on about this because I, you know, you and I could just probably list hundreds and hundreds of toxins. But what do you think are some of the I mean, we've touched on vaccines. Yes. Um, what are other really important chemicals that just even people today can be more aware of in our environment?

Dr. Charles Penick, MD: Yeah, for sure. So, you know. I really I actually do really feel I want to talk talk about the other ones. And I'm not going to go too deep on the vaccine. One, I know that's something that we could spend a lot of time chatting about, but I will say that that's one that I don't want people to overlook because often it's the it's the elephant in the room. No one wants to talk about it, but it can be often quite detrimental. And unfortunately, from day one of life, babies are being having to deal with over a often over 100 micrograms of aluminum between a couple of different things that they receive on that day. And the reason why I want us to think about this is because what that does is it sets the stage for now if you do run into an infection or you do r