This is a transcription of my Health and Wellness Call from 9/25/13 where I talk about the many causes of illness and how they can be effectively addressed to transform your health.
In my work as a naturopathic physician people come to see me because they’re not feeling well in some way. People don’t generally come to me because everything’s great – there’s something that is limiting them in some way. And what that could be, the range is huge – what one person considers a limitation is very different than another. Many people don’t consider coming to see somebody like me until they’ve crashed, until their health is in a crisis state, and they have tried all of the options that seem to be available to them by the medical system. They’ve tried all of it and it either hasn’t helped them or in some cases it’s made them worse, and they’re now at that place where they’re feeling desperate. So yes, people do often come to me in a state of desperation, and it’s not that uncommon for someone to walk into my office in tears. They’re at that place in their life.
The issue that brings them in can be anything from physical pain in their bodies to a condition that’s been diagnosed such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, gallbladder problems, kidney problems, allergies, or menstrual disorders or any kind of hormonal issues, male or female – so fertility, potency, all of these sorts of things may be happening for them. People come to me with these sorts of very typical physical ailments as well as with what we would consider psychological states of distress. Lots and lots of people are coming into my office because of anxiety or depression or some combination of these and they want help, they’re feeling like their life is limited, either a little bit or a lot, by whatever’s going on. In the natural medicine world, instead of having a given remedy for each condition or each diagnosis, there’s going to be a different approach for each individual because the various factors coming into play to create the imbalance, this disease, this illness are going to be unique to each person. I might see four people all experiencing heartburn and there could be four different causes. Four different people with constipation with four different causes. Four different people with premenstrual syndrome that manifests very much the same way, the same sorts of symptoms that they’re going to come in discussing, and yet there may be four different causes of that imbalance.
Our approach to healing needs to be as unique as every individual. Holistic healthcare modalities look at how do we find out what’s going on for this individual? And so the approach that I have come to use – even though in my training I’m trained to use blood tests and other kinds of laboratory tests like saliva tests and stool analyses or hair analysis, any kind of laboratory test, and then to create a diagnosis based on that – that sort of approach isn’t what I have found has brought me the best results, and so it isn’t how I tend to work in my practice. I like to get direct information from the person, from the body in front of me. And so yes, of course that means hearing from this person of their own experience and what their intuition tells them, what do they think is going on. So all of that is enormously important and I like to take a lot of time when somebody comes to see me investigating that.
Then I want to know what their body knows that perhaps their mind is not allowing to come to the surface. What is their body trying to say by creating this imbalance that’s not being listened to? And for that, just like an acupuncturist might read the pulses or look at the tongue to diagnose the individual aspects of someone’s health, I’m going to use neuromuscular feedback from the body, also referred to as muscle testing or muscle checking or applied kinesiology. The style of muscle checking that I use is a very relaxing process. Many of them involve holding out your arm, and the practitioner will press on the arm and you resist. In the style that I use, the person is laying on the table if they’re present – because it can be done long-distance as well – but they’re laying on the table and I use my hand on theirs and their arm stays relaxed; I’m actually using my own muscle strength to interact with this person and their body and really the innate intelligence of this person in front of me, that part of them that knows, that knows even if that information is being blocked out from the mind.
Luckily there are some beautiful systems that have been created to follow, to essentially be able to ask the body, inquire of the body, “What’s going on and how can I serve you?” And so one of those tools that I use leads to lifestyle kinds of advice or direction. So with this, what we might find out as we’re inquiring of the body what’s going on is physiologically, in the body’s physiology what’s going on. Where is the priority area? So not just, “OK where’s the problem or where is the body hurting?” – “What is the priority area right now or the place that needs to be addressed first?” Any one of us might have five or six things going on, five or six different areas that could use some support. But if I just pick one of those – let’s say it’s #4 on the list of priorities – and I think, “OK we’re going to start with this”, I may not get very good results. We might get a little bit of improvement, the person might feel a little bit better, but then they may plateau, or they feel better for a while and then they stop feeling better – the results aren’t consistent and they might not last. And that’s because we didn’t do what was ready to shift and change right then and there, the thing that really needed to be addressed first. So when we do address that priority, the thing that needs to be addressed first, then the body is ready to really respond, and either that will address all those other four or five issues – the body then has the coherence to do some self-healing – or, once that first thing is dealt with then the next thing will rise to the surface and we deal with that, and then the next one. Sometimes there are these layers of things that need to be addressed.
So in asking the body, “Where is the priority? What should our focus be right now?”, it might bring up one of the organs in the body like the heart or the lungs or the liver or the gallbladder or the spleen or the intestines or the bladder, the kidneys. And once we find out what this priority area is, I don’t just give my best recommendation for that area. I don’t say, “Oh, it’s the heart so you should change your diet in this way and I’m going to give you all these great supplements and herbs that I know help and support the heart.” No – I want to know, what is stressing this heart right now? What is it that’s interfering with the heart from being able to function optimally and fully? And there are some things that are most common, so those are the things I’m going to check in on first because they are what’s happening for 80, 85% of people. And they’re basically easy to address; that’s what’s nice. We just need to know what to address and it’s easy.
So those top interfering factors – one of them is food. Is there a particular food interfering with this function in the body? That might mean it’s a food allergy, and I have to say in the system that I use, allergies come up sometimes, but they’re not that common. When they do come up then it really does need to be addressed in some way. But I think Naturopaths have a reputation of taking away everybody’s favorite foods – The idea that if everyone just got off wheat and dairy and sugar and corn and soy, that all would be well. Most people I run into out there in the world don’t want to live their lives that way. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve come across who don’t even want to set foot near a Naturopath because that’s what they’ve heard is going to happen if they go in that direction! So a food allergy may come up and if so then we want to address it, and the good news is there are lots of ways of addressing it that don’t mean staying away from it for the rest of your life. So if that comes up and we want to look at that, it could also be just a food sensitivity, which is not as severe as an allergy but it could still be interfering with the function of the organ or whatever it is that came up as the priority. It could be in the food category that the body is lacking some nutrient. So it might not be that there are foods that need to be taken away or addressed in some way but there’s literally a food that needs to be eaten or in some way a nutrient that needs to be supplemented. It could be anything from a nutrient like one of the gross nutrients like carbohydrates or protein or fat, or it could be a trace mineral or something like that that’s needed – macro- or micro-nutrients. That’s one category – it might be food-, nutrition-related.
Another major factor that can be causing interference in how the body is functioning is microbes, bugs. It might be a virus, it might be bacterial infections, it could be a fungal imbalance, it could be a parasite. I will tell you, I do see a fair amount of parasites. And parasites don’t tend to show up at first. Sometimes for people with chronic health issues, parasites are way down below before they show their face to be addressed because they’re in the body and they’re hiding and they’re doing a pretty good job of hiding. But parasites don’t have to be extreme, like a tapeworm or an intestinal parasite where you’re vomiting or have extreme diarrhea. Parasites over time can find their way into your tissues where they’re surviving off of you and weakening your tissues. And those sorts of parasites aren’t something that we can do a test for, a laboratory test – they’re usually found on autopsies when the organ, or whatever the body part, is opened up and looked at under a microscope, and that’s when the parasites can be seen. Parasites can be detected through neuromuscular feedback from the body and they can be addressed, they can be addressed beautifully through herbs. There are some wonderful herbal therapies that are specific for the given type of parasite. And really when a body part is being weakened by parasites, when that stressor is taken away it’s really astounding the health and vitality that can be returned and of course we don’t even know all of the long-term detriments that there would have been if that parasite hadn’t been addressed. So microbes of some sort are another one of these issues to be looked at.
Then, toxicity in the body, and the two big categories of toxicity are metals – from light metals like aluminum and tin, to heavy metals like lead or mercury. These also can wreak havoc in the body and when we can support the body in ridding itself of these metals, again, our health can come back into focus. This process doesn’t need to be that difficult. With heavy or light metal toxicity, there are some wonderful whole-food supplements that I’ve found that will support the body in being able to release the metals from the cells and then also essentially bind them up, gather them up, and eliminate them from the body in a gentle and moderate way. Metal detoxification doesn’t have to be extreme and it doesn’t have to be painful at all. Then the other kind of toxicity that’s really common in the body is that of chemicals, and chemicals we’re exposed to in so many ways just in modern living. So yes, there are people who have maybe excessive chemical exposure through some kind of work that they do – they work with really intense chemicals and either they have skin contact or they’re inhaling those chemicals. But even if you don’t have that kind of exposure, there are chemicals in our air, there are chemicals in our water, there are chemicals in most of the foods that are readily available – we’re just taking them in. And yet our bodies are designed to eliminate anything that’s toxic, and our body will do that through the liver and the bowels, it will do that through the kidneys and the urinary system, it will eliminate things that we don’t need through the lungs, it will eliminate through the skin. But because this toxic exposure that we have just in normal day-to-day living now is so much greater than it was when the human body was designed, our bodies need help in doing that. And that also can be really, really simple – when that’s what’s needed, it isn’t that difficult to support the kidneys, which are like a filter for the blood, and like any other filter, the kidneys can get clogged, and they need to eventually be washed off. So there’s some wonderful herbs and nutrients we can use to support the cleansing capacity of the kidneys so that they can act as the filter that they’re designed to be. The liver is very important as a detoxification mechanism in the body, and the liver needs the right nutrients to be able to perform those detoxification tools. As a quick note, green vegetables are some of the greatest support in the liver detoxification pathways. So simply by increasing your green vegetables, you’re supporting your liver in being able to break down toxins thoroughly so that they don’t enter the bloodstream in the first place. Dealing with toxicity is not difficult, but we just need to know that’s what needs to be done and then simply address it, and there’s a whole range of ways we can go about that kind of detoxification.
I would say are the biggies: food, microbes, metals, and chemicals. But they aren’t the only cause of illness and disease in the body – absolutely not. They are contributors, for sure, but some other big factors are hereditary predisposition – right? Diabetes runs in our family, heart disease runs in our family – so when our body is weakened that’s where it might be more likely that diseases could manifest for us. The other factor, is the body psychology, our mental and emotional states. What is happening in our mind creates our physical body, and the Western model of health or disease prevention has separated the physical body – the medical doctors take care of that – and the mind – psychiatrists take care of that. Actually there’s no separation between the body and the mind. They are absolutely one functioning, coordinated system.
It’s been very well demonstrated and established scientifically that every thought we have, every belief we have about ourselves and about the world creates physiological responses in our body. A thought is going to create, activate certain neurotransmitters in the brain. It’s going to activate certain hormones from different organs. Perceived stress – the idea that a situation is stressful – is going to create the same physiological reaction as an actual stress, as if we’re being chased by a lion. The idea that we’re threatened is going to create that same physiological reaction. So we can’t underestimate or neglect the effect of what is happening in our mind, our psychological state, and the effect that that is having on our bodies. There is such a strong training in our culture to think that a physical problem, that something we experience as physical, is just that and has nothing to do with the emotions, or if it does then it’s because you’re crazy, there’s something wrong with you. And actually what it means is that you’re a human being, right? You’re human!
This first approach that I’m going to take to look at what’s going on will lead us to something, to doing something different, like eating differently or taking some herbs or some nutrients or moving our bodies in one way or another – some kind of lifestyle action. The other approach that I use in my office is about supporting the body’s own self-healing resources? How can we activate the body’s own self-healing? I do some energetic balancing that does just that. In this realm I’m asking the body what is ready to be balanced, what’s ready to shift, what’s ready to change. Here the body is going to bring stuff up to be balanced, to change, to shift, and I speak that out loud – I might say, “Oh yes, it’s the heart, and there is a relationship to a food,” and it’s reacting to some sensitivity. Let’s say it’s dairy, but instead of me giving you advice to avoid dairy, we’re going to balance the heart to the concept of dairy. And then we also find out from listening to the body that there is an association with an event from, when you were six years old and you were eating an ice cream cone and you tripped and you fell. You had pain, there was an emotional component because your ice cream cone was now all over the ground; and while all that was happening you had dairy on your tongue. So the body connects all of these pieces – there’s dairy on the tongue, which it’s supposed to be digesting, but because the body has gone into stress mode, it shifts its attention away from digestion, and so the body can’t digest that dairy. The nervous system puts all this into a little package: diary – difficult digesting when there’s emotional upset or pain. And then once that’s programmed into the body, any one of those could trigger the other. Physical pain can trigger the body into not being able to digest dairy, or emotional upset could trigger the body into not being able to digest dairy. Difficulty digesting dairy can trigger the emotional upset or increase the physical pain. What we want to do when we’re doing the energetic balancing is allow the body to bring up all of these different elements that are in some way interfering with the body’s ability to function fully and wholly, and essentially to say to the body, “Ok, right now, focus on this and do whatever balancing around it you can, do whatever rewiring can happen here.” As the practitioner I’m not fixing anything, I’m really just holding the space for the body to do it’s work. I might tap my hand over the head or somewhere over the brain to get the brain’s attention to doing this rewiring, or even float my hand over the body near the brain, near the spinal cord, passing through the entire nervous system as it does this rewiring, or some variation of that. And the body itself makes whatever changes it’s ready to make that day. And the beauty of that is it’s completely non-invasive. No outside person, me or anybody else, decided what needed to be done – your body, this person’s body, spoke: “Here’s what I need right now”, and then it did that balancing. And part of the beauty of that is that we’re very unlikely to have an adverse response to that because we didn’t push the body into doing anything that it wasn’t ready to do on its own.
Those are some of the things that I look at, at these many causes of illness. I think that anything that we can do to cultivate an awareness of ourselves and of our bodies and learn to listen is going to support our capacity to self-heal, to heal ourselves. And that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t go to doctors and we shouldn’t utilize healthcare practitioners, because all of that is important. But in truth, our feeling, our being well is really up to us. It really is up to us and for us to take responsibility for our health and out lives. I don’t mean responsibility in a heavy way. Actually it’s quite joyful when we open ourselves up to that possibility that our body, our Self, knows what it needs and all we have to do is listen. That’s why I like yoga, why I like spending some time in meditation when that seems appropriate, and doing so without the idea of making anything in particular happen, but really listening, paying attention, seeing what’s there, just seeing and feeling.