Since starting my practice in 1981 I have been fascinated by how different health care disciplines look at health and disease. Once I took a six week classical homeopathic course with practitioners from every different discipline.
It was interesting to see how each discipline perceived the cause of different illnesses. Take duodenal ulcers for instance. The psychiatrists opined the effect of stress and family. Doctors said bacteria were at fault. Chiropractors discussed neurological factors. Each gave successful case histories.
The same can be said of diet. It is amazing how diets as different as raw food vegans, macrobiotics, WAP, and Atkins could all get good results. But if you look for common ground, all the above eliminate sugar, junk food, fake fats, excito-toxins and emphasize whole foods. Proponents of each one will argue the merits of their beliefs, but I sense something different is at play.
In my opinion the body is nothing short of a bundle of miracles. Always attempting to heal itself if given half a chance.
You may be wondering, if that is true, what’s wrong with my body that I have this particular ache or symptom. Why is my body not healing itself?
All of us have a homeostatic self healing mechanism constantly at work. If you get a cold, if you cut yourself, if you have indigestion, usually within a short time, your body heals itself without any intervention at all.
What stops the body from performing perfectly at all times are stressors. These stressors can be summed up as different categories:
- Chemical (nutritional deficiency included here)
The homeostatic mechanism is constantly doing its best to adapt to these stressors in the best way possible. Usually most challenges can be handled. If the stressors are greater than the homeostatic mechanism can handle, then symptoms develop.
These symptoms are guidelines to the challenge and should not be just covered up with drugs. If these symptoms and challenges are not appropriately dealt with these symptoms become dysfunctions. If these dysfunctions are not appropriately dealt with they will turn into dis-ease.
Many naturopathic practitioners believe that when we suppress symptoms we drive the disease deeper. An example is covering eczema of pediatric patients with cortisone creams which has a high tendency to drive the disease process more into the lungs and commonly the patient will have respiratory diseases later in life.
It’s important to understand these different categories of stressors. Many practitioners and patients have only been schooled in one type of stressor. Most commonly we define stress as a mental emotional stressor. The kind we feel when we have a financial concern, or a relationship issue, or a time constraint.
The other category of stressors is chemical. This can come from nutrient insufficiency (Vitamin D, essential fatty acids, minerals etc) or toxicity (byproducts of foreign pathogens such as bacteria, yeasts, molds, and viruses).
Nature magazine recently reported there are ten times the amount of bacterial cells in our body as human cells. Approximately 3-5 lbs of bacteria in the gut alone!
If these are healthy bacteria they make countless nutrients such as B vitamins etc. Dr Yanick PhD has researched and published how seven appropriate strains of organisms can create over 400 beneficial strains of microorganisms each creating vitamins within us. However if there is dysbiosis or altered microorganisms in the gut, we get byproducts that give us symptoms of fatigue, headaches and joint aches, bloating etc.
Another common chemical stressor is environmental chemical stressors such as fluoride in water, chlorine in swimming pools, pesticides on our food, Genetically modified organisms, etc. Medications are another chemical stressor that will create nutrient deficiencies. The fourth leading cause of death in the United States is side effects from properly prescribed medications.
Another common chemical stressor is food sensitivities. These are not the life threatening allergic response that we know some people have such as to peanuts or shellfish which are called atopic and generally last for life.
Food sensitivities are usually IGG mediated and can change over time. These are most common in the protein components of food such as gluten in grains, casein in dairy products, and the protein in egg whites.
There are many different types of testing to determine these allergies and labs are improving all the time.
Traditional blood tests for gluten are usually based on alpha-gliadin which is only one of 18 proteins in wheat and frequently gives false negatives. Labs such as Cyrex and Enterolabs use much more advanced testing methods and are much more accurate. However, many patients can’t afford these tests and many will do very well with a health coach trained in the elimination and provocation method of detecting allergic reactions.
We will discuss structural stressors in a follow up column. The point here is that if you are having persistent health challenges that are not responding, maybe you are looking at the wrong approach. Maybe there are silent stressors in categories you are not aware of.
I will use headaches as an example as frequently this is a problem that can be caused from any or all of the different categories of stress (structural, chemical, mental-emotional or electromagnetic). Many people are passionate about their nutritional practices and will put much effort solely into this approach but their headaches persist.
Many times when they see a practitioner who is trained in reducing structural stressors (chiropractor, acupuncturist, massage therapist), they will get much better response. If they choose to add deep breathing and relaxation response the improvement may be even greater.
The goal is reduce stressors of all categories enough that the body’s self healing homeostatic mechanism can work again and restore optimal health. A goal of mine is to empower patients so that they are in charge of their health and take ownership of it. Their health professionals can all help and all have wonderful tools. Once the patient really understands their own body’s self healing ability that is when the magic really happens.