As you sit reading this I want you to pause for a second. I want you to write down on a piece of paper a list of all of your current issues, symptoms or conditions, regardless of whether they are bothering you or not.
How many have you listed down?
Around 80% of the people I see in practice have at least 2 other symptoms (in addition to the pain they present with).
Some of the common issues I see patients presenting with include;
- Digestive Issues- Abdominal pain, bloating, IBS, diarrhoea, ulcerative colitis
- Joint Pains
- Mental- “Brain Fog”, poor concentration, poor memory
- Weight Issues- Overweight, Obesity
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Type 2 Diabetes
This sounds like a lot right?
What if I told you that I’ve just listed the symptoms of ONE person?!
I’m not joking. What I’ve just listed above is a list of current symptoms of one of my patients and that’s excluding her 2 strokes.
Modern Medicine’s Approach To Chronic Disease
Modern medicine is under immense pressure with the sheer volume of sick patients needing treatment each day. Whilst modern medicine is fantastic at dealing with acute medical emergencies, it unfortunately isn’t equipped to deal with chronic health issues.
Medicine treats symptoms not the disease. The aim of medicating patients is not to cure them but to prevent the symptoms getting worse or leading to further complications.
The approach to the example above would be to prescribe a whole range of drugs including medications for; blood pressure, cholesterol, depression, pain and blood sugar control. The above patient could potentially be on 7 or 8 different medications to manage the above symptoms.
At best this may keep all of the symptoms from getting worse. At worst, the patient may develop further symptoms as a result of side-effects which in turn may require further medications.
What If We Looked At Things Differently?
Symptoms are a sign of a problem. It can seem daunting or confusing having a patient present with a long list of symptoms because initially one might think that many different interventions would be needed.
But this isn’t necessarily the case. Symptoms give clues.
The body is not made up of individual systems that operate independently of each other. Everything is connected.
The digestive system (“the gut”) has a direct relationship to the brain for example, so what happens in the gut can affect the brain. But likewise, what happens in the brain (e.g. thoughts and emotions) has a direct impact on gut function. There is also a connection of the gut to the immune system, and certain foods are known to trigger immune reactions of varying degrees.
So if we look at the body as a connected system, if we affect one area we can affect other areas too.
How Would I Approach The Above Case?
Before diving head first into chasing symptoms we need to see the patient as a person. This person has a timeline of events right from birth to now which may all have an impact on how they arrived through the door to begin with.
Let’s figure out to the best of our ability what the predisposing factors were, what were the triggers to bring the symptoms on and what factors are maintaining the symptoms.
Start In The Gut
The gut is always a good place to start with an intervention. After all the digestive system is the barrier that separates the outside world from our inside.
My first step would be to remove as many potential food irritants as possible. This would be done through dietary changes.
Food triggers can irritate the gut lining. Eventually this can lead to larger food particles moving through into the body (“leaky gut”) which can cause immune reactions, or this can cause a reduction in the absorption of nutrients (as seen in Chron’s).
Certain supplements have been shown to have beneficial effects on the gut such as L-Glutamine, Aloe Vera and Liquorice.
I’d then look into stress reduction. Stress is known to initiate or aggravate IBS type symptoms, particularly more so in women.
As irritation in the gut decreases we often see other issues around the body improve too such as skin rashes, eczema or psoriasis. We may also see a reduction in inflammatory blood markers such as CRP.
Quite often improvements in the gut can have huge impacts systemically, but let’s assume that it hasn’t solved everything, what would I do next?
I’m not a psychologist, psychotherapist or any other variant of so I can’t help with any issues related to the depression side of things. What I can do though is to advise mindfulness practices such as meditation, exercise, seeking therapy or simply listening to music.
The approach here would be to take steps to reduce stress or to at least increase the tolerance to stress.
In addition to that, improving the diet and increasing omega 3 fats can also help with anxiety and the ability to focus.
Exercise is also a huge benefit to health and wellbeing. Studies have shown that exercise can help with anxiety and depression.
However in this instance I would be using exercise as a way to improve strength which was lost following a long hospital stays for strokes. It would also help to boost the body’s metabolic rate and therefore aid in shifting some of the excess body fat.
A decrease in excess body fat may also contribute to improved mood and decreased systemic inflammation.
This is just scratching the surface. There is no hard and fast rule that fits everyone and it often takes time.
Whatever your health issues may be, there’s always something that can be done to help you.
You may never be cured of anything, but what if you had more energy, felt better about yourself, were in less pain and didn’t have to worry about where the nearest toilet is every time you leave the house?
Simple changes to your nutrition, stress, sleep, digestion or exercise can have a huge impact on your life.
If you have any questions about how this approach may be able to help you, please send me a message because I would love to help you change your life.