Hearing Your Body Speak: Are You Listening? Decoding What Your Body is Telling You
Have you ever woken up in the morning with a sore throat that seems to have come out of nowhere and think that you are getting sick, but only experience that pesky, persistent soreness and no other symptoms? Or perhaps a stuffy or runny nose in the morning that seems to go away as the day progresses, just to show up again the next? Your symptoms may progress into a full blown cold - coughing, stuffy nose, congestion. You feel miserable. Your symptoms are the debris of the battle between your immune system and the virus that invaded, and fortunately, your immune system won, and your well-being is restored.
But what about chronic symptoms? Psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety? Symptoms that don’t remit, and continue to challenge our lives?
Do you have an unease, or anxious feeling that follows you around? Or invades your thoughts with the “what ifs”? Or the feeling of low mood, sadness that you can’t shake? That feels like it sucks the life out of you?
When something that you care about is broken, you go to your handy-dandy tool box to find the tools that are needed in order to fix it. If you have a handful of helpful tools, you wouldn’t just rely on one to get the job done. Finding the solution, or “fix” to your symptoms is similar. It’s easy to go to the doctor to get a prescription to slap a band-aid on the problem, but this does not fix the underlying issues of WHY you have these symptoms, WHAT is causing them, and HOW you are going to treat the underlying issues. Once the root of the symptom is discovered, then the process of selecting your right “tools” can begin in order to find a final solution to your symptoms.
Challenging the Belief that Symptoms Are the Problem
Allopathic medicine, our current medical system, focuses on symptom reduction. It’s an effective and highly successful method for addressing acute physical issues. For example, if you break a bone in your leg, allopathic medicine is excellent in its ability to assist in healing the bone break.
However, for chronic conditions, symptom reduction does not answer these (three critical) questions:
Why do I have the symptoms?
What are the symptoms telling me?
How can I determine and treat the underlying condition driving the emergence of the symptoms?
Symptoms have a MESSAGE. The body is producing symptoms in an effort to correct, in the only way the body has access, whatever imbalance is happening in the body.
Symptoms are the MESSENGER. And as if often the case, we try to squash the messenger and disregard the message.
In chronic conditions, there is an underlying systemic imbalance in the physiological system. This imbalance could impact any number of bodily processes, which can manifest in a myriad of symptoms. For example, the malfunctioning of the parathyroid and adrenal glands can cause symptoms of anxiety, as can fluctuating blood sugar levels, and certain types of inflammation.
If we take an integrative approach to viewing our symptoms, we can recognize, for example, that stress, and its corresponding elevated rise of cortisol impacts our metabolism, sleep cycle, level of inflammation, blood pressure and blood sugar. Our experiences impact our body systems.
Challenging the Belief that Psychological Issues are “All in the Head”
If psychological symptoms are present, then determining the physiological causes might mean testing your hormones, level of inflammation, determining if you have digestive issues, presence of toxic metals and other toxins, vitamin/mineral levels, and metabolic issues.
We are one system, and what happens in one part of the body impacts other parts. We can have one disease, which may be caused by a myriad of issues.
Dr. Mark Hyman, in his book, Ultramind Solutions, states:
“It may be there are many “depressions,” not just one generic “depression.” These “depressions” may be the result of a multitude of causes: folate , B6, or B12 deficiency; low thyroid function, “brain allergies” to foods; an autoimmune response to gluten that inflames the brain: mercury poisoning; abnormal proteins called gluteo- or caseomorphins from poorly digested food that alters the brain chemistry; brain inflammation from aa hidden infection; blood-sugar imbalances; low testosterone or other sex hormones; a deficiency of omega-3 fats; or adrenal-gland dysfunction from excessive stress among many other possible causes.”
“These are some of the real causes of “depression” as well as many other mental illness and neurological conditions. Without addressing core, underlying issues like these, we can never have optimal brain function or mood.”
“There is really no such thing as the “disease” called depression, just many different systemic imbalances that cause the symptoms we collectively refer to as “depression”.”
Ideally, one can find an integrative or functional medicine practitioner who can help determine where imbalances in the body lie, how these imbalances are creating your symptoms, and how to balance these systems to dissolve the symptoms.
However, it is often difficult to find an integrative practitioner, and if you do, you will find that they often do not accept insurance, and the testing can be expensive. We are complicated beings, and sometimes finding the underlying issues can be time consuming and costly.
There are, however, interventions in lifestyle that can go a long way to helping the body stay healthy and support the body’s healing process. Our body is always seeking to maintain balance and heal. I’ll be offering more information on how to implement tools to support health and healing in future blogs.
What About Therapy?
I’m not dismissing the contribution of trauma to our presenting symptoms. On the contrary, utilizing effective, cutting-edge techniques in order to address a client’s symptoms is my specialty. Therapy is one tool in the toolbox, an effective tool of healing, providing a space to work in relationship with a therapist to gain support, learn coping skills, and dissolve our trauma.
Not every presenting psychological issue has potential influences from the body. For example, I’ve helped clients recover from car accidents which allowed them to drive again, and this short-term therapeutic intervention was very effective, without the need to investigate the health of other body systems. But often, the most effective treatment for most psychological symptoms is a combination of effective therapy and a comprehensive evaluation of body systems to ensure we are considering all possible contributions to the presenting issue. This also includes a person’s social support network, another very important factor in well-being.
What about Medication?
Medication can be a very important support for addressing the symptoms. There are times when the body’s ability to balance itself is impaired, and drug intervention is needed. However, I feel it is important to rule out underlying causes of symptoms before medication for psychological symptoms.
We can learn from our symptoms, thank our bodies for the information, gather all the tools available to us, and try to achieve optimal functioning. Remitting symptoms completely, or as much as possible, is the goal. Don’t settle for thinking you are stuck in your situation with no recourse. The body has a tremendous ability to heal, and there are many effective interventions that can be of help.