The Diagnosis/Cure Mindset
I recently watched a holistic health practitioner give advice, and most of it was great advice. However, what struck me is that many times people in the “natural health” field fall into the same trap as the allopathic (AMA) medical field: find a diagnosis and “prescribe” a “cure”, which really isn’t a cure, but something to relieve symptoms.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of alleviating symptoms. I have a lot of compassion for those that are suffering. It’s just that I have watched too many people spend so much money on supplements that were supposed to help their problems, but did very little to help them. In fact, what’s worse is when they don’t address the lifestyle and dietary changes that need to happen, because they are resting their hope in the supplements instead.
I am not saying if you have a serious illness or a long term chronic illness that you shouldn’t seek medical attention. Or that you shouldn’t go to a holistic practitioner. What I am saying is if you start with the baseline of health, your chances for improvement are far greater, and why not help your body the best you can?
I’m also not saying not to take any supplements. I know mineral deficiencies are real, and we do need to address some of the issues with lack of nutrients in our food. However, eating a cheeseburger then taking a $2.00 per pill supplement isn’t truly addressing nutrient deficiencies. In this country we believe that more is better. When it comes to your body, more is not always better, often balance is. For example, your body needs sodium and potassium; however, not so much in large quantities, as a proper ratio. If you knock out the sodium/potassium balance, you will have health issues right there. Just considering the excess sodium in our food, it’s no wonder people often end up taking potassium supplements. Why not get rid of the chips and processed foods and reduce the excess sodium to get the ratio back in balance. We often don’t need more, we need less.
Just as someone who tells me that a pound of broccoli won’t cure their digestive issues, thyroid issues, or their fatigue, (and it won’t) neither will five very expensive supplements…without changing what actually is causing the issue. The benefit of the holistic health practitioner is they will often start with the expensive supplements, then encourage the patient to make the required changes, and sometimes they will. Then we have a good outcome, and I’m all for that.
Here’s my issue: why not start with the diet and lifestyle changes that are free, and get the baseline down, then see if you need further assistance? You may find you don’t, and you will save yourself a boatload of money.
No, a pound of broccoli is not going to change your life, but a pound of broccoli every day is a start. Then make all the other changes you need to make: get enough sleep every night, eat the bulk of your food in fresh vegetables, eliminate the processed food, get rid of toxic friends, learn to ignore toxic family members, add movement to your life, have a vision for your life, and figure out how to reduce your stress.
“Wait! I eat pretty healthy!”
Define “healthy”. This is such a problem for so many people. Does eating healthy mean to eat lots of fat? Or lots of protein? Or lots of carbs or no carbs? This is how “diets” are categorized nowadays. 80/10/10, 30/35/30, or 10/10/80. I have no problem with people adjusting their “macros” (protein, fats and carbs) to reach specific goals over the short term. What about the long term? Can we just eat food? Real food! I don’t actually eat carbs, fats and protein; I eat apples and broccoli and carrots and things that you actually buy at the grocery store or grow in the garden, or a friend raises, or gathers.
Problems with the “diagnosis”/“cure” approach
“If we improve the health of the entire body, then symptoms tend to improve, because the body is now able to take care of itself in a much more efficient way.”
Dr. Nathan Gershfeld, ND; the Fasting Escape, Yerba Linda, CA
Since we have been raised in the paradigm of diagnosis/cure, we forget that our bodies are actually more complex than that. If you break your arm, the doctor doesn’t “cure” your arm with a cast…it simply keeps it from moving so your body can truly heal your broken arm. Actually, all the doctor is doing is allowing your body to heal itself. I love doctors, they are amazing at what they do. Our trauma care is superb, if I am in a car accident and am very banged up…please send me to the emergency room. Even the general practitioners can diagnose difficult symptoms, run tests, monitor health markers and let you know what might be wrong with you, or what your symptoms may indicate. But many of us have come to expect them to do the miraculous. That’s not their job! They can sometimes do miraculous things, but it’s not their fault if the miracle doesn’t happen. Many times, you can do more miraculous things for yourself than you ever thought possible. You just need to give your body a chance.
Unfortunately, the holistic approach can be similar. We are “diagnosed” with a deficiency, and told to take a supplement which will hopefully remedy the situation. I’m not convinced that, in this culture, we are really facing vitamin deficiencies as a result of our vegetables not having vitamins. We are facing them because our
FAST FOOD AND CONVENIENCE FOODS HAVE LITTLE TO NO NUTRIENTS!!! (and definitely no fiber!)
This is not a diagnosis/cure situation. It’s a lifestyle change situation!
If your problems are because of digestive issues, or thyroid imbalance, or adrenal imbalance, you probably aren’t going to actually “cure” the situation with a supplement. You may temporarily alleviate some symptoms, but if what is causing the issue isn’t addressed, the issue will remain. If you look at the picture below, you will see that what actually supports our health isn’t just one factor, but a sum of several whole health factors that all need to be addressed.
I love this image, because it really shows the issues at stake (this diagram comes from the Institute of Nutritional Endocrinology):
If you are filled with stress, all the thyroid medication isn’t going to alleviate your stress, which is affecting your thyroid. If you have high blood sugar, Metformin will only keep your blood sugar lower than crisis level, but until you address your overall nutrition, you will only be “controlled”, not cured.
Maybe there IS a “This for That” approach, here it is:
Deal with your stress; have a purpose for your life; get plenty of restful sleep; eat a truly healthy diet, emphasizing vegetables; incorporate movement into your life; ensure you live in a clean environment; and have fun!
Simple. Do THIS for any and all of your problems!
These things will address your digestive issues, your hormone imbalances, and should take care of any nutrient deficiencies you may have. You have to deal with all of them, though. Start with working on a truly healthy diet, and addressing your stress and you will be moving in the right direction. These may help your sleep and allow you to have more energy for more movement in your day. Then you’ll be able to clean up your environment, know your purpose and have fun! You just need to get the ball rolling!
I was on a plane with a woman who was plastering antibiotic liquid all over her hands, and the plane where she was sitting. She said she was really scared of getting sick because she hadn’t had the flu shot yet. She was probably in her 30’s. I don’t know her story, but it made me sad. She believes the germ theory where those pesky germs are just waiting out there to jump on you and make you sick. Do you know that strep and staff bacteria coat your skin? You aren’t constantly sick because the bacteria and microbial atmosphere of your skin should be balanced in such a way as to make them not be a problem. It’s that way with your entire body. If your body has the right microbial balance, and the health of your body is in-tact, those pesky germs won’t cause a problem. The flu shot is a multi million dollar industry, with constant advertisements and pharmacies racing to provide you with their “cure”. If you want to get a flu shot, that’s your choice, but true prevention starts with a healthy body. Understand this and live your life with this understanding and I believe you will be truly healthy.
I personally believe if we lived by the ethos that it’s our job to protect our health, our health care industry would not be in the place it is today. If you need a doctor or a holistic doctor, please do so; but never forget your baseline of health.
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To your health!
Heath Coach and Health Advocate