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When Healthcare Becomes…Detective Work

When I meet with patients, our conversations can go a dozen different ways. Part of that is because I like visiting with them and learning about their lives, but part is because I’m looking for clues.

Here at Fundamental Health Solutions, we believe that humans are multi-faceted beings, so wellness involves all the different parts of our lives – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and so on. It’s not as simple as a spinal adjustment. That means that I am part spine-aligner, part nutritionist, part exercise coach, part counselor…and part detective.

Dr. Steve…Holistic Health Private Eye

Why am I a detective?

As it turns out, nobody ever tells me the whole truth about their health. Ever. Some people deliberately try to hide things from me because they don’t want me to recommend changes to their diet or lifestyle. Plus, nobody is 100% aware of everything going on in their bodies and souls every minute of the day, even if they are being totally honest.

Honestly, I don’t know if a person can ever achieve 100% perfect wellness in every part of his life-sphere at one time, but I’m working on it with my patients. Sometimes, that means I have to be tough with people. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I’m not afraid to be the bad guy, especially if I see you going down a bad road with your health.

If you’re 50 years old, 40 pounds overweight, sit at a desk all day at work, and want to be able to play with your grandkids, you’re going to have to make some pretty significant course corrections.

One Goal, Many Paths

Even though most people can agree on a basic definition of good health, no two people will achieve it the same way. That’s where the detective work comes in.

Consider the following scenarios:

Elaine

Elaine is a 59-year-old church secretary. She’s cheerful, gentle, and grandmotherly. At 5’2”, she’s a little pear-shaped, and her weight and body mass index are a little high, but not by much. Two years ago, her husband died suddenly of a heart attack, just weeks before her third daughter’s funeral. It was a major shock and a wake-up call to her. Since then, she has been coming in regularly for adjustments, eating healthier, and taking walks every evening after supper. She had a full physical a year ago and got a clean bill of health.

Lately, she’s been reporting headaches and indigestion, sometimes bad enough to keep her up at night. She’s talking about retiring from her job, which she loves, but she knows she can’t afford to. Sometimes, she finds herself short of breath. We took the tomatoes and peppers out of her diet as a precaution, but it didn’t seem to make a significant difference in her overall health.

What does my detective work tell me?

  • I’m not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but I’ve learned to recognize latent unforgiveness in my patients. Unforgiveness can manifest in your body in several ways, from headaches to cancer. It can start as simply as trying to keep your composure when you’re feeling hurt, but burying your feelings over time can actually damage your cells. I would be willing to bet she is angry at her husband for dying, for not taking care of himself, for leaving her alone, for not saying goodbye, and for missing their daughter’s wedding. She’s angry at God for letting this happen. She may be angry at her pastor, the church, and people who still have their spouses. By not releasing and forgiving these people, she’s basically drinking poison. Her body is flooding itself with toxic neurotransmitters any time she thinks about it, which depress her immune system and build up in her fatty tissues.
  • Nothing I do with her will make a significant difference in her health until she can deal with the grief and the anger and move on with her life.

Vicki

Vicki is a 33-year-old stay-at-home mother of three who recently came to me to get treatment for headaches. To all appearances, she is a model of health: trim and athletic, always dressed in running tights, her ponytail sticking out the back of a baseball cap. But as we talk, she shares her deep frustration. She used to be active in her kids’ schools and her church, but now, she’s happy if she can just get herself dressed in time to get the kids to school. She lays awake at night, unable to sleep, and drags herself through the day. After she gave birth to her third child, she determined to get back to her pre-baby shape. She tried a dozen different diets, but while she get her muscle tone back, she never feels healthy. No matter how much sun she gets, her skin is dry and pale. She often gets emotional at little things. She feeds her family frozen food and takeout because she doesn’t have the energy or presence of mind to prepare anything more complicated. The last straw was when she spent half the day searching for her car keys, only to realize she had left them in the refrigerator.

What does my detective work tell me?

  • The first thing I would recommend is a B-complex vitamin. All of her symptoms sound like a deficiency of Vitamin B12, Vitamin B9, and possibly Vitamin B6. She could get them all from a chicken Caesar salad, but because B-complex Vitamins are water soluble, it wouldn’t last. Most multivitamins have a limited amount of B-complex Vitamins in them, but because she needs to replenish where she is badly depleted, I’m going to recommend a separate, additional B-complex supplement. If she gets more than she needs, her body will naturally flush out the excess without any side effects.

Once we regulate her body’s own energy, we will start talking about some simple Mediterranean-based salad recipes she can introduce to her family.

James

James is a 38-year-old construction worker. He’s built like a tank and tells me he can bench press 350 (I believe it). He seems happy and energetic when he comes in, but as we talk, he lets his guard down a little.

Last year, he got promoted to a management position at work, but it’s much harder than he ever thought it would be. He just found out that both of his pre-teen daughters need braces. Even with the raise, he is talking about selling his wife’s car to stay ahead of the bills. I notice he’s been putting on weight and his 6-pack is starting to look like a keg. After a little conversation, I learn that he is working a lot more hours, most of them at the office, so he’s not getting to the gym anymore. He buys a coffee or two in the morning and maybe a sports drink in the afternoon to keep his energy up, but it’s becoming more difficult. He has headaches most days now, and sometimes gets confused when he’s tired. He spends his weekends on the couch, trying not to be grouchy with his kids. Lately, he’s had some stomach pain and bloating. He used to be able to eat anything he wanted (pizza is his favorite), so he is troubled by this. His T3 and L5 vertebrae are out of alignment every time he comes in and clearly causing him pain. He calls it his “football injury,” but I don’t think that’s accurate.

What does my detective work tell me? Where do I start?

  • His desk is not set up for good posture – his keyboard is too high and his chair may be crooked or worn out.
  • Because he’s not spending as much time in the field or at the gym, he’s not metabolizing like he used to. His body is storing more glucose and insulin in his fatty tissue. He will need to cut back on some of his favorite snacks. That will help with his energy cycles, too.
  • He’s stressed out and doesn’t have a way to manage it anymore. Exercise helps to drain excess cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress neurotransmitters from your blood stream. I recommend it to all my patients who are executives, pastors, or in law enforcement. The extra cortisol is depositing in the fatty tissue around his midsection.
  • During the work week, he is driving himself on adrenaline, caffeine, and sugar, then trying to relax on weekends. Rather than resting, he’s crashing and his body is going through withdrawal. His blood sugar is spiking and plummeting, which exacerbates his stress because he feels like he is not in control of his own body.

My prognosis is not going to be fun for him. Choosing which change to make first is the question.

  • He needs to make time to exercise, starting with a couple of my five-minute “Move Right Monday” videos and about 20 minutes per day of high-intensity interval workouts. That will heat up his core muscles, jump-starting his metabolism, and get his heart rate up and balance his neurotransmitters. It will also improve his stability, mobility, and motor control.
  • Next, we need to take the pizza out of his diet. He may or may not be having an allergic reaction to the crust, the tomatoes, the choose, and/or the spiced meats. By removing these common allergens for a month, we can determine if that is the cause of his stomach pain, bloating, headaches, and brain fog.
  • By removing soft drinks from his diet, we may be able to get his blood sugar levels back into balance, which will moderate his mood swings. As we get the sugar out of his system, his body will switch back to burning fat, instead of sugar, for energy. That will be more satisfying and sustainable for him.
  • As for his stress, I will encourage him to talk to his boss about his workload. I might also suggest he visit with a pastor or a financial counselor, to see if there might be some ways to get his finances under control.

Look Past the Obvious

The key to all of these cases is looking past the obvious symptoms to identify the root causes. One of my biggest grievances with American medicine is the emphasis on managing symptoms (headache) instead of treating root causes (histamine overload triggered by bread). Treating root causes can be terribly painful, but it promotes real healing that lasts. Just as important, you must be willing to look at the connections between seemingly unrelated issues.

A root cause might be a Vitamin deficiency, or it might be a bad memory from early childhood. I’ve seen people who struggled to lose weight for years, only to find out that when they were little, someone they looked up to told them they were fat and it left an imprint on their self-image. It’s easy to snicker at this kind of thing, but I assure you the pain is real. I have had good friends who nearly worked themselves into early graves in a vain effort to please their father – even though their father had been dead for years. It’s real.

My point is, if you only treat the symptoms – or if you only look at obvious connections – you may never achieve real wellness. You are equal parts body, mind, and spirit, and all facets of your existence are interwoven with each other, so it takes a holistic view of a person to identify all the linkages – especially when they don’t recognize the issues in themselves.

Take a Holistic View

The Internet is bubbling over with advice on how to recognize and respond to different types and levels of pain in your life, but unless you can identify all the linkages between them, you may not see results. Your best bet is to take some time to do some real soul searching. Where do you hurt? When was the first time you remember experiencing that pain? Who was involved? Do you need to forgive someone? Do you need to forgive yourself? Do you need to take a specific food out of your diet? Do you need to consider a job change? Do you need to step down from something to which you have committed yourself? Do you need some new boundaries?

I also encourage you to talk openly with someone you trust – a friend, a pastor, a counsellor, a psychologist – someone who can help you verbalize what you are experiencing. Sometimes, you need to be able to say something out loud and hear it with your own ears to get mastery over it. Even better, talk to someone who can help you identify the linkages between issues that seem unrelated, like your stomach aches and a fight you had in high school. You might be shocked at what you find.

If you live in the Naples area, I would be so honored to have the opportunity to get to know you and help you walk through your path to total wellness. If you don’t feel comfortable walking into a stranger’s office and baring your soul, I don’t blame you a bit. An easy way to start a conversation is at our next Fundamental Foods Dinner. Thursday, April 13th, we’ll start at 6:30 p.m. at my office behind the YMCA on Pine Ridge Road. Bring a dish to share or $10 cash and get ready to enjoy a great evening of fellowship and deep dive learning. I look forward to meeting you.

“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your principles is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas

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