Heal Thyself

God gave you a body. How are you stewarding this responsibility? If you read my first two articles on health optimization, you might be left feeling a little hopeless. But it was actually a case of, "First the bad news, and now the good news." In this first article on healing I provide some practical advice you can benefit from both in terms of your health and finances, and I explain how I ended up learning so much about health.

A few decades ago access to information on health was not easily accessible without paying local healthcare providers an arm and a leg. But with the development of the internet this all changed.

Today you can punch your symptoms into your favorite search engine (hopefully one that doesn't wrongly engage in censorship the way the biggest ones do) and often find out exactly what's going on. You may have to play detective a little bit if there are multiple problems that can cause the same symptoms, as is often the case. But because you know your symptoms and lifestyle better than anybody, and your healthcare provider may not take the time to delve deep enough or you may forget to inform them of certain details, self-diagnosis may be more accurate.

How I Learned

Starting about seven years ago I began experiencing random symptoms one at a time. Bell's Palsy (paralysis of half your face; fortunately it went away after a few weeks), hip arthritis (it didn't go away until recently), and frequent pain in my abdomen (resulting from new food sensitivities) are the main ones I remember from the first year. But subsequent years brought additional problems: trouble sleeping, tinnitus, gout, skin rashes, pains that come and go in random body parts, brain fog, heart attack-like symptoms, additional food sensitivities, multiple chemical sensitivities, difficulty healing from injuries, unreasonable fatigue, peripheral neuropathy, and on and on and on. 
Carrying my tired youngest daughter down ANOTHER trail into Bryce Canyon in 2014.
It's like my body had suddenly gone haywire in my early 40's after being pretty much healthy all my life. Years later I learned how mold toxins - that I was being exposed to - are system disruptors, and then I discovered I also had developed chronic Lyme disease, probably facilitated by the mold. Both of these problems have a long list of overlapping symptoms that are triggered as your body's systems falter. 

But this all illustrates a very important point. If I had pursued the AMA medical model for all these problems, I would have been given a drug to treat almost every symptom I experienced. Each of those drugs often has side effects that cause further problems. Additionally, they would have been treating symptoms rather than discovering and treating the root of the problem. You can treat symptoms all your life and never heal if you don't find out what's causing the problem to begin with. If you're leaning on a hot stove and your hand is burning, take your hand off the stove! Don't just put a band-aid on and continue leaning on the stove. 
I'm glad I took a different approach instead of popping pills. I searched online when each symptom arose and read up on it. I feel like I became an expert at self-diagnosis. Once I figured out what a problem was, I would then research the treatments. I would find out the AMA approach, and then I would search for the problem with the word "naturopath" included. This typically reveals natural remedies that I could easily implement at home. I never just act on the first path I learn about. I learn about all the options available and then decide which one seems like the best fit for me.

With this method I would oftentimes find relief, but not always after the first approach. But natural remedies generally don't have side effects like drugs do so I didn't develop new problems by trying them. More often than not, there are specific foods that help heal specific problems and others that hinder. Simple diet modifications are pretty easy and don't necessarily even cost more since you have to eat anyway. I always start with the simplest and least invasive solution and only add complexity if necessary. If simple steps solve the problem, there's no reason to over-complicate things and rack up additional expenses. 
salad fruit berry healthy vitamins 2756467

An Example of Self-Diagnosis

Gout commonly causes intense pain in the knuckle of a big toe. Look it up and you'll find that AMA doctors tend to treat gout with drugs such as NSAIDS, glucocorticoids, or colchicine. If the problem persists, they'll prescribe additional drugs: xanthine oxidase inhibitors (such as allopurinol or febuxostat), uricosuric (such as probenecid or lesinurad), and interleukin-1 (such as anakinra or canakinumab). I didn't look up all the side effects that go along with those. Most people assume the doctors must know what they're doing so they obediently visit the pharmacy and then follow the dosage schedule. Big Pharma loves it.

But what causes gout to begin with? High uric acid levels in the blood and gravity work together to deposit little crystals in the base joint of a big toe. What causes high uric acid in the blood? Often it's simply because you're not drinking enough water. I calculated the amount of water I need (half your body weight in ounces; I'm 140 pounds so I need 70 ounces of water daily), divided it up into individual servings, and set alarms on my phone to remind me throughout the day to drink water. This solved the problem in a couple of days.

If the problem persists, there are some simple dietary modifications that can knock it out immediately. Seriously! And all of that - including both AMA and natural treatment approaches - can be easily discovered by doing a little online reading, spending probably less time than what would have been spent in the doctor's waiting room, not to mention less cost.

The method I just described would have started by searching for the symptom: pain in big toe. Reading one or more articles would reveal there can be multiple problems resulting in the same symptom. But you easily rule out the ones that are least likely or inapplicable (eg. you know the pain is not as a result of an injury). Having narrowed it down to gout as the likely possibility, you would search for the word: gout. Additional reading about the condition will now likely confirm or rule out your potential diagnoses. If you think you've got it, you would now search: gout naturopath. This is where you'd find the simple treatment path described above: make sure you're drinking enough water to flush out uric acid.

Find the Cause

The main lesson here is to get to the root of the problem. This isn't always easy. Sometimes there's a chain reaction. For example, mold disrupted my immune system, which allowed Lyme (a pathogenic bacteria called Borrelia) to gain a foothold, which caused Bell's Palsy and hip arthritis. Those last two problems can be caused by a variety of things. 
Hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains in 2016 where I likely got Lyme from a tick bite.
You just have to keep asking the question, "What caused this problem?" The goal is to treat the cause rather than just covering up the symptoms. That's not to say you shouldn't also take steps to relieve the symptoms, but don't stop there or you may end up with even more problems.

I hope this was helpful for you. I'm definitely not saying you shouldn't work with your preferred healthcare provider (and if it's an emergency, don't delay). If you have a good one (in a future article I'll talk about how to find a good one), they can be an extremely beneficial ally in helping you find healing. Just remember: You're in charge of your body, and they work for you. You'll be much better off if you do your own research so you can make better informed decisions. 

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