When it comes to health there are many definitions and interpretations but one I think most practitioners agree upon is an individual being free from disease and the symptoms associated with it. The problem today is many people wonder around with a list of increasing ailments or signs of sub optimal health and it simply becomes the norm.
Symptoms You Really Shouldn’t Ignore
Fatigue, brain fog, lack of motivation, inability to focus are blamed on the day of the week or a lack of caffeine. Flaring eczema, acne or psoriasis are simply a condition you’re stuck with that requires some cream once in a while to deal with it. Painful joints and slow healing injuries are an inconvenience but you can just pop painkillers if necessary and keep going.
The list goes on, your symptoms could be bloating, poor circulation, easy bruising, hair loss or brittle nails and you simply begin to accept them, however, they’re often an important indicator in terms of your overall health.
As a nutritional therapist my role is one of a health detective piecing together a story that will provide a greater understanding of you health, symptoms are my clues in the process.
The following is a list of the most common symptoms I observe during consultations:
Maybe you have symptoms associated with an increased risk of disease including high cholesterol, high waist circumference, high blood glucose levels or high blood pressure in which case medications have become the norm and they’re increasing in number.
All these symptoms have one thing in common.
They’re a sign that a system in the body is compromised and unable to fulfil its role and function effectively. The type of symptom you experience is an indicator of which system in the body might be struggling.
There can be several reasons why the system is under stress, however, typical ones include nutrient deficiencies, immune issues, oxidative stress (high amounts of free radical damage and impaired antioxidant function) or chronic inflammatory processes taking place in the body.
The Relevance of Symptoms
The issue here is that symptoms are really feedback from your body, a call for help or sign that something isn’t working correctly.
If your phone or car falters in such a way you act immediately or at least within a couple of days because you know how vital these pieces of kit are to your daily routine. If they flake out at any point life quickly gets complicated.
With your phone or car you’re completely logical about this process and take steps to fix the situation. You consider the cause, check any obvious elements that may have contributed to the problem, like power supply or fuel. You instinctively explore whether a single event may have triggered the issue and if neither of these provides a solution you head off in search of professional help.
It never ceases to amaze me that many people chase a high functioning phone and upgrade at the first chance. You know what charger it needs, plug-in regularly and check the battery life religiously. However, few people consider the fundamental needs of their body on a regular basis and what it requires to run optimally, worst still symptoms can be suffered for years without questioning why they exist and what’s going on beneath the surface. It seems a super awesome phone and car is vital but a super human body can wait.
To many people symptoms of ill-health are just annoying inconvenience. They hinder plans, productivity and pleasure so if there’s an option to take a medication to make it go away that’s the most efficient way to deal with it, the faster the better.
It’s possible to get away with this for a while because the human body is incredibly resilient which means the real implications of the dysfunction take a little longer to manifest.
Your body does whatever it can to make up for the slack and quite literally fights for survival. It’s easy to take this for granted and the medications help you ride it all out, however, let’s be clear, the end results are likely worse than a phone with a dodgy signal and there’s no upgrade or trading it in for a new version once it shuts down.
Despite the neglect your body will work hard to function and get by but it has limits.
The Problem With Symptom Suppression
Symptom suppression is often the first line approach, it buys you time so these things can be dealt with later, however, a symptom ignored or suppressed will likely snowball into something bigger. The longer it’s left the more difficult it will be to unravel and implement a solution.
Furthermore most medical interventions have some side effects as they suppress functions and pathways in the body, in doing so they will inhibit beneficial processes as well as those causing your symptoms. You can browse the side effects of any medication via World Health Organisation’s VigiAccess Website.
One of the most cited examples of this is statin medications. Statins inhibits the action of the enzyme HMG CoA reductase which is involved in the synthesis of cholesterol. Cholesterol is implicated in atherosclerosis (arterial plaque formation) so lowering levels in the body may help slow down this process but it is unlikely to resolve the inflammatory situation that lead to the uncontrolled plaque development in the first place.
The statin medication hasn’t addressed the root cause and the HMG CoA Reductase enzymes have other roles in the body including the production of CoQ10, vital for cellular energy regulation and thought to be the reason many experience muscle pain and fatigue when taking statins. Cholesterol itself also serves a number of beneficial roles within the body including providing the building blocks of reproductive hormones and antioxidant protection within the cell membranes.
Anti-inflammatories, pain medications, anti-histamines also come with side effects yet many people take these on a regular basis. They’re all suppressing signals in the body that imply underlying issues. If it’s swelling or a histamine driven reaction then your immune system isn’t happy, if your joints are chronically painful there’s some uncontrolled inflammation kicking off. It’s important to understand the immune system can drive the inflammatory response and vice versa too so the streaming nose, wheezing and pain in your knees can begin to be linked. With all of them the root cause needs to be resolved before reliance on medication triggers another symptom or system breakdown.
5 Steps To Help You Take Action
The reversal of this process all starts with you developing a better relationship with your physical and mental health. Rather than seeing symptoms as a pain in the backside (maybe literally) or a hassle that needs to be suppressed take time to observe them, consider them and respect them as a reflection of function.
Before you begin Googling your symptoms and considering where to start I can save you time. The following steps provide the foundation for optimal health across all cells by supporting cellular function, gut health, controlling inflammation and balancing the immune system which generally helps all systems within the body:
- Eat a whole foods, nutrient dense diet that contains all the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants needed by your gastrointestinal cells, skin cells, hormone glands or any cells to function optimally.
- Increase consumption of anti-inflammatory and prebiotic foods that feed beneficial bacteria in the gut and help to modulate inflammatory processes in the body.
- Move daily, exercise and don’t eat too much. Being overweight is one of the biggest drivers of most symptoms and often the root cause of poor cellular function which will cause every system in the body to struggle.
- Give your body sufficient time in a fasted state and in bed to recharge with a good amount of sleep. This provides time for it to break down and heal damaged tissues, build new structures and cells, suss out and zap invaders and detoxify the thousands of chemicals it encounters daily via our food, water and environment.
- A decent set of blood tests that includes complete blood count, vitamin D, iron/ferritin, lipids, liver function and kidney function is a helpful diagnostic tool if you’re looking for a baseline to monitor your progress. Your waist-hip ratio, fasted/fed glucose, blood pressure and skin health are great indicators of beneficial changes and progress too.
If you need some help and support with the above our Fitter 16 plan provides the practical application with guidance on weight loss, improving your nutrient status, assessing your digestive health and developing a healthy mindset in the process. If you require more targeted and in-depth support you can also consider our 1:1 packages.
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