Portland Natural Medicine Team Helps Find the Cause of Underlying Illness
Why is my health limiting me? What’s wrong with me? Why are others healthier than I am? What can I do to improve my health?
There are many different causes of disease. Some are pathogenic, which means they’re caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. Others stem from environmental factors or imbalances within the body itself.
Rooting out the source of disease can be difficult. Even with all the sophisticated diagnostic technology available today, many people suffer from chronic conditions the origins of which are not yet illuminated. There are some things that testing just doesn’t tell us. So, when test after test yields no answers, where can patients turn for help? How can they find their underlying cause?
Naturopaths are trained to trace disease back to its source—which frequently hides in places that aren’t obvious to those who are experiencing it. We are accustomed to our daily lives and routines, and often we benefit from an outside perspective. A qualified naturopathic physician can root out the source of chronic pain and illness and provide relief from symptoms so patients can live freely and thrive in the world. Natural medicine can reverse many chronic conditions: diabetes, allergies, cardiovascular disease, fatigue, PMS, menstrual cramps and more.
Finding the cause of dis-ease is a personal journey that’s unique to each patient. Some conditions are uprooted quickly, while others require a longer discovery process. But every natural healing journey begins with examining the four primary elements of wellness.
The Three Pillars of Health
Health is our natural state of being. When we’re balanced, with our vital energy flowing freely, we thrive. When our energy becomes blocked, disease can arise.
Most people think of physical imbalance as the source of all illness, and often it is. For many patients, disease can be traced back to what they eat and how they take care of their bodies. But we’re more than just physical beings. We also have thoughts and emotions, which can have a profound impact on our well-being.
All three of our bodies—physical, mental and emotional—are tightly interwoven. If one becomes weak or imbalanced, all suffer. In fact, many conditions that manifest physically actually have their origins in the mental or emotional body. Stress, grief and bottled-up emotional energy can suppress the immune system and may even express themselves through physical symptoms such as fatigue, pain and foggy head, to name a few.
When confronted with dis-ease, the most common response is to treat the symptoms, usually by suppressing them with medications. While it may help you feel better in the short term, it might not contribute to your overall health—and it may make things worse.
Sometimes we need to dig deeper. A naturopath pursues the source of illness until the underlying imbalance is discovered.
How Lifestyle Affects Your Microbiome
Your daily behavior forms the bedrock of your health. This includes your sleeping habits, what you eat and drink, and how you spend your time. Because these are things you can control, lifestyle changes often serve as the first line of inquiry and modification toward improving your health.
Foods, for example, can have a direct impact on your body’s functioning. A nutrient deficiency or excess alters the environment of your body, making it more or less favorable to microorganisms that can cause dis-ease. This has to do with how your unique microbiome works.
Since the discovery of microorganisms, the majority of health problems have been attributed to one virulent pathogen or another. We look toward science to find the pathogenic causes of illness—but we also need to examine the terrain that microorganisms live in.
The human microbiome is composed of the 100 trillion or so microbes, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, that live upon and (mostly) within us. Many are beneficial to our health, provided they remain in balance with each other. Your microbiome is determined by the terrain or “soil” of your body, which is informed and influenced by your personal experiences, from nutrition and lifestyle to medical therapies you’ve taken. How your terrain is constructed, and the qualities it possesses, determine how “inviting” it is to a particular microorganism.
Think of microorganisms as plants in a garden—they need the right conditions to thrive. Tomato plants, for instance, need sun. If you plant one in a shady part of the yard, it won’t produce fruit, becomes more susceptible to disease and is unlikely to survive long. But if you give it the right amount of sunlight, water and nutrients you’ll end up with a healthy crop.
The balance of microorganisms within your microbiome is delicate. If one type becomes too prolific, it can take over, driving out other microorganisms like an invasive weed strangling your vegetable garden. If your terrain is hospitable to germs, for example, they will be able to take root, multiply and grow into dis-ease.
Modern French homeopath Gérard Guéniot called terrain a “personal history” that encompasses not only what our parents gave us (such as genetics) but also “our story, everything that happened to us in this life….our memory.” The things we do and are surrounded with on a daily basis have the biggest impact on our terrain. These include:
Nutrition: What we eat is particularly influential, since most of us eat several times a day. Food provides the fuel that powers every system within the body, including our innate ability to fight dis-ease.
Exercise: Exercise contributes to a healthy microbiome by helping our bodies efficiently process nutrients and flush out waste. It also supports our mental and emotional health, which influences the choices we make.
Environment: Where we work, live and play determines what pathogens and environmental toxins we’re exposed to. Where and how we sleep is also highly influential, as sleep consumes 6 to 9 hours out of every 24.
Exploring Mental and Emotional Patterns
Thoughts and emotions are transient expressions of our inner state. Often they follow patterns that repeat themselves over and over. These patterns influence not only how we respond to major life events, but also the habits and choices we make on a daily basis that determine the quality of our terrain.
Prolonged emotional states take their toll on the body. Stress, for example, suppresses your immune system and creates fertile soil for all sorts of chronic problems. Most everyone is regularly faced with some kind of stress. Some people develop strategies of resiliency to stressors, while others are emotionally predisposed toward unmanaged stress and tend to “experience” it more than others. Many of those who find themselves more easily affected by stress, suffer from chronic conditions as a result.
The key determinants of your stress levels and emotional responses include:
Constitution: The way you respond to traumatic or life-altering events is known as your constitution. It represents the core structure of a person, and is often revealed during times of loss or transition. A naturopath can “diagnose” your constitution based on how you act during these times and prescribe treatments that help balance your core tendencies.
Temperament: Your mood, behavior and social interactions are a reflection of your internal state. When your innate personality falls out of balance, behavioral and mood disorders can emerge. These can compound stress and erode your ability to cope, opening the door to dis-ease.
Resources: When challenges arise, the resources you have available can play a big role in determining your health. A strong network of family and friends can provide much-needed support during stressful times, while access to a therapist, who has an outside perspective, can help you address mental or emotional imbalances that are hampering your health.
Taking the First Step
If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, stop and take a breath. Now tell yourself, “I can’t do everything.”
What you can do is take a step—just one step. Healing is about getting back on the road again and again. It’s about committing to the little acts in life that support your health, so keep it simple. Sometimes the first step to healing is to stop telling yourself you can’t do it all. For example, repeating a simple affirmation (whether you believe it or not) helps unravel limiting beliefs about your health:
- “I CAN and WILL take a small step toward feeling better.”
- “I will walk a mile every day.”
- “I have the power to change my life.”
Or your first step might be visiting one of our naturopaths at Heart Spring Health. Our practitioners collaborate as a team to treat the whole person. Under our collaborative care model, our naturopathic physicians work with other practitioners—including acupuncturists, massage therapists, chiropractors, nurses, doctors, and mental health professionals—to root out the causes of chronic pain and illness and help patients find relief.
Are you searching for answers? We’ll provide guidance and support every step of the way as you continue on your journey toward greater health.