I was complaining to a colleague about my teeth at one of my nursing homes the other day. Dentists have been working on my teeth since I was 5; I have genetically inherited lousy teeth … I have implants and removed teeth … and lousy gums. So does my sister … and my parents did too.
That doesn’t excuse me because, as a holistic practitioner, I realize that the mouth reflects the health of the person. But more on that later. Right now, I want to tell you a little story …
In that nursing home that day, one of the other nurses piped up while I was complaining … totally unsolicited (don’t you love that!) … “Have you ever smoked?” he asked. Of course I had … I was a ‘60s kid … just watch any ‘60’s-vintage TV show or movie … everybody’s smoking. “Oh, that’s why you have problems …” he proudly postulated, “everyone who smokes or smoked has problems with their teeth!”.
Wow, if that wasn’t a HUGE example of the way people think, I don’t know what is! If there’s a problem … particularly a health problem … we try to reduce it to the least common denominator to attempt to understand it. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work. Because human physiology is much, much more complicated than that.
Optimizing Health is Like Solving a 1,000-Piece All-Red Puzzle
Americans are disconcertingly preoccupied with high cholesterol. My sister called me about 15 years ago concerned about hers. My comment was “Barbara, your HDL (good cholesterol) is 99 (really high … it also runs in the family) … you’ll never have heart disease! And, by the way, high cholesterol is only one risk factor … you have to have at least 3 to even begin to be concerned.”
Her doctor wasn’t. Because good ones know that the total cholesterol number is a sum of HDL, LDL (Low-Down-Lousy … the BAD cholesterol), and a few other lipid fractions (yes cholesterol is FAT). Her cholesterol was high because she had too much GOOD cholesterol … and who wouldn’t want that? And, fortunately, my sister hasn’t been prescribed any medication for her cholesterol. But I can’t tell you how many people with similar profiles have been. And the reality is that most people don’t understand anything about cholesterol except that it’s a certain number that could be high and affect your health in some way.
That’s only one of the many stories I have about misplaced concern with the wrong health issues. And I don’t even know about the validity of those cholesterol numbers, as they were arbitrarily chosen after a flawed 50 year-old study that didn’t prove anything in the first place (long story).
Instead, I want to look at the ROOT CAUSES behind something like high cholesterol. Because it may mean that something in the body isn’t functioning right. Here are the top six causes for high cholesterol … metabolic dysfunction (like syndrome x or actual diabetes), chronic infections (like viruses, candida, SIBO, H. pylori and other parasites), poor thyroid function, leaky gut (and who doesn’t have that today!), environmental toxins like heavy metals, and … last of all … genetics.
But how many times have you said … or heard said … about a health condition … “it runs in my family”? My sister is now saying that her tremors, which I think are most likely due to heavy doses of chemotherapy for her breast cancer, are inherited from mom (I don’t have them, nor do I have my mother’s disabling rheumatoid arthritis). Am I lucky … I don’t think so. My mindset is more about finding out why things don’t work right. And also putting the kebosh on inflammation, which may be root-causing all this in the first place.
A Case Study Example of Complexity
There are many, many examples of how complex finding health can get … and how the right treatment (which never involved medication) can take someone from uncomfortable dysfunction to feeling great (her words, not mine)!
She came to me with debilitating Irritable Bowel Syndrome (i.e. gas, bloating, GERD … the works). Finding out her sensitive foods and eliminating them gave her immediate relief …. very unusual but not unheard of. She hasn’t had a problem since … there.
But she had yet another issue that was even more alarming. Yeast in unusual areas that I won’t even mention … yeast coming through the skin … obviously an overgrowth. Now you’ve probably heard of candida and SIBO … they’re health buzzwords today. But these are not usually bad things as, like cholesterol, they’re something that exists (and is even manufactured when it comes to cholesterol) in the body naturally.
The problem arises when the immune system (FYI … most of the immune system is in the gut … remember that leaky gut is one of the root causes of high cholesterol and also know that leaky gut allows stuff [like candida] to seep into places in the body where they shouldn’t be). So one candida supplement cleanse and candida-lowering diet later … no symptoms.
But again … I’m looking for the ROOT CAUSE. And I know that candida can live in parasites and re-infect the body. So now, after extensive testing and identifying certain organisms to target, she’s now on a parasite cleanse with some other supplements to repopulate her gut with good bacteria and return her to digestive and immune balance so this doesn’t happen again. But she’s mostly likely going to have to do cleanses yearly for the rest of her life.
Sound complicated? IT IS! It’s not what doctors do. And many of them pooh-pooh all this functional testing and sometimes tons of supplements. Doctors have their place, believe me. But most don’t address this stuff … and this stuff can make people well.
And, yes, it’s complicated. And not anything that you want to do on your own.
Many of the practitioners who are experts in these treatments today have had their own health challenges and puzzled this all out on their own … through many trials and missteps. Now we know how to treat it alternatively, even if the treatment is controversial at this time. And don’t need medication to do it.
These kinds of things CAN be treated by medication … partially. There are holistic doctors who specialize in these types of treatments … and use medication to kill unnecessary invaders. But are also smart enough to “prescribe” proper diet and gut-balance supplements to finish the job. But these doctors are few and far between.
The bottom line … having people say “I feel great!”. That’s all you need to know. Oh … and about my teeth. I’m on the hunt for a holistic dentist for a second opinion. If it’ll work for my clients, it might work for me. Know of any?
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Ever had a health problem that doctors couldn’t solve? What did you do?