By Dietitian Jill
People call, text, social-media me many times a day and say “I know I have … salicylate sensitivity (most of the questions are for this), mast cell activation, inflammation… you name it …” As a matter of fact … they have nicknames for these … SALS and MCAS … which is beyond dangerous.
Because haven’t you noticed that when you give a term of endearment to something or someone they kind of hang around? I work in mental health and there are initials for everything … MDD … OCD … PTSD … is it any wonder that these hang around too?
The only nickname that I like is the one for the Standard American Diet … which we dietitians call “SAD”. And with all the fast, processed, and plastic-fantastic food most Americans eat THAT nickname is uber-accurate.
My Experience with Diagnosis
Most of my young life I spent with a therapist … I had what I’d “diagnose” as moderate to severe mental problems. Especially when … as a teacher … I was harassed to the point of disability … TWICE!
I kept asking my very savvy 20-year therapist if I was crazy. She never answered me.
Years later, when I was pretty mentally healthy … I asked again. She said, “Yes, Jill, you were crazy. But if I had labeled you that you would have stayed crazy”. I’m still thanking her for that!
Why the Diagnosis Trap
The reality is that we’re all brainwashed to label every ill with a diagnosis. It’s just the way our medical model is set up. And there is some good that goes along with this system.
Number one … people feel better knowing what’s what … even if the diagnosis isn’t a happy one. And it seems to be a global human trait, When I do my FOODStrong food sensitivity testing with people they are so relieved that they’ve finally found the answer to what’s bothering them.
Another reason for diagnoses … you need them so that your insurance will pay for your treatment. Diagnoses codify treatments and medicine for whatever appears to be your problem.
Last (and there are more reasons but these are kinda the big three) doctors then blame whatever you diagnosis is on genetics. So you’re not to blame. Which makes a bad diagnosis easier to swallow. And also gives responsibility for the healing to the MD … who you think at first is sure to fix you up.
That’s why I talk to people every day who are self-diagnosing themselves … sure that they have salicylate sensitivity. And when I tell them that there may be a deeper problem for their food reactions I stop hearing from them.
Because … if we don’t have a diagnosis we’re lost. We seem to love the idea that someone will tell us what’s wrong with us, that we’re not to blame, and that someone will take care of it
There’s also a mystical-magical feeling about doctors. Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz calls them the new priests. He said, “Formerly, when religion was strong and science weak, men mistook magic for medicine; now, when science is strong and religion weak, men mistake medicine for magic. ”
But … unfortunately … the have a symptom-take a pill medical diagnosis model doesn’t work today. I don’t know if it ever did! But, as Lewis Thomas, M.D. once said … science gets super-complicated until it gets simple.
Why Diagnoses Won’t Work Anymore
We’ve been doing the same thing since for thousands of years. Times have changed … the environment is more toxic, our diet is beyond crap, and we sit on our asses.
Not only that, we are radically disconnected from the environment physically and from ourselves mentally and emotionally. Is it any wonder that depression tripled during the early days of COVID and then rose to 33%! One in THREE Americans!
And all that time we go BACK again and again to the outdated medical model. “Just give me a pill!”, we clamor. One person I knew from when I worked in rehab shined on multiple suggestions to stop smoking (he also had a many-year history with drug abuse) because poor circulation was causing problems with his legs.
He never did. They cut his leg off, were thinking about doing the same with the other, and he ended up in a nursing home … where he couldn’t smoke anymore. And all the while he kept saying to me , “Can’t I just take a pill?”
Another client, who turned out to have a massive fungal infection, asked “Can’t I just cut back on portions?” Can you guess what I said?
Which leads us to …
The Cons of Diagnoses
I’ve already hinted at … and explained … some of them. The number one glaring problem I see is one that I’ve given you two examples of above. We’re so convinced that a pill that a doctor gives us (that’s another exclusive club-thing … only doctors can give those out) will heal us that we give all our personal power to the person and the substance.
And part of that is if we change our lifestyle slightly … we will be healed! Neither are true.
Number two … the basis of our medical model is that … if you have a symptom … there’s a pill for that. What it fails to address is that there are many causes for a single symptom … and different treatments for each.
Number three … there’s a stigma with certain diseases … especially psychiatric ones. It’s now more mainstream as so many people are now diagnosed with psychological problems.
But … like the story I told about my own therapist above … you can begin living your diagnosis to the point of hopelessness. Which may delay or even deter recovery entirely
Number four … different doctors have different opinions. My girlfriend has a scary diagnosis story I’d like to tell you …
J’s Diagnosis Trap Story
I didn’t realize that our first names begins with “J” until now. But our meeting was also total synchronicity.
She interviewed me for a podcast. And asked me to stay on afterward. We’ve been Friday-morning Zoom buddies ever since. As she now resides in Poland.
She was sick when I first met her. And had correctly diagnosed herself with a rare neurological disease. But doctors weren’t having it.
I knew she had Lyme disease. A test bore me out. We treated and healed it with medication and supplements. But she still was sick, couldn’t eat any carbs, and was rapidly losing weight. Something else was also radically wrong with her.
Finally, a doctor diagnosed her with what she suspected she had in the first place. He put her on the right medication, she’s eating pasta, and gaining weight. Most of all, she doesn’t have all those debilitating symptoms anymore.
Finding the right “diagnosis” however took years. As well as losing her health, not being able to eat normally, and having debilitating fatigue.
But what if she HADN’T encountered this doctor? Where would she be now?
Cons of Diagnosis Continued
Number five … putting a diagnosis label on something doesn’t mean that you can be helped. I can’t count the number of diagnoses they pinned on my friend … including my suggestion … which WAS a problem but not the root cause one.
Last … what if the doctor CAN’T diagnose you? Remember … diagnoses are only for diseases. And if you only have a dysfunction … like poor digestion … the doctor will give you a pill. Which doesn’t help.
So where do you go from diagnosis? Well … there’s always Root Cause AKA Functional Medicine.
It honors the whole person and biological individuality rather than pinning a diagnosis … which might be something else entirely … on a health issue. And puts the power to heal back in YOUR hands. With some expert guidance.
And uses total lifestyle change rather than a pill for a symptom … which works better. Because we’re supposed to eat good food, get good sleep, calm ourselves, and move our bodies. Which most people don’t these days.
It also addresses dysfunction … or not feeling “quite right” … when the medical model only shows up when you’ve got all the symptoms of a disease. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to that have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes and the doctor recommends NO lifestyle change.
The doctor only springs into action with a pill when labs are high enough to diagnose. But do little else. Because lifestyle change doesn’t fit into THEIR medical model, They have no knowledge of … and are even a little afraid of it.
I can’t tell you how many diabetics I’ve met who have never been instructed with diet … before or after their diagnosis. Or have received any other vital whole-person info.
And … finally … the medical model is waaay behind the times. Where we once believed that a large part of health problems were genetic … we now know that genetics cause 30% or less of them.
We didn’t have such a toxic environment even 10 years ago. And … along with crappy food and the ultra-stress of today’s life … cause our bodies to overload. Leaky gut results for most of us.
We also have 50 million-plus people in the U.S. now with autoimmune disease mostly caused by leaky gut. Stuff the old medical model can’t heal …
So don’t get trapped by diagnoses. They’re only part of the healing.
Doctors can be a part of that healing. But only a part of it.
Broaden your mindset about health to broaden your chance at health. And … for your own well-being … TAKE BACK RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR HEALTH!