Every day patients tell me the conditions they have been diagnosed with. The conditions range from plantar fasciitis to disc herniations, to irritable bowel syndrome. Often patients are attached to their diagnosis and feel as though once diagnosed, the condition is a permanent part of their story. This does not always have to be the case. If you have been diagnosed with a condition, for the rest of this article, forget about your diagnosis, and step back to evaluate how your basic body systems are functioning.
Even if you don't have any diagnosis, it is important to make sure all your body functions are working well. When one of your basic functions is not optimal, it can lead to problems in the future.
How well does your body perform basic human functions?
Go through the following list, and note which are not ideal.
- Are you hydrated? If so, you are able to urinate without discomfort and your urine a “normal” color. If you are unsure, check out the following chart. My typical recommendation is to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water each day. That is, a 150 pound person should drink 75 ounces daily.
- Digestion-Can you take in food and process it normally? Do you have regular and and pain free bowel movements of proper consistency? Check out the following chart if you are unsure if your stool is “normal” or not. In case you weren't already aware, there is a HUGE connection between digestion and the skin and the brain, as they come from the same tissues when our bodies are being formed. As a result, problems with digestion are commonly linked to skin or brain problems, as well as with inflammation in general.
- Nutrients- Are you giving your body the nutrients that it needs? Are you eating foods that lead to inflammation within the body? (Hint: Most of what you are putting into your body should be nutrient dense "real foods", rather than foods made in a factory with long ingredient lists.)
As a side note, if you are not digesting food well, the odds are that even if you are eating all of the healthy things, you might not be absorbing all of the good nutrients in these foods which can lead to a number of health problems
- Stress management- How often do you feel stressed? What is your tolerance to handle small, medium, and large stressors? Do you have any mechanisms to relax following a stressful event? Are you intentional about relaxing or calming down for a certain amount of time each day?
If you are unsure, here is a quick test- A police officer just turned on his lights right behind you on the road. Phew they are going after someone else. How long does it take you to calm down after this incident? If you are still feeling the impact hours later, you are probably not handling stress well
- Sleep- How many hours do you sleep each night? 7-9? Do you have trouble falling asleep? Do you have trouble staying asleep? If you are not sleeping well, it can drastically impact your immune system and ability to heal.
- Movement- Are you able to move without discomfort? Are you able to recover after movement? It is natural to be able to move without pain, and if you are unable to do this, it is a sign that there could be an underlying issue. Regaining the ability to move without discomfort and recover after bouts of movement will not only improve your quality of life, but leads to improved health.
- Energy- Is your energy stable throughout the day? After you eat a meal, are you more energized or sleepy? Both of these could be signs that you are not regulating your blood sugar well. There are other metabolic issues that can impact energy levels as well.
- Sexual function- For females of reproductive age, do you have a regular and symptom free cycle (did you know that this time of the month is not supposed to come with symptoms like pain, cramping, headaches, etc.). For males, can you get and maintain an erection? If not, this could be a sign of inflammation or early blood flow problems.
- Cardiovascular- Can you do an intense activity comfortably? Does your heart rate come back down quickly when you are finished? Do you even feel like your heart is skipping a beat or beating out of your chest for no reason? All of the muscles and organs in the body need blood flow, so having these systems working well is crucial for health!
- Immune system- Do you feel like you get sick more than you should? When you do get sick, are you able to recover quickly or are you the person who will hand onto a cold for a month at a time? Do you have allergies or reactions to foods or things in your environment? If you immune system is constantly in overdrive, this could be a sign that there is an underlying issue that your body is battling under the surface.
- Brain- Do you feel like your brain is working? Do you often feel anxious? Depressed? Foggy? Recently, depression specifically has bee strongly linked to inflammation.
- Skin- Is you skin clear? Do you get rashes? Acne? Rosacea? Psoriasis? Dry skin? Your skin tells a lot about what is going on under the surface. If there is something like inflammation going on under the surface of the skin, it will likely show up on the surface of the skin.
The body has an amazing ability to heal itself. This works best when it all of its systems are functioning so they can work together.
Think about any body functions above, and consider those that are not working well as "warning lights". If any warning lights are on, it is a sign that your body isn't functioning ideally.
How Many Warning Lights Do You Have?
If you have a diagnosis of some condition already, fixing these fundamental systems and making lifestyle changes can play a huge roll in helping you overcome and even reversing that diagnosis.
If you do not suffer from any diagnoses, that is great! We want to keep it that way. If any of these "warning lights" are on, or fundamental systems aren't functioning properly, this could lead to developing a condition in the future.
It is so clear in my mind that all of the systems of the body are interconnected, and how they are all impacted by lifestyle choices like sleep, stress, nutrients, and movement. Sometimes I forget that this isn’t common knowledge. It baffles me that most dermatologists and psychologists don't ask patients how they are digesting food.
In order to give your body the best chance of staying healthy or at recovering from a diagnosis, you need to realize that all the basic body functions are important because a malfunction in one system of the body can cause a problem in another area of the body. A few examples-
- Low Energy/Fatigue- A patient came to my office complaining about low energy and fatigue. When going over her history, she noted a10 year history of constipation acccompanied by bloating. She has just accepted the fact that this was "normal" after all of those years. Upon further testing, we found an overgrowth of bacteria in her small intestine. After treating that overgrowth, not only did she experience regular daily bowel movements of a much more normal consistency, but her energy levels improved dramatically.
- Acne- This used to be me. Even as an adult, I suffered from breakouts on my face and back. I used to try various creams and even was prescribed medication for it at one point. I didn't realize the huge connection that existed between the gut and the skin. When I started eating a less inflammatory diet, my skin cleared right up! .
- Foot Pain (Plantar Fasciitis)- One of my early Wellness Warriors told me 11 days into the program about her feet. She had had chronic foot pain for years. She had seen many specialists and tried many therapies to no avail. 11 days into making dietary changes, her foot pain dissapated. She had no idea that muscular skeletal pain could be linked to general inflammaion within the body, and that changing her diet could help with this.
- Infertility- A few years ago, someone approached me letting me know that they had stopped using birth control, and their cycle didn't return. She thought that because she was thin and active, she must be healthy. I knew that fundamentally not having a cycle was a sign that clearly hormones and body systems were out of whack. I introduced her to the idea of eating a more nutrient dense diet. She did this along with stress management. It took some time, but her cycle returned, and she now has a happy and healthy baby!
Over the years that we all live inside of our bodies, we get used to them feeling the way that they feel. We develop a "normal". Most people get so used to how they "always feel," that don't realize how good their body should feel. Pay attention to your warning lights and fix them before your body develops any deeper conditions! I bet you will be suprised at the "new normal" you can develop and how good you will start to feel!
Need more help or guidance with this? I’d be happy to chat with you about it! Call our office at 630-448-0255 to schedule an appointment.
- Dr. Jamie