I get this question ALL THE TIME.
When I tell people that my job is to help clients reverse chronic disease, the next question is often, “Well can you tell me what is causing my [insert name of chronic disease]?”
I wish I could answer that question with a simple answer. But I can’t without getting to know you and ordering advanced lab tests that your insurance doesn’t want to cover. This is because chronic disease is a result of numerous imbalances within the body. And for each person, those imbalances are different.
We are trained to believe by our doctors that for each disease there is only one contributing factor. But it is rarely that simple.
Let’s take high blood pressure for example. Many people are diagnosed with essential hypertension, which means the doctor doesn’t know what is causing your high blood pressure. They just chalk it up to it running in your genes.
This is one of the biggest lies ever told.
Yes, your genetics can make it more likely you will develop a certain disorder like high blood pressure. But your genes are not your destiny.
It is estimated only 3% of diseases out there are entirely genetic. And for the rest, disease is a result of numerous environmental factors.
And when I say environment, I mean ANYTHING that can affect the expression of your genes. This could be your food, light exposure, stress, sleep, relationships, air quality, exercise, and many, many other factors.
What most people don’t realize (and unfortunately, this includes doctors) is your environment determines the expression of your genes. This is called epigenetics and has been a well-established field since the 90’s.
So when someone asks, “Well why do I have high blood pressure?” my answer is always, “I don’t know.” Because there are so many potential factors at play and many times it’s not just one thing.
Sure, for some people their high blood pressure resolves once they lose weight. Other’s have sleep apnea that is causing it. But there are plenty of cases where doctors don’t know where it comes from. And that is because they fail to realize how complex the human body is and that many different things can contribute to a disease process.
If we stick with high blood pressure, it could be due to a combination of diet, lack of sun exposure, blue light exposure at nighttime, poor air quality, environmental toxin exposure, work stress, and poor sleep hygiene. As Dr. Sidney Baker, one of the fathers of functional medicine explains, “people do not get sick from diseases, but rather diseases reflect a disruption in the dynamic balance between themselves and their environment.”
This is why a 15 minute visit with your doctor is not nearly enough time to get to the bottom of your health issues. This is why all you end up with is a prescription and being told it’s genetic. Doctors just don’t have the time to go any deeper with you (it’s really not their fault, it’s just how the medical system operates).
Heck, after spending 90 minutes with a client many times I feel like we are just scratching the surface.
This is why, if you are deeply committed to resolving your health issues, you need to stop looking for the quick fix. They don’t exist for the body. What you need is to work with someone who will be with you every step of the way, because a 15-20 minute visit every few weeks just won’t cut it.
The good news is, it is absolutely possible to reverse chronic disease. I have seen people resolve all sorts of chronic diseases, from things like high blood pressure and chronic fatigue all the way to autoimmune conditions like inflammatory bowel disease and thyroid disease.
But in order to do so, you need a new approach and a different toolbox. Through working with some of the best clinicians in the world, I have learned there are four things you need in order to resolve your chronic health condition.
- Realize you are a category of 1 – You are one-of-a-kind. There is no one in the world exactly like you. This is obvious, right?
Yet when you go to your doctor, they will treat you the same as everyone else. If you come in with reflux, they will give you an acid inhibitor. If your thyroid isn’t producing enough thyroid hormone, they will prescribe you Synthroid.
Sure, these prescriptions MAY make you feel better, but they are just a Band-Aid approach. They are not actually addressing WHY you have reflux or an under-performing thyroid in the first place. So what you end up with over time is a disease process that continues to worsen and end up needing more and more of the medication.
But the real fix to these issues and other chronic conditions is to determine AND address all factors that could be contributing.
Unfortunately, most doctors just aren’t taught the importance of treating you as an individual and don’t know how. They don’t appreciate enough how much your unique biochemistry and lifestyle govern how your body functions and why you have a certain disease process.
But if you are going to get to the bottom of your health conditions, you need to be assessed and treated like a category of 1.
- Properly quantify what makes you unique – Have you ever looked at the labs your doctor orders? Do you ever wonder why they order what they do?
Have you ever considered why your doctor doesn’t order a comprehensive vitamin and mineral panel instead of just looking at vitamin D and B12? Or perhaps why they didn’t test for food sensitivities even though you are having bloating and abdominal pain?
The truth is, doctors will typically only order labs they know will be covered by insurance. And, let me tell you, the insurance companies want to pay for as little as possible. What this means is you end up with not nearly enough information to address your complaints properly.
And I hate that it’s this way. Your insurance SHOULD cover the types of labs that are necessary to help you quantify what is going on in your body biochemically, but they don’t.
I’ve worked with a client who’s type 2 diabetes was being caused by environmental toxins in his home environment. But we never would have known that if we didn’t run a test for them, a test that is not ordered by most doctors because it isn’t covered by insurance.
This is why my clients get numerous advanced laboratory panels, because without them, I would just be guessing. And as we say in functional medicine: test, don’t guess.
- Correct imbalances in the right order – There is a certain order of operations in which you should address different systems in the body. For example, if you have a lead toxicity, the first step is not to detoxify you. It is to stop your exposure to the source of lead (commonly in the home or water supply) and to nourish the body so it can handle the detoxification process.
Many functional medicine clinicians I see will test for toxins and heavy metals, but they often want to address them right away. They don’t appreciate that the body has to be nutritionally capable of the detoxification and biotransformation processes. In fact, you can do more harm then good by working out of order.
I personally use a framework called the Balance Protocol. Using this framework, we address the right things in the right order. But regardless of who you work with, they should be able to tell you the specific framework they use to address your issues.
- Get a mentor – Every time I go on social media I feel like I see an ad for some new diet or supplement. First it was keto, then it was intermittent-fasting diets, and who knows what will be next?
And let me tell you, these ads are good! They are sleek and sexy and very convincing. The people touting their benefits are often really fit and healthy looking. But who do you follow? Do you follow the vegans who demonize all animal products or the paleo people who tout the myriad benefits of eating animals?
This is where you need an experienced mentor to help you navigate these waters, because it can get murky. Your mentor should be there to spend the adequate amount of time with you, order the right labs, treat you based off of those results, and help keep you on track.
You need someone who will be there when you need them. Things can come up quickly and waiting 4-6 weeks for your next doctors appointment just won’t cut it.
A good mentor is someone who will pick you up when your down, but also hold you accountable because they know what it takes to get you the results you want.
Think about it this way. All of the best athletes in the world have numerous coaches because they know to be at their best, they need to work with the best and be held accountable. You are no different.