Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Purpose of Symptoms

Through the years I've experienced a wide variety of physical symptoms, ranging from unpleasant and annoying to debilitating and dangerous. It's not enjoyable to have symptoms of any kind, but I've learned that symptoms really do have a purpose.
Most doctors are trained to provide symptom relief for patients. Few doctors seem to understand the purpose of symptoms, and that the goal isn't just to make them "go away."

The purpose of symptoms is to let you know that something is amiss in your body and it's time to address it. This is just like when a squeaking or grinding sound in your car makes you realize you better get it checked. Physical symptoms are the body's way of communicating that there's a problem. You would think this concept would be common sense, yet so many people have an unhealthy perspective on symptoms.

There are two extremes in how people handle their symptoms.

One is to ignore them completely and to keep pushing their body to do whatever they want it to their own detriment, usually symptoms getting more and more severe.

The other extreme is to focus on symptoms so much that the person becomes consumed with them and actually perpetuates even more symptoms.

I can tell you that at different times I've experienced both extremes.

I realize that with chronic illness, a lot of time is spent managing symptoms. But I think having a healthy perspective on their purpose helps us handle them better.

First, we recognize that a physical symptom is a message from the body. Then we keep asking questions until we identify the root cause of the symptom. Why is the body asking for help? Once the root cause is identified, then we can select appropriate treatment that will help the body do its job of healing the root cause. Then, hopefully within a short amount of time, the problem is corrected and the symptom goes away, because it's no longer needed. This is the healthy approach to whatever symptoms we experience. And the sooner we address symptoms, the sooner we can help the body resolve them.

So for example, about two weeks ago I started feeling really awful, much worse than I normally do. My body felt heavy, achy and exhausted. I mostly ignored it for a few days, just continuing with my regular healthy habits of taking care of myself. Finally about the 4th day, I realized I better figure out WHY I was feeling so awful. A little detective work revealed two bacterial infections. No wonder I was feeling awful! But since I didn't have other "common" symptoms associated with bacterial infections, I hadn't thought to check that originally. But my body persisted with some symptoms until I discovered the root cause. So now I'm doing specific things to fight the infections and hopefully I'll soon be feeling like my "normal" self again. =)

Sometimes I experience symptoms from detoxing. When the body is ridding itself of toxins, parasites, viruses, etc., there are usually accompanying symptoms. It's important to listen to the body and not push it to detox too quickly or too much at one time. But when I know it's a detoxing symptom, I endure it until that detox cycle is finished. Thankfully, there are some natural remedies that help with symptom relief, as well as with foundational healing. (I'll write more about these two things next time.) 

The main thing is to look past the symptom to the root cause and take whatever steps you can to help your body heal that. So you might say that symptoms are actually helpful things, when we understand their purpose and take a healthy approach to resolving them.

What are your thoughts?

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