When you visit your doctor, are you owning your role in your own health care? Many people don’t speak up with their doctor. Culturally and societally, doctors are viewed as the experts on healthcare, and as such we (often) unquestioningly follow their direction. We entrust our care to doctors because they have studied extensively, and they generally know things we don’t. Yet there is only one person who truly, intimately, knows your body – YOU! The body shares information in many nuanced ways which only you, the being inside the skin and bones, can hear. It is our obligation to ourselves to be inquisitive and work collaboratively with our health care providers. It is our right to ask questions for better understanding and to leave visits feeling fully informed. How often, though, do you leave with more questions or uncertainty about what your doctor has said? Here, we’ll further explore the importance of being empowered in your health and wellness.
Whether realized or not, our bodies are intuitively guiding us – always. Sometimes we are better able to listen, and we take action, such as tending to a cut or wound, or relieving pain with ice therapy and ibuprofen. At other times, the message isn’t so clear, and it takes time to hone our listening skills. It’s important to begin viewing symptoms as more than just a surface issue; symptoms show up as warning signs for potentially broader health issues. Our internal voice may be telling us that a headache doesn’t start with hay fever and end with antihistamines, but rather that something else is imbalanced and causing the headache. Similarly, an upset stomach may prompt us to take antacids. Though, perhaps that upset stomach is coming from poor digestion and an opportunity to address gut health and your overall immune health. The body’s voice is powerful and our intuition serves to guide us to find more answers.
By being curious and asking more probing questions of our doctors and their diagnoses, we become participatory in managing our health. Afterall, we are the ones living, 24 hours a day, inside OUR bodies, and we possess that intuitive listening which no one else can hear. When a test result or diagnosis is delivered, sometimes we feel unsure of the answers we are given. When this happens, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed and not fully comprehend the information being delivered. After time to process the information, we can often better hear our internal messages. These messages may reveal other symptoms that we hadn’t previously connected with our issue, or our internal voice shows up as a 6th sense, alerting us there’s something still missing.
Joshua Rosenthal, founder of Institute for Integrative Nutrition, likens the body to a computer, functioning perfectly, and putting out small fires as they occur. This response is the result of an orchestrated sequence of hormones, enzymes, cellular functions and pathways to process any foods, thoughts and emotions we digest, as well as address ‘invaders’ (bacteria, viruses and even food - anything which causes an inflammatory response within the body can be viewed by the immune system as 'foreign'). When any part of the computer misfires, it causes a domino effect of response through all the operating systems. In the case of our bodies, this often results in acute or chronic disease of some nature. As we begin addressing symptoms of the disease, it’s important to recognize how intricately all the parts of our body work together. Therefore, sharing everything with your doctor, if even seemingly miniscule, is essential to unlocking causes behind symptoms. Your doctor is best able to help you when you speak up and advocate for what you are feeling in your body. And when working with different doctors, across different specialties, it is important to share all other components of your medical care so everyone sees the same clear picture.
The health care system has sadly evolved into more of a symptom-relief system, and less about understanding root causes of illness. It’s easy to understand why, with rising cases of chronic pain and inflammation, obesity, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s, which has doctors treating more patients now than ever before. When we can participate in our health care and act as a part of the discovery and resolution process, we can shift the approach to one of well-care, focused on restoring imbalances in our bodies, and essentially getting the computer to function correctly again.
Having an open relationship with your doctor is key to participating in your health and well-care. Health is about so much more than just our diet, test results and exercise regimens. Our health is the culmination of systems working together at optimal levels. When these systems become imbalanced, it can take some sleuthing to understand how multiple components, such as blood work results, allergy responses and osteoporosis, may be linked together and not separate issues, or how a nagging neck pain may be tied to muscular deficiency elsewhere in the body. It’s imperative to speak up with your doctor; we owe it to ourselves to share what we’re experiencing. When we are actively involved in the course of care with our doctors, and have a voice in what and how we’re feeling, we begin a collaborative process to better overall health.
By Jennifer Rizza, Founder of Newtown Wellness Collective, Reiki Master, Yoga Teacher, Well-Living Guide