There’s no question that the body is innately intelligent. By nature, it is continually adjusting to the ebb and flow of life, and seemingly, always one step ahead. Created with a full sense of wisdom, the human body constantly communicates and sends messages about what it’s doing, what it needs, and what it does and does not like. Physical, mental and/or emotional symptoms, as such, are simply a direct mode for allowing your body to communicate with you. Given the intent of your body to constantly strive to maintain homeostasis, balance and optimal health, listening to what it is saying is one of the most effective ways to feel, think and live better.
Society has trained us to treat a symptom as either a condition or illness within itself, or, as present state requiring immediate reduction, suppression, and elimination. Most symptoms, by definition, tend to carry some degree of inconvenience, discomfort or limitation. Take for example a common cold; if you develop a cough, runny nose, fever or headache, many have learned that taking an anti-pyretic, decongestant, or cough suppressant is the thing to do. Or, let’s say you twist or roll your ankle; many are told to reach for an anti-inflammatory or pain medication as the fix. Well, have you ever thought that a symptom, by nature, is not present as a problem within itself, but rather a signal of protection or part of the cure?
Let’s return to the common cold example that I touched on above. If the perspective is that all common cold associated symptoms are only present as part of an ‘infection’ or illness, then the obvious response is to get rid of them as quickly as you can. In essence, cold symptoms are not part of an infection or illness at all. Rather, they are the exhibition of the body’s response to whatever is going on with and inside of it. Coughing, sneezing, congestion, fever and runny nose, for example, are all very effective measures the body takes in order to protect itself and eliminate what is partially causing the problem in the first place. I say partially as there are many layers to a common cold (which I will be sure to speak on during upcoming blog posts).
Thus, the defence/repair/elimination theory of symptoms can be applied to almost any situation, condition, illness or disease. Twisted ankle? Swelling, immobility and pain are both helping to repair the injury and ensure you stay off your foot to rest it in order to let it heal. Acid reflux? Your stomach likely requires more enzymatic and acid production, or your body is telling you that something you are eating is not responding well. Constipation? You don’t necessarily need a stool softener, but rather, your body requires improved hydration, increased salt intake and/or attention geared toward resolving emotional or stress induced experiences. Fatigue? Although this symptom can signify a multitude of underlying issues, it is a primary mechanism to alert you that your body requires more rest, improved nutrition, and fine attention to what it is trying to say. I literally can go on and on….and on, listing symptom/meaning, but I think you get my point.
I also do want to quickly touch on a few very important points in addition to the benefits of symptoms I have begun to mention above:
The body does not elicit a symptom unless it is under some form of stress, imbalance or dysregulation.
Although plentiful, the vast majority of symptoms are a result of some degree of toxicity, deficiency, or outright injury.
By suppressing a symptom, you are both closing down your body’s ability to communicate with you while encouraging the underlying imbalance/health concern to exhibit more aggressively weeks, months to years down the road.
There are of course some situations where a symptom can become problematic or even life threatening, in which case symptom management is required to be addressed (more on this in upcoming blogs!).
Chronic “diseases” are only ‘chronic’ compilations of symptoms stemming from your body constantly attempting to cry out for help; the longer the time of said ‘disease’, the more aggressive and dangerous the symptoms become.
If a symptom does eventually become life threatening (think cancer), it is only because the body’s healing process has become overwhelmed and is unable to correct itself and find its balance.
Symptoms are a clear, effective, and efficient way to allow the body to speak. Symptoms do not represent a disease endpoint or condition within itself. Not only is the benefit of a symptom simply trying to alert you that something needs attention and focus, it plays a significant part of the healing process and is something that rarely, if ever, should be suppressed. Rather, symptoms need to be acknowledged, addressed, and fully respected as an innate and powerful path toward better health.
Dr Jeremy Hayman, ND helps patients at Cornerstone Naturopathic Inc. feel better, live better, and achieve optimal wellness and health. Years of patient care coupled with dedication to personal life balance has helped Dr Jeremy employ the adage that “your approach to health should be simple”.