The Homeopathic Approach: Embracing Symptoms
When it comes to maintaining optimal health, it really is all about balance; between different food groups, between activity and rest, between the systems of the body, and between the body and mind. Without a proper balance, problems will occur and health will suffer; in most cases, effects take place gradually, becoming apparent only as one symptom after another begins to arise. Fatigue, aches, pain, chills, cravings, rash, the list goes on and on. What do these symptoms tell us? Symptoms are the recognizable aspect of "dis-ease". However, the symptoms we experience are not the disease itself. Symptoms occur when the body attempts to self-balance, and when properly respected, the symptoms we experience function as the language of our illness, alerting us to unmet needs and imbalance. Unfortunately, this essential role is often overlooked within conventional medicine.
One of the main differences between homeopathy and conventional medicine lies in their different approach to symptoms.At a recent assembly, David Jones M.D., president of the Institute for Functional Medicine, declared to his audience,
"We're at a crossroads in medicine - we haven't yet awakened to the dilemma between acute medical care and chronic medical care. By teaching medical students to quickly diagnose an illness and provide acute care for its symptoms, medical schools train future physicians for what will be about 20 percent of their practices... Seventy-eight percent of today's patients present at least one chronic illness."
Most everyone can agree that the earlier treatment is started, the better off a person will be. However, when a diagnosis is made, it often ends the investigation. As Dr. Jones explains,
"In conventional, acute-care medicine, the goal is to get a fast diagnosis...Problems arise when you apply the acute-care model to long-term problems, because you end up naming the disease. And once you name a disease, it's all over."
He worries that with a diagnosis, a patient's full health story - underlying conditions and other contributing factors - may be forgotten. By masking symptoms with medications, major physiological, psychological, environmental, and lifestyle causes may go unnoticed and continue to negatively impact health. This is exactly the problem that homeopathy aims to avoid.
Homeopathic medicine is not directly aimed at ridding or suppressing symptoms. Instead, its aim is to find and treat their underlying causes. There is an understanding in homeopathy that without symptoms, a person may have any number of conditions - from benign to life-threatening - without realizing it. For this reason, a homeopath will work extensively to get that whole health story - cellular, physiological, organ system, mind and spirit. Environmental and lifestyle factors, as well. It is only after a complete patient profiling that recommendations are made.
A Holistic Approach
These recommendations, like their diagnostic approaches, tend to cover a broader range of health than conventional medicine would offer. Recommendations often include homeopathic remedies, dietary changes, and exercise like yoga, and may include counseling or even a job change. Says Dr. Jones,
"Many chronic illnesses result from a dysfunctional mesh of genetics and the human context...Lifestyle choices underlie 70 percent of chronic illnesses, but almost everyone ignores that."
Says one homeopath, Simon Yu MD
"For every chronically ill patient I see in my practice, I always detect several common denominators for the underlying problems. They are usually environmental toxins such as chronic heavy metal exposure, hidden allergies, unsuspected dental infections. and chronic viral or parasitic infections... All are highly common contributing health factors creating problems all their own and worsening other health conditions. Unfortunately, they are also contributing factors which are frequently overlooked once a diagnosis is made and prescribed medications hide symptoms."
Be a Good Listener
Far removed from the lifestyle of our ancestors, modern convenience allows people today to live nearly free from physical labor. Every resource is prepared and available for purchase, and a plethora of technology cuts our work even further. These conveniences allow us more free time than ever before. Wonderful, but unfortunately, they also make it all too easy to forget how to truly take care of our selves. More than any tool we have at our disposal, our ability to listen to our body (and make appropriate adjustments), will ensure our continued health. It is so important to remain connected and respect what our bodies are telling us.
Take time during your day to acknowledge how you feel. Focus on each body part. Name your mood and feelings. Are you drained? Are your shoulders tense? Take note of it. Respect it. When you are drained, rest more and ensure you are getting all the nutrition you require. When your shoulders are tense, relieve tension with your favorite relaxation technique.
The more you practice this state of mindfulness, the better you will become at decoding the language of your body - and the more likely you will be to catch problems at their earliest and most easily curable stages. Maintaining awareness will leave you better equipped to work with your health care professional. Each aspect of us, physical, mental, and emotional is important and works together cooperatively. Respecting that balance is positive step toward optimal health.