Part 3 - "Be Your Own Doc!" Self-Healing Strategies for Everyday Living
12 Essential Self-Diagnosis Questions
I use the following twelve questions for client evaluations. I believe they can offer tremendous insight for evaluating our current health and limitations of perspective.
HOW IS YOUR APPETITE?
IS YOUR BOWEL MOVEMENT REGULAR?
HOW IS THE QUALITY OF YOUR SLEEP?
ARE YOU MOODY?
DO YOU HAVE CRAVINGS (sugar, oil, flour, meats, salt, etc.)? OR, DESIRE SPECIFIC FOOD TASTES (salty, sweet, sour, bitter pungent)?
HOW IS YOUR ENERGY LEVEL?
DO YOU HAVE CURRENT STRESSES THAT YOU CANNOT RESOLVE?
DO YOU HAVE ANY ONGOING BODY PAIN?
DO YOU EXERCISE REGULARLY? AEROBIC, STRENGTH-TRAINING OR STRETCHING?
DO YOU HAVE A PRIMARY RELATIONSHIP? IS IT SUPPORTIVE AND NURTURING? DO YOU CONVERSE? ARE YOU CLOSE? CAN YOU BECOME CLOSER? WHAT IS HOLDING YOU BACK FROM HAVING MORE WITH THAT PERSON?
DO YOU ENJOY WORK? IF NOT, WHAT KINDS OF PASSIONS DO YOU HAVE? WHAT DO YOU DO CREATIVELY?
WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Active Self-Diagnosis – Exploring the 12 Questions
To understand what constitutes good health, here are some barometers that you can use to evaluate your health.
• GOOD APPETITE
Consistently having a reduced appetite is the first alarm signal that telegraphs potential trouble. Be aware of this. I’ve had clients tell me that, “Appetite is no problem. I take two hits from a joint and I get ravenous!” That is merely a symptomatic way of dealing with it and does not target the underlying reason behind a reduced appetite. The bandage-to-wound approach has many limitations. Changes in appetite warrant an immediate analysis of your stress levels, current diet, pain degree, meal-time habits and perhaps, if chronic, a comprehensive blood test. Ideally, a healthy individual has a strong appetite—but not just for food! Appetite for learning; for curiosity; for personal growth and more. Jonathan Swift said: “May you live all the days of your life.” That’s really a quote about appetite. If your dietary appetite is consistently irregular and diminished, it means something is off. Your body is talking to you. Pay attention.
• REGULAR BOWEL MOVEMENT
Depending on what you eat, you could have one complete bowel movement in the morning and be done with it for the rest of the day. However, this would require whole grain fiber (brown rice, quinoa, barley, millet, oatmeal, etc.), bean and vegetable fare in the daily diet. Consuming excessive amounts of raw food with plentiful amounts of oil, avocado and fruits might have you visiting the bathroom more frequently. So, there is no standard, but bathroom visits should be free from stress and strain. A new client recently told me that her former nutritional counselor adamantly stated she “should have two bowel movements every day.” To me, this makes little sense. Your visit to the bathroom has much to do with your meal timing, daily fiber content, oil consumption, dietary sodium, sugar, overeating tendency, caffeine intake, mood and exercise. Regular bowel health is based on consistency.
Physically, the mouth extends into the esophagus (our "food tube"), which becomes the stomach, then extends into the intestines and ends at the anus. In Asian facial diagnosis the mouth is considered the beginning of the intestinal track and lip swelling is often a sign of intestinal inflammation. The other end can also swell, as in hemorrhoids. Swelling from either of these ends are usually caused by the acidity of our food and drink. This may present a renewed perspective when you see people who have used lip botox!
From observing the outside of the bowel movement after it’s discharged, you can see intestinal wall patterns which reveal something about your nutrient absorption ability. Bowel color tells us about the volume and quality of your liver bile (stored by the gall bladder); if your movement has a strong putrid smell, chances are you have some poor fermentation going on. This is most likely from bad food combining, excess animal protein, dairy combinations, or consuming something sweet right after your meal. Poor food combining (such as sweets right after a meal) instigate a fermenting action on digestion and threaten positive bowel bacteria. Best to wait a while before jumping on a dessert.
A “sticky” bowel movement requiring the use of more paper, usually means excessive dietary gluten. Intestinal inflammation is almost always related to diet and beverages. Rarely is it from “missing nutrients.” While constipation can be due to an imbalance in your carbohydrate, protein and fat ratios; overeating, too much salt, or the lack of carbohydrate fiber in your daily diet also complicate. Don’t get alarmed if you experience one-day of constipation or loose bowel. Everybody is unique in their reactions to food combinations, quality, or volume. But, do consider what you have been eating and experiment with adjusting your diet.
• SLEEP QUALITY
Sleep nourishes our internal and natural detox systems (kidney, liver, intestines, lymph, skin and lungs). Good sleep helps to restore energy, allowing a gradually decreasing blood sugar to help secure deeper, more restful sleep. That semi-fasting state gives your body a rest from digestion. When we finally eat after a good night’s sleep, we are breaking this overnight “mini-fast.” Hence, the word: Breakfast.
Keeping circadian rhythms in mind, your best and deepest sleep will occur if you get to bed before midnight. The deeper your evening sleep, the more wide-awake your daytimes will be. Avoid sweet indulgence or overeating in the late evening hours—it will make your body tired, but drive your mind into high gear, which means: there you are lying in bed, drop-dead tired, eager for sleep, but with eyes saucer-wide and a mind running non-stop. When you finally do fall asleep, you’ll awaken to realize that you’ve been dreaming endlessly. What’s wrong with that? While it can be a source of insightful amusement, superficial dreaming creates an unrestful sleep. It feels like an endless loop of thinking at a time when your mind should be in a more relaxed mood to prepare for the deep relaxation and benefit of sleep. Good sleep will be restorative, allowing you to awaken feeling alert and energetic.
Another barometer of good health is our mood stability. Our moods are fueled not only by our general perspective and emotional disposition, but also significantly related to our nutrient profile and blood sugar chemistry. Insulin “swings” occur when our blood sugar is low and then we consume a concentrated sugar. This sudden onslaught of sugar can spike an inflammatory response.
Mood swings can be helped by regular exercise. Consistent physical movement promotes stronger circulation and deeper oxygenation. After a good half-hour of brisk walking you’ll find that you feel noticeably positive with a better ability to challenge your stresses.
Cravings can be attributed to a variety of reasons, but essentially—at least on a physical level—they happen as a move by the body to create balance. Psychologically, fond memories, childhood rituals or social situations can instigate certain cravings. Cravings can also signal a desire to just check out; we might be overwhelmed with conflict and simply need a sensory check-out.
Watch someone consume something sweet—they often look like they’ve entered this blissful euphoric state where stresses and current problems have suddenly vanished. A recent client told me that her favorite way to deal with her stresses was to go to an afternoon movie and make sure she had a good amount of treat foods. "It’s like changing a baby’s diaper,” she said. "It doesn’t change anything permanently, but it sure makes everything ok for a while…”
You may have distinct food cravings for fat-emulsifying foods like salt, spices, vinegar or nightshades; or find yourself attracted to sweets from too much dietary salt or animal protein; You might crave caffeine to get through a low energy day—a need for something that makes you feel an instant aliveness. Cravings can also signal missing nutrients and we’ll find ourselves attracted to different foods for that very reason. Farm animals are known to eat rusty nails (as an iron source) or dirt (a mineral source) to compensate for what they might be missing in their feed.
• ONGOING BODY PAIN
Do you have body pain or abdominal sensitivity? Press deep into the area around your navel. Does it hurt? That could be a sign that your diet is causing inflammation. It is not natural to have pain in that area. Is your body pain worse at night or during the day? Is it decreasing or increasing? Do you have any swelling? Is your flexibility impaired?
If so, then alcohol, sugar and fats should be immediately eliminated, as they can instigate inflammation. Abdominal pain can also be from bowel irregularity. These questions, above can offer more insight into the reasons for your pain.
The need for movement and flexibility is important for a well-tuned and sensitive body. Working out can mean any of three necessary forms of exercise: Stretching, Cardio and Muscle Strengthening. Stretching can easily be done anywhere. A simple yoga class will give you some basics in how to stretch. Stretching can often produce an instant physical calm. Cardio Exercise means to nourish the circulatory and respiratory system by constant physical movement. Muscle Strengthening means to put strain on muscle fibers with varying degrees of weight to improve, muscle strength, tone muscles and improve contraction and circulation.
Exercise has been linked to a positive immune system response and a temporary boost in the production of white blood cells (macrophages—cells that attack bacteria). There is a lengthy body of research documenting how regular, consistent exercise leads to immune improvement and provides enduring health benefits over the long-term.
— Moderate exercise helps immune cells circulate at a quicker pace throughout the body making them more capable of detecting illnesses in advance. The sudden and increased rate of circulating blood can trigger the release of hormones that “warn” immune cells of intruding bacteria or viruses.
— Research indicates that regular exercise helps to flush bacteria out from the lungs while increasing the waste output of urine and sweat.
— The temporary elevation of body temperature inhibits bacterial growth. This allows the body to fight infection more capably, in the same way that the mechanism of fever works.
— Exercise slows the release of stress-related hormones, creating a reduced chance of immunity damage from these hormones.
Conversely, too much exercise may decrease your immune function. Some research has showed that more than 90-minutes of high-intensity endurance exercise can make athletes susceptible to illness for up to 72-hours, post-exercise. Stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels while suppressing immune function. This has been linked to frequent infections that plague endurance athletes after extreme exercise, such as marathon runs or triathlon training.
In any case, exercise is not a black and white issue. We need movement every day!
Make it regular, make it challenging, make it fun.
• PRIMARY RELATIONSHIP
Often, your primary relationship can serve as a mirror to remind you of areas in your life worth strengthening. Your relationship can be a source of joy, inspiration and support, or a negative source of continual conflict. Relationships are always a challenge because they touch every area of our lives, hidden or in full view.
So, how’s it going? Do you talk? Do you have connection time? Do you have shared dreams, passions and a friendship? Do you have peer friends? Do you express your feelings to one another freely without fear or tip-toeing? Do you express gratitude to each other?
If you do not have a relationship, is that a personal choice for the interim, or a reaction to a previous relationship with issues that remain unresolved? What fear holds you back from changing, bettering or leaving your present relationship?
The need for human connection is an integral part of healing, whether it’s from support groups, personal interest groups or social activities where people congregate.
Do you enjoy your work? Does it offer you ample self-challenge? Does your work contribute, in some way, to your personal growth? Consider that most jobs occupy at least 1/3 of our daily life! Is your work environment comfortable, or is it 8-hours of non-stop stress in an unhealthful environment? Not everyone can find passion and challenge in their work, but we need to explore different ways to eventually make this happen. If you feel stuck in a dead-end job, there are many solutions to finding other work.
Taking a new training (perhaps to save time this can be done online) might be a practical way to transition from old job to new job with the least amount of stress. If you feel stuck in a dead-end job that you dread every day, you can balance that for the meanwhile by having more outside passions and hobbies, or group/friend support for times when you are not at work. While you might complain that you have “no time” between work, survival and family,” find a way to do something nourishing for a minimum time. This will gradually inspire you to see how important it is for your mental and physical health. Your new interests will makes your current work easier to tolerate and keep you inspired.
What are you passionate about? What driving interest motivates you out of bed in the morning, aside from common survival?
Years ago, I met a man in his early-80s in a Los Angeles beach park. He was sitting on a bench in this beautiful cliff park over-looking the sea, blankly staring at the horizon. I was about 15-feet away taking a photograph of the setting sun. I initiated a friendly conversation with him and soon we were talking about everything relative to the scope of his 8-decades on this planet. He admitted that his biggest regret in his life was not following his passions.
He had been a cameraman in the Army during WWII and continued after he was discharged throughout the rest of the 1940s. He was even published, but with family and work demands, his “hobby” was eventually shelved for the practical pursuits of "making a real living". He never looked back.
I showed him some of the pictures I took that day with my new camera, having just switched from film to digital. I was delighted that he immediately went into professional mode, making inspiring suggestions for my framing and composition. He complimented my style and asked me many questions. I shared how simple this new digital machine worked—a far cry from the old large frame cameras of his generation. I even took the liberty of getting a bit parental with him, suggesting that his armchair viewing of life needed to change to a more active one and that he might consider getting back into photography. He waved his hand at me, as if doing so would be completely out of the question. I reminded him that, unlike film processing, digital photography meant he wouldn’t have to fuss with film or development chemicals and could see his work instantly! He smiled weakly, asked to hold my camera and looked at it wistfully. I felt sad for him. We parted with a mutual thank you and I watched him cautiously walk away.
About four years later, after living in Toronto for a while, I was visiting Los Angeles and
went to the Santa Monica pier beside that cliff park to grab some ocean view images with my camera. Standing about 25-feet from my spot was an elderly man adjusting his camera that was mounted on a tripod. He looked familiar but slightly younger than the man I remembered from the bench. I walked over to converse, perhaps have some friendly photo talk and suddenly got a warm hello and surprising embrace. It was the elderly man that I spoke to that day, four years ago on the bench from the cliff park!
He was practically in tears as he spoke to me. “You know son, I didn’t even remember your name! That day, I didn’t share this with you but you saw me on the bench just after I had just been released from Saint John’s after a surgery. I asked my son to drop me off at the park because I didn’t want to return to my depressing little apartment—I just wanted to have a think by myself. The news the doctor gave me wasn’t very positive and I guess I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. I’m embarrassed to say that I was even considering ending my life. But the passion that you spoke with about your photography and your images of water reflections brought me right back to my own photographic passions as a young man—made me realize how I had just buried them for so many years. I was thinking about our meeting when I went back to my apartment and shared our conversation with my son. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the next day he goes out and buys me a brand new digital camera, just like yours and I’ve taught myself and been taking pictures ever since! I’m even in a camera club! That’s my new “job!” he said, pointing to his tripod. I scanned his photos on the small digital LDC camera screen. They were beautiful, long unique exposures full of color and life!
He that had busied himself for the past three years learning everything he could about this new medium. “You know, it’s funny,” he said with a sense of disclosure, “…this hobby has restored a sense of purpose for me. It's got me feeling a whole lot healthier and looking at life differently—just because of that little peephole! That’s what did it!" Now, he's pointing to the camera and smiling. "I’m 84, but when I’m looking through that lens, time stands still and I’m 25...howduya' like that?"
Becoming your own doctor is about learning the messages your body broadcasts and knowing the myriad of choices available to help yourself before you might need conventional support. It’s about paying attention to the body, mind and spirit. The reward for paying attention is the new conviction that you have more power over your health and its direction than you previously thought; more time and a greater sense of presence to enjoy every moment.
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