There is an extraordinary two-way communication going on between your body and mind that affects both physical and emotional health. The language the body speaks is in the form of symptoms and intuition or what we often call “gut instinct”. For instance, anticipating an important interview at work can make you anxious: your mind starts racing, your heart beats faster or maybe you get a tension headache. Sure, that headache might just be a headache, related to stress. But what if it's something more?
Having no clear understanding of your symptoms can lead to a depressed mood, making the physical illness even worse. It's important to understand your "body talk" and to listen to you “gut feeling” if you sense something is off.
Prolonged, persistent symptoms - physical or emotional - that appear suddenly and affect wellbeing are the body's way of saying something is wrong. Suppressing symptoms hinders the body's ability to communicate what it needs - and more importantly - hides the underlying cause which could be something as simple as a nutrient deficiency, or something very serious.
Many holistic physicians, such as Naturopathic, Integrative, and Functional Medicine Doctors, are uniquely trained to translate the meaning of symptoms and identify what needs to change in order for health and wellbeing to be restored. That said, I always say that no one lives in your body but you, so that makes you the expert when it comes to tuning into what’s going on and getting the right help to address it.
Here are strategies to help make correlations between what your body is telling you and what it means for your health.
Keep a Body-Mind Journal. Record your physical and emotional (feelings and thoughts) experiences upon waking and throughout the day. Do you feel energetic upon waking? What are you thinking and feeling in the moments when you experience physical pain? Another example is a diet diary in which you can assess possible relationships between symptoms, such as headache or stomach issues, and emotions and thoughts associated with what, when and why you eat.
Illness & Lifestyle Inventory. If you're experiencing chronic symptoms, you may need to dig deeper to discover the initial event and triggers that have accumulated over time, resulting in the health problems you're having today. This inventory can include experiences that put you at risk for exposure to toxins (at work, school, an accident); tragic or traumatic life events; and significant illnesses from childhood, as well as your adult years. Try to pinpoint when symptoms first started, how long they existed before you sought treatment, and what steps have been taken to address symptoms.
Don't Go to Dr. Google! Information on the Web can scare you and easily lead to an incorrect self-diagnosis. Seek the care of a holistic practitioner who can guide you in understanding your body's talk.
Here are some tools that holistic physicians may use to understand and translate symptoms:
Food Allergy/Sensitivity Testing or an Elimination Diet: Reveal links between health conditions and the food you are eating. By removing foods from the diet that create symptoms, you allow the body to repair and heal, alleviate symptoms, and restore health.
Gut Function Tests: Can help determine problems with nutrient absorption.
Nutrient Status Testing: Identifies deficiencies that bring about symptoms.
Hormone / Neurotransmitter Testing: Identifies imbalances in thyroid hormones, sex hormones and neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.
Physical Evaluation: Assesses how your body moves, sleep patterns, and mental focusing, which can reveal factors that contribute to the presence and intensity of symptoms.
Ultimately, your body's communication is unlike anyone else's. With careful listening and attentive guidance from a holistic practitioner, you can discover the meaning of your symptoms and create a dialogue with your body and mind that leads to more vibrant health.