Let me kick off this article by saying that I am in no way writing this out of judgement for anyone. (That’s a heck of a way to start a post right?) Like with everything I write about, I write this out of first hand experience and my personal thoughts on the matter.
I’m also not writing as a way for people to rationalize making poor decisions and ignoring the way their body reacts. I’ve been there as well and I can definitively say that it’s not worth it.
I’m writing this because health is complicated. No matter how good technology gets or how much someone studies a topic, health will never be a black and white thing. We’ll never get it figured out and we’ll never understand how everything works.
Should this be a cause for dispair? I don’t think so. In fact, it’s one of the things I love most about working in the health care space. Human bodies are cool. And the human beings living in them are even better.
But today, I want to talk about a difficult subject: the subject of interpreting our body’s signals. It’s a really tough thing to discuss precisely because each body and each constellation of symptoms each body has is so unique…and our desire to figure out why things are happening is inherently really strong.
In thinking about our bodies and the symptoms they express, I see a lot of good that comes from being self-aware…and then some bad that I think can actually be detrimental to our health.
I’ll never be able to make complete blanket statements about how things SHOULD be and I unfortunately can’t end this post with some grand actionable item that will universally apply to everyone. But I hope that in writing this, I can give us all some food for thought on the matter. Heck, I’m still working through things like this and to be honest, I’m writing this for myself as much as for anyone else.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because one thing I see (and have experienced) at the intersection of health awareness and embracing your health journey at the present moment is a paranoia for random symptoms.
It seems to come on especially strongly after people have discovered that what they do on a regular basis immediately and powerfully affects how they feel but before they’ve truly learned how their own body works to a reasonable extent. In reality, this might just be a natural part of the health learning curve. No matter how far along in our health journey we get, it might be an inevitable part of our desire to tie things together as much as we possible can.
But not talking about it certainly isn’t going to do anyone any favors (in my opinion, of course). So let’s chat about this a bit.
The body, in its infinite wisdom, is an amazing machine. But in saying that, we have to at least consider the fact that the body is a machine…and that having a lot of moving parts means that a great deal of combinations of actions can occur at any given time for a vast variety of reasons.
Let’s say that you’re concerned that you don’t digest zucchini well. Next time you eat the zucchini, your nose itches a half an hour later. Logically, you wonder if that zucchini made you itch last time and if it’ll bother you in the future. Is this a symptom of your body not liking the zucchini? Should you stop eating it?
Or is it the fact that itching occurs when your peripheral pain fibers fire in a disconjugate pattern which causes us to feel a sensation we call itching instead of pain (true story, that’s why we get random itches)…and maybe this just occurs randomly as we move about our environment and as our body maintains its normal homeostasis?
Let’s say you tried a new supplement and woke up the next day feeling really tired. Maybe it’s the supplement. Or maybe your dog was just hogging the bed. Or you just randomly didn’t sleep well because it ended up being warmer outside than you anticipated and you were hot in bed.
The fact is, we’ll never actually know if every single symptom we experience matters or not.
But what I have seen over and over again is that trying to rationalize every single thing our bodies do into one (or even several) diagnoses based on our preconceived notion of how we should be reacting to things is a source of real and potentially detrimental stress in our lives.
Sometimes an itch is just an itch. A bout of diarrhea is just us getting really nervous about that interview we have coming up. And that headache happened because you slept in a funny position for a couple hours that night.
Maybe they’re all symptoms of that SIBO infection you think you have…and maybe not.
The main takeway from what I’m saying isn’t that we ignore our symptoms or go back to being physically unaware of what’s going on inside our bodies. Instead, I want to make a case for approaching these issues in a deliberate and relaxed manner…and maybe that leaving a little room for our bodies to just be functioning bodies is a mentally healthy thing.
Of course this means that we still strive to improve our health and be conscious of what our bodies are doing. But not in a way that creates more problems than it solves.
Unfortunately, considering this possibility is the easy part. Really doing the introspective thinking on how you approach your body and your health is the hard work that follows. Try it on for size…and you might just find yourself a little better off than you were before.
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