When a Chronic Illness Isn't an Illness

feet on ground with arrows pointing multiple directions, choosing yes, no, right, wrong, etc

So often I meet with people who have had years of not feeling well. They have been through several medical doctors, including specialists. They have often met with other natural-minded providers such as naturopaths and functional medicine practitioners. They have had perhaps dozens of lab tests looking for medical conditions, deficiencies, DNA methylation, food sensitivities, parasites… and more. They have run dozens of tests, only to find out that there’s nothing medically wrong with you.

In our current system, most people will follow one of three paths:

  1. Continue seeing doctors, hoping one of them will find something to treat. Oftentimes, this results in someone being prescribed depression or anxiety meds that do make them feel better. This can lead to the unfortunate, and generally erroneous, conclusion that it’s “all in your head.”

  2. Seek alternative medicine. Most alternative medicine providers have been trained to look for symptoms and which supplements they can use in place of medications. It’s still very much symptom-based, and symptom management. It’s generally not treating the body itself. For that, you need diagnostic criteria like I use as a foundation herbalist.

    Some have success with self-care but it’s difficult to self-diagnose and self-treat. That being said, I'm very sympathetic to the idea that those with chronic illnesses need to become their own medical detective and advocate.

  3. Learn to live with it. To some extent, all of us with chronic health issues do this. We plan our schedule to allow for breaks. We accept our physical limitations. We learn to power through pain, fatigue, and brain fog. We are okay with the fact that we’ll have a few bad days after an eventful one because we don’t want to let a chronic illness define all our days.

What if there’s a fourth option?

Many of the people I meet with are obviously not well but I also wouldn’t necessarily say they have an “illness.” There’s a reason all their medical tests have come back negative. Imbalances that we address in herbalism aren’t typically diagnosable by medical tests. And, yet, they can certainly cause symptoms that can appear to be an illness.

I have seen many clients feel better as we correct excessive dryness, lax tissues, and coldness in the body. It seems very simple but by addressing the body rather than the symptoms, we give the body the ability to heal. I have seen people recover from chronic fatigue when we start normalizing the immune system with the tissue states. I have seen improvements in brain function, stamina, skin and hair, circulation, mood, stress adaptation, stiffness, intestinal function, and so many more things as we balance the body.

In short, your illness is very real but it might not be something that will ever be addressable with conventional medicine.

Foundational herbalism is a great place to start when you’re not feeling well. It’s also the best way to address issues when conventional medicine has run out of questions to ask.

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Larry Leach, Herbalist, Evergreen Health Clinics

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