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What if Symptoms Aren’t the Disease?

Can’t get in to your Doc right now? Maybe that’s a good thing. Western medicine is ill, and the only prescription is a more integrative approach.

Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash
Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

Have you noticed that every time you go to the doctor, a lot of emphasis is put on stopping a symptom, process, or even an emotion?

We go in to our 7 minute appointment, describe our experience, and more often than not, leave with a prescription to “fix the problem.”

As if our minds or bodies are somehow deviant, straying from what is “normal,” and simply need to be corrected. As if the symptom itself is the disease.

I’ll say that again: Symptoms are not disease.

Now, I’m not talking about a broken arm, or other acute trauma situation. If I snap my ankle, I’ll definitely be heading into the ER for help. Because this is where conventional medicine shines, and that should be celebrated. 

It’s in the management of chronic illness, in the viewing body as separate pieces and parts, that modern medicine totally drops the ball. By failing to see the bigger picture, they very often do more harm than good.

Symptoms are the language of the body and mind. They are the messengers, ultimately here to help us, to alert us to an imbalance happening on the inside. When we simply seek to remove the symptom without investigating its source, we do ourselves a great disservice. It’s like taking the batteries out of a beeping smoke alarm. We’re missing the point entirely.

What do you mean? What could a symptom be saying?

Here’s an example: Let’s say you head into your doctor’s office with heartburn or acid reflux. There’s a 100% chance you will leave with a prescription for an acid-reducing medication.

Because your body is the problem, right? It’s broken. Nevermind the message it’s trying to send about the spicy food, coffee, late nights, and stress. There’s an ingrained belief that a medication is needed to control the malfunctioning of the body, which in most cases, couldn’t be more wrong.

The acid reflux is the messenger, and it’s asking us to pay attention. Change your diet. Reduce stress. Quit coffee for a little while.

This scenario happens far too often, with everything from anxiety and depression to migraine headaches. We rush to silence the symptoms that are actually the harbingers of greater health, if only we heed the message.

What if we MAKE ROOM for the body to have a voice, and listen? Symptoms have something important to say, and if we regard them with respect, they will guide us to greater health. If we suppress symptoms without a second thought, we are not curing the disease. We are simply removing the vehicle for expression, and another symptom will show up elsewhere, like a game of whack-a-mole. Playing this game, we spend thousands of dollars on a growing list of prescriptions, yet true wellness eludes us, and we get sicker.

How has this become the norm?

We live in a culture that defines normal within a very narrow range of what is actually a huge spectrum of human experience. Especially in the United States, we are taught from the beginning of our lives that anything outside of this pre-determined scope of normal is dangerous, pathological, or even our own body betraying us in some way.

The western medical establishment has become the self-appointed authority of what we should and shouldn’t be feeling, regardless of the lives we’ve lived, the trauma we’ve endured, or the shifts that we’re moving through.

Western medicine is afflicted with an illness of the ego.

In traditional and cultural medical practices, the body is almost always seen as a whole, and symptoms are used as guides to the underlying imbalances. The body and mind are honored, respected, and held in a space of reverence and sanctity.

Very often, our western culture of ‘Science As God’ tends to minimize or marginalize the ideas of Herbology, Ayurveda, Traditional Indigenous Medicine, Homeopathy, Chinese Medicine, and so on. Conventional doctors are often portrayed as the masters of the body, the allowers and directors of health, bulldozing symptoms and repaving with piles of medication, all the while, scoffing at the idea of natural medicine.

Our infatuation with our own scientific brilliance has become a liability, and until we as a collective are able to acknowledge the wisdom in traditional modalities, we’ll be at a great disadvantage. The arc of knowledge is much longer in traditional medicine, and these practices have much to teach us about humbleness and honoring the innate wisdom of the body. 

So what is needed to course correct? How can we celebrate true medical advances, take the best of a very broken system, and move forward with greater humility and open-mindedness?

We can start by being curious, rather than dismissive. We can lean in, ask questions, and be willing to hear the answers. If our fist thought is not to squash the symptom, we will be able to hear the message that is being offered. And if we listen, we will be given the gift of greater health and wholeness. 

A beautiful blending of conventional innovation and traditional practice is the vision we can hold, settling for nothing less than collaboration in the interest of lifting humanity, helping us all heal to our fullest potential.

I believe an integrated landscape is the future of medicine, as patriarchal power structures are crumbling all around us. Collectively, we are rising up like never before to claim what is ours. We want to feel better. So we need to ask for better care, for an integrative system that listens to us and engages with us in a more comprehensive way.

Every day in my homeopathic practice, I witness people experiencing profound healing at a very deep level. I have come to expect amazing results, because I know what miracles the mind and body are capable of.

Heath and wholeness are available, for all of us. We just have to demand it. Now is the time to seek out a holistic provider, an integrative specialist, a traditional healer, and take a deeper look at what your symptoms are saying. They do have a message for you.

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