When I’m working with my clients I am always asking questions and listening to try and figure out what the root cause of their symptoms might be. I explain this concept to them by using the example of a sliver.
If they feel a pain in their foot they can simply take pain killers until the pain has subsided. However, since they did not discover the cause of the pain, it will come back once the drug has worn off. Thus, they must look to see what the cause is. A closer look reveals that there is a sliver in their foot. We can put a band-aid over it or take pain killers, but the injury won’t truly go away until the sliver has been removed. Then, the body will heal itself.
Our goal is to find the “sliver,” remove it, and allow the body to heal.
Too often, the act of diagnosing a group of symptoms discounts that there may be different root causes unique to the individual. A therapy usually follows that is masking the symptoms, but not removing the sliver.
Take, for example, a person who presents with the following symptoms: hopeless, sad, no libido, low self-esteem, sleep disturbance, doesn’t want to leave the home, no appetite.
The diagnosis would most likely be depression. Depression is a label given to a certain set of symptoms. The patient is prescribed Prozac to deal with the symptoms.
But is depression a prozac deficiency?
What is the sliver? The root cause?
One diagnosis could have many root causes.
1. The patient could have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity which can cause autoantibodies to the thyroid. This causes Hashimoto’s, a form of hypothyroidism, which could lead to depression. 1
2. Eating a diet high in meat coupled with stress over many years could result in heart burn or GERD. As a result you take lasix which shuts off stomach acid preventing B12 absorption, leading to depression. 2
3. The patient could be living in Toronto, or any city with minimal sun, or working and living indoors most of the time which could lead to vitamin D deficiency, resulting in depression. 3
4. The patient might have taken antibiotics which alter the flora in your gut, affecting many neuropeptides and causing an inflammatory responses in your enteric nervous system. This irritates the brain, leading to depression.
5. The patient might love sushi and tuna which could cause mercury toxicity, leading to depression. 4
6. The patient might hate fish leading to omega 3 fatty acid deficiency, resulting in depression. 5
7. The patient might love sweets and have insulin resistance, causing type II diabetes which can cause depression. 6
As you can see, diagnosing a disease is not as important as finding the root cause and restoring those imbalances. By labelling a set of symptoms, we are relying on an old model that doesn’t work. We must use the diagnosis as a clue, rather than an answer, to where we should focus the treatment.
- Fuller-Thomson E et al. The association between depression and thyroid disorders in a regionally representative Canadian sample. Psychol Health Med. 2011 Sep 26. ↩
- Hector, M., & Burton, J. R. (1988). What are the psychiatric manifestations of vitamin B12 deficiency? Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 36(12), 1105–1112. ↩
- Faloon W. “Startling Findings About Vitamin D Levels in Life Extension® Members” Life Extension Magazine. January 2010. ↩
- Neuro Endocrinology Letters (2006, 27(4):415-423) ↩
- ehuda S et al. Essential fatty acids and the brain:from infancy to aging. Neurobiology of Aging, 26 (Suppl 1), 98–102. ↩
- Kemp DE et al. Use of insulin sensitizers for the treatment of major depressive disorder: A pilot study of pioglitazone for major depression accompanied by abdominal obesity. J Affect Disord. 2011 Jul 20. ↩