This episode is about what I call the “head game” of healing. I find that when I’m talking with patients a lot of what I’m doing is really coaching them on the process of healing. And I find this to be really important because sometimes we can feel like we’re in this dark tunnel when get diagnosed with some health issue.
As much as I can recommend the specific dietary changes and nutrients and herbs to rebalance and restore what’s out of balance, I also think that an important part of the healing process is the head game of healing or how do you think about the healing process and how do you think about what’s going on in your body.
What Is the Head Game of Healing?
If you’re having a high level of anxiety about whatever your diagnosis is then that just ends up working against you. When we’re in a state of fear, we are constantly thinking of all the worst-case scenarios, we’re constantly worrying and feeling anxious about the diagnosis and what is going to happen or how will you get better.
When we’re in a state of fear it’s very hard to be proactive and at the same time, we’re just reactivating our stress response constantly. So, now we not only have the original stress response that likely created the health issue but now we have the fear response that’s triggering more stress and it just snowballs. That stress response to the health issue ends up working against you and actually makes the health issue worse.
This is why to me the symptoms and diagnosis are really just your body’s way of communicating with us. You are not your diagnosis. A lot of times what our mind does is attach our identity to a definition of a role like sometimes we identify ourselves as the oldest child or someone who’s married or a single mom, or we identify with our experience, and we can also identify with a diagnosis.
An important part of your healing process is to detach yourself from the diagnosis a bit because if you’re completely identified with a specific diagnosis then it will be much more difficult for your body to heal.
For example, if I identified myself as someone who gets migraines then that becomes my identity. This is the way our brains work so we if we identify with the diagnosis, we end up recreating that same health issue.
This is something that is really hard to do because when you’re in the midst of pain, that’s the only experience you can have. You’re 100% experiencing having a migraine or whatever pain you might be experiencing, so it’s hard to even imagine how you could separate yourself from the symptoms or the diagnosis.
You have to think of who are as a spirit, as an essence, as a person, as the person who’s existing in this human experience, in this body. Who are you separate from your symptoms or diagnosis.
This way you can create a little bit of what I call separation between who you are and a specific situation that you’re experiencing at some point in time. If we want to create change in your health, you will no longer be that diagnosis. So, we need to separate from the diagnosis to create the possibility for something different to exist – to create the possibility for change.
Our Body’s Call for Attention
Our body’s way of communicating to us that something is out of balance is through symptoms. It could be physical pain or emotional pain, mood changes, energy changes, sleep patterns changes, brain fog, etc. These are all ways in which our bodies let us know they need attention.
And it doesn’t help if we’re hard on ourselves or in a battle with our own bodies over that because this just creates more stress and a vicious cycle that makes the healing process longer and harder.
Whatever signals your body is giving you, it’s trying to communicate to you that it needs help.
That something is out of balance, something needs attention. It could be a heart palpitation, reflux, feeling tired, hair falling, migraines, etc. Then in the medical world what we do is we go through a process of evaluating to understand those signals so that we know what the appropriate treatment would be.
A Naturopathic Approach to Healing
A Naturopathic Doctor’s approach at how to fix a health issue is slightly different than that of a classically trained Medical Doctor. The latter are mostly trained to use pharmaceutical medications or surgeries or procedures and so they’re looking for indications in the body that something requires a medication or surgery but a lot of times this may not be what our bodies need in order to heal.
If a Medical Doctor doesn’t find the cause of your illness or a reason to give you medication, he/she could say that there’s nothing wrong with you or that you should keep monitoring the issue because they may not have any other tools they can offer for you to feel better.
A Naturopathic Doctor, in contrast, is trained in a lot of other potential tools that can be used to support healing, such as dietary changes, general lifestyle changes, sleep pattern changes, exercise changes, etc. We are also trained in the use of supplements, herbs and nutrients (based on research in clinical textbooks) and how to use these for different health issues.
Another tool that some Naturopathic Doctors use is Homeopathy. This is an energetic medicine that helps realign our bodies with its own ability to heal. There are also other tools like the use of plant medicines, meditation, breathwork, cold water therapy, physical therapy, detoxification, etc. So, there is such a long list of possible healing modalities that a Naturopathic Doctor can use to help you heal naturally while getting to the real root of the problem, so it goes away for good.
This is not to say that medications or antibiotics or surgery are not important or ever necessary, but for you to know that if your M.D. says that they don’t have a treatment for you, then I want to make sure you know that there are all these other treatment possibilities, like diet and herbs and nutrients and so on, for you to heal.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
Prevention of health issues is for each of us to choose for ourselves and this is the other key head game of healing. We can take on that responsibility and accountability for our own health. If we’re here, we are living this beautiful life experience, why not try to be as healthy as possible through it and even try to make it as long as possible to enjoy more of the things we love doing with the people we care about.
Everyone has the choice to become more intentional about their health. We can choose to treat our bodies poorly and just eat whatever and work 24/7 and then rely on health insurance when health issues arise, or we can choose to take good care of ourselves today and try to achieve our best health each day so we can have better and longer lives.
A lot of patients I see wish they could have known before how to take better care of their health themselves. So, as a Naturopathic Doctor my goal is to help you become more in charge of your own health and your own future and then become more intentional about each decision you make.
This is what I call SelfC.A.R.E. (this is the acronym I use in my latest book Master Your Stress Reset Your Health) where you’re taking good care of yourself and it turns out that the more we have compassion for ourselves, the more we are accepting of our experience in our bodies and in our lives, and then it decreases our stress and it creates more peace, and this actually prevents health issues.
Setting Yourself Up for Success in the Head Game of Healing
When we take good care of ourselves, we are going to be healthier, happier and more productive. We’re going to feel good and enjoy more what we’re doing.
Stress is part of life. All humans are going to have stress. The key here is not trying to be stress free, but learning how to help your body recover from stress in the moment right alongside the stress exposure. We need to learn how to counterbalance the stress so we can help our bodies keep up with this experience.
We are all like a marathon runner or an airplane in our own lives. Marathon runners don’t only take good care of themselves the day before the marathon, they have to be on point in every aspect long before the marathon; training, nutrition, sleep, hydration, etc.
The same way that a plane must be in balance in every switch, control knob, altitude, weight, speed, etc. for it to fly straight. Our human bodies have thousands of systems working 24/7 at the same time and my job as a Naturopathic Doctor is to help you fine tune it a find a way to bring all those systems back to balance so you can be as healthy as you can.
Some of this evaluation can be done in regular blood work covered by insurance like trying to figure out if you need to be in the emergency room or tell if you have anemia or if you have an infection. But when I look at these tests, I’m also looking at a much more fine-tuned level. What I do is I help you to tune in your body to a much more optimal level.
In standard blood work the ranges are wide so you may still be in the range, but you might not feel good. You might still feel tired and have borderline anemia or have low iron, or have low B12 or folate or a nutrient deficiency or a methylation issue or an MTHFR gene variation, etc. All this is going to give us a much better sense of your body’s needs to get back in balance.
Going Further than Regular Blood Work
If you don’t feel good there’s a reason – that’s always the case. If your body’s giving you indications in some shape or form it means that something’s out of balance and it might not show in the regular blood work because the regular blood work is really for identifying more emergency situations even when we do a complete metabolic panel.
A complete metabolic panel is done to identify the liver and kidney function and blood sugar levels and electrolyte levels, but you could have in range glucose and in range electrolytes and in range kidney and liver function and still not feel good for some other reason.
For example, the adrenal glands don’t show well in regular blood work. You can pick up on the adrenal glands a little bit with the sodium, potassium and electrolyte levels because part of the job of the adrenal glands is to manage our sodium and potassium, so if there’s an imbalance in sodium potassium even slightly in the blood work we should be thinking about the adrenal glands but what I find is I don’t even wait for that because by the time it shows in your electrolytes, it’s already a severe issue. I’d much rather pick up on an adrenal issue before it starts affecting your electrolytes.
Another example is your cortisol levels. You can run a blood level for cortisol which is a hormone made by the adrenal glands, but even then, the normal range is very broad. It’s easy to fall in the normal range and I think that most of us are in this normal range but that doesn’t mean we’re at optimal levels throughout the day. It just means we’re in what’s considered normal range which means we don’t need to go into the hospital because it’s not an emergency but the more we optimize our cortisol levels the more we prevent ourselves from becoming an emergency.
I can’t tell you how many patients I work with who the practitioner said this is a condition you’re going to have for the rest of your life, it’s irreversible. And after working with me, now those patients are testing negative, and for decades. Someone could test positive for an autoimmune condition, like rheumatoid arthritis at one point in time, but then by making diet changes and detoxifying and resetting all their systems, they heal, the immune system and their bodies overall, come back into balance again.
Genetics as Part of The Head Game of Healing
For many years we thought that genetics determine most of our health. We tend to link our genetics with our destiny. That’s why they did the whole human genome project to identify all the genes in a human and what they found is that our health is not mostly determined by our genes. Our health is mostly determined by what I refer to as our stress exposure – which is our environmental exposure, whether that’s emotional stress, physical stress, injuries, infections, or toxin exposure.
All of those exposures, and even our parents stress exposure and our grandparents stress exposure, affect us and what’s going to happen with our health. Studies show that less than 10% of health issues are genetically determined. We are all unique, there’s certain things as humans that we have in common, but we’re very unique in how our bodies use nutrients or how much we need of certain nutrients.
If you have a genetic tendency or you have a genetic variation, it does not mean that you have that issue. The only way we can know if that gene or gene variation is actually causing a health issue for you is to test your body and analyze if this gene is affecting you at this moment in time. Also, those genetic variations can turn on and off.
So, if we see a genetic variation, let’s say MTHFR, we need to do blood work for homocysteine and look at B vitamin metabolism. If your homocysteine is healthy then you don’t have to worry, you can just keep preventing this gene variation from turning on and keep taking good care of your health.
So, we need to evaluate if a gene is affecting your health today, and if so, then we can take steps to address it, we can look at ways to turn a gene back off. Often times it’s stress exposure that turns a gene on, so we need to work on your stress and trauma exposure to get your body back in balance. It comes back to understanding how stress has caused imbalances and then address those imbalances in order to get you back to balance.
We need to give your body safety signals. Our bodies are constantly noticing stress signals all the time from changes in the environment, temperature, light, sound, toxins, etc. We are constantly exposed to plenty of stress signals (that affect our immune system, our nervous system, our digestive system, our hormones), but what we lack is the anti-stress signals.
We need to learn to balance our stress and anti-stress signals, so our body is in harmony again. Anti-stress signals could even be taking a deep breath or spending time in nature or with your pet. There are so many anti-stress signals we can choose from to counterbalance the stress and we need to integrate those in our daily routine.
Being Strategic About The Head Game of Healing
To me the thing about the healing head game is we have to be strategic, we have to think about it from a big picture view and we have to think about it from what can we do in this moment that’s going to have the most positive ripple effect going forward. What are the things we can do that have the most healing potential on multiple levels because we are an interconnected system.
There are two core areas that we need to address that create such a positive ripple effect in the healing process. First, we have to address the leaky gut. We have to address your body’s ability to digest food and absorb nutrients by avoiding inflammatory foods and healing your intestinal lining. If we don’t address leaky gut, your body will have more inflammation and more toxicity coming from your gut, which only adds more stress.
The second core area to address is the adrenal glands. We need to heal our adrenals (your body’s main protection from stress by generating cortisol and adrenaline). If we’re under constant stress, our system is going to break down. For some people they end up with cortisol being too high at certain times of the day, and for others it could be that cortisol is too low at certain times of the day.
At optimal levels our cortisol will be high in the morning to wake us up and gradually decrease through the day. We also need adrenaline (made by the adrenal glands) in optimal amounts; it gives us energy and focus, but we don’t want too much or too little. So, we need to optimize your cortisol and adrenaline levels throughout the day to optimize your health and prevent future issues.
For this we need to measure your cortisol in the morning, midday and evening running a cortisol panel to know what your cortisol curve is up to. You can do this at home with a test kit that you can find here. Then we can use herbs and nutrients to address the imbalances.
We also need to reset our daily schedules so that we are not under constant stress. It’s not just about relying on a nutrient. It’s about how do we reset ourselves and our relationship with ourselves so that we can help our bodies to stay in a balanced state every day. This way we will not need to keep on taking these supplements and herbs forever. We recover back to balance and only need maintenance going forward.
This is why my stress recovery protocol has three phases: One is get out of stress mode first. Get the stress signaling to calm down enough so we can actually heal. Phase two is focusing on rebalancing everything and do the real recovery. And phase three is maintenance and resilience – becoming resilient under stress.
We also need to learn how to protect ourselves on a physical, mental and emotional level and even energetic and spiritual level. How do we protect ourselves from various stress exposures?
Well, this is part of the healing process. I really see that this is happening more and more. As humans we’re learning how to choose for ourselves to have compassion for ourselves and have compassion for our human bodies.
We can feel gratitude for our human bodies and how much they’re working to help us survive. There might be a stress or trauma from way earlier in our lives, maybe a grief, maybe a sudden loss, maybe something that happened to us like abuse in a relationship or sexual abuse or something where your system got stuck into a state of stress and shock and you didn’t get to process it.
When we are finally able to be present with ourselves, we start to realize when this started and when a certain health issue started. We need to have compassion for ourselves and our bodies, forgive ourselves for what happened and learn how to protect ourselves.
This is not something we learn in school or from our parents usually, but it’s something we can teach ourselves and practice. I really think that the human experience is learning day by day how to have more compassion for ourselves so that we become the ones who can take the best care of ourselves and achieve our best health.
If you want to learn more about my approach on how you can start taking better care of yourself and apply my SelfC.A.R.E. protocol so that you can get back to feeling your best, you may want to start by reading my book Master Your Stress Reset Your Health.
In my book, I also share the quiz I developed to help you identify how stress has affected you specifically by knowing your Stress Type. You can also take this Stress Type Quiz online.
TAKE THE FREE STRESS QUIZ TO FIND OUT YOUR STRESS TYPE:
Because I feel so strongly that I want people anywhere in the world to be able to access my protocols, I developed online video courses or programs you can start anytime.
- Heal Leaky Gut Program – teaching you to heal leaky gut with my proven protocol
- Stress Warrior™ – If you’re ready to fully heal your adrenal glands and rebalance your neurotransmitters, you can sign up for my Stress Warrior Program here.
If you’d like me to help you one-on-one by phone or video, to review your symptoms, and what your body is trying to tell you, and to have my guidance to implement my protocol, you can schedule a comprehensive or priority consultation with me. I think of myself as a health detective, reviewing complex cases to identify what has been missed, and then helping you create a strategic plan for healing. You can set up a one-on-one appointment with me here.
This doesn’t have to be a mystery, and this doesn’t have to take forever, it just needs to be individualized to you.
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More Resources from Dr. Doni:
- Start with Dr. Doni’s Stress Quiz:
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