Are you living with an invisible illness?
I see a lot of patients in clinic who have been let down by standard medical care because they don’t fit neatly into a box for a diagnosis. Patients present with a list of symptoms, sometimes diverse and apparently unlinked, and often their blood work will come back as “normal.” So the doctor tells them they are fine (or worse – that it’s all in their head) and sends them home.
Except they are not fine.
It happened to me. And I’ve witnessed it happen to numerous patients.
Living with an invisible illness can quickly take its toll. People don’t want to be a burden to others and become isolated from friends or family who don’t understand. Being told it’s ‘all in your head’ while symptoms persist can lead to anxiety and spiral quickly down into a deep depression.
I met a new patient recently (let’s call her “June”), who for the last 3 years had been living with debilitating fatigue, chronic diarrhoea, strong reactions to literally anything she ate to the point that she was existing on around 10 different foods only, and was struggling with chronic pain. She saw her GP multiple times and each time was told there was nothing wrong with her. Her GP suggested she try antidepressants. It turns out she had been exposed to mould that her body was unable to clear.
Then there was “Peter” who had been putting up with the following symptoms for the last 9 years: severe muscle aches and pains, chronic fatigue, dry mouth, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, dry eyes and vision issues including a lack of focus, significant gut issues, sweating, nausea, periods of extreme vomiting followed by weight loss of up to 10kg, urinary issues, tinnitus, hives and swelling, headaches, anxiety and depression. Peter was only in his late 20s. Doctors and specialists ran various tests, each only looking at one part of his body such as the heart or bowel, with all deciding there was nothing wrong with him. Needless to say Peter gave up on seeing anyone for help a number of years ago. Upon questioning, Peter had a strong family history of autoimmune disease and his symptoms first started after he began a new job that involved persistent chemical exposure.
Just because you can’t name your condition, does not mean you don’t have dysfunction in your body.
Your GP is trained – very well – to diagnose conditions based on set criteria and to provide treatment usually in the form of medication that is specific for that condition. If there is no diagnosis, there is very little your GP can do for you. I don’t blame GPs. They are doing the best they can. But there is an undeniable gap in patient care – and that is where a well-trained Naturopath can fill the gap.
Naturopaths don’t just look at one part of your body in isolation, we consider your body as a whole in all of its complexity. If you have extreme fatigue, we don’t just consider blood test results for iron and B12 (although they are important). We will also ask you about your entire health history from birth, through childhood, and right up to where you are now, looking for clues to help join the dots. I like to ask people to finish this sentence: “I haven’t been well since…” and will often complete a timeline to identify triggers. It is incredibly eye opening.
When I look at test and pathology results, I’m looking for signs of dysfunction not disease. They are two very different things, and something your GP will not do.
The role of diet, lifestyle and your environment, is equally as important. Genetics can predispose us to illness, BUT it is your epigenetics (what you eat, do, think, feel and surround yourself with) that has the power to switch your genes on or off that can have the greatest impact on your health.
If genetics load the gun, epigenetics pull the trigger.
For June and Peter, they both had a genetic predisposition to develop autoimmune disease, but their chronic exposure to chemicals and toxins combined with dietary and lifestyle factors saw them develop an invisible illness. They new it existed because they lived with it every single day, even though GPs told them there was nothing wrong and it was all in their head. Their first steps towards healing was understanding how their illness developed in the first place, and what needed to be done to get them well again.
My goal is to find the root cause of your dysfunction and work with you to correct it. I do not need a diagnosis or a name to be able to do this.
It would be remiss of me to fail to mention the importance of the gut-immune interface in both of these cases. June and Peter were experiencing systemic inflammation that stemmed from a compromised gut (including pathogenic bacterial overgrowth) and poor liver detoxification, that resulted in their wide and varied symptoms. By getting to the root cause of their invisible illness and correcting this, we were able to dramatically improve their symptoms and overall quality of life.
It is so important to have hope. Things can get better with the right care.
As well as holding a 4 year Health Science degree in Naturopathy, I have completed additional training in Nutrigenomics, Gut Ecology and Metabolic Modulation (GEMM) and Vitae Mosaic complex case management for practitioners.
Yes, I love the complex cases!
So if you have been dismissed by your GP, you feel unheard and you continue to live with your invisible illness, I’d love to work with you.