There is an extraordinary two-way communication going on between your body and mind that affects both physical and emotional health. The language the body speaks is in the form of symptoms. For instance, anticipating an important interview at work can make you anxious: your mind starts racing, your heart beats faster or maybe you get a tension headache. Sure, that headache might just be a headache, related to stress. But what if it’s something more?
Having no clear understanding of your symptoms can lead to a depressed mood, making the physical illness even worse. It’s important to understand your “body talk.”
Prolonged, persistent symptoms – physical or emotional – that appear suddenly and affect wellbeing are the body’s way of saying something is wrong. Suppressing symptoms hinders the body’s ability to communicate what it needs – and more importantly – hides the underlying cause. Many holistic doctors are uniquely trained to translate the meaning of symptoms and identify what needs to change in order for health and wellbeing to be restored. They can also help you hone the skill of listening when your body talks.
LISTENING WHEN YOUR BODY TALKS
Here are strategies to help make correlations between the language your body is using and what it means for your health.
KEEP A BODY-MIND JOURNAL
Record your physical and emotional (feelings and thoughts) experiences upon waking and throughout the day. Do you feel energetic upon waking? What are you thinking and feeling in the moments when you experience physical pain? Another example is a diet diary in which you can assess possible relationships between symptoms, such as headache or stomach issues, and emotions and thoughts associated with what, when and why you eat.
ILLNESS & LIFESTYLE INVENTORY
If you’re experiencing chronic symptoms, you may need to dig deeper to discover the initial event and triggers that have accumulated over time, resulting in the health problems you’re having today. This inventory can include experiences that put you at risk for exposure to toxins (at work, school, an accident); tragic life events; and significant illnesses from childhood, as well as your adult years. Try to pinpoint when symptoms first started, how long they existed before you sought treatment, and what steps have been taken to address symptoms.
DON’T GO TO DR. GOOGLE
Information on the Web can scare you and easily lead to an incorrect self-diagnosis. Seek the care of a holistic practitioner who can guide you in understanding your body’s talk.
Here are some tools that holistic physicians may use to understand and translate symptoms:
- Food Allergy/ Sensitivity Testing: reveals links between health conditions and the food you are eating. By removing foods from the diet that create symptoms, you allow the body to repair and heal, alleviate symptoms, and restore health.
- Gut Function Tests: helps determine problems with nutrient absorption.
- Nutrient Status Testing: identifies deficiencies that bring about symptoms.
- Physical Evaluation: assesses how your body moves, sleep patterns, and mental focusing, which can reveal factors that contribute to the presence and intensity of symptoms.
Ultimately, your body’s talk is unlike anyone else’s. With careful listening and attentive guidance from a holistic practitioner, you can discover the meaning of your symptoms and create a dialogue with the body and mind that leads to more vibrant health.
CONFUSED ABOUT YOUR SYMPTOMS? KEEP A SYMPTOM JOURNAL
Whether you have a known medical condition or are experiencing vague clusters of symptoms that don’t fit nicely under a given medical definition, a symptom journal can help you make sense of what you are experiencing. It provides an organized way to gather and track information related to your health.
A physician might ask you to keep a symptom journal for a specific concern or illness, such as migraine, asthma, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, arthritis, PMS, heartburn, sleep disorders, weight management, and during recovery from surgery, just to name a few.
The key information to include in your journal includes:
- Date and time
- Type of symptom (pain, numbness, nausea, headache)
- Duration of symptom
- Triggers (what brought it on, made it worse)
- Relief factors (what alleviates the symptom, e.g., medication, meditation, exercise)
- Lifestyle Notes (what else is going on in your life at the time, what did you eat/drink)
Be descriptive, but also concise on the key points in your entries. Your doctor might ask you to use a rating system for certain symptoms (e.g., 0-5 or 1-10). Be sure to do that honestly as your entries may make a difference in treatment approaches. Leave room at the bottom of each page for notes on things such as your emotional state, stressors or other factors that might contribute to how you’re feeling that day.
For a symptom journal to be most helpful to you and your physician, you need to use it consistently. If you think a symptom journal will benefit how you care for yourself and treat a medical condition, speak to your physician about setting one up.
WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR LISTENING WHEN YOUR BODY TALKS? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!
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Bradley, R. S., “Philosophy of Naturopathic Meicine.” As cited in Pizzorno, J. E. and Murray, M. Textbook of Natural Medicine4thed. (2013) Elsevier: St Louis, MO.
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