In my holistic health and Functional Medicine practice over the past 20 years, I’ve witnessed and helped hundreds of people heal, overcome, and triumph over their health issues. But I’ve also seen many people not get better and continue to struggle. Certainly not every ailment in the human experience is curable, and it’d be preposterous to say that disease is anyone’s moral failing. But I do emphatically believe that a tremendous amount of humankind’s discomfort, pain, and suffering can be mitigated by consistent, positive action based on accurate knowledge. You might not get to 100% cured, but you could very well achieve an 80% reduction in symptoms, and that would positively, unequivocally transform the quality and enjoyment of your life.
Healing is a spectrum, not a set point. I have many patients who won’t ever be 100% cured of their autoimmune disease or scoliosis, but of those patients, a good 80% are living truly wonderful, vibrant lives. The other 20% are just getting by or getting worse. Why the difference? I’ll give you 12 answers in just a moment. But before I do, I want to emphasize another immutable truth: Healing is a commitment, not a casual relationship. It’s no one-night-stand with our bodies. We have our bodies for a lifetime. We are married to our bodies, ’til death do we part.
What is your relationship to your body?
Are you intimately acquainted with your bodily systems and how they function best?
Are you kind and nurturing to your body, or negligent and perhaps abusive?
Do you have good boundaries with what you expose your body to?
Are you committed to your body’s needs for a lifetime?
If you haven’t experienced any improvements in your health, or if you’ve plateaued in your healing journey, consider the following 12 Reasons Why You’re Not Getting Better, and how to change that. We all have negative issues and habits, but we can learn to negate those negatives in order to experience a net positive outcome in our lives.
12. NOT TAKING YOUR DIETARY RESTRICTIONS SERIOUSLY ENOUGH
There are hundreds of scientific studies showing how sugar, refined carbohydrates, wheat, gluten, dairy, and other dietary proteins create a multitude of health problems. These foods can be highly reactive and trigger inflammation, GI disorders, immune reactions, and pain. As you continue to consume foods that fire off these reactions, you become more and more sensitive to other foods that weren’t problematic before. This is called loss of oral tolerance. Your immune system loses tolerance, becoming more and more sensitive and reactive to foods. And if you don’t take the science of the inner working of your body seriously enough to make lasting changes in your diet, you won’t heal.
11. NOT ENOUGH DIVERSITY IN YOUR DIET
Variety in your diet leads to increased gut biodiversity. Gut biodiversity is just a fancy way of saying “lots of different good bacteria in your colon.” Gut biodiversity is integral to health and healing, especially with reducing inflammation and regulating our immune system. The more and varied the microbial species in your gut, the better your health. How to achieve this? Eat a variety of brightly-pigmented fruits and vegetables. They’re teeming with thousands of nutrients and fibers that nourish your beneficial gut bacteria. Well-nourished bacteria produce post-biotics – compounds like vitamins and short chain fatty acids that are critical for our health.
Recommended Functional Medicine Tests:
10. TOXIC EXPOSURES
If you don’t think the world we live in is toxic, you are grossly misinformed and mistaken. You need to take the red pill and see the matrix of this world as it really is: filled with chemicals found in and on virtually every aspect of our daily lives:
- BPA toxins seeping into your water from water bottles
- Pesticides, herbicides, and weed-killing poisons sprayed on all non-organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains
- Flame retardants coating all our couches, chairs, and beds
- Lead, benzene, dioxin, and ultrafine particulate matter in the air we breathe that are known to cause cancer and other diseases
- Hormone disruptors and carcinogens in our bath and body products
Awareness of toxins should alarm you. But don’t worry or fret. Just start protecting yourself and your family. Eat foods that naturally detoxify you, like broccoli, cilantro, garlic, onions, and ginger. Take supplements that powerfully support your detoxification pathways (listed below). Don’t microwave your foods in plastic. Stop drinking water from plastic water bottles. Always choose organic to avoid the chemicals that are sprayed on veggies, fruits, nuts, and grains. Choose natural, toxin-free bath and beauty products. Step by step, choice by choice, you can reduce your toxic load and optimize your body’s detoxification abilities while living in this inescapably toxic (yet still so beautiful) world.
Recommended Nutritional Supplements to Support Detoxification:
Recommended Functional Medicine Tests:
- Heavy Metals Hair Analysis
- MycoTox profile (If you suspect mold exposure from water-damaged buildings
- Organix Metabolic Test
9. UNHEALTHY / STRESSFUL RELATIONSHIPS
Our relationships profoundly impact our health. If we are in difficult or toxic relationships, if we are around negative people or haters, our healing may be hindered or altogether blocked. Unhealthy relationships trigger our bodies to go into a chronic stress response, breaking down our cardiovascular, digestive, reproductive, and immune systems, damaging our tissues, and causing our bodies to release tons of inflammatory chemicals. As much as is possible, remove yourself from the company of pessimistic, cynical people. If you really want to get better, make every effort to surround yourself with optimistic, supportive people who genuinely want the best for you.
Recommended Functional Medicine Test:
- DUTCH Test – This is arguably the best test on the market to check your stress and sex hormones
Recommended Nutritional Supplements to Calm Your Stress Response and Reduce the Negative Effects of Stress:
8. BLOOD SUGAR IMBALANCE
This is an issue that many people overlook, including doctors. You don’t have to be diabetic to have blood sugar imbalances that impede your healing. If you eat an imbalanced meal that’s carb-heavy and low in fiber (like pasta, pizza, a sandwich, cereal, oatmeal, etc) your blood sugar will spike. This will cause insulin to spike as your body attempts to regulate the sudden influx of sugar in your blood. This insulin spike triggers fat storage and inflammation, as well as another hormone reaction: a cortisol spike. Cortisol is our stress hormone. It shoots up in response to the sudden drop in sugar caused by that insulin surge. High levels of cortisol degrade our gut lining, weaken our immune system, disrupt our sleep cycle, and keep us anxious and inflamed.
You want to balance your blood sugar by eating meals high in natural fiber to blunt sugar spikes (fiber only comes from plants, so a high-fiber meal is a high-vegetable meal). Clean proteins and good fats also steady the sugar release, keeping your blood sugar balanced.
Recommended Nutritional Supplement to Balance Your Blood Sugar:
7. YOU TRY TO FIX ALL YOUR PROBLEMS WITH PILLS
Medications are meant to temporarily quell a symptom or intervene with a bodily function (like acid blockers for poor digestion or birth control pills to alter reproductive function). But what medications do not do is heal the root cause of your illness. They are the proverbial band-aid to your wound. If you’re reading this, you might not be on many medications, but you may very well be taking supplements. I am a strong advocate of supplements; they fill in the gaps of our dietary nutritional deficiencies and help optimize our biological functions when we’ve taken a hit from stress, infection, toxicity, or inflammation. But your health issues were probably not caused by a supplement deficiency, just like your anxiety was not “caused” by a deficiency of Xanax and therefore you need to take more Xanax. Rather, your health problems were likely caused by a combination of diet and lifestyle habits, hidden infections, stress, toxins, traumas, injuries, and weak muscles. So get all the help that good-quality supplements provide. But more importantly, optimize and correct those core lifestyle and dietary issues that are negatively impacting your biology.
Recommended Functional Medicine Tests:
- GI-MAP Test– gut microbial stool test that reveals hidden infections, digestive problems, and gut microbial activity that may be at the root cause of your issues
- SIBO Test – breath test to determine if you have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, which is a common root cause of GI pain and dysfunction
- IgG Food Sensitivity Test + Candida – simple bloodspot test that measures your reactivity to 190 foods plus candida and yeasts, that may be at the root cause of your issues
- DUTCH Test – determines hormone imbalances that may be at the root cause of your issues
- Organix Test – determines alterations in your metabolism, cellular energy production, detoxification, brain chemistry, and bacterial activity that may be at the root cause of your issues
- MycoTOX Profile – advanced technology, highly accurate test to measure mycotoxins resulting from exposure to mold (usually from water-damaged homes or offices).
6. NOT ENOUGH SLEEP
When do our brains and bodies heal the most? During sleep. Our brains detoxify when we are asleep, removing damaged cells and harmful proteins through a drainage process called the “glymphatic system.” Lack of quality sleep can lead to a build-up of beta-amyloid, a toxic protein that forms harmful plaques in our brains and is found in people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep also replenishes our neurotransmitters, the chemicals that influence our mood, energy, and focus, such as serotonin and dopamine. The scientific literature is teeming with studies on sleep and its impact on health and healing. So guard your sleep. Make it a sacred time and sacred space where your mind, body, and spirit can rest and be restored.
Recommended Nutritional Supplements to Help you Sleep Better:
5. CIRCADIAN RHYTHM IS OFF
Your circadian rhythm is your sleep-wake cycle. It’s a built-in 24-hour clock that your body naturally, intrinsically runs on. Our biology is designed in such a way that we wake up when the sun rises (light waves from morning sunlight hit our eyes and send signals to our brain to stop producing melatonin and to increase cortisol, helping us to feel awake and alert) and we prepare to sleep when the sun goes down (darkness stimulates melatonin production, which signals us to fall asleep).
In our very busy, always-plugged-in, 21st century lives, altered circadian rhythms are unfortunately quite the norm. The primary reasons are:
- Not enough natural sunlight, especially first thing in the morning (which sets our circadian rhythm for the day)
- Too much artificial light (from indoor LED or fluorescent lights in your home and office)
- Too much blue light (from screens – cell phones, laptops, plasma TVs)
- Going to bed too late (way past and out of sync with sundown)
- Waking up too late (way past and out of sync with sunrise)
Solutions: wake up with the sun, wear blue-light blocking glasses when you’re indoors and especially when you’re at a screen, get outdoor activity in the sun whenever you can, go to bed by 10:30pm the latest, and shut off your screens as often as possible.
Recommended Functional Medicine Tests:
- DUTCH Test: Measures cortisol rhythm and melatonin levels, both of which give insight into your circadian rhythm.
4. NOT ENOUGH MOVEMENT AND EXERCISE
I once had a client who went to great lengths to create amazingly delicious and nutritious dishes. She’d spend hours each day grocery shopping, meal prepping, and cooking. But when I would talk to her about exercising, she would shut down completely, dismissing the entire issue with a quick “No! That’s too much work!”
It’s the truth – exercise is work! It requires effort and muscle and sweat. Which is exactly why it’s so critical. It’s the necessary work that keeps our bodies strong and resilient. Without regular exercise and movement, your muscles will get tight and weak. You’ll lose muscle balance, causing your skeletal structure to shift and your nerves to get pinched. You’ll also lose resiliency and adaptation – a commonplace movement could easily topple you over and have you reaching for pain meds, because your body was just too weak and stiff to move through simple positions and angles.
I don’t know about you, but I never want to feel caged in or limited by my own body. As much as is in my control for as long as I possibly can, I want to be able to hike mountains with my children, lift heavy weights in my home gym, grip and lift heavy pots in the kitchen, and hang strong through a 60-minute yoga class. Exercise and movement are an essential part of life and great health. There’s no way around it.
3. NOT ENOUGH JOY AND PURPOSE IN LIFE
When we have joy and purpose in life, when we are engaged in meaningful and fulfilling activities, our dopamine and opioid levels increase. Opioid activation is strongly linked to good health and accelerated healing.
I’ve seen so many people – particularly working mothers – who lose all sense of joy and fun in their lives because they are so busy being responsible and checking off tasks. And as their joy and fulfillment in life dwindle, so does their health.
Being around negative people (pessimists, haters, naysayers) will also block your dopamine and opioid activation, as will perpetual engagement in social media and the digital machine at large. I personally have 100% detached from social media as of Jan 2021, and my mind and life are all the better for it. Perhaps I’ll plug back in here and there in the future, but going cold turkey on social media has been refreshingly freeing and I’m enjoying just being in “real life.”
Joy and purpose are legitimate, big-picture life issues. They are absolutely relevant to your health and healing, and deserve thoughtful consideration that will hopefully lead you to making some wonderfully transformative changes in your life soon.
2. NOT ENOUGH REST, RECOVERY, AND REJUVENATION
This is a big one. Most of us are chronically busy – working, doing, planning, multi-tasking, that even when we come upon a moment of free time, we don’t know how to rest and recover, let alone allow ourselves some rejuvenation. One of the primary pieces of advice I give to my patients is to schedule REGULAR blocks of quiet, alone time throughout the week. You can read, do yoga, just sit in the backyard under the sun, go for a hike… just do it alone, and do it in silence. This is pure healing. Our trouble is that we “do rest” reactively. When we’re about to break down or we’re at our wit’s end, THEN we break away as a matter of emergency, to get some quiet time lest we explode. This never works. Or we plan a spa getaway on our birthday – and while it’s a wonderfully restful day, it’s not enough to sustain us. We need to REGULARLY REST. I can’t emphasize this enough. Schedule it like an appointment, put it in your calendar, honor the date and time the way you would a work meeting or a doctor’s visit. You are that special and important to be prioritized in this way. And when you are regularly rested and rejuvenated, you will be a healthier, happier woman/man, mother/father, spouse/partner, friend, business owner, employee, boss, manager, etc. Your self care enables you to care for others and to do your job so much better.
1. YOU’RE TOO PASSIVE
This is the #1 reason why you and so many others aren’t getting better. You might just be too passive. What do I mean by “too passive?”
You’re not giving up gluten when you’ve read 20 articles that you should.
You’re not eliminating dairy even though your stomach hurts and your allergies act up every time you eat cheese.
You’re stressed. Irritable, overwhelmed, and stressed. But you’re super inconsistent with meditating. Your prayer life is haphazard at best. And you’re stuck in this mouse-wheel, rat-race of busy-ness that you complain about but you aren’t doing anything to really change it.
You’re not getting better with any of the meds your doctors gave you so you just repeatedly bemoan the fact that the doctors and their meds aren’t helping, without any change in your game plan.
You know your weight is a core issue but you keep saying you’re too busy and tired to exercise. Meanwhile, your friends and neighbors who are twice as busy as you still manage to go for their morning runs and afternoon hikes.
You’ve been reading about Functional Medicine and believe it’s the right healthcare approach to finding out and correcting the root causes of your hormone imbalance and GI problems, but you’re reluctant to spend the money. Meanwhile, you’re planning a vacation and budgeting to remodel your kitchen…
Nowadays, we have an excess of information, but a deficit of real action. Knowledge without execution might make you great at family trivia night, but it does nothing for your health.
We each have this one body. This one life. And it goes by so quickly. Our children grow up and move out. We work 20, 30, 40 years until retirement. And how are we enjoying our lives throughout all its seasons? Is our health allowing us to live our lives fully? Or does our health set us back?
Be proactive, not passive. And let me be an instrument of healing on your journey. I absolutely love and excel in what I do, and I know you’re ready for real changes. Set up your Functional Medicine Consultation* with me and let’s negate your negatives so you experience positive outcomes that are real and lasting. I’ll see you soon 🙂
*Please refer to my services for updated fees, effective March 22, 2021.