“It is the individual that has the disease, not the disease that has the individual, which is most important.” Hippocrates
One of the oldest health quotes by the father of modern medicine himself, describing just how important it is to know all of the individual differences, sensitivities, predispositions and factors that go into the individuals health, as opposed to just giving your symptoms a name and focusing solely on that name.
When you want real healing that doesn’t leave you stuck on the medication merry-go-round, then you want to do everything you can to heal your organs, support your bodies systems, address the underlying causes and heal who you are, not just what you have. You are a fully integrated bio-psycho-social being and so is both your health and disease.
In this article, I will be outlining the process by which I go through with clients to develop a strong understanding, make connections, properly educate around illness and create guides for moving from dysfunction and pain, back into function and health.
Why did I create the system this way?
I have spent years methodically creating and refining this system to:
Give me the information I need to understand root causes from a holistic and functional perspective
Educate you so that you are empowered with your body and the dozens of tools you can use to heal it
Create programs that reduce stress while healing, addressing root causes and managing symptoms
But there are so many needs that I see not properly addressed like:
Avoiding leaving stones unturned with proper full form intakes(This is why the initial consultation takes 2 hours)
Properly staging programs to not overwhelm and heal the body in the order it became ill
Addressing holistically so that not only is the main complaint like pain addressed but that you can heal the body so that accompanying symptoms like anxieties, depressions, fatigues, cravings, PMS brain fog etc. are addressed because you live in a healthier vehicle
Making sure long term health is created and you fix the programs which created the problems and diseases, not just the results of those programs
Avoid the use of substances that cause compounding and escalation of problems like exchanging the health of one system for another(often found in nutrient depleting medications) or forcing the body into states that it then has to bounce back from causing rebounds
The life long medication merry-go-round and using band aid therapies which prevent you from being able to listen to your body
In the end we have a few goals we want to achieve over, weeks, months and years.
Some of these are slow builds and cannot all be done in the initial intake because we are all individuals and we will need customized tools as we come up against problems, this is where effective health coaching is crucial.
1. We have to understand all of our pertinent lifestyle factors and believe me, there are A LOT of them and they are almost NEVER addressed appropriately. Usually the individual is left on their own to educate themselves and this prolongs the process and increases anxieties because of the wealth of information online.
2. Comprehensive mind/body program design that doesn’t leave you without the tools you can use to get rid of stressors on your mental, emotional, physical, dietary, chemical, electromagnetic and environmental areas of life.
3. Create a base of tools which we can use to understand our own health, what is going on in our bodies, how to cope with situations we will inevitably be placed in and how we can measure our health improvements.
4. Find the right health practitioners that can do much more than our standard referrals to build a team.
“It takes a village to raise a child, it takes a team to heal an individual.”
Their dream team, to be exact.
I cover this in the 10 steps program in more depth but essentially your dream team is the support network you need around you, including friends, family, caretakers, healthcare providers, partners etc. All of these individuals that you need to feel supported enough to lower your stress hormone levels so that you can properly heal. Without support systems,you can struggle for years without improving because you’re constantly sent into activating your coping mechanisms and not your healing ones.
5. Do you understand why?
One of the mandatory requirements to understand how to heal is understanding WHY. It may not always be a smoking gun answer like an extremely stressful point in life, mold exposure, a gut infection or development of autoimmunity… But it is always for a reason.
The body has very specific reasons and ways in which it breaks down. If your stress system has been taxed for years, you will need to be tested and corrected in this system to take a load off your trigger levels. If you have had a food or gluten sensitivity for 5-10-20 years then you will need to have your GI tested and specifically corrected to heal your leaky gut and microbiome. If your family has had no notions around toxic environments(both mental and physical) then you will need to be tested for toxicity and have your biotransformation pathways supported and cleared. Or, you will have to have your emotional environment reset. There are WHYs to everyone’s illness and without understanding them, assessing and testing them and then having them properly and completely corrected and supported, you won’t get far in your healing journey. Education is #1
6. One of the fastest growing and beneficial reasons for using this system is having your questions answered. From a functional and holistic perspective in a way that incorporates your individual body and its needs, with a integrated multi-modality perspective combined with the latest research on tools and techniques. Staying up to date with research(the latest not the research from 30-40 years ago) is one of the factors that makes this approach very different from the conventional one.
But what does it take?
Willingness drives progress
We always consider the 5 program design factors(time, energy, willingness, finances and equipment available) to make sure that each individual program is streamlined, getting the pieces we need functioning in place while avoid added stress which is common in programs that overload on “to-dos” or create more stress with excessive financial strain.
Your willingness will determine the outcome of what we do together. The protocols and systems I use work but if I cannot have your trust(this will be built) and there is not a strong enough desire to do what you have to do to heal, then the programs will take much longer or not be effective enough to get over the humps of each individual layer we go through.
Your willingness must be higher than a 7 or your ability to change will not be strong enough to see the results you need.
If your willingness is at least an 8, we can get started and start plugging along.
What is to be expected on both sides?
Everyone is different. Everyone’s brain is different and the issues that are causing compromise all vary. The main system which is suffering varies from person to person, with similar ones for similar conditions. But based on your life, symptoms and possible strategies we can and cannot use, you will have a vastly different approach from everyone else.
The expectation is that you care for yourself and you are willing to put in the work, cook the foods, manage the stressors, shut off when you should and listen to your body when it says what it wants and needs.
As much as I wish I could be there for everyone 24/7, I simply cannot. You are the only one that will be there for you every moment of the day and developing trust and reliability in this relationship with you and your body is THE MOST important aspect of healing.
What I can do is teach you what your body is saying and what healing should look like, guide you to the right resources, tools, techniques and strategies to be properly supported and keep you on track with the right protocols for whatever stage we are currently in.
Some people are very wary of supplementation and so we need to work up trust and dosage. Some have maintaining factors that need to be addressed at the same time like bad relationships, recent deaths in the family, household mold, poor work environments etc. And these will increase time needed to heal.
Because of this, time frames all differ.
For a healthy person who is non toxic, has resilient immunity, eats exercises and sleeps well and has just recently started on a pain cycle they may see relief in a few weeks to a month or 2.
Generally, most people will be in the 6-12 month category…
And some people with years of multiple chronic compounding diseases, maintaining factors and required progressions will take years to get a handle on.
But this is broad and general and as we know, generalizations are wrong.
There are also people with years of chronic issues who can take a few weeks and go into miraculous “remission” for months and years.
It all depends on the individual and as such, the individual will determine everything. If we can get you super motivated we can make big changes and big gains.
Now lets get into the assessment.
If you’re not assessing you’re guessing
A good assessment always begins with the right forms to understand what is happening well before I see you.
I develop a preliminary program based on these forms that is then added to or subtracted from during our consult call as well so that we know what we need to address towards the end of the call when we get down to actionable items we can begin implementing right away.
Our Migraine, Exercise, Sleep, Stress and Diet Log
One of the first areas and most important that health practitioners will often miss is a proper log.
We can get SO many easy wins with just taking a look at a log, checking over for the dietary and lifestyle factors that are so commonly adding to our trigger levels.
Remember that something does not have to trigger us to be a trigger, it could just be adding to our trigger levels. Some days it may trigger us and other days not because of where our trigger levels are resting and this is why we want to develop individualized lifestyle programs. See our video on threshold here for more.
This is also one of the most important places for us to connect the dots. The other forms will show us specific body systems or issues that need help but it’s important to remember that we function on circadian rhythms.
We all function on a 24 hr clock, with a monthly cycle, men and women alike. Increasing and decreasing areas of functioning happen throughout these cycles and if we are in tune with them, we are much more able to deal with stress. The more we fight them, the more we raise our trigger levels.
The Physiological Stress Load Assessment
By far one of my favourite and most useful tools for understanding what body systems are being affected, where to begin and where to look for underlying causes.
This form is incredible because it tells us how all of the different symptoms we are experiencing in our day to day, with their frequency and intensity are caused by our body systems.
Remember, the body is trying to communicate with us that there is something wrong by using symptoms. If we did not have any symptoms, we would go from fine to dead.
It is this process of creating symptoms like anxieties, depressions, aches and pains that brings us into introspection to deal with what is going on inside. See our video on the benefits of migraines and headaches here.
As our bodies systems begin to dysfunction, as our underlying cause stresses whatever body system or systems is closest to that cause we will start to see a spreading of problems.
The connection between all of our bodies systems like endocrine, digestive, metabolic, nervous etc is a web.
When you pull on any one part of the web, the others are all pulled as well…
The more the primary systems are affected by the underlying cause, the more accessory systems will begin showing symptoms as well. For example, if your brain neurotransmitters go out of whack, your gut function can also start to suffer because the same neurotransmitters that regulate the brain, regulate the gut.
We can support or palliate an accessory system and it may help lift the primary system temporarily but it will generally not fix the issue and so we will waste, money, time and energy. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to focus on the root cause or underlying cause as much as possible.
Here is an example of the physiological stress load assessment.
How are your doctors doing?
Within you there are forces that are constantly trying to repair, recover, rejuvenate, cleanse, clear, detoxify, eliminate, absorb, utilize and break down the right and wrong tissues.
These are DIRECTLY affected by everything you do, say, think and feel in your day to day life.
These also directly affect how healthy you are, how well your body and brain heal and cope with stress, how much wiggle room you have to enjoy life and even how well you respond to medications.
There is so much power we hold in how well we function just within the small things around us every day.
On the other side of the coin, we also have so much power in the break down, progression and worsening of our health.
We live in biopsychosocial bodies and are completely interconnected.
How are your relationships, especially the ones with your partners, friends, parents and children?
How well do you think and feel?
Have you had a holistic nutritionist assess your diet?
How well do you move and do you use movement to heal?
How well do you sleep and have you optimized your sleep to repair your brain?
How happy are you?
Do you practise a form of stress management or mindfulness daily and do you have a method for releasing all of the tension from your body at least once per day?
These are all important areas to dive into, question and understand more deeply so that we know exactly what is raising your trigger levels, what is maintaining your illness at the level it currently is, what caused breakdown in the body, where might your underlying cause/causes be and what do we need to do to get back to feeling good and vital.
In the form we dive into specifics we can act on.
If you are interested in learning more about wiggle room make sure to see our 80 minute hormones and headaches webinar here.
Affected Brain Regions Form
This is simple and straight forward, used for those with suspected immune activation in the brain that can change our protocols.
What part of the brain is being affected by this process of break down and dysfunction in the body.
We all have weak areas, areas that are compromised or injured and these cause almost immediate changes in how we function.
The problem is that it may be subclinical on an MRI and not found, but either way, we want function and understanding how the different regions in your brain are affected is the most functional.
Every individual area in the brain is responsible for something generally but our brain is plastic and we can have crossing over as well.
For example, individuals who use their right side more than their left side will have a stronger left side of the brain, so if we are working on improving brain function or just assessing it, we would want to do more work with the left side of the body to strengthen the right side of the brain.
This is one of the main reasons exercise and mindfulness is so crucial, it makes our brains grow, develop and strengthen.
“Neurons that fire together, wire together.”
If we want to get out of chronic pain cycles, we have to rewire for a different experience.
You can see a great general diagram here.
These forms are used specifically to determine issues like dental root causes, to understand pain in specific areas of the body and head, to take a look at the body from a Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM) perspective and to understand dietary breakdown and metabolism.
Remember that when we want to address the root or underlying cause/causes we have to make sure that we leave no stones unturned and that we are addressing factors that are raising trigger levels and maintaining things like hormonal dysfunction, burnout, blood sugar imbalance, cachexia, infection etc.
Now lets get into the call.
Everyone’s call will go a different way depending on what’s going on but there are roughly 5 areas we want to go through and understand.
I want to:
Understand what started this, how it progressed, all of the factors around it and help you understand why it happened as well as HOW it happened. I need to know YOU, because you are different from everyone else and it is your individual sensitivities, predispositions, circumstances and goals that will determine what we do first and how we progress. Who is the person behind the symptoms, what do they need to feel supported and take the stress off of their shoulders?
Next is connecting the dots, ruling out extraneous circumstances that can contribute and are rarely properly screened for as well as educating. The body is interconnected, but you need to know how to know what to do. I use a series of visual aides, diagrams, charts and explanations that I have found applicable to most of the people that come to me for guidance. Education is the #1 most important part of this process of healing because we HAVE to be on the same team working towards the same big and little goals. Knowledge and wisdom is what brings us together.
Then we go through any questions I have left from the assessment I do on your forms and we go into what I found we have to do based on everything going on. This is complex and very comprehensive and depending on the individual includes: dietary, nutritional, supplemental, exercise, sleep management, stress management, lab testing, concurrent practitioners and resources for tools in areas that are beyond the consultation.
Then we break the program down into actionable steps. What can we do immediately? What do we need to do over the next few weeks, what stage are we in and how will we progress over the next few months. Step by step, the clearer we are the simpler we can make healing.
The last and final step is covering any functional lab tests needed to assess stress hormones(the right way), mitochondria, bio-transformation pathways, GI health, brain neurotransmitters, month long menstrual hormones and nutritional deficiencies.
After the call, you receive your Health Plan.
Creating a path forward
The Health Plan is the summation of what we talked about and need to cover. It is the step-by-step of what we need to do and how to do it. It comes with guides and instructions for things like lab testing, diet, exercise etc.
We get very complex in our call but at the end of the day just need to take small and simple steps consistently, continually build and we can watch our bodies do amazing things.
The Health Plan is step by step and takes away all the stress of not knowing what to do or how to do it. It gives us a means by which we can focus all of that energy that wants us to fix us in a way that is extremely productive and not detrimental like anxiety can become.
For many clients who need successive functional lab testing, this is just the first part of their program. After the initial consult we know what to run and have the laboratories send test kits to them internationally.
The tests are usually, salivary, urinary or stool sample kits and this gives us an enormous amount of information on the systems tested and what specific protocols are used.
There is a lead time of about a month or so between having the tests sent and receiving the results back so in this time we are working on everything in the Health Plan and developing our foundations.
When the results are back, I create a lab based program for you which can be 3, 6 or even 12 months long depending on the problem, program and solution with whatever the labs found.
Then we follow up and cover it.
Follow up and outlook
The protocols used are very specific to functional medicine, time tested and based on the labs.
It’s very convenient having an outlook 6 or 12 months down the line on your program so that you are properly staged and know what to expect.
In this follow up, we go through the changes we have made and the progress that has resulted from the initial Health Plan. We get rid of what’s not working, give you tools to make things work better, tweak and fine tune as we know more with testing and move into the test based protocols.
Education is key to understanding the tests, what they reveal about the body and its dysfunction and how this is all affecting how you feel.
Then we finish up by planning out the next few months and you are sent a follow up Health Plan after the call.
After this initial phase we enter into the action phase and work through the Health Plan. For small questions I try and make myself available to answer over email and reserve follow ups for those who need them most. As you go through the program it can be 1-3 months before we follow up again depending on your staging, circumstances and progress. Room is made for those who need more support.
Healing, just like becoming sick is not linear and we want to set ourselves up as well as we can to continue the upwards trend and maintain it. There is a large amount of time spent understanding flares and how flares come about so that we can both, prevent them and reduce the anxiety and fear around them.
Because we are one, integrated, bio-psycho-social system, we need to address both health and disease as such.
There is so much we can do that is not covered by the conventional approach and we do not receive the proper referrals to be addressing all of the stressors that are raising our trigger levels. This is why taking a functional and holistic approach to understanding your body and brain is the best way to heal and get the care we deserve.
I’d like to invite you to jump on a free 20 minute call with me so that I can understand more about what is going on, help you make connections and understand more about how you’d benefit from us working together.
To jump on a free call, click here.
Holistic Health Practitioner
Mark Canadic is a writer, speaker, holistic health practitioner and migraine community leader. Read Mark’s inspiring comeback story, “My Burnout and Brain Fires that Lead me to the Root.” Feel free to send Mark a message here.