Every few days a migraine sufferer will come to me and say, “They tested me for everything, blood, CT, MRI etc and it all came back clear.”
It can make it look like there is nothing wrong with you and that you’re absolutely fine.
In some cases like the MRI, you probably are.
But if you are experiencing chronic headaches, dizziness, hormonal problems, fatigue, weight gain or brain fog, you need to step into the world of integrative medicine.
The sad reality is that our medical system is amazing at dealing with injuries and acute care, but absolutely horrendous with chronic disease.
Learn why this is so and how to fix it in this article.
Testing is problematic
The first part that we need to understand is that the testing done through the standard medical avenue is skewed.
Most labs will base their reference ranges(which tell you what is normal, high or low) on the averages of their testing population.
First off, not only is chronic disease in the general population sky high with 133 million americans experiencing at least one chronic condition…
But the lab testing population is an even more skewed population, the majority of them being ill and many severely.
If the range of “normal” is based on a sick population, this gives us a sick normal.
Instead we want to be looking at functional medicine ranges for disease and pre-disease signs so that we can support the individual before they have a problem and address the systems that become dysfunctional when disease starts progressing.
We want to look at optimal and this is where a functional medicine practitioner is the best resource.
They help test the body systems that break down before a serious pathology has developed. They support your body so that it is not so overburdened with systems breaking down that it has to create symptoms and eventually disease.
By understanding that we need to look at optimal reference ranges as opposed to the standard we can come to healthier conclusions about what’s going on.
Pro tip: Many conditions are not thoroughly screened enough such as with thyroid disorders
Often times it will only be Total T4 Total T3 and TSH that will be tested but we need much more than just this. We also need to know our Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, Anti TPO and more! Conditions, their tests and the treatments used have really been whittled down and don’t serve our chronically ill population well enough because of it.
You are not a brain, and a neck, and a liver, and a heart…
There is a big disconnect.
You go to a GP.
He sends you to a neurologist, a rheumatologist and an endocrinologist.
Each of them functions within their specific area of expertise but then it doesn’t circle back.
It often doesn’t circle back.
100% of the time if you are experiencing a chronic disease you should also be sent to a nutritionist, personal trainer and someone to help you deal with all of the things that go on in your head and your heart that aggravate or cool all chronic diseases. This usually doesn’t happen either
But still, you need someone to bring it all together with you. Someone to spend the time to check in on your exercise program, dietary regimen, supplemental protocol depending on what body system is affected and to test you for underlying causes that keep the entire mess rolling…
But it just does not happen…
If you’re lucky you may find a more holistically minded integrative practitioner.
Often that might be a chiropractor, acupuncturist, naturopath or a functional practitioner like myself.
But it’s not as easy as that, they need to spend the time and have an understanding of each of these areas and how they come together to affect each other.
What is the most important system to address first?
The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems balance is definitely up there.
But maybe the gut as well.
It could also be trauma if these issues have really deep roots.
You want to find out what exactly it is for you, remember that the pains we experience are often a symptom of something deeper. I go into detail in this in our how we address headaches video here.
You broke inside(systems) long before you broke outside(symptoms)
There’s actually a step by step process for this in the general chronically ill person because the body cannot simply be forced to do things.
We know that if we force our body to act or react, it usually comes with negative consequences and symptoms/side effects.
It needs to be supported.
the body has spent millions of years developing its systems from being a tiny little bacteria into the massive 10 trillion cell organism that is host to 100 trillion microorganisms.
It knows what it’s doing and it just needs the right support with some gentle stimulation to do it.
It begins with the burnout. As I talked about above, our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems control everything that goes on or does not go on in our bodies.
If we are constantly in our sympathetic or fight or flight nervous system… If we are constantly being stimulated, stressed, go-go-go and overactive, then our body and its systems are too.
They choose to win the fight that is going on right now and sacrifice being able to take steps in the long term war with healing.
This is where it begins.
Whether that being going to sleep too late or waking up too late
Not making sure we are receiving enough daily direct morning sunlight
Not eating in a calm environment
Overdoing workouts and expending more energy and breaking down more muscular tissue than you have the resources to repair
Holding on to inflammatory emotions instead of releasing them and forgiving yourself
Constantly being stimulated and keeping your mind running on a hamster wheel at 100%
Breatheing like you are battling a tiger
Drinking stimulants because of dependencies or low energy
These all add up.
They all shift you over into the sympathetic side of the nervous system. The survival side.
The thing is, if you’re chronically ill, you cannot live in that survival mode.
You have to push yourself and every single little win you can get to switch over.
To become parasympathetic.
To live inside of rest, digest and repair mode.
Your gut-brain bugs
It often begins there. Not always, but often. Sometimes it can begin in the gut.
But the burnout just begins the roll of being chronically non well, it ruins your lifestyle patterns, gives you cravings that make it hard to eat a healthy diet, makes you moody, reactive and emotional…
And it compromises the health of your gut.
We know the massive gut-brain connection through the vagus nerve and know that if it’s destroying your sympathetic/parasympathetic balance, it’s leaving your gut susceptible.
It leaves you wide open for invaders.
Not only does stress and the sympathetic mode leave the mucosa that protect your gut weak, it also shuts off your first and foremost main protection against any pathogens.
This is your first and most important line of defence against pathogens, but it also either sets your digestive system off on the right path…
It dumps a bunch of undigested food into your gut that then becomes a breeding ground for the very organisms we are trying to protect ourselves against.
Parasitic and pathogenic gut infections are not just a third world problem. They are a first world problem as well and can lie under the radar in some cases without any symptoms for years.
Until the stress builds up too much and they get the opportunity to grow.
Or until another undigested batch of food comes through and they can slowly take over more and more of the gut…
Dealing with them is not easy, especially in a chronically compromised individual.
Not only are they tough to get rid of but when you are trying to get rid of them their die off will clog up your bodies ability to function, shooting up inflammation levels and aggravating every symptom you have.
But it is 100% necessary.
The only way you can do it is if you:
Chew well enough and have a strong enough stomach acid, bile and enzymes to break down the food
Eat just the right amount of food for you based on your genetics with a healthy balance of nutrients/calories
Top up your hydration levels and make sure you have the minerals to support gut integrity
Strengthen your vagus nerve through exercises
Make sure your MMC or migrating motor complex which moves food through the bowel works properly by ensuring you have 6 hours between meals at least once a day which is often at night
Have a highly varied vegetable rich diet so that your good bacteria can eat and create short chain fatty acids to help calm your immune system down and feed your brain
And then we have to bring in the clean up crew to undo the problems caused by being so sick and having multiple systems crashed.
Fixing your weak brainstem and mitochondria
This is where we support the bodies and brains ability to reduce how much oxidative and inflammatory damage has been caused.
We take the burden off of our systems of detoxification, we make sure that our nutrient profiles are optimized so that the brain and tissues can repair and clean themselves of any backed up problems.
As our body becomes burnt out and chronically sympathetic and as our GI system breaks down and we can clean ourselves out as well, we begin building up toxic by-products.
These by-products are created in the mitochondria of every cell and the mitochondria of our brain cells are very susceptible to damage from them.
The brain needs a gentle program to continue nudging it along so that it can deal with this burden slowly and steadily.
When the waste gets removed, the brain can then begin to build better and stronger brain cells.
This is where we need our nutrients like:
Fatty acids with a balance of omega 3-6
Smooth and steady supply of carbohydrates and sugars
The full spectrum of minerals like those found in our sea and Himalayan salts
Amino acids from the proteins we eat
Enzymes from eating live and living foods
Vitamins and co-factors from eating rich organic and wild fruits n veggies
This is making it simple and easy to understand on a practical and actionable level and what I do for clients who are experiencing brain pain that they’ve tried everything for but it still will not go away.
The combination of dietary and lifestyle medicine with the right testing and a scrutinizing eye using the right references ranges makes all the difference.
Once you know the problem and dysfunctional system, it’s easy to use powerful supplemental programs that make things move along much more smoothly and quickly.
It all really comes down to being listened to and understood by your healthcare provider.
Being adequately heard, tested and then supported as your body starts reversing through the disease process sounds easy on paper, but few practitioners are present for their patients and this is why I created Migraine Professional.
As a way to break the noise and get to the truth of the brains many cries for help.
I also created a presentation explaining why migraines are so problematic, what is missing in how we assess them and what we can do right now to take a better approach in healing ourselves.
You can see the full presentation entitled The 3 Linchpins That Destroy Hormones and Leave Your Brain in Pain by clicking here.
And you can join our community of over 20,000 migraine menders by going 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.