Episode 052: Taking Responsibility for Your Health By "Backing Things Up"
Have you ever had a health problem come up so you researched to see what might help?
And as you did your due diligence you began to see how the costs will start to add up - from the doctors' visits to lab tests, and the supplements all of which aren't covered by health insurance.
So what are you supposed to do?
In this episode, we'll discuss what to do in this situation, how can you be efficient & maximize your health care dollars, & what it means and how to "back things up."
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Have you ever had a health problem come up, like fatigue, IBS or perhaps some kind of skin breakout?
Maybe you’re struggling to get a decent night’s sleep or even gaining weight when you’re already eating healthy and working out.
And you suspect that something might be going on. Like maybe you have a thyroid issue, or adrenal fatigue, or even post-birth control syndrome that you’ve heard so much about.
You might even suspect that you have an underlying gut infection, candida or SIBO like I’ve had three times.
And when you share these complaints with others, you get a lot of recommendations.
Some people might recommend that you take Benadryl or Sudafed for sleep….
Some will tell you what over the counter meds they use or what to prescriptions to ask your doctor for…
While others may rattle off a whole list of supplements that you “should” be taking because it’s worked for them…
And you’ll even have people insist that nothing is wrong and that some people are “just this way” which is what my primary care doctor told me when I sought treatment for my severe IBS.
But you, you prefer to take a holistic approach and understand what will work best for YOU.
So you dive into researching what mix of supplements and herbal medicinals might help relieve your symptoms. Perhaps you even seek out a functional medicine doctor because you know they’ll have you do extensive lab tests that your conventional doctor hasn’t been or isn’t willing to consider.
And as you start doing your due diligence and researching all of these things, you begin to see how much it will all cost - from the functional medicine doctors or naturopathic doctor’s visits that while are tremendously valuable, aren’t covered by insurance. And then you add on the cost of the lab tests, and yes, there’s usually way more than just one lab test, that’s also not covered by insurance…
And let’s not forget the herbs and supplements that will make up the recommended your protocol...
And these will be ongoing, recurring costs, not just a one-time thing.
Now don’t get me wrong, long-time listeners of the show will know, that I am THE biggest advocate of functional and naturopathic medicine and do believe its well worth the cost, in fact, it’s the only way I’ll go for non-acute medical care, but my friends, the costs do add up - very quickly.
And as expected, most of these things don’t accept medical insurance, and understandably so given the current state of the healthcare industry, but as I said, I believe that it’s worth the costs.
But as well worth it as it is, it’s still money out of your pocket, so you have to be judicious and efficient about how YOU approach this.
Now I’m a BIG believer in efficiency. I believe in practicing efficiency in how I work, how I manage my time and especially, my dollars.
So how can you be efficient when it comes to managing your health care?
Well first off, understand that your healthcare is YOUR responsibility to manage, not anyone else's…it’s not your doctor’s, it’s not your family member’s, and it’s not your insurance company...
A few months ago there was a billboard in San Francisco that said, “Health care is a right.” Yes, it is, but it’s also YOUR responsibility, and there’s a heck of a lot of things that YOU can be doing so that you don’t need to depend on conventional healthcare or healthcare as we know it.
And how we do this, how we take responsibility for, and practice efficiency in our healthcare is by, “backing things up.” And this my friends, this is what we’re going to be talking about today.
So let’s explore what it means to “back things up...”
First, “backing things up,” in the context that I’m speaking of here, requires a basic understanding of what functional medicine is. If you’ve never heard of functional medicine, I highly recommend going back and listening to Episode 002, where I interviewed Dr. Melissa, who was my first functional medicine doctor.
I’m such a huge fan and believer in Functional Medicine because the goal of functional medicine is to uncover what the root causes of your health problems are and then address it. It’s like the analogy I used back in Episodes 049 and 050, where I likened addressing root causes to pulling weeds. If you don’t remove the root of the weed, it’ll grow back. If you don’t address the root cause of your health complaints, they’ll find a way to come back.
So in Functional Medicine, it’s not “what,” as in “what” is your condition, it's “why.” Why are these signs and symptoms presenting themselves?
And when we look at the “why,” why your health complaints are manifesting, it’s usually due to things like inflammation inside of your body, or unbalanced blood sugar levels, or yes even the dreaded hormonal imbalances that we hear so many people complain about.
But if you take a macro look at a lot of the prevalent health problems today, autoimmune disease, metabolic syndrome, to all of the chronic diseases out there, they have a lot of commonalities between, which is why Dr. Terry Wahl, a physician who came to practice functional medicine to heal herself from multiple sclerosis, she said in a Ted Talk from 2011, “In a very real sense, we all have the same disease'.”
And the commonalities are things like inflammation, unbalanced blood sugar, hormonal imbalances and even low Vitamin D. Sometimes it’s all of the above.
So how do we address these problems? How do we back things up?
Well, it comes down to making diet and lifestyle changes, because these are the changes that are going to relieve the inflammation. And by the way, as a side note, by inflammation, I don’t mean acute inflammation - the kind that happens after you sprain your ankle - the kind of inflammation I’m talking is a low-grade, but chronic inflammation that’s may always present in your body.
When we want to address this kind of inflammation or want to balance our blood sugar and hormones, it will (and should) always go back to addressing diet and lifestyle.
Yes, some medications can help to relieve these things - to an extent. But they alone won’t address the root cause - or WHY these things are happenings. And remember, if the root of the weed isn’t pulled, eventually, the weed, it may not be the same kind, but it will rear its ugly head again in some shape or form.
Now it sounds simple, doesn’t it? Making diet and lifestyle changes…
But as I always say, simple doesn’t mean easy.
Look, I know there’s a lot of information, and there’s a lot of people out there talking about what diet to follow and what supplements to take and all the things you SHOULD be doing. And it sounds and feels extremely overwhelming, and you may be asking yourself, where do I even start? I get it, I’ve been there and felt those same things too. And this is where you have to pay close attention, and I mean really close attention to what’s going on with YOU. Not with your friends, or someone you follow online, but what are the patterns and triggers that YOU are experiencing.
As one of my functional nutrition teachers likes to say when someone is experiencing all sorts of problems and feeling so UNwell, their “waters are muddied” and our goal, as practitioners, is to help them “clear those muddy waters.”
So how do we start clearing those muddy waters?
We start by eliminating the things that cause inflammation. This is how we begin to peel back the layers to try and figure out, where’s the root cause here.
And we do these things BEFORE moving on to more complex measures like extensive and expensive lab testing or even tons of supplements. Because if you don’t remove the biggest culprits of inflammation, all the supplements in the world will simply be, like pharmaceuticals, masking symptoms and unable to address the root problem because the things causing the root problems are still present, and it becomes this internal battle and never-ending cycle.
Did that make sense? I hope so.
This is what backing things up means and its what those of us in Functional Nutrition refer to as Tier 1. And Tier 1 is what many people, even those in the functional medicine world, can easily overlook.
There are some things that are Non-Negotiables for anyone who just isn’t feeling well. And in Tier 1, we back things up by addressing those non-negotiables, which includes eliminating refined sugar, gluten, and dairy, to start.
Now there will also be many non-negotiables that are specific to each person - this is where bio-individuality comes in where one man’s food can be another man’s poison. For example, nightshades, which are foods that grow at night, like peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes are very healthy foods. They have a ton of beneficial nutrients; however, some people cannot tolerate them. So if you cannot tolerate a food, avoiding them is a non-negotiable for you.
Personalized non-negotiables may take time to tease out, but for anyone who is just chronically, not feeling well, we have to eliminate the foods that cause the most inflammation. As a side note, this is why I start all of my clients off with the 21-Day Sugar Detox, because that program teaches you how to eliminate those inflammatory foods - sugar, gluten, dairy, as well as corn and soy, two of the most genetically modified foods in our country, which also makes them culprits of inflammation.
Now other personalized non-negotiables can be uncovered by doing more dietary elimination protocols (by eliminating more inflammatory foods, high histamine foods, hard to digest foods — all based on the needs of each person, not on anyone set protocol - this is where the work that I do in private coaching comes in!
So that’s what I mean by backing things up, starting with addressing your diet.
Now there may also be some lifestyle changes that are also non-negotiables.
For someone who simply isn’t sufficiently hydrated throughout the day, it can be paying attention and making sure that they’re drinking more water.
Or, it can include daily habits like sleep, and this is where we may need to create routines like establishing set bedtime.
Personally, figuring out my diet and what foods work and don’t work for me hasn’t been difficult.
What HAS been difficult is getting restful sleep. Sleep is my biggest hurdle when it comes to my health and its, not for lack of trying.
So for some people, focusing on making sleep a priority can be more important than cleaning up their diet. If you fall into that category, then go back and listen to Episode 034 that’s all about how to get a quality night’s sleep.
Other lifestyle non-negotiables can be learning how to process and manage stress by using tools like meditation. For someone else, it might be building a supportive community so they can feel connected and not feel lonely and isolated.
This might be a surprise for you to hear, but when we take a functional approach, and when we peel back the layers and look at why we do the things that we do - why we eat how we eat, why we deprioritize sleep, why our stress levels feel insurmountable - when we step back and look at not WHAT is going on, but WHY - addressing the root of the problems, these are the things that can come up and so they become a non-negotiable for someone to have to back things up and address.
So backing things up is focusing on the basics:
- Removing inflammatory foods from your diet, starting with sugar, gluten, dairy and I would also include soy and corn, as well as other personalized non-negotiables
- Prioritizing sleep and putting in the work to get plenty of restful sleep, especially for those of us who that doesn’t easily happen for us
- Making sure we’re drinking enough fluids and are consistently and sufficiently hydrated
- Having connections to a community and so much more
I know, these things sound basic right? In fact, we take some of these things for granted. This is stuff so basic that we all know, but when it’s recommended to us, it’s the stuff we roll our eyes at when we hear it, at least that’s what I did because it is so basic.
Yet when we’re feeling so UNwell and struggling with seemingly complicated health issues like fatigue or unexplained weight gain or chronic digestive problems, or yes, even skin breakouts, we HAVE to go back to these basic non-negotiables, yet, we don’t.
Our first thoughts are to seek out the complex, cutting-edge, sexy things that a lot of well-intentioned people advise us to do. Take a Dutch test, take these supplements, and the list can go on and on and on.
Now don’t get me wrong, these things are essential and have a place AFTER you’ve backed things up and have taken care of you basic non-negotiables. The cart can’t come before the horse, my friends. So while yes, those Dutch tests and other lab tests, supplements and even functional medicine doctors visits are entirely useful and have been a tremendous help to me personally, it's super important to get a clean slate first.
Because for most people, I’d say for maybe 80% of the population, by backing things up and taking care of your non-negotiables, it can make the world of difference where you may not even need these more advanced things.
But then there’s the other 20%, like myself, who do take care of my non-negotiables yet still struggle and don’t see the same results that most other people do. It’s for those people who I recommend move on to the more complex and advanced steps, but not until they back things up first.
So this is what I mean when I say that health care is a right, but it’s also a personal responsibility because there’s sooooooo much we can do, within our own resources, to take care of ourselves. This is how we become empowered and efficient in how we spend our health care dollars.
It does take time, and it takes a whole lot of effort to back things up and make these simple but not always easy non-negotiables. But its necessary to do these things and not get ahead of yourself. By doing so you’ll not only be more efficient in how you spend your time, energy and dollars, but you’ll give yourself the opportunity to collect a lot of clues, valuable data that you can then, if your issues aren’t entirely resolved, present to your doctor, functional or not, that will help the both of you, as you work together in a partnership decide what your next steps should be.
I think those of us who are further down the path and have had to take more advanced steps for our health will agree that so much of this process is a “try and see.” There are no quick fixes. It’s “let’s try this and see what happens.”
And I have to tell you, even working with my functional doctors and integrative doctors, a lot of their advice is going to be to clean up your diet, remove inflammatory foods, manage your stress to get your brain in a parasympathetic, resting state - things that they’re going to tell you to do no matter what you think your diagnosis is.
I had someone tell me that she thinks she has post-birth control syndrome. And I said her, that that very well may be true, but whether it is or not, the advice of what to do is always going to include all the things I just listed - clean up your diet, make sure you’re sufficiently being hydrated, get plenty of sleep and movement, reduce your toxic load and the number of toxins you’re exposed to because these are the things that will help you on a daily basis to bring your body back into balance, into homeostasis.
So this is what I mean by taking responsibility for your health, by backing things up - know what your non-negotiables are and take care of them BEFORE moving on to more complex approaches.
Now to give you a little preview of what’s coming up, next week’s episode is going to be all about clean eating and what that really means because what I’ve come to realize is that I live somewhat in a bubble. Because I’m so engrossed in the modern, functional and holistic approach to healthy living, I don’t always realize that not everyone understands what I mean by clean eating, and I get questions all the time from people about issues that seem complicated, yet they haven’t backed things up, which was the genesis of this episode.
And what I’ve come to realize that for many people, they believe, they truly think that they are eating clean, but there’s still a gap between how they’re eating what that really means. So we’ll dive into all of that in next week’s episode.
As always, thanks again for listening and we’ll see ya next week.
Naomi Nakamura is a Functional Nutrition Health Coach. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, programs, coaching services and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop!
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