Why Normalizing Our Health May Cause Us More Harm Than Good?
We are all guilty of having the words – “but it’s always been like that” cross our lips, when we are justifying a health concern that someone has just pointed out is unusual, or ‘not normal’.
How many times have we, or someone we know, ignored an ‘early-warning’ health sign because we thought it was just normal? The answer, too many to count.
Patients tend to fall into two categories – those that well document every lump, bump, unusual stool or rash and share it, and those that didn’t realize something was going on until it was far worse than they ever expected (diabetes, cancers, autoimmunity).
It is hard to figure out what is the right balance, however, erring on the side of PITA (pain in the ass) is much better than ignoring something that could have irreversible health outcomes.
I consider these mini-health clues and observations to be the equivalent of cracker crumbs leaving a trail to find Hansel and Gretel.
How do you know if you are normalizing something that may be a more serious health concern?
Some common phrases include:
- I’ve always been like this. Often used to describe areas such as constipation, painful menstrual cycles, waking up at night, frequent urination, bloating, nausea, etc. Just because you have always been like this, doesn’t mean that you should always be like this.
- This runs in the family. While genetics can play a role in health, the stronger link to what is common with your mama is the food you eat, the house you grew up in, and the emotional experiences you have shared. These environmental factors play a significant role in how you both feel and need to be taken into consideration when evaluating your health.
- It’s a sign of me getting older. Crossing the 40-year-old starting line doesn’t mean that your body suddenly starts falling apart. In fact, it is more likely that the damage done leading up to your 40’s has finally created enough of a sign that you are taking notice. Whether it is aches and pains, hair loss or hormonal imbalance, these signs of aging aren’t life catching up to you, it’s you finally paying attention to the clues your body has been giving you all along.
- My doctor said it was normal. Different types of health professionals are looking for different health markers. Your family doctor is largely interested in supporting blood tests that clearly show you have diabetes, liver malfunctioning, high cholesterol, or any other overt symptom. They want your diagnosis to be clear and present before prescribing you a medication or referral to investigate further. As a ND, I look for trends and patterns of you headed in a direction well before you get there. If I can stop diabetes in its tracks, you can be sure that I will use everything I have in my toolbox to help you avoid a lifetime of medications. (Check out this blog on normalizing fatigue)
- My Aunt Bernice’s neighbour has the same thing – she saw it on Facebook, and she cured it by taking Apple Cider Vinegar three times a day. Sometimes information passed along has a ton of value and can be really helpful for a patient, but often times it doesn’t make things better. If you are following advice from anyone (including a health care provider) and after three months you aren’t seeing changes, it’s time to get a second (or third) opinion.
It is hard to know what is normal, when your comparisons are often yourself, your parent or sibling, and the internet. That is why engaging with a health practitioner that asks a ton of questions (a good sign is a long intake form) and sees a ton of patients, so they are able to tell you where you stand on the normal range.
If I had a dollar for every patient that comes in and says – but they told me I had IBS. Which for me means, “I have no idea why you have diarrhea but I am going to normalize it by giving it a name”. I’d be a rich woman.
If something bothers you, it’s not normal. If something happens to you, that isn’t happening to everyone else you know, it’s not normal.
My goal is to continue to share information snacks in social posts and blogs that will highlight some of the most common “normal/not normal” symptoms, I see every day.
I want to give you a benchmark to evaluate your own health, and support you in knowing when it’s time to call in someone to help you follow the clues to find Hansel and Gretel.
About Dr. Christina Carew
Dr. Christina Carew is a functional medical investigator who approaches health with an out-of-the-box problem solving attitude. Her patients love that she breaks what seems like complicated mumbo-jumbo into humorous stories, and digestible information nuggets. She witnesses that empowering patients to better understand their own health leads to better outcomes and healthier lives.
Christina became a naturopathic doctor after experiencing her own complex heath journey. Her passion to make health “easy to understand” was important for everyone. She is a forever learner, especially around the role our environment has on health, how our gut really is the center of many health concerns and that our mental wellness affects our daily living.
An international speaker, a published author, and an outdoor enthusiast. Her husband refers to her as a mermaid for her love of water sports and the ocean.
Follow her at @healingme.ND on Instagram for more health information tips.
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Thank you for helping me on my mission to share ‘health real talk’. My goal is to inspire more health ambassadors in the world, just like you.
Remember put on your own oxygen mask first!
Note: This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed health care worker