A year or so back, I read an excellent book in the area of functional medicine by Neil Nathan called Toxic: Heal Your Body from Mold Toxicity, Lyme Disease, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, and Chronic Environmental Illness. It was the first time I was introduced to patients who have been suffering for years and often with multiple ailments at the same time. They may not have started that way, but after years, sometimes decades of suffering they appear at the doorstep of Neil Nathan’s clinic, they now have many problems all built on top of each other and intertwined and complicating diagnosis and treatment. As I read through his case studies, it slowly dawned on me how complex these issues are and as the clinician, he needs to figure out what issues there are, how to address them, and then in what order to address them for best effect.
Think of someone who got bitten by a tick decades ago. Lyme disease causing bacteria enters the system and starts affecting various systems. Then, compounded by poor Standard American Diet (SAD), it fosters growth of yeast and other organisms while good bacteria starts to decline, and that further occupies and weakens the immune system. Exposure to mold and/or environmental toxins like heavy metals or electromagnetic fields further weakens the body and bad organisms begin to take over. The body starts feeling stressed, weak, lethargic. Sleep gets affected. The cycle gets worse and worse. They go to conventional doctors and they get diagnosed and treated but they make no headway. The person continues to decline, until they reach his clinic. And upon first showing up, they come with an assortment of ailments now, with multiple things triggering issues.
Then the treatment order….This is where it really gets complicated. And where the art and clinical experience comes in. If you don’t tackle the right things first, you may not get any movement in the patient’s condition at all. If you tackle too many things at once, a patient may get worse especially if their immune system and detoxification pathways are compromised. And depending on the situation, it is more effective to deal with one issue before another.
My next introduction to complexity was with my own functional medicine doctor. She found numerous issues within me, ranging from toxins, to nutrient imbalances, to several bacterial infections as well as a yeast/candida infection, to gut dysbiosis. Top that off with hidden chronic stress, geopathic stress, having elementary aged kids in school (not to mention adding pandemic driven distance learning on top of that this last year) – that’s a lot to handle!
Watching her methodically look across multiple test results and interpreting them from clinical experience, some of which are not well known, was an amazing experience. I hung on her every word – and remembered little of it due to cross association with way too many things in her mind! It was just amazing to watch her work over the last 2 years, methodically tackling each issue one or two at a time, and melding that with my own body’s responses. And now my healing work with her is nearly done. Truly amazing to watch, exponentially amazing to experience.
My most recent encounter with the complexity of human ailments was through my coaching education. If you are familiar with coaching, coach training has us meeting with a client and get agreement with the client on one thing to work on within a session, and what their desired outcome is. However, often we are faced with a client who comes with a large list of issues, and appearing one after another, and in a single session! As a coach working on skills, encountering this deluge of issues can be very daunting to navigate. What do you work on first? How do you guide the client to decide? How can we as coaches use our own skills to help the client figure out what exactly it is, that they want out of just today’s session?
Order also matters here. Which issue do you help unwind first? It’s almost never the first thing they say; coach training teaches us to always look for the issue beneath or behind the issue, and what the real problem is. Similar to the previous two cases, the search for what to work on first is also present here.
More and more, the complexity of human ailments never ceases to amaze me. As I learn more about coaching and various modalities of healing, the more I am so impressed by those who use all the tools at their command to figure how to wade through the complexity presented by a client and navigate to those things that should be done first so that the client will benefit the most. It’s also one of my major focuses in my own education and growth.