As an alternative health practitioner, what attracts me to the holistic approach is that it seeks to answer the question WHY.
It seems simple enough, but among modern medicine this is a surprisingly radical approach. Instead of saying: Here are some pills to help you cope with your chronic migraines, or acid reflux, or insomnia, or anxiety, holistic medicine asks: WHY do you have chronic migraines, or acid reflux, or insomnia, or anxiety? Because if we can answer that question, then we can treat the source of the problem, so that it goes away and never returns. That is true healing.
Much of the time, I am able to use the diagnostic tools I was taught in Eastern medical school. By observing abnormalities in the tongue and pulse, the locations of the problem, or the assortment of symptoms, generally I am able to discern that this is really a liver problem, or a blood circulation problem, or a heat problem, etc. Then I use acupuncture points that detoxify the liver, or invigorate the blood, or clear heat, and the patient heals.
But sometimes, even that is not enough. Sometimes acupuncture helps the patient feel better for a little while, but then the symptoms come back. Or I can look at the tongue and see Yes, the digestive system is certainly inflamed, but I still can’t see why.
This is when I begin to suspect that the real source of the problem is food sensitivities.
Food sensitivities are not the same thing as food allergies. An allergic response is immediate: you eat peanuts, and your throat swells shut. It’s a fairly obvious cause and effect.
Food sensitivities, however, are much trickier to identify. It is still a toxic response to certain foods, but the response is delayed: even 2, 3, 4 days later. This is what makes it so difficult to connect how you’re feeling with what you’re eating. And the symptoms are not as extreme, but they pile up. Symptoms like bloating, weight gain, constipation, dry skin, poor sleep, fatigue, achy muscles or joints, anxiety, irritability, headaches, and so much more. The symptoms start off as occasional and mild, so that we might ignore them for years, but they intensify over time. Eventually however, these symptoms erode away your quality of life until you find yourself truly ill and miserable. Eating foods that you are sensitive to is the equivalent of poisoning yourself in low doses every day for years.
At my clinic, LightWorks Acupuncture, we offer a very special blood test, using the only lab in the country that is FDA approved for testing for food sensitivities. The results are always fascinating. There are certainly the usual suspects that show up, like wheat, yeast, nuts and dairy. I would say these are by far the most common sensitivities I see. But then there are always some really bizarre ones on the list too; foods you think of as healthy and would never suspect could be bad for you.
For example, my own list includes cranberry, pineapple, zucchini, mustard, and black pepper. My husband’s includes carrots, potatoes, lemon, and many types of beans. Before we had this information, we had begun eating a vegan diet in the hopes that this would help him heal his mystery ailments, and were surprised to find things actually went from bad to worse. After the food sensitivity test, we learned that this was because a staple of our diet was hummus, and he can’t eat garbanzo beans, lemon juice, or sesame… all of which is in hummus!
Today at the clinic we got the lab results back for a 12-year old girl who had missed 15 days of school in a row due to an endless migraine accompanied by vertigo. With her swollen tongue with red edges and a crack down the middle, her lifelong constipation, the severe acne in a T-zone on her face, plus general anxiety, I immediately suspected she was eating foods which were toxic to her. Sure enough, the report came back with a list of 23 foods she probably eats every day of her life. Eggs, cheese, and milk were at the top of her list, plus spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and oregano, and grains such as oats and rice.
You may be coming to the same conclusion my patients come to: these lab report results are a major bummer. Pretty much everyone finds a few of their favorite foods on the list. It will definitely take some work to learn how to eat around these restrictions, and it makes it tough to eat at restaurants when you can’t have simple things like wheat, lemon juice or black pepper.
But still, the people who have been really ill for a long time are more than ready to do whatever it takes to feel better. And when you start eating according to your body’s special needs, you can’t believe the way your body transforms. Not only do your primary complaints go away, like headaches, pain, and IBS, but you actually start to feel amazing. Sound sleep, mental clarity, high energy, clear skin, regular bowel movements and weight loss are just a few of the incredible benefits people experience when they eat food that is truly good for them. This is the most empowering information a person can have about how to heal their bodies and experience vitality again.
I will add that once you have discovered what your food sensitivities are, there is still more work to be done to recover. By the time you were experiencing the chronic illness that drove you to seek help from a holistic medical practitioner, you had been dosing yourself with toxic foods every day for many years. The intestines at this point are pretty damaged—swollen, enflamed, even torn. This leads to malnutrition and a weak immune system. The liver is engorged and toxic, and the blood is full of debris. The metabolism has usually slowed way down as well. Often hormones have gotten all out of whack. Acupuncture is essential in helping the body detoxify and heal. It may be a process of several months to fully regain your health. But this is the best journey you will ever embark on, and your holistic practitioner will be there for you, guiding you and rooting for you, every step of the way.
With a new regimen of eating the right foods, drinking lots of water, taking a probiotic to stabilize the intestines, and acupuncture to detoxify and heal the organs, a patient’s life is truly transformed. And I always see that once a patient is feeling strong and revitalized, often for the first time in years, they begin to make positive changes in many areas of their life. They quit that toxic job, or change the dynamics in their struggling marriage, or begin a workout routine, or have a baby. It has really shown me how much having poor health keeps us from having a truly fulfilling life, because we feel too tired and sick to face any other challenges. For me it is deeply rewarding work to help patients restore their strength and vitality, and watch them flourish and thrive.
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Visit Candice Thomas, L.Ac. at www.LightWorksAcupuncture.com