The body responds to not being well by producing symptoms that fall into one of three categories.
Loss of Control.
The first two categories are the body healing itself and the third is when the body is failing to do so.
The important factor in helping to heal is being able to differentiate between the three categories of symptoms.
The body may create certain symptoms to advise the patient that a particular action is liable to lead to problems. A good example is the following case history.
Mr N F, age 38 years, had been advised that he had a stomach ulcer. On close questioning it became clear that his upper abdominal pain was made worse by drinking coffee. If he did not drink coffee he did not have the pain. Interestingly, on further questioning it became clear that Mr N F was very sensitive to caffeine, which would keep him awake for up to 4 hours if he drank it after his evening meal. In this simple example Mr N F was being warned by his stomach that the continual use of caffeine was overstimulating his system, which would lead to more serious complications in the future. Most pain is a warning and if the warning is heeded the problems should be healed.
Quite often symptoms are created to repair the body. A cut that hurts, falls into the warning category, telling the individual to protect that area of damaged skin. However, the pain is also sending information to the nervous system, which in turn sends information back, opening up blood vessels and attracting more white blood cells, scar tissue-forming cells and nutrients necessary for repair to rush into the damaged area. In this example the pain is not only warning but also encouraging repair. Taking a painkiller, therefore, cannot only allow further damage to occur, because we become less conscious of the damage, but also interfere with the reflex repair process.
One problem with any self-help text associated with alternative medicine is the concept of the healing response. Orthodox medicine is very much geared towards removing unpleasant symptoms, regardless of the effect on the underlying disease. Holistic medicine is about curing the problem, thereby alleviating the symptoms from a deeper, non-superficial aspect. Many treatments in the complementary medical field will trigger reactions that may be initially unpleasant or worsen the symptoms that the treatment is supposedly curing. It is vital to have an understanding of this and I believe that the case history below illustrates the matter clearly.
Mrs J D, age 22 years, came to see me with a history of persisting and recurrent ‘cold’ symptoms. She was very precise about her symptoms and discussed with me at our first meeting the fact that she would sneeze between 10 and 20 times per hour, have a fever that never raised itself above 98°F (38°C) and was able to take warm fluids through her sore throat, but when her symptoms were at a peak she was unable to swallow solids. She was in my consulting room at the zenith of her current cold and told me that the problem would take another week of slow improvement before it disappeared but that she would probably be ill again within the month.
I took her medical history, performed a full examination and initiated the appropriate treatment. I neglected to advise Mrs J D on the principles of the healing reaction and three days later I found her back in my consulting room: ‘I don’t know what you gave me doctor but I am now sneezing over 30 times an hour, my temperature reached 100°F (39°C) and I am now unable to swallow even fluids’.
I explained that all her symptoms had worsened because the virus was being thrown out quicker by the sneezing, the inflammation in her throat was due to more blood in the area, bringing with it more white blood cells to kill the virus, and that she can live at 100°F (39°C) but many viruses cannot! Such healing responses should, therefore, shorten the time of the illness. I explained that her immune system was now fighting a stronger battle and that this indicated that the treatment was working. Mrs J D did improve over the next 24 hours and has since suffered only two ‘colds’ each year during the last five years.
RECOMMENDATION • Do not suppress or cover up symptoms – they may be healing you.
The Five Reactions of Healing
There are five reactions worth noting as part of the repair process. These are particularly relevant for anybody going through a homeopathic treatment course but also stand in good stead for any naturopathic healing process.
As mentioned above, symptoms may get worse before they get better.
Despite symptoms getting worse, an individual will feel better on a psychological level before the physical symptoms resolve. This is an extremely important factor in the healing process whilst waiting for physical effects to take place.
Problems often leave the body in a downward motion: for instance, a headache may become a backache; an upset stomach may eliminate as diarrhoea; a rash on the chest may leave via the feet.
Problems will resolve from inside, outwards: internal illness may expel itself as a rash as in the case of measles or chickenpox; food poisoning may cause vomiting; toxins may come out through the hair or nails.
An illness may regress through symptoms previously suffered. This is described as ‘present conditions go to past conditions’. In an acute disease such as pneumonia the patient rarely wakes up with pneumonia but goes through cold symptoms, flu-like symptoms, a mild chest infection to pneumonia; conversely, a patient with pneumonia rarely wakes up suddenly feeling wonderful but goes through symptoms of a mild chest infection, flu symptoms, a cold and then feeling well again. Chronic conditions may do the same, even though there may be no direct or obvious connection. For example, someone, aged 30 years, with rheumatoid arthritis may find that the condition improves and at the same time they have a rash that reminds them of a problem they had when they were 15 years old. Very often that rash was suppressed, the condition went deeper and is now being resolved. This scenario may occur many years into the future.
It is important to understand these facts because reporting to the complementary medical practitioner can be made more accurate by including any symptoms within these parameters and will also allow the individual to feel confident despite a slow improvement.
LOSS OF CONTROL
When the body loses control of its symptoms then the situation demands medical intervention. A cancer can grow unnoticed in a major organ, showing no signs or symptoms until it is too late to be treated. Other silent conditions, such as AIDS and diabetes, may not present until the disease process is very far gone. It is a sign of ill-health to have a disease process and show no symptoms, which is ironic because a bad cold will bring the patient to a practice complaining that they are ‘ill’ or at ‘death’s door’ when in fact their variety of symptoms is repairing them. Conversely, someone attending for a check-up who feels fine and ‘full of the joys of spring’ may be discovered to be ravaged by cancer or slowly damaging their arteries with arteriosclerosis.
RECOMMENDATION • Do not assume that a symptom-free life is a healthy one. Visit a health practitioner regularly and consider having relevant screening annually.