How Diet and Lifestyle Can Slowly Influence Our Disease

Have you been incorporating something into your life for a few years that seems to have no harmful effect on your body, but suddenly you feel as if that’s changed? In this blog post TCM Dr. Lee Smith elaborates on the concept of disease progression and how preventative medicine can assist. Perhaps what once worked for you, is now causing more harm than good.

“Preventative treatment principals in Chinese medicine give practitioners the ability to educate and empower their patients. To understand preventive medicine we need to understand disease progression. Chinese medicine practitioners are trained in being able to observe and identify disease states, as well as disease progression. This allows the early warning signs of dis-ease to be noticed and of course, corrected.

Often we think of our symptoms/diseases as spontaneous events, regarding them as an unlucky lottery draw burdened to live with, however this is not always the case and every reaction in our body has an origin.

I’ll be using an example of headaches to show you the importance of disease progression and the strengths of preventative medicine.

Headache example:
Many people experience headaches but not all headaches are the same, they can arise from different root causes. Often people neglect the root cause and go straight to symptom relief (e.g pain relief medication) without ever investigating the root cause of the issue.

Headaches can have several root causes such as:

  • Oestrogen dominance
  • Musculoskeletal (tight neck and shoulders)
  • Stress
  • High blood pressure
  • Sinus congestion
  • Other conditions

For example, if we happen to narrow the root cause down to oestrogen dominance (liver qi stagnation pattern in Chinese medicine), a preventative medicine approach would be focusing on regulating oestrogen metabolism through diet and lifestyle therapy. A Chinese medicine practitioner would focus on regulating the liver qi, rather than simply suppressing the symptoms of an imbalance.

Every root cause will have factors that improve the symptoms or make them worse. You get to choose to walk closer to health or closer to disease.

In this example, preventative measures for oestrogen dominance could be:

  1. Avoiding lifestyle factors, foods and products that increase oestrogen. E.g./ soy, hops, BPA, plastics, alcohol, stress and late nights.
  2. Adding lifestyle factors and foods that increase oestrogen detoxification e.g. green vegetables, brassica family vegetables, exercise, infrared sauna, regulating bowel movements, sweating and stress management.

Aggravating factors could include:

  1. Eating foods that increase oestrogen. E.g. / soy, inflammatory foods, dairy, alcohol, hops.
  2. Increasing lifestyle factors that impair oestrogen detoxification (late nights, stress, alcohol, constipation, drugs, lack of movement, unresolved emotions).

Often early signs and symptoms of disease are manageable and don’t disrupt our daily lives. This can often lead to someone disregarding their diet and lifestyle being a contributing factor.

The example of a headache caused by oestrogen dominance can be mild and short lived before menstruation or ovulation, in the early stages of disease progression. At this stage preventive medicine can work and treat these symptoms effectively and quickly.

Unfortunately most people ‘soldier on’ because of their busy schedules and don’t give a second thought or investigation into the cause. As stress and drinking habits increase, the oestrogen levels increase, the headaches escalate and menstrual cycles may become more painful and delayed, possibly noticing frequent moments of frustration creeping in.

Most people may expect that they are experiencing three different unrelated symptoms; mood changes, headaches and now painful periods.

Flash forward a few years, add some more stress, more late nights, alcohol and no time for restoration. The liver has taken a beating for some time and oestrogen levels are getting higher. The headaches progress to migraines and the recent menstrual period is debilitating with clotting, weight gain and acne.

If the aggravating factors stay the same or increase, it can lead to many complications for people years later in life. Catching symptoms when they are small, such as mild infrequent headaches and getting to the root cause can save medical bills, improve quality of life and avoid many future complications.

Often foods, habits and lifestyles that we don’t associate as detrimental to our health from years of exposure, could actually be stepping stones leading us down the wrong direction with our health.

It’s important that on our journey we stop and listen to the little signs so we can redirect our path, so we can optimise our health and avoid future complications. Listen and investigate into the little signs and remember disease is not spontaneous.

Often we may be so deep into a way of being, that we lose sight of the situation we are in, like a fish that doesn’t know it lives in water. Working with experienced professionals can be a way to reflect back to us what you have been experiencing and begin to draw the connections to your disease”.

Words by TCM Dr. Lee Smith.

Yours in health,
Your Tea

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