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While I treat people for acute problems – sprains and strains, a cold or the flu, general exams, etc., mostly I treat chronic illness. People come to me with a variety of issues ranging from chronic fatigue and pain syndromes to recurrent or lingering infections to digestive complaints. They have often seen a variety of other practitioners and specialists before they come to me.

As a Naturopathic physician, I am trained to look at a person’s health as a detective might look at a crime scene, or a mechanic might look at a machine. I will usually spend the first appointment or two trying to figure out what is going on. This often includes a long and thorough history, a physical exam, and perhaps some lab tests. What I am looking for is where the illness or symptom started and what obstacles might be in the way of someone achieving good health.

If a person tells me that they have never felt the same after a surgery or trauma, then I think about scar tissue or energy blockages that is causing their symptoms. If they tell me that they have been ill ever since they started their menstrual cycle or had a child, then I might look at iron levels and hormones. Sometimes they started feeling bad while traveling, then I think about parasites or unusual infectious agents.

But often the biggest obstacles to healing are those that are fairly “easy” to remedy. Diet, stress, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, toxic relationships, work…

The first thing that I often address is diet. It is impossible for your body to heal if you keep putting in foods that trigger a negative immune response or that lack the necessary nutrients it needs to fight infection. And chronic stress is like pouring gasoline onto a fire. It increases inflammation, reduces your immunity, affects digestion and sleep.

It doesn’t have to be complex – clean food, clean air, clean water, sleep and exercise. Sometimes, the simplest treatments can lead to profound changes in a person’s health.

Consider starting the New Year off by giving yourself a clean start: eat whole foods, take a 20 minute walk outside daily, make sure that you are drinking 8-10 glasses of clean water and get 7-8 hours of sleep. You might be surprised how good you feel by February.

By Jennifer Means, ND, LAc

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