Be an Advocate for Your Own Health

Where does health end and illness begin?

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The general public is more knowledgeable now than ever about available healthcare options. Information—perhaps too much—on exercise, diet, sleep, and stress management is at our fingertips via the Internet. Treatment protocols, including specific drugs that the pharmaceutical industry wants us to use and natural supplements, often with grandiose claims, are readily available. In fact, we’re becoming so knowledgeable about the many facets of healthcare that doctors complain they can’t keep pace with their patients.

However, information alone won’t keep you healthy or make you well. You must be an advocate for your own health.

  • Become aware of your myriad of daily stresses, especially insidious ones that can undermine your health. Examples include exposure to environmental toxins, stressful work or family situations, and keeping late hours.
  • Pay attention to your body and the signs it is giving. If you feel tired, can’t think clearly, have a suppressed sex drive, or experience other symptoms, don’t accept them as “normal” Your body is telling you that it is not well.
  • Realize that your lifestyle choices have the single greatest influence on your health. Harmful influences include smoking, excessive alcohol and caffeine, inadequate sleep, inactivity, poor diet, and mental stress. The site’s section on Lifestyle describes how diet, sleep, exercise, and stress management habits shape the foundation of health.
  • Recognize that your choice of doctors largely determines whether you can successfully resolve your health concerns or are likely to find yourself aboard the merry-go-round of symptomatic care. Work with a healthcare provider who takes the time to evaluate your health status, history, and lifestyle factors that might be sources of chronic stress.
  • Routinely perform preventative lab testing under a provider with experience in dealing with chronic stress.

Many FM providers offer three options:

  1. Treat symptoms with prescription and nonprescription therapies in the hope of achieving partial or complete relief. Although this approach can be effective in relieving temporary pain or discomfort, it seldom stops a serious illness or disease from progressing.
  2. Use functional lab tests to discover and treat the cause of a patient’s health concerns.
  3. Provide symptomatic care while performing lab testing, provided there is not interference with obtaining an accurate diagnosis.

Few patients select the first option. Most choose the second, despite the discomfort their symptoms may cause. Those who select the third option do so because they are suffering from severe pain or other conditions that require immediate intervention. Are you working with a doctor who practices FM? If so, that’s great. If not, find one. That your physician’s approach and experience have a significant impact your long-term health cannot be overemphasized. While you can take control of your health and do your own research, a caring expert with a proven track record makes all the difference.