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Putting the puzzle together: what your symptoms tell you about your health

Putting the puzzle together: what your symptoms tell you about your health

Over the 12 years I’ve practiced as a naturopathic doctor, I’ve learned that taking a good medical history is key to understanding health and what might be the underlying issue.  Of course, doing a physical exam and understanding labs help round out the picture.   Below are key symptoms that help me understand which organ needs to be addressed. 

Symptoms are best understood by looking for patterns.  Often people will ask me about one symptom and want to know what to do.  Hair loss, for example, could be due to stress, infections, traumas, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances (such as low thyroid, progesterone or PCOS), or other causes.  To understand hair loss, one has to look at the pattern and the whole picture.  Did it start after a stressful event? Ever since menopause?  Always look for the pattern and the constellation of signs and symptoms.

Below are some symptoms that hints as an organ dysfunction, especially when your doctor has told you that there is nothing wrong with you.  Please do not diagnose yourself if you have not yet seen a doctor.  This tool is meant as a guide when your doctor has already investigated and you’ve been told there is nothing wrong.  From a medical perspective, you don’t have a disease, but from a naturopathic perspective, the symptom is trying to tell you something.  Listen to your body.

The more symptoms you check off under one category, the more likely that is the root of your symptoms.  It is common also for people to have 2 or 3 underlying issues.  If a lightbulb goes off for you after this checklist, give us a call to walk you on your journey back to health.

Gallbladder dysfunction:
Fat malabsorption or intolerance to fatty foods
Pain over the liver/ gallbladder area (right side behind the lower end of rib cage)
Idiopathic bile acid steatorrhea

Liver “congestion”:
Premenstrual headaches
Mood swings, especially irritability
Acne that worsens before the period

Kidney dysfunction:
Skin rashes/acne that flare up with stress
Frequent urination

Adrenal fatigue:
lightheaded/ dizziness  usually due to low blood pressure
low blood pressure 
salt cravings
poor coping/ easily overwhelmed
exhaustion, often with poor sleep quality
history of “burnout”
exercise intolerance 

Low iron:
Dizziness especially on exertion
Cravings for red meat
Heart palpitations

Hormonal imbalances:

1) Estrogen dominance:
Heavy cramps

2) Estrogen deficiency in a menstruating woman:
Short menstrual cycles or very long menstrual cycles, with a norma14 day luteal phase
Very small amount of bleeding during menses

3) Estrogen deficiency in a perimenopausal woman:
Hot flashes, nightsweats
Dry skin, vaginal dryness

4) Progesterone deficiency:
Poor sleep
PMS/ menstrual cramps

5) Thyroid deficiency:
Low mood
Cold and sluggish
Low basal body temperature
Puffiness and swelling of the face and eyes
Coarse dry hair and skin
History of thyroid disorder and on synthroid but still having the above symptoms

Microflora imbalance:
Altered bowel function due to unknown causes, IBS
Altered immune function – poor immune system or autoimmune or allergies
Sugar cravings
History of antibiotic use
Unexplained itchy skin