Friday, July 29, 2016

A different perspective on health labels...

Now that I’m on the uphill slope coming out of a few-month-long low point in my physical health, I realize this is actually my most vulnerable period in my recovery: The time before the positive changes I have made to date have been in place long enough to become fully-entrenched long-term habits. My recent illness has been in my digestive system, so most of these changes are food-related; I’ve tapped into my inner wisdom, and the guidance of my holistic health specialist Cindy Dillon, to determine what foods are best to add in, add more of, reduce, or omit.

I got some ideas from online reading about particular health conditions; overall, though, I found (as I have before) that putting too much stock in these special diets and condition-specific lifestyle adaptations actually has a limiting effect on my sense of empowerment regarding my own health.

The reason for this is that having a diagnostic label for every health challenge doesn’t necessarily add value for overcoming it. Sure, there are health emergencies for which such labels are valuable to identify what treatment is required immediately to keep a person from dying, for example. In many cases, though, we actually do ourselves a disservice by having to assign a label for us to live to.

For a tendency to gastro-intestinal problems if your regular eating habits get derailed in response to prolonged emotional stress, for example, slapping a diagnosis on that often leads a person to develop more of an enthusiasm for, and invest more time and energy into, learning about that diagnosis than about their own bodies, and what feels right and what doesn’t based on their own experience.

I’m certainly not saying you’d do better to completely wing it without any reference material; what I’m saying is we need to be careful to balance our own experience with what other people say we should expect or do. Take what you read or hear into consideration, and factor in your own experience before you make decisions.

My point here is not to disparage or argue with people who use labels for things that Cindy Dillon and I would not use them for. I’ll leave any such debating to health care specialists. I share what I’ve learned as a layperson, with no formal holistic health training of my own; I make no claim to have authority to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do just because it works for me. The same things don’t work the same way for everyone.

To illustrate this point, I’ve actually had neutral or good results from eating some of the very foods on the forbidden-food list for one of the diagnostic labels that could have been applied to me. My issue also came with a lot of muscle pain, so just for giggles I actually ready the Mayo Clinic and WebMD clinical descriptions of fibromyalgia, a diagnosis that has long annoyed me. (It never ceases to disgust me that any responsible physician would diagnosis and treat symptoms of a deeper issue as an independent disease.)

I laughed out loud when I read it: I met every single one of the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia at that time, so I could have easily been slapped with this label if I’d presented my issues to a medical doctor. Instead, Cindy Dillon identified my problem in my digestive system, and within three weeks of starting the probiotic and other homeopathic supplements she recommended, and changing my food choices, the excessive muscle pain disappeared.

This is why I have not named my specific health issue in any of these blog posts, nor to anyone who has asked me personally. I gave a brief description in my first post in this "holistic health and Buddhism" series of my symptoms and the internal imbalance they represented, and beyond that a medical label is useless.

Cindy Dillon makes the point to her clients that diagnostic labels are really just insurance billing codes; so, if you are consulting a health specialist whom medical insurance companies do not authorize paying, then why use a label at all?

Image: “Mind’s Eye,” by Karla Joy Huber, 2007; Prismacolor marker and Sharpie marker


  1. very interesting, lately I have been against mentally accepting any negative diagnosis as it pertains to health. Good Read.

    1. Thank you for reading and for commenting, Chris! I'm always glad to hear when what I'm writing about here resonates with someone.