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Why do we focus on Prevention

One of my greatest delights in Functional Herbal Practice is when someone calls to make an appointment – not because they have an area of concern, but because they want a health MOT. And it’s unusual enough that I’m writing about it. It’s bizarre really that we take prevention as a matter of course in other areas of our life – but not in the most important area – our health. We would never dream of running our car into the ground and then expect to fix it back to full function, nor would we ever consider ignoring our dental health until our teeth rotted or needed extractions or filling and then expected them to fully serve us – at least I hope that we wouldn’t. It’s one of the reasons we design beautiful floss and focus on good dental hygiene. Yet we frequently only address our health once we no longer have it, or things start to go wrong.

It is an interesting phenomenon that symptoms are the last thing to appear before dysregulation or dysfunction in the body, yet this is how we gauge health. We think if we have no symptoms, we have no illness. Yet we know this is just simply not true. For example, someone with increasing blood pressure levels will have very few symptoms until their blood pressure gets to a potentially dangerously high level. Or someone with breast cancer may have no symptoms at all. Or someone with a developing inflammatory bowel condition may have “mild symptoms” which they just put down to “it’s my normal”.

A question I ask regularly is “when was the last time you felt fantastic”. Because that is what good health should feel like – not just an absence of symptoms. The aim of the herbalist is as much keeping you in good health as it is helping with poor health. Imagine if you could prevent disease happening?

Well guess what – WE CAN.

Our bodies are full of wonderful mechanisms for communicating with us – for telling us when something is potentially not quite right or needs attention. And if we learn how to listen to those messages – we can PREVENT disease and ill-health happening. I tell all my patients that if they only learn one thing from their consultations with me – it to learn how to listen to their body’s messages. That stiffness in that hip joint, the runny nose after eating, the waking at 4am every morning, the pain that you dull with paracetamol, the bloated feeling you get after eating, the itchy eyes after your favourite pizza – these are all messages that your body is trying to convey to you. And the point is that if you learn to listen – then you can act before any further dysfunction happens.

It’s incredibly life affirming to remember that our body’s default mode is to heal and repair – and if we get there early enough in many cases no further dysfunction needs to happen. We have become a society where our health system only wants to see us when things have gone wrong. I do it differently. I want to see you when things are going great as well – so that we log and remember what that feels like. It sometimes takes someone outside of yourself to ask those questions, to go through things in fine detail just to keep things on track.

Even with the Functional testing that I do in clinic we can act preventatively. Did you know that you can predict Type 2 diabetes 6-10 years ahead if you just simply test insulin levels. This is something that the NHS doesn’t do, but I do. Many years before your HbA1c (3-month glucose level test) becomes dysregulated, your insulin levels begin to creep up. If we check this, we can act preventatively and do something BEFORE diabetes develops. It’s the same with gut microbiome testing. We can check the health of the bowel, the gallbladder, the pancreas, and inflammatory markers amongst many other markers and be ahead of the game, rather than waiting on ill health to appear.

When the opportunity arises – be proactive – think prevention.

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