Health is a complex, integrated process. Too often it is explained by narrow criteria and hence, the ability to achieve health has eluded many or is not sustainable. Achieving health is a life-long process that must be attended to on an ongoing basis.
A concern with current mind-set about health and disease is the assumption that disease is random and illogical and that physiological symptoms are the cause of disease. This irrational belief separates man from his life, decreases self-responsibility and self-awareness. It eliminates the need to look for and to address causal factors and places the emphasis of the health-care system on labelling versus understanding disease.
Naturopathic Medicine recognizes that health and disease are logical, complex and multi-factorial. The factors that influence disease are never another symptom or condition. Identifying the factors contributing to symptoms and diseases is an essential aspect of achieving health.
When your DBM Physician/Practitioner does a patient assessment, all the following factors come into play.
Lifestyle factors are those behaviours and daily choices that provide the fuel and structure for the body to function. They ensure that the terrain of the body, that is the internal environment, has the nutrients and ingredients to sustain health and to aid healing and repair. Lifestyle factors are the aspects of health promotion, the healthy lifestyle habits, which influence all stages of life and all stages of health and disease. They include those factors on the Lifestyle Factors Table 1.
The social aspect of a person’s life is where they spend most of their time. The dynamics and demands of each one contributes to one’s state of health or disease. The balance between the different social aspects of one’s life is often a challenge and struggle. The social aspects impact a person’s mental and emotional health, their motivation and desire to get well and make healthy changes in their life, as well as their sense of belonging. Social factors include those mentioned on the Social Factors Table 2.
The environment is increasingly becoming an important factor with respect to health and disease. The environmental toxins that need to be considered include the factors on the next four tables: Environmental Toxins – Table 3; Infections – Table 4; Time Spent Outside – Table 5; Health of the Environment – Table 6
There is a growing list of external factors that influence a person’s state of health. Those factors include those aspects on the External Factors Table 7
Medical interventions play a valuable role in saving lives and addressing high risk health situations. The concern with some interventions, however, is when they are employed instead of, or in place of, addressing the underlying initiating and aggravating factors of disease, especially when the risk to health is low or moderate. When looking at medical interventions as a factor that has influenced health or a cause of disease the following aspects are explored on the Medical Interventions Table 8
Personal Essence or Spirit
The personal essence is a descriptive concept of an individual’s vital or life force. Vital force is considered the primary force of all forces. It is the divine creative intelligence
When the personal essence is strong and in harmony with the individual there is health. Imbalance, lack of harmony or coherence in the personal essence is a precursor (even an actual cause) of subsequent disease. The task for each person is to learn how to live a life that is aligned with the personal essence and learn ‘the language of the body’ as it manifests signs and symptoms of imbalance indicating a need for change.
The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine declared that subtle energy or the invisible ‘life force’ is as much taken for granted as a fundamental fact of healing by alternative therapies as it is dismissed outright by the orthodox scientific world.
The personal essence permeates the psychological, the functional and the structural aspects. It relates to our vital force, our sense of purpose, our spirituality and our connection with the collective consciousness. It provides a person with a sense of belonging to something that is greater than the self.
The personal essence acts as a guide and a filter on a person’s life. It holds a person’s deep core beliefs and their values. It is their blueprint. The personal essence is influenced throughout a person’s life based on the stages of life and the events that a person has encountered. What it reflects of a person is seen in the Personal Essence / Spirit Table 9.
Genetics and Gestational Factors
The impact of genetics and gestational factors play a role in health and disease, especially on infants and children up to the age of eight. After that lifestyle, learned behaviour and other factors tend to have the greatest influence. Gestational factors that need to be considered include those indicated on Genetics & Gestational Factors Table 10.
The main physiological processes that both essential and can be considered causal factors of disease when not functioning optimally include those processes seen: Physiological Processes Table 11. From an alternative or naturopathic perspective, most physiological processes are viewed as a response of the body to establish health or normal transition between health and disease.
Transition Between Health and Disease
Some people are able to define a point in time that their health shifted. For others, it is a more gradual progression over a longer period of time. For everyone the balance between health and disease oscillates over a lifetime with health and disease existing on a continuum.
A person’s concept of health and disease depends on their expectations and beliefs. For example, some people view disease as the onset of symptoms, and others view themselves as having a disease when informed by a doctor or when their health concerns disrupt their life or their sense of well-being.
Disease is a process and it often starts with subtle changes in health. A person’s energy may decrease, sleep or appetite may become disrupted or digestion and elimination processes show signs of stress. Prevention involves paying attention to subtle changes and becoming aware of what caused them. Alternative and Naturopathic physicians have a number of theories about the process of disease.
These theories influence how they approach the assessment process, diagnose diseases and the treatment strategies that they employ. See Transition Between Health & Disease Tables 12 and 13.