HOLLY CARLING: Stormy health

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As we prepare for the upcoming winter storms, or have experienced nature’s fury in the past, we realize how little control we have over it. Our health, however, is another story. We are very appreciative of the technology that we have that forewarns us of some storms — cyclones, tornados, hurricanes or fires heading our way so we can avoid them. For the most part, the storms of health give us ample warning, and this gives us time to thwart them as well.

So often I have heard patients recount their “sudden” illness, prefaced by having had “no warning.” “I was perfectly healthy and active, and then out of nowhere had a heart attack.” But as I query them, they did have warning, they just didn’t realize it.

For instance, early signs of a potential upcoming heart attack (within days, weeks or even months) includes unusual fatigue with or without shortness of breath on exertion, irregular sleep, indigestion, unusual anxiety, arms that feel weak or heavy, cognitive decline, and/or diminished appetite. The difficult thing about these symptoms is that they can mean so many other things as well. That’s why a good doctor doesn’t ignore this combination of symptoms, but investigates deeper so that a heart attack can potentially be avoided altogether.

Digestive issues have forewarning as well. Occasional indigestion is easily shrugged off. Maybe you pop a Tums or Rolaids and all is good. Much of the time it will progress to a worsening of heartburn, then reflux. Maybe the frequency of bowel movements changes. The intestines get more inflamed, then painful, and next thing you know you’re hearing the words “colitis” or “gluten intolerant” or “diverticulitis,” and getting a gist of the seriousness and long term challenges these diseases carry in their wake. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

So how do we head these diseases off at the pass and avoid having to confront a health storm? First of all, don’t ignore symptoms. All symptoms have a meaning. ALL of them. They are red flags that tell us bad weather is approaching and you’d better pay attention. This can be difficult because so often, if conversation frequently comes around to symptoms, you are called a hypochondriac. So often I’ve heard of people say they did not tell their doctor or loved one about a symptom for fear of this label. That is a mistake.

Also, too often it is ignored or brushed off by medical professionals because their tests show “everything is normal.” So often I hear people say they kept telling their doctor something was wrong, but were sent away without any answers until a real health storm arose.

You pay attention. If you have a symptom, address it early before it becomes a storm. If your doctor won’t listen to you or can’t find what’s wrong, find a health practitioner, a health detective, that will. Health storms can be avoided. We do have early warning signals, but it’s up to us to circumnavigate them.

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Holly Carling is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, Doctor of Naturopathy, Clinical Nutritionist and Master Herbologist with nearly four decades of experience. Carling is a “Health Detective,” she looks beyond your symptom picture and investigates WHY you are experiencing your symptoms in the first place. Carling is currently accepting new patients and offers natural health care services and whole food nutritional supplements in her Coeur d’Alene clinic. Visit Carling’s website at www.vitalhealthcda.com to learn more about Carling, view a list of upcoming health classes and read other informative articles. Carling can be reached at (208) 765-1994 and would be happy to answer any questions regarding this topic.

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