In Naturopathic medical school, I learned to make appropriate diagnoses for my patients. However, I don’t stop at the standard ICD-9 code and name of the disease. I look beyond the label and identify what process the body is going through. And, look at the metaphor that may be in play. Asking questions that allow a patient to begin an investigation into what might be going on besides the physical manifestation of the disease that was coded allows the patient to be more engaged in the process of healing. It also allows healing to take place on all levels of the patient’s experience.

In a great many of our chronic illnesses we find some error in perception within the body’s tissues and cells. For example, cancer is a process of isolation and reversion to base survival instincts. One’s cells begin living only to survive and reproduce, completely isolating themselves from the tissue they were formerly a part of. They cease to perform the function they were designed to perform for the body as a whole and simply hoard resources for themselves at the expense of the greater community. In a society where people feel isolated and afraid, it is not surprising to find increased cancer rates.

In many other chronic diseases, there is an autoimmune component where the body’s defense system has lost the capacity to differentiate ‘self’ from ‘other’. The immune system then engages in genocide of a particular cell or tissue type. In other words, in autoimmunity the sense of ‘self’ is distorted on a cellular level. One can be said to be at war with one’s self. In a society where people are struggling with defining who they really are, it is not surprising that autoimmune diseases are on the rise.

A reasonable question to ask is, “If you were a cell, would you want to live in your body? Is it a friendly, safe, happy, healthy place?”

Naturopathic medicine helps patients address these core issues while also working at the physical level with whatever the diagnosis and symptoms are. Luckily, it turns out that the things we do to make our cells healthy and happy, tend to make us feel that way as a whole. Oh, and they also tend to make the world around us more that way as well. Healing works all the way up and all the way down; or it isn’t really healing.

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