At its very foundation, conventional medicine is focused on labeling sets of symptoms as specific conditions (diagnosing you with disease), and this diagnosis is viewed as the “root cause” of your illness, when in reality it’s just a name.
Although this approach can make it easier to talk about your symptoms or conditions, and may also deepen your understanding of what’s going wrong with your health, it’s also incredibly limiting.
Because there are two major scenarios when that approach falls short.
The first is when your particular set of symptoms don’t cause abnormal labs or match a known disease, so your doctor tells you they don’t know what’s wrong with you, or worse—that your symptoms are in your head.
And the second is when the treatment for your symptoms or condition isn’t really helping, or it’s causing side effects that you don’t want.
In both of these cases, having a deeper understanding of the root causes of chronic symptoms and conditions can be really helpful!
But even if you aren’t facing either of those difficult realities, knowing the underlying root causes of chronic illness can allow you to take your healing to a whole new level!
So what causes chronic disease?
It’s actually less complicated than you think! We may have a lot of words to describe different symptoms and conditions, but they all stem from 7 root causes, and once you understand this, you can take action and totally transform your health!
ROOT CAUSE #1: FOOD
As Ann Wigmore said, “The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” Yes, your food choices impact your health that much. (And if your doctor has told you that what you’re eating isn’t contributing to your chronic symptoms or conditions, my advice is to find a doctor who isn’t living under a rock!)
There are three main ways that food creates disease:
- Eating foods your body reacts to. This is called a food allergy, sensitivity, or intolerance—and there’s a difference (stay tuned for an article on that). But the bottom line is that eating foods your body reacts to causes inflammation and can lead to a LOT of different symptoms all over the body (not just gut dysfunction), as well as increase your chances for chronic immune system dysfunction AND chronic diseases.
- Consuming inflammatory junk filled with toxins. Fast food and most packaged foods and beverages fall into this category. Here’s the deal—foods that raise inflammation and include toxic ingredients totally undermine your health, interrupt how your body is designed to function, contribute to immune system imbalances, raise your toxic burden (which strains your liver and detox + drainage pathways), cause blood sugar dysregulation (hello weight gain and metabolic dysfunction!), disrupt your microbiome and compromise gut health, and increase your chances of all chronic diseases (yep—ALL).
- Not getting enough nutrients. You need adequate protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. There’s no way around it, and no—multi-vitamins and protein powders don’t take the place of whole foods (even though high-quality options can serve as a helpful bridge when you need additional support and while you optimize your food choices).
If you want to transform your health, you have to feed your body foods that are nourishing AND avoid foods that are inflammatory and toxic. It’s just the way it is. Your body cannot function properly or be healthy if you are feeding it chemical-laden junk in place of nutritious foods. I don’t like using the analogy of a car because the body is NOT a machine, but it works here: you don’t put gasoline into a vehicle with a diesel engine, so don’t expect your body to function the way it’s supposed to when you’re using the wrong fuel.
Food is SO powerful, and food choices are a driving force in the development of ALL chronic symptoms and diseases. You cannot ignore this area and be healthy.
ROOT CAUSE #2: LIFESTYLE
How you live your life has the power to heal you or make you sick, and there are some non-negotiables here. I didn’t make the rules—I’m just telling you what they are.
You have to move your body on a daily basis, build strength, consistently get enough sleep, drink enough water, nourish your creativity, learn new things, pursue passions, spend time outside and in nature, and make time for joy and fun. You also can’t smoke or drink and expect for your health to not be impacted.
Your lifestyle has to be dialed in if you want to transform your health, age gracefully, and prevent chronic disease. Imbalances in the way you live your life are a MAJOR cause of chronic illness.
ROOT CAUSE #3: BUGS
When I say “bugs,” I’m talking about parasites, mold, yeast, bacteria, Lyme and other tickborne illnesses, and “viruses.” And while the terrain of the host (i.e., YOUR underlying health) determines how significantly these bugs will impact you, they can still be a root cause of chronic illness.
Almost every patient I work with needs help clearing one or more of these microbes from their body, as well as support for addressing the imbalances they’ve created while living there.
And it’s no coincidence that the gut is a major site where these bugs live AND that gut health is so central to overall health. As Hippocrates said, “all disease begins in the gut,” and one of the most significant causes of gut dysfunction are disturbances and imbalances in the bugs living there, AKA the microbiome.
If you’ve got chronic symptoms or conditions, I can almost guarantee you that bugs are playing a role (yes, even if the testing your doctor has run hasn’t revealed anything).
ROOT CAUSE #4: TOXINS
Environmental toxins are probably one of the most prevalent and neglected issues when it comes to chronic symptoms and conditions. EVERYONE is dealing with a toxic load that is undermining their health to some extent, and that’s why detox is a big focus of mine with patients (and I’m not just talking about doing a cleanse—there’s a lot more to it than that, although cleanses can be helpful when done correctly).
We come into contact with these toxins through the environment, personal care products, cleaning products, moldy and “sick” buildings, food, water, air, medications, technology, and lifestyle choices like smoking and drinking.
If you are suffering from chronic illness, you’re not going to be able to transform your health if you’re not supporting your body’s ability to detox (this happens primarily in the liver but also the gut) and then eliminate those toxins through bile, stool, urine, sweat, lymph, and exhalations.
(We can also be impacted by “energetic” toxins. Like people or relationship dynamics that are toxic to us; harmful messaging that can come from the fashion or entertainment industries; and negative information and fear-driven propaganda from the news, TV, and social media. In the case of energetic toxins, detox + elimination involves boundaries and avoidance).
ROOT CAUSE #5: STRESS + EMOTIONS
In Chinese medicine, all chronic illness is rooted in excessive disturbances of the seven emotions, and each emotion is associated with a particular organ system:
- Anger (liver)
- Sadness and grief (lungs)
- Worry (digestion)
- Pensiveness, or excessive thinking/working/studying (digestion)
- Fear (kidneys)
- Joy, which is better described in this context as “mania” and translates to excessive enthusiasm, excitement or desire (heart)
- Shock or a sudden fright (kidneys + heart)
There’s more to this discussion, but my point is that your emotions impact your physical body, and when your emotions are out of balance (i.e., when they are excessive, or when you’re stuck in a particular emotion), your physical body will be out of balance too.
One example of this mind-body connection that is recognized by conventional medicine is the strong association of stress and anxiety with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS. (And if you’ve ever gotten a “nervous stomach,” you know what I’m talking about!)
Your stress levels and emotional landscape impact your physical health in a very real way, and they can be a significant root cause of chronic symptoms and disease. This area cannot be overlooked if you want to transform your health!
ROOT CAUSE #6: TRAUMA
No one makes it through life without experiencing trauma, but some trauma can stay with you and make you sick.
This can be especially true when it comes to trauma that occurs in childhood, when we are so much more susceptible to our experiences and don’t yet have the skills to process emotions in a healthy way.
Many of us also grew up in environments where healthy emotional processing was not modeled to us, and this adds to the difficulty of processing traumatic experiences in a productive way. (This doesn’t mean our parents/guardians didn’t do the best they could; it just means they don’t always have it figured out and can unintentionally, or intentionally, dump their own dysfunctional emotional processing onto us.)
Where can this trauma come from? Anywhere. Home; school; social media; societal structures that perpetuate racial discrepancies; social expectations and pressures; the fashion and entertainment industries; government and legal systems; local, national and global events; religious or spiritual figures; and so on. (Not to complicate things, but trauma can also be inherited…)
And when I say “trauma,” this doesn’t have to be capital-T-Trauma, such as physical abuse or sexual assault. It doesn’t even have to be an experience that other people would consider traumatic for it to be a valid trauma for YOU.
Feelings are energy, and we are energetic beings, so the reality is that feelings buried alive never die. Emotional energy has to go somewhere. And if it’s not processed and released, then “somewhere” ends up being our own bodies. Unprocessed and unresolved trauma can be a significant root cause of chronic symptoms and illness.
ROOT CAUSE #7: SPIRITUAL DISCONNECTION
We all need to believe in something bigger than ourselves, precisely because there IS something bigger than us (and denial of any truth can only lead to problems).
Now I’m not here to force my spiritual beliefs onto anyone, but hear me out: humans are part of the natural world, therefore we ARE—at our very core—nature itself.
And there’s a vital animating force that permeates everything in the natural world, and it’s the difference between something that’s dead or nonliving and something that’s alive.
It’s the same force that’s behind a cut on your finger healing and a wound on a plant healing.
The same force that’s behind a community of people, animals, or trees (yes, trees!) rallying together to care for one of their own that is sick and struggling.
It’s the same force that made Earth a hospitable environment—not only for life to exist but to thrive.
And it’s the same force behind the rhythm of the tides and the impact of the moon on a woman’s cycle.
It’s the same force that keeps your heart beating and your lungs breathing without your conscious involvement.
And it’s the same force that you are tapping into when you hear your intuition speak.
If you don’t see or recognize that force, that “life source energy” that connects everything in a unified web, then there is a level of disconnection from that life source energy, which means there is a level of disconnection from the very thing that sustains you. The very essence that breathes life into your bones. I don’t care what name you give this power or what religion you follow because it’s bigger than the words and concepts our human minds can conjure up.
Now I want to be clear that I don’t think this life source energy ever disconnects from you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be disconnected from that life source energy.
I see it as a two way street, so when I say “disconnected,” I mean that the flow is only going one way—from Source to you, WITHOUT that flow returning from you back to Source. It’s a disrupted circuit.
If you believe in God, then it may help to think of it like this: God is always with you, always loving and supporting you, always connected to you, even if you are not actively loving God or taking time to connect with God.
Do you see the difference? Can you visualize the disconnection that I’m talking about?
So back to the core of this message: Disconnection from life source energy (or whatever you want to call this power) leads to disconnection from yourself (your higher self, not your ego self—there’s a difference). And vice-versa—disconnection from yourself leads to disconnection from life source energy. Because we cannot separate two things that are actually one (I’m talking about the Source within, the God within; that cannot be separated from you because it’s ultimately who you are at your core).
And disconnection from life source energy and from your higher self (which are one and the same) does not allow for true presence or authentic, unconditional love, both of which are necessary components of being healthy and vital.
This is what I mean when I say that spiritual disconnection is a root cause of illness. If you are not making time to connect with and honor this life source energy—whatever you call it and however you prefer to interact with it—you can develop chronic symptoms that are rooted in that disconnection, and you will not achieve the level of healing and wellbeing that you are capable of.
Your Chronic Symptoms Exist Because of These 7 Root Causes
If you’re new to thinking outside the conventional medicine box, some of this may sound a bit woowoo to you, and that’s okay. Take what resonates with you, and leave the rest.
But here’s the truth as I know it based on my years of studying alternative medicine, the additional training I’ve received in yoga and Reiki, my own spiritual journey and healing path, and my experience from working with hundreds of patients: when it comes down to it, all chronic symptoms and conditions are caused by some combination of these 7 root causes.
Which is actually a really beautiful thing because it means YOU have SO MUCH POWER to take action and change your current health reality! And I’d love for you to schedule a Discovery Call so you can find out how my approach and guidance can help you address these root causes and the various ways they are impacting your health!