If you went to your doctor and asked this question, he or she might give you a once-over and visually assess the appropriateness of your height and weight, followed by a quick check of eyes, ears, and throat. Then there would be the more objective measurement of blood pressure, pulse, and temperature. You might be asked about any severe symptoms, and perhaps in more concerning situations, some blood would be drawn for testing. You would be asked for a current list of medications and perhaps supplements as well.
But let's say all of that came back with the conclusion of "normal," and you still didn't feel quite right. What other variables might your doctor consider? What other questions could be asked?
I'm no doctor, and I have no aspirations to be one, but I have been trained to look at health with a broader lens and to ask deeper questions than just the obvious medical ones. Here is a summary of a typical conversations that I would have with a formal client, as well as just a friend looking for guidance:
INTRO: Tell me why you're here. What are your major concerns and what do you hope to achieve during our time working together? What kind of guidance have you sought previous to meeting with me, and what kinds of recommendations have you received to this point?
DIET: Tell me what a typical day of eating looks like for you. Don't try to make it seem better than it is, because the more honest you are, the better I am able to help you. I'd like you to keep a detailed 3-day food journal in which you record everything you eat and drink (time of day, brand names, approximate amounts, homecooked or restaurant food...), any medications or supplements you take (name, purpose, dosage), any symptoms you experience throughout the day, as well as mood, energy levels, and hunger.
BOWEL MOVEMENTS: In addition to that food journal, I want you to keep track of bowel movements and label them using the Bristol Stool Chart. FYI - Our relationship just went to the next level!!
SLEEP: You're going to track this, too! How well do you sleep on a 1-5 scale? How many hours on average? When is bedtime? What time do you wake? Do you use an alarm or wake naturally? Do you fall asleep easily? Do you stay asleep all night? If you wake up during the night, why and how often and at what time, and is it difficult or easy to get back to sleep again? How do you feel when you wake up? Do you dream? Do you have nightmares? Do you nap, or wish you could?
MOVEMENT: What does your exercise routine look like? How often? How intense? How long? At what time do you exercise? If you're not moving much, why is that? Is it lack of enjoyment, pain/injury, lack of planning, lack of motivation, lack of time, lack of energy and stamina, or something else?
RELATIONSHIPS: How is your home life? Marriage? Friends and workplace?
TIME IN NATURE: How many minutes or hours would you say you spend outdoors daily? What does that time look like, ie. walking to and from my car in the parking lot, taking my kids to the park, hiking on local trails, or taking out the trash.
STRESS LEVEL: How would you rate your current stress level on a scale of 1-5? Can you identify the sources of stress in your life? How do they impact you? How do you manage them? Do you feel like stress could be affecting your health?
TOXIC EXPOSURE: What kind of pans do you use for cooking? What medications do you take, and how long have you been taking them? Any recent immunizations? Where do you work? Are you exposed to any chemicals or toxic substances? Do you have any dental amalgams? Do you use scented candles, antibacterial products, or harsh cleaning substances? Do you drink alcohol? Do you smoke? Do you vape? Do you have any recent tattoos?
FEMALES: How consistent is your cycle? How heavy is your flow? Do you experience any symptoms? Do you now, or have you ever, taken hormonal birth control? Tell me about any pregnancies and/or births. How is the health of your children?
THOUGHT LIFE: How would you describe your general outlook on life? What things do you say to yourself, about yourself?
Along with all of this, I would offer an online 8-page nutritional questionnaire that links symptoms with specific organ/system function. Later on, we might pursue lab testing to help round out the picture and help track progress over time. I used to offer both 3 and 6 month contracts, but found 3 was never enough. Our modern lives are quite complicated. Health has so many layers. And behavior change takes more than a few minutes.
If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. And I realize most medical professionals do not have the time or training to provide this kind of holistic support. But wouldn't it be amazing if our healthcare system trained teams of professionals so that patients and clients got the most comprehensive care? I believe this is the future of medicine, and I though I'm not exactly sure what my longterm role in this will be, I'm doing the best that I can with the time and resources that I have.