What if symptoms were the check engine light of the body

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Unfortunately, these clues are often silenced by painkillers

Symptoms let us know there is a problem in the body. The same way a vehicle Check Engine light might alert us to a problem under the hood. Symptoms offer us important clues that can guide us to solutions. Unfortunately, these clues are often silenced by prescription drugs such as painkillers.

If the prescription drug approach has worked for you in the past, then I suspect you wouldn’t be reading this. For some, drugs do little to address the root cause of the problem. And so the underlying health problem rarely goes away.


Back in the day, a good physician would carefully listen to a patient’s concerns and then ask a series of probing questions. This is how good medicine was practiced and it helps uncover the root cause of a problem

Today, doctors are more inclined to use blood testing as a diagnostic tool. While this is not without merit, it’s not infallible. Inevitably, some folks slip through the cracks. To add to the problem, the patient then leaves the doctor’s office with an unresolved problem and a firm belief that they don’t have a problem in that area. A good example of this is the thyroid TSH test, for reasons we will explore later.

If your symptoms remain unresolved there’s a pretty good chance your doctor hasn’t been listening to you. If this is you, grab a pencil and a blank sheet of paper.

For this exercise, we need to make a list of your current symptoms starting with the one that gives you the most problems. Stay with me here, this is a simple but highly effective way of making sense of your medical maze.

Give this task some careful consideration as even minor things can later become important clues. If you aren’t sure, just choose three health problems you wish you didn’t have and write those down.

Don’t get too freaked out if your list seems too short or too long. Everything in the body is connected. What ails you in one part of the body will logically throw up symptoms in another part. If you want to put this theory to the test, try dropping a hammer onto your big toe and see if your eyes water. Whoa, just kidding!

Okay, once your list is complete, check that all your symptoms are in order of priority, starting with whatever bothers you the most. Got it?


Once you have that paper filled out, put it to one side and pull out a second blank sheet of paper. Only this time we are going to do something a little different. Turn the sheet of paper sideways (landscape orientation) and at the top write the word Timeline.

Now, look at your list of symptoms from the first sheet of paper.

The idea is to now transfer your symptoms onto the Timeline sheet in some kind of chronological order. It doesn’t have to be perfect, at this stage we are just trying to get a sense of what went wrong and when.

Doing this on paper allows you to see patterns that you might otherwise have been missed. Yup, this a little effort on your part, but keep moving forward. The cost to you is low and the rewards can be high. It might just be the reason why no one else has figured out your annoying health problem.

Sometimes sleeping on it can help you fill any missing blanks. Asking your health care provider for a copy of your medical records can be helpful too. If you don’t have access to your records, then don’t panic. Progress is always better than perfection, just do the best you can with what information you have available.

Once you have your timeline sheet completed, take a while to look at it from different perspectives. Examine your it for patterns; maybe even ask a friend or relative to look over it with you.


Good police detectives leave no stones unturned. They often find evidence in the most unexpected places. If you want to be active in your own recovery treat it as if it were a crime scene. Your body is dying to give you these clues!

When filling out your timeline sheet, make a note of any recent medications, surgeries and/or medical procedures. Be aware that some of the side effects of medications can have lingering effects causing a disconnect in time.

Like any good detective, a simple process of elimination can be helpful. Pay particular attention to anything that’s manmade or any unnatural occurrence in the body. When listing medications, don’t forget to add things (if applicable) like the “humble” birth control pill. This alone has the potential to upset a woman’s estrogen levels.

Try to keep an open mind when looking for patterns. Some people have been known to react to medications while others may even react to vitamins. Either way, both will have the same thing in common … a start date!

Be sure to add any recent dental visits to your timeline too. It’s often said that health starts in the mouth but so too can illness. It’s no secret that an abscessed tooth can be a drain on the entire immune system and the adrenal glands.

When looking for clues, don’t be afraid to be guided by your intuition. Your intuition is probably the most underused tool you have at your disposal. Deep down you always know when something isn’t right.

As we continue moving forward, let me again urge you to take your time and try not to feel overwhelmed. Your answer is in here somewhere.


Once you learn to look a little closer, you will notice clues are all around us. Here’s an example of that.

I recently found myself in a hardware store and needed to speak to a sales assistant. He was a nice enough fellow and as I thanked him for his time I felt I should probably warn him about his high blood pressure. Left unchecked it can have deadly consequences.

He hadn’t mentioned it during our short conversation so when I asked him how his high blood pressure was doing, he was actually quite surprised. He went on to say that he had only left the doctor’s office that morning and had left with a diagnosis of hypertension (high blood pressure).

He knew he hadn’t seen me at his doctor’s office and by now he was curious to know how I had somehow picked up on it. Looking for clues had become such an ingrained habit of mine that I saw the answer right there in his fingernails. When a person has high blood pressure the half-moon shape at the base of the fingernails becomes quite prominent, (with the exception of the little finger which doesn’t have a half moon at all). Surprised, he admitted he had never even noticed his fingernails before, and nor had his doctor.

Had he known what to look for earlier maybe he could have seen the warning signs coming? He was grateful that he now had a simple diagnostic tool (literally at his fingertips) for times when he couldn’t get to his BP machine.

The fingernails alone can tell us about far more than just high blood pressure. Go ahead, take a look at the shape, color, and texture of your fingernails. Then check them against a friend’s, you will quickly notice your fingernails are totally unique to you. Watch closely and you will see that your fingernails also change over time, and they always tell a story.


Timing is everything in this life, we have to be aware that some people want to hear these insights, and some people don’t. My wife recently met with some of her knitting friends and dragged me along for the ride. During introductions, I shook hands with a middle-aged lady and immediately noticed she had dry skin. I also noted that she was the only person wearing a sweater in a room full of people wearing T-shirts. A quick glance at her eyebrows revealed that the outer third of her eyebrow had completely thinned out too. Hmm, I see.

As I watched her crunch on her second cup of ice within fifteen minutes, I wondered if the root of this lady’s obvious thyroid problem was anemia. People sometimes crave ice when they are low in iron.

As I sat quietly observing from across the room my wife came over and discreetly reminded me of the agreement we had made earlier. It went something like this … “These are my knitting friends, try not to freak any of them out.” My point? Clues are all around us, and they are helpful, but sometimes so too is an element of discretion. Lol.

What did we learn from this?

Symptoms are important clues that should be investigated rather than suppressed. If you are stuck on that merry-go-round of illness it’s absolutely okay to play a bigger role in your own recovery. Nobody knows your situation better than you do.

Homework: Create your own Timeline of symptoms and look at it objectively.

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