Holding an Ideal While Respecting Where You Are On Your Healing Path
I'll answer this in a couple of ways.
When working with a patient in person, my current teacher (Dr Ed Neal) has us imagine the most beautiful, healthy, vibrant river ecosystem that we can in as much detail as we can.
Then we place our hands and awareness over the person's body and compare.
The differences between the two become immediately apparent.
If we take a vibrantly healthy human who is functioning well, what will their hands and feet feel like? Cold? Probably not. So that's one way to think about it.
Holding vibrant health and beauty in mind is different than pathologizing. It helps us see what things look like when everything's running smoothly.
But we also want to keep individual tendencies in mind. We're not aiming for some abstract ideal. We're looking for improvement for the individual while also remembering and holding in mind what health looks like.
We can also think about why the appendages are cold or, to put the opposite way, what happens that makes them warm? A few things.
We have lungs that are pushing fluids throughout the body through their contraction and expansion.
We have a heart that keeps the timing for the waves of blood pressure that move from the interior of the body to the extremities.
We have a liver that coordinates the tensing and relaxing of the vasculature to keep those blood pressure waves moving to where they need to go, so that if we need to shunt blood to the digestive organs or to the muscles or to the brain, then we can do this based on need.
So if our extremities are cold, then it suggest that one or more of these processes isn't happening. And as we go through a systematic health creation process, we might make note as to whether our hands become warmer and use this as indication that these processes are working better.
We might ask similar questions about lowish iron (making sure to use evidence based ranges to make that determination and measuring other markers, like ferritin and TIBC and MCV to get an accurate sense of iron status).
But let's say it's usually lowish. Well, for starters if the appendages are warm and other things are functioning smoothly, then maybe it's an incidental finding.
But otherwise, I'd start to look at levels of intake, GI health and absorption and then whether there are chronic infections.
Microbes fricken' love iron. They love iron supplements, too, by the way.
So it's a combination - I encourage you to both hold in mind what vibrant health looks like and also to hold in mind what improvement looks like for you based on your individual tendencies.
The other thing that my teacher has taught me to ask is: "What does healing look like for this person?"
Only focusing on an abstract universal ideal is problematic because it's not reflective of your reality and how your body is choosing to allocate resources based on its unique strengths and challenges.
Only focusing on individual tendency is problematic because we miss opportunities for vast improvements in functioning and health.
By keeping both in mind we move towards health while respecting where we are.