I've been at this a while.
Reversing complex chronic illness - both for my own health and that of 100s of patients. I've seen trends come and go and I see a lot of mistakes that very intelligent, well-meaning, driven, determined people make when trying to recover their health.
Here are the most common:
- Taking too many things - supplements, herbs, whatever.
Not only does this massively confuse your body and turn into its own source of stress, but did you know that with chronic inflammation, cells harden their surfaces as to intentionally not absorb nutrients anyways? That needs really needs to be addressed first before your B12 or vitamin C or whatever is going to get absorbed anyway.
2. Going in the wrong order (more commonly, not knowing that there is an order).
The body will heal when impediments to healing are removed. But like a combination lock, the body needs the right things in the right sequence in order to heal. Yes, I have no doubt that your gut is messed up. It goes with the territory. But has "fixing your gut" approaches solved the problem? Sure, it might have helped. But are you better now?
3. Thinking that tools & techniques that are health promoting for people in peak physical fitness are going to be helpful for you when you're chronically ill.
These are things that have a lot of amazing research behind them for energy production or longevity, but that most Podcasters and Summit speakers don't understand or explain the demographic that they're helpful for.
Exercise is an example that is obvious - this will make an athlete stronger and there's no disease that it can't help prevent but if you have exercise intolerance (chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia etc) it's not going to be so helpful for you right now.
Obviously, the type of training that makes someone in peak fitness more resilient isn't something you're going to try yet. But what about adaptogens? Or cold showers? Or nootropics? Or fasting? Cordyceps in your coffee? All the things that might be helpful for you when you're healthier but not pushing the needle for you now.
In fact, anything that's specifically helpful and longevity promoting for healthy people is pretty much guaranteed to make people with chronic conditions like CFS worse, based on your physiology.
4. Over-focusing on one cause or one diagnosis.
"It's because I have . . ." - Lyme, EBV, mold, MTHFR, Hashimoto's, SIBO . . . the fact is that, as a modern human with complex chronic illness, you have multiple causes for your ongoing health issues. Focusing on one, while perhaps a step above not looking at causes at all, is creating massive blindspots around all the other things you need to understand and do to get well.
5. Using a strategy that requires perfection, of both you and your circumstances, in order for you to function.
You're fine as long as there isn't a speck of gluten within a 15 mile radius. Then it all goes to shit.
You were fine but then the stressful thing happened and now you're in a massive flare.
You were fine but then your kid brought home a cold.
All of these set backs are expected parts of reality. An anti-fragile strategy to recover needs to include and work with these. Otherwise, it won't work.
6. Consuming too much information
There's an excellent quote from Entrepreneur and TED Speaker Derek Silvers: “If more information was the answer, then we'd all be billionaires with perfect abs.”
The fact is you need accurate first-principles, frameworks, and models to help you understand what you need to do. Otherwise the information is confusing, overwhelming and a massive waste of time at best.
But very unlikely to help you understand what you need to do at any given time in the right order to get well.
7. Misinterpreting lab tests (or working with someone who does).
This is a bigger subject. Over the past decade and change, I have earned a Masters degree in Functional Medicine and have done advanced training with the most respected teachers. I have looked at thousands of lab reports of hundreds of patients and have read hundreds of papers.
The fact is, 99% of people running these labs do not understand what they're really looking at, whether that's in Industrial medicine (this approach to labs is roughly 30 years out of date) or functional medicine, which has a bad case of the "new and shinies." Practitioners are basically at the mercy of the interpretation of whichever seminar or CEU event they're at or summit they've signed up for.
"Best practice" changes monthly.
But without a robust, time-tested framework to slot lab data into, practitioners, patients and experts alike are really just guessing. I can give you as many robust examples of this as you like but suffice it to say, if you've had functional medicine testing done and you are holding onto a certainty about your health based on those findings, this would be a good time to stop and question how true or relevant it is to your healing.
If you'd like to learn robust frameworks for long-term, time-tested, reality-based, biology based healing, you can apply for our group over at Synthesis Health Lab. It's completely free to join as a Guest and if you're a good fit and your application is approved, you'll have the opportunity to ask me anything you'd like about your health.
Unfortunately, I've made all of these mistakes in my own health and with my patients in the past. The important thing is to do something different if you want different results.