Finding the root cause path

The Root Cause Path

Knowledge is comfort. 

But does having a diagnosis — simply naming it — solve the problem? 

I’m going to be bold here and say — No!

Chasing a diagnosis is an inherently allopathic pursuit. The scientific community strives for classifications, compartmentalization, and specialization. While this pursuit has many strengths, its flaw is that the knowledge it produces is isolated. 

Giving a name to your combination of symptoms often requires the practitioner to wear blinders. 

Chasing the diagnosis is a solely “if a, then b” pursuit. By diagnosing down through the phylogenetic tree of ailments, the practitioner risks losing sight of the whole. One could say they even lose the ability to see the branch, let alone the forest. 

This myopia goes further awry when the practitioner forgets to zoom back out after making the diagnosis. 

Perhaps it’s the constraints of big medicine, the dictates of insurance, or a habit ingrained through training. Regardless, this methodology has become a matchmaker — to line up your chief complaint with a billable diagnosis and treatment, i.e., a prescription. 

It works for a time — sort of. 

While you may feel better, if we’re being honest, it’s often short-lived. If the medication is treating an isolated symptom, sooner or later, the pathology wins out when the medication can no longer compensate. This gets worse when a new medication is added for the next diagnosis. 

What happens when a diagnosis isn’t found? 

An alarming trend when the “name it, blame it, and tame it” community can’t name it is to blame the patient. I hear this all too often from incoming patients. The complaint sounds like this: “The doctor stopped listening to me, said it was all in my head, and sent me out the door.”

So often, a “diagnosis” cannot be found.

And that’s okay! If your provider has the time, knowledge, and interest to return to the basics instead of chasing an insurance code, they can help you identify what your body needs to heal itself. By reducing toxins, inflammation, and stress, you can start returning to a state of balance. 

Let’s look at low libido or infertility as an example.

Often, despite an extensive medical workup, no “cause” is discovered. But once a person transforms their lifestyle through healthy eating, daily exercise, stress reduction, sunlight, etc., the body works itself out. Things start happening naturally. It’s a beautiful thing to witness. 

It’s not that we’re giving up on identifying the root cause; on the contrary. Rather, there are often many root causes all contributing to the same “disease”. 

It would be unnatural to blame a syndrome on just one thing. For example, someone doesn’t experience infertility because they don’t exercise. It’s often a combination of things that are all contributing to the syndrome of infertility. Yet so often, this is how the old system of sick care works, find one thing we can blame and quickly cover it up with a bandaid. 

As functional medicine providers, we’re focused on fixing the root cause of disease rather than mitigating symptoms — even at the expense of finding a categorical term or “diagnosis”. We aim to restore your health — to arm your body with vigor and vitality rather than pumping it full of chemicals that mask one symptom at the expense of causing two more.

So, do we really need a diagnosis?

Not at the expense of fixing the root cause.

The Empowered Patient.

Dr. Kate Erickson 

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