Picture this scenario:

You feel unwell. You consult Dr. Google and all of your symptoms add up to a shocking list of illnesses. But before you begin attacking your bucket list, you decide to go to the doctor to confirm your self-diagnosis. The doctor gives you wonderful news – Dr. Google was wrong! The tests come out negative, and according to that gibberish list of blood test results, you are the picture of perfect health. This should be comforting, yet there is this nagging thought in the back of your mind, “If nothing is wrong with me, then why don’t I feel good?”

Thus begins the vicious process of searching for answers.

These days, we have so much information at our fingertips, and we aren’t afraid to explore the darkest corners of the Internet to find a name for our dis-ease. But without a medical background and a clear understanding of how our body and mind work together, we are either left with too many ‘answers’ or none at all. We spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars, on testing and re-testing, blood draws, radiation, explorative surgeries, and various other invasive procedures. Imagine the stress this puts on our bodies!

Now, let’s be clear here. Sometimes it takes a bit of exploration to get to the root of the problem. I’m certainly not knocking the Western medicine diagnostic system, and I’m not saying to avoid testing to confirm or rule out major health concerns (please don’t do this!).

The problem is that when we become so obsessed with finding a NAME for our ailment, it often becomes even more stressful and problematic than the ailment ever was in the first place. I find more and more that patients are clinging to the idea that there must be a diagnostic label attached to their symptoms in order for them to be treated. This becomes an especially big problem when there are multiple body systems involved and the symptoms we are experiencing become too numerous to keep track.

Let me introduce you to a taste of how Chinese medicine deals with these scenarios.

Thousands of years ago, Chinese doctors didn’t know what hypothyroidism was. They didn’t know what diabetes, adrenal fatigue, endometriosis, or IBS were either. But what they did know was that certain sets of symptoms tended to travel together in packs, and that by treating the relevant organ systems and energetic (Qi) pathways, they were able to combat dis-ease. These sets of symptoms are called ‘patterns’ and you may have heard us throw some of these pattern names around at The Pagoda Tree: Spleen Qi Deficiency, Liver Qi Stagnation, Kidney Yin Deficiency… The names involved in these patterns may or may not signify an issue with the associated organ system, but they always tell us how to treat the expression of symptoms at hand.

There are situations where it is appropriate for us to experiment for ourselves – if you think you are sensitive to lactose, then it makes sense to eliminate dairy from your diet to see what happens, right? Right. If you think your doctor has missed something or isn’t listening to you, it doesn’t hurt to get a second opinion. And if you’re my patient you may have heard me say something to the effect of, “You can’t put a price on peace of mind.” It’s a wonderful thing when we can hear our bodies telling us something is wrong, and we are able to respond.

There is a certain satisfaction in knowing the name of your dis-ease. It makes us feel like we have accomplished something for all of our trials and errors. However, putting yourself through the ringer of extreme elimination diets, self-diagnosing based on internet forums or TV shows, or combining herbs, supplements, and medications without an educational background in these therapies can not only prove unfruitful, but even dangerous.

My advice to you is this:

First, find a practitioner that really cares about you and is passionate about what they do. Whether it’s a GP, acupuncturist, nutritionist, reiki master, or otherwise. Make sure they are invested in your health and that they are willing to involve you in your own healing journey.

Second, be open minded to new approaches to dealing with your health concerns. Sometimes things seem ‘too simple’ to work, and how disappointing would it be to find out that you’ve spent loads of time and money only to find that you have a ‘simple’ vitamin deficiency? And lastly, let go of your attachment to labels!

Remember that adding unnecessary stress to any health issue is always going to do more harm than good.

– Sarah


Sarah is a much-loved TCM practitioner here at The Pagoda Tree. To book a consultation with her, contact reception.