2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

Knowledge Base

Welcome to our extensive library of articles on health concerns and conditions, alternative therapies, nutrition, nutritional supplements, and much more. Acupuncture / Traditional Chinese Medicine Aging Allergies & Food Sensitivities Alternative Therapies Big Pharma Evils Bone Health Candida (Yeast) and Parasites Cardiovascular Health Case Studies Chiropractic & Physical Medicine Dermatology Digestion Diseases Ear, Nose & Throat Environmental Sensitivities Eye Care Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Fitness & Exercise Health Insurance Issues Healthy Lifestyle Immune System Inflammation Integrative Medicine Lyme Disease & Morgellons Men's Health Mental Health Nutrition, Nutritional Supplements, Vitamins, & Herbal Remedies Pain Management Sexual Health Thyroid, Adrenal, & Sex Hormone Issues Weight Issues Women's Health

Biography as Biology

I’d first come across this phrase during a lecture by psychologist and medical intuitive Carolyn Myss, PhD, at a meeting of the American Holistic Medical Association and later reading some of her books, especially Why People Don’t Heal. In it she explores the common problem of people with chronic symptoms and negative test results, delving into how these symptoms develop and what might be done to help them.

The heart of the matter, I soon came to realize, was, and continues to be, an essential flaw in the education of virtually all doctors–namely, an almost willful ignorance of the patient’s full life story. This failure to recognize how a person’s biography might influence her biology can place a real barrier between an ill patient and her doctor’s efforts to help.

It starts with what goes wrong in medical school
Medical students and physicians of all ages know the following initials by heart: CC, HPI, PMH, FH, SH, ROS. These are abbreviations for the questions asked in order to obtain the medical history of any new patient whose symptoms need to be diagnosed and treated appropriately.

• CC Chief Complaint is one sentence in the patient’s own words. For example, “I’m tired all the time.”

• HPI History of Present Illness are the patient’s answers to the doctor’s questions about when the symptoms first appeared, how they’ve progressed, and what other symptoms have been noticed along the way.

• PMH Past Medical History represents any other significant illnesses, surgical procedures, allergies, and the like.

• FH Family History stands for any significant family illnesses that might carry genetic risks.

• SH Social History is a series of lifestyle questions: occupation, tobacco, alcohol, other drugs, sexual partners, diet, etc.

• ROS Review of Systems is a lengthy questionnaire (often filled out by the patient before seeing the doctor) covering all other areas of the body.

This universal format has been written in stone for decades. It’s one reason why your medical records can be transferred around the country and be completely comprehensible to any physician you visit. I might add that it would be easier to parallel park the QE2 than to get medical schools, medical associations, and several hundred thousand physicians to agree on changing it.

But, to the peril of the patient, this format completely ignores what happened in the patient’s life during the months, or even years, before the appearance of her first symptom.

And this, Dr. Myss felt, was a key reason people didn’t heal. Not only did doctors fail to tease out this potentially valuable information, but patients themselves, seeking some medical explanation for their symptoms, would overlook what was staring them in the face. As a result, they’d be subjected to endless tests, often all negative, and would leave their doctor’s office having heard (yet again), “We can’t find anything wrong with you.”

Here’s an example of what Dr. Myss is talking about
Some years ago I had a patient in her fifties—let’s call her Pam–who told me she’d been utterly exhausted for five straight years. She’d seen numerous physicians around the country, both conventional and alternative, been given a wide variety of medical advice (including a shopping bag filled with supplements), and also brought in for my review a ream of generally unhelpful test results. In the end, nothing had helped. Pam remained exhausted.

But her biography? It could have been the subject of a drama on survival skills.

She’d been raised with her siblings by a mentally ill mother and a mostly absent, emotionally distant father. Her mother, long dead, had physically, emotionally, and sexually abused all of them from early childhood. All her adult siblings were now drug addicts or alcoholics. Pam herself had started out as an alcoholic runaway and had lived with a series of abusive men. However, blessed with an iron will, by her thirties (despite struggling with depression and self-esteem issues) Pam had created her own business and over the years became financially independent.

She’d also believed she’d entered a good marriage during her thirties, but her husband had transformed into yet another abusive man and they divorced a few years later. After the divorce, Pam became deeply depressed, and to deal with her plummeting self esteem underwent cosmetic surgery, which failed. (By the way, having cosmetic surgery after a difficult divorce is very common.) Shortly afterward, she’d lost her business, and shortly after that she’d become so fatigued she was unable to function.

Ultimately, her psychiatrist, rather than her internists, would make the correct diagnosis, likely because the psychiatrist had delved into Pam’s biography and understood its connection to her biological response. Her diagnosis was post traumatic stress disorder, her exhaustion a result of the repeated flogging of her stress-responding glands, the adrenals and thyroid.

Sadly, psychiatrists and internists virtually never communicate. Although her psychiatrist had been extremely helpful in getting her life back on track, Pam’s other physicians, by ignoring her biography, completely missed the connection between the life she’d lived and her exhaustion.

All they could tell her was that all her tests were normal.

Leave a Comment


  1. Nicole Brown says:

    This is great information- thanks Dr. E. I am very happy that you pointed out some VERY important pieces in helping people get better, and I agree that they are often ignored.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

BIRTHDAY

Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our

patient-portal

The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

BIRTHDAY

Upcoming Workshops

**Facial Rejuvenation
The Ultimate DIY Anti-Aging Facial!
With Mari Stecker, LAc
Thursday, January 18, 2018; 6:00-7:30 PM
$65 course fee 
(includes guasha tool and anti-aging facial oil)

Join us and learn a traditional Chinese facial rejuvenation technique that you can do yourself! Guasha treatment is a 2,000 year old Chinese massage technique that uses a flat tool to apply pressure to the skin to increase circulation as it moves along acupuncture channels.

Facial guasha is an easy to learn technique that:
* encourages blood flow and promotes radiance
* prevents wrinkles
* activates cells to regain facial elasticity
* drains fluids to detoxify skin and reduce puffiness
* sloughs off dead skin cells
* uplifts and tones skin
* firms up facial muscles
* minimizes dark circles
* promotes a healthy, younger and more radiant look

Space is limited and registration is required.
Register online or call WholeHealth Chicago at 773-296-6700
More>>

 

**Vaginal Rejuvenation
Thursday, February 1, 2018;  6:00 – 8:00 PM
With Mari Stecker, LAc & Renee Zambo, RYT
Fee: $65

Are you experiencing vaginal dryness? Or pain with intercourse? Have you been told you have vaginal atrophy due to menopauseAre you frustrated because you believe your sex life is overWell, it doesn’t have to be!

Come learn easy, non-pharmaceutical, non-hormonal, low cost techniques that you can do at home to help alleviate vaginal dryness, atrophy, thinning of vaginal skin and/or painful intercourse.

Spots are limited, and registration is required. Register on-line or by calling (773) 296-6700. More>>

 

 

Recent Health Tips

  • Why Conventional Medicine Hates Homeopathy

    If it’s of any comfort to US homeopaths, until the past ten years or so, when the health insurance industry gave conventional medicine something serious to fret about, the organized hostility toward alternative medicine was mostly democratic. It hated all forms. Their battle cry, “We’re …Read More »
  • The Flu

    It’s here, folks. You’ve likely had the flu in the past and if you’re currently coming down with symptoms you’re not looking forward to the next few days. Your throat hurts, your nose is first watery, then clogged with something approximating cement. Your muscles ache …Read More »

January Sale: 20% Off the UltraLux IV Light Box

Full Spectrum Solutions has been an industry leader for the past 20 years, offering therapeutic lighting that is made right here in the Midwest (Michigan). The UltraLux IV is the first and only LED light therapy unit on the market that is both fully adjustable. Unlike many of their competitors, they boast a high CRI rating (90+) and a lifetime warranty so you never have to purchase replacement bulbs again. Full spectrum light therapy is often recommended in cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) to help make up for the sunlight that is missing from these shorter, winter days.

To learn more about and purchase the UltraLux IV, click here.

To see past Health Tips on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Dr. Edelberg’s recommendations, including a full spectrum light box like the UltraLux IV, click here.