barriers to health, Naaman Syndrome, unnecessary testing, diagnoses, secret cure

Barriers to Wellness

Barriers to Wellness

© 2006 Wellness Clubs of

Wellness is a journey, not a destination. The state of your health is dynamic; it is affected by many diverse and ever changing phenomena. Many challenges come from our surrounding environment. The most serious obstacles to attaining and maintaining optimum health, however, are those of our own creation.

One of the most common obstacles to wellness in our society is what I call “The Naaman Syndrome”. Simply stated, the Naaman Syndrome is the state of mind that insists that treatment measures must be dramatic or heroic to be effective.

Naaman was a Syrian general afflicted with leprosy. An Israeli girl, who had been captured in a raid and taken as a household slave, told of a great prophet, Elisha, who had the ability to heal her master.

Upon hearing that a cure for his disease might exist, Naaman, taking a large sum of money, set out to visit the prophet. Upon arriving, however, Elisha refused to come out of his house. Instead he sent word by his servant that Naaman could be cured by dipping seven times in the Jordan River.

Naaman left in a rage. He had expected Elisha to invoke a miraculous healing in a dramatic fashion or prescribe a difficult series of steps that would lead to his recovery. The suggestion that he should bathe in the muddy Jordan River was simply too mundane to be taken seriously.

Many, perhaps most, people facing a health challenge immediately begin seeking out the latest technological advance, the newest designer drug, or the most advanced surgical procedure available. Few consider the possibility that simple, unsophisticated measures such as changes in diet and activities, addition of nutritional supplements, or energy enhancements could restore health and vitality.

A number of years ago an individual invited me to have lunch with him. He wanted to “pick my brain”. He was in transition, he explained, and was looking for a business venture that would allow him to help people recover their health. What breaking technology, he wondered, was most likely to significantly improve the health of the American population?

I watched his countenance fall as I expressed my opinion that the real hope for improved health for the vast majority was to embrace low-tech, rather than high-tech options. It was clear that he suddenly considered our conversation a complete waste of time. He finished his meal as quickly as he could, and excused himself. He was in the grasp of the Naaman Syndrome; I never heard from him again.

The Naaman Syndrome is rampant in our society. Every week I hear “prayer requests” for individuals who are facing health challenges. I believe in prayer, and I recognize that prayer is integral to healing. Nevertheless, I am struck by the extremely high percentage of individuals who have placed their faith in high profile, high-risk procedures while neglecting the many safe and effective natural resources God has provided for their healing.

Unlike many stories of illness today, Naaman’s had a happy ending. His servants urged him to do as the prophet had suggested, pointing out that had Elisha commanded him to some great and difficult thing, he would have done it. Naaman heeded their advice, bathed in the Jordan, and was completely healed.

Two elements were needed for Naaman to break through his resistance to what he considered an unexciting and unpromising approach to healing. The first was the willingness of his servants to approach him and encourage him to do the mundane as if it were the exotic. The second was Naaman’s willingness to listen to their advice and employ the lackluster procedure that had been recommended to him.

You will meet people regularly who are captives of the Naaman Syndrome. Remember that the first step in their recovery process is having someone suggest that they consider the mundane along with the exotic. The second step is up to them. Most will not take the second step, but those who do will be eternally grateful to you for caring enough to show them a better way.

Another self-made obstacle on the road to wellness is an inordinate desire to obtain the most complete and elaborate examination of oneself possible. Just because a test CAN be done does not mean that it SHOULD be done.

The reason for this is that medical tests are imperfect. All produce, to some degree, false positive and false negative results. A false positive test suggests that a problem is present when it is not. A false negative test, on the other hand, suggests that an individual is healthy when, in fact, a disease is present.

Both false positive and false negative screening tests present challenges. If a disease is believed to be present unnecessary procedures may be performed or beneficial activities may be curtailed. If a disease is present but believed to be absent effective intervention may be delayed.

An avid cyclist in his early thirties who consulted me is an example of someone who created an obstacle to his health by seeking unnecessary screening tests. This individual had decided that, although he felt well and was cycling over 100 miles a week, he should have a complete physical. Since he wanted the very best physical money could buy he went to see a cardiologist at a major medical center.

Despite the fact that he was a competitive cyclist who was stressing his body successfully on a daily basis, an exercise stress test was performed as a “routine” part of the examination. Cardiac stress tests can provide valuable information in high-risk individuals, but they have a high rate of false positive results in healthy, low-risk people. The young man’s stress ECG was interpreted as being “abnormal” and he was asked to have a coronary arteriogram (“heart cath”) to further evaluate his heart attack risk.

The angiogram was normal, but because of the abnormal stress test he was placed on a drug that prevented his heart rate from increasing with activity. This effectively ended his cycling activity.

He came to see me asking for help with a deepening depression. Upon hearing his story I advised him to discontinue the drug and resume his cycling routine. His depression rapidly lifted, and his former vitality returned.

Our bodies quite effectively alert us to the presence of disease if we are willing to listen. Symptoms (aching, change in bowel habits, elevated blood pressure, dizziness, tiredness, etc.) arise to signal the presence of abnormal conditions or diseases. With rare exceptions, seeking help in identifying the underlying cause when a symptom arises is far more likely to promote long-term wellness than relying upon intermittent screening tests to identify problems that need to be addressed.

A third obstacle that prevents people from obtaining optimum health is a fixation on a specific diagnosis. If an individual has become attached to a particular diagnosis and is unwilling to consider other possibilities, recovery may be impossible. Addressing an imaginary cause will not resolve a real problem.

I see this phenomenon quite regularly. I recently was asked what could be done to help a man with gall bladder disease. I questioned his diagnosis, since his symptoms were much more consistent with a rib that was not moving properly. My recommendation that he see someone who could address the alignment of his ribs and spine fell upon deaf ears. His mind was made up; he had gall bladder disease and to suggest otherwise was, in his opinion, foolishness.

I frequently receive calls from individuals who are convinced that they have chronic yeast infections. “Do you treat yeast infections?” The caller will ask. “I’m fighting candidiasis and I’m looking for a doctor who will prescribe what I need to treat it.”

I state that I treat yeast infections when appropriate, but that I will first want to do a thorough evaluation to determine whether or not a yeast overgrowth is the root cause of the symptoms they are experiencing. Upon hearing this response many choose to go elsewhere, firm in their conviction that only eradication of yeast from their bodies will solve their health challenges. Some will recover, but others will continue to struggle as the true cause of their health challenge goes unaddressed.

Another barrier to restoration of health is placing one’s faith in someone who claims to have discovered the cure for all diseases. Sick individuals are not the only people who are subject to tunnel vision. I have known many practitioners who have become fixated on a specific diagnosis. Anyone and everyone who consults them is told that they have the same disease process. Some of the more common conditions that preoccupy the minds of individual practitioners are chronic candidiasis, thyroid disease, and the presence of parasites.

If an individual happens to be facing the challenge suggested by the practitioner they have consulted, they will improve with the recommended regimen. If they have other conditions, however, they may experience some improvement, but they will never obtain their optimum level of wellness.

Limiting one’s options is yet another obstacle to optimum health. This is similar to being fixated on a single diagnosis. In this case, however, the preoccupation is with a specific treatment.

An example is the man who called me recently and asked, “Do you prescribe antibiotics for rheumatoid arthritis?”

“No,” I replied, “we now have much better options that are capable of producing better results with fewer side effects.”

“Then can you recommend a doctor who will give me a prescription?” he responded. His mind was made up; he was more interested in pursuing the tetracycline prescription than he was in effectively managing his disease.

This challenge becomes particularly difficult when a medication has been found that provides excellent symptom relief. “Why should I look any further when I feel so good on this medicine?” is the thought process.

Unfortunately, therapies that provide symptom relief in the present often cause serious problems in the future. Prednisone and other cortisone like drugs often provide excellent relief from arthritis, asthma, and other symptoms, but can lead to muscle weakness, osteoporosis, cataracts, diabetes, and an inability to fight infections.

Acid blocking drugs can bring relief from heartburn, but can trigger severe osteoporosis and cause an inflammatory stomach condition called atrophic gastritis over time. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxyn, and others can ease pain in a number of conditions, but can also lead to bleeding ulcers, kidney failure and heart failure over time.

It is, therefore, often wise to look for other options even when symptom relief has been achieved. One’s goal should not simply be to relieve symptoms, but to correct the underlying abnormalities that caused the symptoms to appear. In the end, the best option is the one that corrects the root causes of disease without creating other problems.

The Naaman Sydrome, unnecessary testing, becoming fixated on specific diagnoses and treatments, and pursuing the cure for all diseases – avoid these stumbling blocks and you should be able to make steady progress on your journey to wellness. Trip over one of them and you may never find the right path.

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