An initial naturopathic appointment is a long one. I ask a lot of questions, in a lot more detail than most people are used to. I want to know about your digestion (oh, so much about your digestion – how often, how big, what colour, what shape, easy/difficult, anything in there that shouldn’t be?), your energy, your sleep, your headaches, your skin, your periods, your appetite, your stress, your reaction to stress, your relationships, your diet, etc… And, you know what answer I hate? “Oh, you know, normal.”
Let’s look at some examples, shall we?
Tara: How often do you have a bowel movement?
Patient A: A normal amount, I guess.
Tara: OK, tell me what’s normal?
Patient A: Once or twice a week.
Tara: Do you get headaches?
Patient B: Sure, sometimes.
Tara: How often?
Patient B: Oh, normal. Nothing serious. I’ve always gotten them.
Tara: How often is normal?
Patient B: Two or three times a week.
Tara: How are your periods?
Patient C: Normal.
Tara: Define normal.
Patient C: 10 days, pain for four, very heavy for six. I usually miss one or two days of work per month.
Tara: Do you eat vegetables?
Patient D: A normal amount.
Tara: How much is normal?
Patient D: Lettuce and tomato in my sandwich, potatoes or corn with dinner.
These aren’t extreme answers. I hear them all the time. People say normal when they mean “common” or “what I’m used to”. Some people have had particular symptoms so long that they have no real memory of it being any other way. Because, trust me, pooping once a week is not normal. Biweekly headaches aren’t normal. Ten day periods are not normal. And, for the love of Jamie Oliver, the iceberg lettuce in your sandwich doesn’t count as a vegetable.
When patients make the appropriate changes and their “normal” goes to actual normal, they are ecstatic. I’ve had patients tell me that since having daily bowel movements (“sometimes, I even go twice!”) their mood is better, they are more comfortable in clothes and are even exercising more. A patient who hadn’t even listed low energy as a concern (she didn’t think it was) – came into the office two weeks into an elimination diet glowing – her energy was a solid 10/10. She didn’t need coffee, she didn’t crash after work, and she was getting through a to-do list that had become a family joke because nothing on it every got done.
So, what is normal? Come on in and find out.