What is symptomatology?
Symptomatology is quite literally the study and use of signs and symptoms to help understand a person's health. Specific symptoms are used to determine the cause and resulting health condition(s). This is free of the use of objective laboratory measurements. For example, we do not require a test results to determine that someone has contact with poison ivy, we look at the signs and symptoms.
Symptoms of Poison Ivy Exposure
The appearance of poison ivy along with the associated symptoms is enough to tell us what we have and then along with that, how to treat it.
This same process of collecting signs and symptoms associated with nutritional imbalance, and more precisely each individual micronutrient, we are able to understand what the body needs and/or why we are experiencing these symptoms in the first place.
Symptomatology and Nutrient Deficiency
Test yourself to find out where you stand nutritionally. Researchers have proven that for each illness there is a nutritional component. Ninety percent of Americans are deficient in one or more nutrients. You'll want to know the warning signs of nutritional deficiency: fatigue, susceptibility to infections, cold extremities, joint pain, skin problems, brittle nails and hair, digestive disturbances, hair loss, muscle cramps, and dozens of others. You'll especially need to know your nutritional deficiencies if: you have a chronic illness; you wish to reduce your medical expenses; modern medical treatment has failed you; you wish to lose weight.
Are Deficiency Diseases a Thing of the Past?
Many people believe deficiency is a thing of the past and it’s important to make the distinction between a vitamin depletion disease and deficiency. Scurvy, a disease brought on by overt Vitamin C deficiency which causes weakness, disease and death was solved in 1795 when the British Navy implemented the advice of James Lind in prescribing 1 fluid ounce of lemon juice to soldiers daily. This solution was what caused the British Seamen to be called “limeys,” though at the time it was not understood if the limes were providing a vital nutrient or destroying a poison. The medical community at the time of vitamins first being discovered was unsure whether vitamins provided life sustaining properties, or if they destroyed a particular poison what was afflicting people. We now know it does both, but that most diseases (like scurvy) are simply a lack of vitamin nutrients (Vitamin C) and not a poison or pathogen at all but a weakened state of the body due to lack of nutrients.
It’s probably more accurate to refer to these severe deficiency disorders as depletion disorders, they occur when vitamin levels have been completely depleted from the body for a period.
It’s understandable why carrying out such experiments is hard to do – inviting participants to deplete their body of a vital nutrient to see what happens isn’t very inviting at all. However, this has been done and the results are quite interesting. By eliminating Thiamine completely from the diet and monitoring blood levels of Vitamin B1 a relatively recent study was conducted with a group of participants. It took between 5 and 10 days for all participants to show signs of sub-clinical cellular disruption after 100% removal of B1. This 100% difference between 5 days for some and 10 days for others goes to show that our own unique biochemistry affects our vitamin assimilation, requirements, and use.
Although everyone exhibited some signs of deterioration after just 10 days, it was not until the 200th day when the first participant exhibited signs of beri-beri. During the 190 days from sub-clinical symptoms to full depletion disease every single participant suffered from increasingly ill health with symptoms ranging from weight loss, insomnia, appetite loss, headaches, irritability, and general malaise. None of these vaguer signs happened at the same time or in the same way for each participant although they all exhibited each to a varying degree. This again, speaks to the fact that we are all biochemically different and so our approach to health and diet must be as well.
The sub-clinical symptoms documented in this beri-beri study are just a few of the hundreds documented over time, which we can now use in an organized and meaningful way to discern sub-clinical deficiency and prevention of depletion diseases. If we can understand scientifically what happens to the body along the path to depletion we can intervene and prevent the cellular deterioration documented in these studies. There is no moment when we are alerted to a deficiency, the truth is most people live perpetually in a state between optimal nutrient levels and complete depletion of nutrients. Fig 1.
“The obstacle becomes the way”
The multi-variable nature of health and symptoms can be used to provide the very answers we seek.. By looking wholly at multiple variables, we can easily begin to see patterns and easily form begin to qualify or disqualify solutions. Let’s just give a real example to illustrate how easily this can be applied.
Sally has dry skin. We know dry skin is a symptom of multiple deficiencies or imbalances. All of which are derived from scientific studies.
We can see that Sally may be lacking one or more of the following nutrients, but which one does Sally need? This is where the problem of multiple variables can be used to help us. So, let’s take a look at the entirety of Sally’s symptoms and include her as a participant in understanding her body’s needs and signs.
When we examine all the symptoms, we look for patterns in order to then qualify or disqualify a solution. Looking at this we can see that it is much more likely the solution to Sally’s dry skin would be to incorporate or increase her intake of EFA’s as she is showing more symptoms of that being an actual deficiency and not simply 1 symptom which we try to pinpoint an answer for. What else can this tell us?
We can see that she may also have a need for biotin, but most likely not for potassium or Vitamin A (beyond what she is already getting through her current diet or supplementation). In this realization we can assert that odds are Sally requires some biotin and even more EFA’s.
Why not just use a blood test?
We have already discussed becoming a participant in your health rather than an object, but of course some meaningful objective diagnostics can be useful – and in fact can be extremely accurate. However, accuracy does not always mean reliable.
I can easily measure the amount of T4 in my blood and feel extremely confident in its accuracy, but what does that mean? It means we know how much T4 is in my blood and nothing more. It does not mean that T4 is converting well to T3 to be used by the body. It does not mean that my thyroid gland is getting enough T4 in the first place. It means and only means that my blood has that amount. We cannot extrapolate any further details beyond speculation.
Oftentimes, our blood regulates nutrient levels as a survival mechanism. For example, our blood levels of calcium are tightly regulated so when blood-calcium drops our bodies will leech it from our bones – sacrificing tissue for blood stabilization. Your body will continue to sacrifice tissue up until the point of death in order to maintain blood regularity.
It’s also important to note that there is no blood testing available for:
- Low HCL
Some other nutrients are available through blood panel, however, are extremely unreliable:
- Under stress (and who isn’t) Vitamin B6 binds with zinc, making them unavailable to tissues yet available to blood. If you are under stress these nutrients are not reaching tissues even if your blood levels are normal.
- Vitamin B12 can be normal in blood yet not in the cerebrospinal fluid where it is needed.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to misleadingly higher levels of folate in the blood.
- Calcium is always maintained in the blood yet may be leeched from tissues (as mentioned previously)
- Magnesium may also be low in tissues but normal within the blood.
- Inflammation reduces blood test accuracy and reliability
- Age reduces blood test accuracy
- Disease state reduces blood test reliability
Most at home test kits allow you to test:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12
What about the rest of them? What is the point of getting a tiny fraction of your nutritional status tested?
Blood tests usually only pick up deficiency when it’s already progressed to a later (and harder to correct) disease.
Since blood tests are easily influenced by dietary and other means and only show mineral or trace element deficiency or excesses when homeostasis is threatened, blood mineral analysis may not show abnormalities until a severe disease process is present, especially when test values are compared to the usual two standard deviation reference range.1
Overall, the use of symptomatology is vastly under-utilized, possibly because it requires mountains of data amalgamation and either a practitioner with an extraordinary memory or an AI that has been programmed to understand that data patterns. If used correctly symptomatology can be an incredibly accurate tool for determining nutritional imbalance.
11. Maugh TH: Hair: A Diagnostic Tool to Complement Blood Serum and Urine. Science, Vol. 202, Dec. 22, 1978, pp 1271-73.