Think of a toothache and many would empathise with the borrowed saying: “Pain, pain, go away! Please do not come back another day!” Pain motivates us to seek medical care yet non-painful health issues are often treated with less urgency — and sometimes the cause of pain is not easily recognisable.
Let’s take diabetes, for example. Few diabetics sense any pain with their blood sugar disorder and yet, if left poorly controlled, it will eventually lead to serious medical complications. The Australian Diabetes Council lists heart disease, blindness and even limb amputation as possible complications. Given the serious impact on the quality of life, most sufferers would be motivated to take action to control their diabetes.
What about snorers? Being socially embarrassed and not being able to share the same bed with a loved one is bad enough, and it is often the long-suffering partner who pushes the snorer to their doctor or dentist for treatment. Acknowledgement and acceptance of the sufferer’s medical problem is the first step to health; actually desiring better health is another issue.
Yet there is a third kind of pathology that is not broadly acknowledged or well understood by the medical and dental profession. This pathology is classified as disorders of the nervous system. A dysfunctional nervous system is notorious for giving both patients and the healthcare system a conflicting picture of the true nature of their disease.
For starters, our brains receive a much bigger sensory input from our hands, mouth and tongue. Canadian neurosurgeon Dr Wilder Penfield was the first to map this, in the 1940s. A 3-D representation of how our brains map our sensory body is called a homunculus and is shown in the image on the left.
So what causes our nervous system to dysfunction? The reasons can be broadly divided into postural issues, nutritional deficiencies and past traumas (both physical and emotional).
When nerves are distorted or compressed, from poor posture, for example, then the organs that receive these nerve inputs can start to malfunction. Bladder problems, for instance, are frequently observed by chiropractors who find lumbar spine compression. The lumbar spine is where the bladder nerves become compressed and dysfunctional.
The nervous system also requires adequate nutrients to function properly. A sufficient intake of healthy fats, vitamin D and vitamin B12 are all essential for normal nerve function. Adequate vitamin B12 levels also needs an assessment of folate intake, which was the subject of one of my previous blogs. Complicating things further is the presence of heavy metals, which are known to block the nutrients we do absorb from being used by our bodies.
The final cause of nervous system dysfunction are past traumas, whether physical or emotional. Old scars or previous surgery, on the one hand, or strong emotional events, on the other, are all known to permanently alter the way are nervous system responds in the future. Readers interested in learning more about this can read the work of Dr Robert Kidd, a Canadian doctor whom I had the privilege of meeting a few years ago.
My dream is that medical and health professionals desire to collaborate in understanding and treating more nervous system disorders. Not only would this provide better health outcomes for our patients but reduce the ballooning healthcare budget in Australia.