Each choice is a step toward feeling well (guest post).

When you’re tired, drink coffee.
When you have a headache, take Advil.
When you have acid reflux, swallow Prilosec.
When you can’t sleep, try melatonin.
Eczema? Cortisone cream.

Easy. Fast. Done.

But there is a fundamental problem here.

Treating symptoms instead of causes is like plugging holes in your bucket of water with chewing gum while you keep shooting it with your BB gun.

We live in a culture of quick fixes.

Our medical model is not only disease oriented but also focused almost exclusively on treatments.

Even ‘prevention’ in our medical model is often treatment oriented.

Find breast cancer with your mammogram so we can treat it early. And the money largely is there, not in how our diet and lifestyle interact with our genetic dispositions (a field called epigenetics, keep your eye on that.)

Even the most aware of us make this mistake.


When my son’s adoption was finalized and he came home from Guatemala at 7 months old I was exhausted.

The process was draining and terrifying.

We visited him 3 times over 6 months knowing the program was in a state of flux and could shut down at any time (it did, a mere 4 months after our son came home) and the process could drag out for years (some families are STILL still waiting for their kids to come home.)

I was a new mom. I was in the middle of a build out for a new office. I was a mess.

And that was the cause of the mental state that followed.

I was depressed. I was anxious. I was curled up on the floor of the kitchen telling my husband I was sorry I’d ruined our lives. I was looking at doorways downtown thinking if I just crawled into one they would take me away.

So I did therapy.

And I got rest.

And I did all the other things I knew to do, as an integrative physician, to feel better.

And I felt better.  I was looking at the causes.

But what I forgot was that causes don’t just jump up and smack you in the face. You need to root for them.

And they might not be directly related to the thing that is happening.

A few years later I was back to myself. Or I thought so, anyway.

But now I had a shoulder injury that just wouldn’t heal, so I put myself on an anti-inflammatory diet.

My shoulder didn’t get better at all (there were other causes but that’s another blog post) but my mental state did.

I hadn’t even realized I was still crouching under a dark cloud.

One day my husband pulled me aside and said he had to talk to me (uh oh, right?) and then he told me that I was more ‘normal.’

And by that he didn’t mean actually normal because who are we kidding, that’s not going to happen.

What he meant was that my anxiety and dark mood had lifted.

He was right. I could see it in his eyes, and the eyes of my son.

For me it was an anti-inflammatory diet, more specifically cutting out gluten that finally helped me turn the corner.

But it was part of a big picture of identifying ALL of the things that impact my mood, my brain chemistry, my life.

In order for you, too, to figure out what the things are that you need to do to find your own state of well, you have to look at them, one by one, so you can make a choice.

Make a choice that is lined up with your own values for your own health, your own life.



Dr Samantha promo shotDr Samantha is a Naturopathic Physician in Portland, OR and the creator of Gluten Free Vitality, a course in understanding the root causes of your fatigue and getting rid of them. A new class starts in June.  (Carla note: Ive known Samantha for years. I love me Samantha. Her knowledge is amazing.  Her class will be, too.)


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  1. says

    Thank you for sharing! I think we often look for the easy answer and don’t take the time to get dirty and figure out the true cause. Great post!!

  2. Vonnie says

    I, too, have felt as though I were crouching under the dark cloud.
    Great post, Samantha.

  3. says

    We all have choices, so true. Even not doing anything is making a choice. And in a world of quick fixes, it’s hard to make the choice that requires work.

    • says

      Oh, Izzy I like that. Even really, each moment. And we also have to stop beating up on ourselves for not always making the best choices. We are, after all, only human.

  4. Bea says

    You aren’t the first person I’ve seen say gluten tied into a dark cloud for them.
    I need to explore this.

  5. says

    I love, love, love this post.
    *Something* is wrong with me, but no traditional doctor can figure out what. It’s been years. Years. I have dull, pounding chronic headaches. My hair is falling out…yet all test come back “normal”. Nothing is wrong with me.
    I stopped eating wheat on a whim. My terrible, horrible, no good, very bad allergies are gone. Gone. And it’s only been 10 days. I haven’t had a single headache in–get this–10 days. Maybe my hair will make a come back?
    There really is something to be said about the food we consume. (and if I would have read this 15 days ago, I may have rolled my eyes and clicked on…)

    • says

      Jamie, I’ve seen this with patients before, it happens all the time. Sometimes the tests aren’t digging enough, and sometimes it’s a ‘subclinical’ issue where you’re manifesting symptoms before you manifest the markers. I do hope your hair makes a magnificent comeback!

  6. says

    I think we live in a society that often makes it easy to just mask the problem instead of really get to the root of it – so true that we have to make the choice ourselves!!

  7. says

    A great read! Lots to learn! Not that this is about what the post is about but all the drug commercials – drive me crazy! More things that can happen to you from the drugs…

  8. says

    i was just talking to a friend about this the other day. How we need to get to the ROOT of our internal problems first, then start healing within. Well said!

  9. says

    Thank you for writing this. While I understand that finding the root is the most important step to take in any recovery, it is easy to get into survival mode, where, just to keep your head above water you settle for the quick fixes that do nothing to solve the actual problem. I needed this reminder. Great post.

  10. says

    Oh my goodness! Samantha I felt that you must have been looking over my shoulder yesterday morning :-). I have been completely overwhelmed with working 4 jobs while juggling personal + business stress. Yesterday I put my foot down and told myself that I was going to commit to lying a solid foundation for myself. Because I’m not going to succeed with performing at the level that I currently am – and it’s starts with nutrition. This post could not have come at better time 😀 p.s. Your son is adorable – just LOOK at those chubby cheeks!

    • says

      Thanks, lovely. Be gentle with yourself too, it sounds like you have a lot on your plate. Keep me posted on how you do with that foundation. PS He’s 7 now…still that cute but the chub has gone by the wayside. And he doesn’t let me pinch his cheeks anymore. *sigh*

  11. Cheryl says

    I’m really considering exploring gf finally thanks to all your posts. I’m reluctant but open to better mental and physical health. Thank you for your honest and open post. You rock.

    • says

      It may or may not make a difference for you but certainly worth a try.Take a peek at the Gluten-free Vitality class in the link in my bio, might be just what the doctor ordered!

  12. says

    I totally agree. The real cause of things takes a lot of work to find but it’s ultimately worth it. While it takes time to go beyond the symptoms, we can get a more lasting solution to what’s ailing us. Thanks for sharing this great post!

  13. says

    After reading the whole post, I am completely agree with you. It will make you feel better day by day. We really need to know the symptoms at first.

  14. says

    Fast. Easy. Done.

    This is how we can describe our life today. We don’t pay enough much attention to the cause of our health problem, because we are busy with the many fun things.

    We as a society are losing the ability to live by understanding ourselvs. We are living in short snaps of symptoms without diving deeper to finds it’s cause. It’s just not fun!

    Great insights!