Health and the Highly Sensitive Person


I am a highly sensitive person and my children are as well. We each have our own sensitivities – I’m more sensitive to the balance and flow of energy within and around my body. My daughter is more sensitive to taste, texture, and digestibility of foods. My son is sensitive to the way things feel on his skin and how tight they are. Sensitivity, like anything else, exists on a spectrum. Just because you classify yourself or others as highly sensitive doesn’t mean that you are exactly the same as someone else who feels that way. While we might all have a heightened sense of awareness of our body and how it interacts with the world, the places where that increased sensitivity affects us are different from person to person. If you don’t classify yourself as highly sensitive, you probably find yourself being more aware of discomfort in certain areas – like the way bananas feel in your mouth, or the way certain perfumes smell, or even the way that clothes fit. We’re all somewhere on the sensitivity spectrum, and that’s a good thing. That sensitivity is a natural impulse to protect us from things that might be dangerous. It’s not something to dislike or try to soothe – it’s something to celebrate, appreciate, and understand.

Here’s why that’s important for your health. I work with a lot of people who consider themselves highly sensitive. They’re the ones who are absolutely certain something is wrong, but when they go to the doctor, nothing shows in the lab tests, and their symptoms are not really clinically significant. They go home with a recommendation to ‘relax more’ and ‘try to get more sleep.’ To the HSP, that’s about as dismissive as you can get. The HSP can sense the problem, but the lab tests and doctor do not.

There’s clearly something going on, but the tests aren’t as sensitive as the HSP – or the limits that the doctors are using are too broad. When I review lab work, I have a much more narrow focus. The limits for most lab tests are set so that about 90% of a ‘healthy’ population will have results within the ‘normal’ boundaries. The problem for HSPs, is that the healthy population includes ‘adults.’ Not adult Hispanic women, not adult Black men, not adult White transgenders, or any other more narrow demographic that affects our biochemistry. Without that narrowing of the normal range, lab tests are pretty much useless as predictive tools, and best used as tools to confirm an obvious pathology.

HSPs already know there’s something going on, and they want to address it before it becomes a serious pathology. This is one reason why HSPs are so frustrated with modern medical care and a reason why they tend to not get the care they need – who wants to go see a doctor who constantly tells you that you’re full of it? To get to the root of your issue, HSPs need a provider who will evaluate the subtleties of your lab results and symptoms and not rely solely on the standard limits. This is something we’ve forgotten in our medical ‘assembly line.’ It’s something I’ve talked about on this blog before.

Let’s for a moment set aside the bias in lab tests and say that you do manage to get a diagnosis. What happens next is equally important to HSPs.

Pretty much any dis-ease has a standard treatment protocol, and your doctor is going to prescribe it for you, expecting that it will resolve your symptoms, or at least minimize them enough for something close to normal function. But remember, you’re an HSP. That nuanced shift in balance you noticed that brought you to the doctor can get the sledgehammer from the medication.

Our bodies are constantly seeking balance. We balance water within the tissues, we balance hormones throughout our bodies, we balance muscle extension and contraction, we balance energy and emotion. Every action has a reaction within the body (and in Newtonian Physics…see – rocket science and body science are related!) As HSPs, our balance is managed by gentle nudges and carefully choreographed responses. Medication can slam that delicate balance and reverberate like a giant brass bell.

You may see that you have more or different side effects than typical to a medication or treatment. You may see that a much lower (or higher) dose is needed to relieve symptoms. You may find that the medication works for a short time, but then you feel your symptoms returning. You might find that medication makes things worse (not uncommon for anti-depressants).

Why is that? This is where it becomes important to work with a holistic practitioner.

Standard protocols are aimed at reducing symptoms. They do it with sometimes jarring efficiency. Pharmaceutical actions are targeted to shifting your biochemistry to suppress whatever is creating your unwanted symptoms. At some point, when your body recovers from the shock of this shift, it will work to restore its preferred balance – which is when symptoms start reappearing or morphing into something related but different like joint pain in a different location or diarrhea instead of constipation.

Arthritis is not caused by an ibuprofen deficiency. Migraines aren’t caused by an sumatripan deficiency. Constipation isn’t caused by a laxative deficiency. There’s something underlying that is waiting to be discovered. It might be vitamin deficiencies, it might be a genetic profile that prevents you from processing certain nutrients, it may be that you have extensive inflammation that’s keeping you from metabolizing the nutrients from the healthy, organic food you’re already eating. It might be something else entirely.

This is why the off-the-shelf healing strategies and standard protocols fail so often. Even if they resolve your symptoms, you’re not getting to the root of the issue and building a strong foundation on which you can restore your health, build resiliency, and expand your sense of wellness throughout your physical, emotional, and spiritual bodies.

I’ll work with my client and find out what IS the deficiency (or deficiencies) and resolve that through diet and supplements. We’ll look for keys in your diet that might signal an intolerance or an allergy. We evaluate your lifestyle, your stress levels, and how much joy you have in your life. We start at the beginning and build up – because there’s no point spending money on expensive supplements if your body isn’t able to digest them. We build up resilience from a strong foundation so you don’t have frequent symptom relapses and you don’t feel like you have to protect yourself from every sniffle and sneeze around you.

Please note that I am NOT suggesting you ignore or avoid a prescribed course of action from your physician. You need to have that conversation with your physician and the rest of your health care team to agree on the best path for you. By understanding your own sensitivities and the way you respond to treatments, you can be a strong partner with your healthcare team and make sure you’re creating the best strategy to address your situation.

Want to talk with me about your situation? I'd love to hear from you. Connect with me and we'll see if working together makes sense.