Vomit = healthy or sick?

On our question of the week whiteboard this week I had the word ‘vomit’ written down. The question I had was: “If you went out for dinner and ate a nice meal, but later found out it was contaminated with salmonella, and a couple hours after eating you start vomiting, are you healthy or sick during that process?” This question brought up some great discussion and really got people thinking over the course of the week. Most people’s initial response was: “well, you’re sick of course. You’re throwing up!” But then after a little thought after I asked why, most people realized that it’s actually a very healthy response when your body initiates the vomit response. It’s a normal healthy function of the body. If you look at the alternative and you didn’t vomit, what could happen? Then you’re really sick if you’re contaminated with salmonella poisoning and don’t expel it right away. In fact you can potentially die from salmonella poisoning if your body doesn’t have the normal, healthy response of vomiting, even if you “feel” totally sick during the process. Nobody likes to throw up, but it can save your life!

The whole idea of this question is to get people thinking differently about symptoms. The vast majority of the time, symptoms are very healthy responses and/or functions of the body. In fact I would argue that when your body is functioning at 100%, ALL symptoms are good. Symptoms are your body’s way of communicating with you, telling you that something is out of balance, or going through some healing of some sort. Yet in our modern culture and in western medicine, how are we taught to view symptoms? They are seen as the bad guy and we are so used to treating symptoms without asking the question as to what the cause of the symptom is or what it is trying to tell us. The danger with treating symptoms is that we’re not honouring the infinite wisdom of the body and in many cases we are slowing down the healing response or causing more damage to the body. The vomiting example as we said in an extreme circumstance could result in death even. But another less extreme, but very common example is in the use of pain medication. When your body is experiencing pain, it is usually because there is an injury or damage to a part of your body. If you simply treat the symptom (pain) and mask it with an aspirin or ibuprofen, you are at a high risk of further injuring that area, since you don’t have the pain to tell you to take it easy.

Remember feeling good does not necessarily equal health, and health does not necessarily equal feeling good.