The Leaky Bucket... When Medicines and Supplements fail to work...

October 27, 2015

Imagine you want to water the flowers in your garden to help them grow. You grab a bucket from the garage and head to the tap to fill it up. You discover a large hole in the bottom of the bucket. What happens when you try and fill up the bucket to go and water your flowers?
 
This obscure little analogy can be used to describe how most patients’ long term illnesses, conditions and symptoms are managed and treated by their health care providers.
 
Imagine your various body systems as each being their own "bucket" in your body. Our Immune system bucket has all the chemicals and components in it for a healthy functioning immune system. Our Reproductive hormone bucket is filled with various reproductive hormones in order to run our reproductive cycles and systems. Our Thyroid bucket is filled with various metabolic hormones to help with metabolism and energy. Our Adrenal bucket is filled with various forms of adrenaline to help manage and suppress different types of physical and psychological stresses.
 
When we are young and healthy, our buckets are full and our various body systems function as they should. As we get older, the levels of hormones and other chemicals in these "buckets" naturally begin to decline.  When the levels in these "buckets" begin to drop, we often get physical and psychological symptoms relating to these weakening levels of hormones in the body. Low reproductive hormone levels can lead to menopause and "man-o-pause" symptoms in women and men. Low thyroid levels can lead to a weakening of our metabolism which can affect mood, energy and weight. Low adrenaline levels can lead to chronic fatigue, anxiety, stress and depressive disorders, etc.
 
Many of the conventional and natural medicine approaches to managing these issues are the same. They aim to "fill up" the empty bucket associated with that symptom. If you have low thyroid symptoms, you will be given thyroid medication by your physician, or thyroid supporting supplements by your complementary medicine provider. If you have low estrogen, progesterone or testosterone symptoms, you will be prescribed synthetic or natural hormone "replacements" for these symptoms. If you have a weak immune system, you will be given immune supporting supplements (vitamins, minerals, botanical medicines, etc.) in order to boost this system. If you have low adrenaline levels, you will be given adrenal supporting natural medicines for this (B vitamins, Ginseng, Botanicals, etc.)
 
Many of the products are effective at managing your symptoms and are often necessary for quality of life purposes. In many cases, these medicines and products are designed to "fill up" this empty bucket systems in the body. Some people can manage their conditions or symptoms for long periods of time using this approach to treatment. Unfortunately, many others will find these treatments will only work for short periods of time, and in many cases won't work at all in relieving their symptoms or conditions. Why does this happen?
 
For many people, they are trying to fill up the bucket associated with their symptom or condition, WITHOUT realizing that there is a large HOLE in the bottom of the bucket. What happens when you try and fill up a bucket with a hole in the bottom? It obviously won't work very well.
 
Imagine someone with a weak immune system. They catch every cold, flu and bug going around. When they get sick, they are sick twice as long as someone else who got the same bug. They go to the Doctor and get put on antibiotic after antibiotic and they still get sick. They go to the health food store and get vitamin C, echinacea, astragalus, ginseng and all kinds of other immune system boosters and treatments...  and they still get sick. Their immune system bucket is empty and the things they are taking to fill up their immune bucket just aren't doing the job.
 
This person almost always has an un-identified immune system drain (ie. hole in the bottom of the bucket) which is not allowing the treatments to restore healthy levels in that bucket. This could be a latent (hidden) bug or infection like a chronic viral problem like mono, shingles or a herpes virus. Their immune system has to fight these bugs constantly in addition to all the other bugs in the environment we all have to battle. Many people have hidden, delayed onset food sensitivities (allergies) which is weakening the immune system without them knowing it. The end result of either of these issues will be the same; they act as large holes or LEAKS in the bottom of their immune system bucket. When these patients take immune supportive therapies and get little response from them, it's often because of this leak in the bottom of the bucket.
 
Another common example would be someone with chronic fatigue, anxiety, sleep and depression issues. Often these are the result of a weakened adrenal gland system (or empty adrenal bucket).
 
These patients will research adrenal fatigue and adrenal burnout and will begin intensive adrenal system treatments including various supplements, herbal medicines, etc. Quite often the responses from these therapies will be quite short-lived if any at all. If that adrenal bucket has several holes in the bottom of it, you can take all the supportive adrenal supplements you can find, but the bucket will never fill up. Or if it does fill up and you feel better, the improvements will be short-lived once you stop the treatments, as the holes in the bottom of the bucket are still there and are draining the bucket again.
 
Common adrenal system "drainers" are chronic immune and inflammatory issues (viral, food allergy, etc.), caffeine intake, hormonal stressors (pregnancy, menopause, etc.), psychological stressors, etc.
 
The leaky bucket concept discussed here is essentially the same as in the Treat the Cause article written previously. The CAUSES of the condition (inflammation trigger, hormone imbalance, etc.) are the LEAKS in the bottom of the bucket that have to be addressed, in order for you "bucket filling" therapies (medicines, supplements, etc) to be effective.

 

 

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Dr. Scott Woodworth
Naturopathic Doctor

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