When “Normal” Isn’t Healthy

by Dr. Kelly Simms ND | Follow on Twitter

Don’t let frustrated patients walk out of your clinic with a “normal” diagnosis despite feeling unwell.

KIM* CAME INTO MY OFFICE concerned about years of depression and fatigue after the birth of her son. She was constipated, her hair was falling out, and although she slept, she never felt rested.

She began having allergies and frequent headaches, along with stomach cramping especially with ingestion of breads and sugars, which she craved. She had been on many weight loss programs but was unable to lose the thirty pounds she gained in the past year.

Workouts were her only source of energy and she left the gym feeling great, but would crash shortly after. She struggled to find words and felt like her mind was in a fog.

She consulted with many physicians whom were quick to recommend anti-depressant medication and blame her diet or lack of exercise. Her physician reluctantly ran laboratory results. When the results came back normal, her symptoms were dismissed.

When she heard from her friend that natural treatments can address these concerns and it is not “all in your head” she set out to find a Naturopathic doctor (ND). That’s how I came to know Kim.


Kim’s story is one that I hear too frequently.

The “within normal limits” finding is where evidence-based medicine has its limitations. When initial lab testings are normal, further investigation is not always performed.

What is Normal?

What is Normal?

Subjective experiences are not regarded as equivalent to objective findings.

I took the time to do a thorough intake and listen to Kim’s concerns. There was a pattern and I was able to reassure her that her symptoms were not normal.

I connected the birth of Kim’s son to a shift in her hormones. With this shift, changes in her thyroid and adrenal function seemed likely. I suggested additional lab testing to address these areas that her doctors had not done previously.

With the shift in hormones, her immune system may have altered its response, giving rise to her allergies, headaches and even her cravings. We considered food sensitivity testing to see if her body may be reacting to the foods she was consuming.  I gave her a diet diary to take home so that I could see exactly what she was eating, identify strengths and weakness, and suggest changes to support her weight loss goals.

When the results of the testing came back, Kim and I worked together to develop her plan.

My approach means putting the pieces together, connecting the dots and finding the why. No masking or band-aid remedies or miracle cures.

This is not for everyone because this is hard work and involves making lifestyle choices and changes. Kim was up for the challenge.

Kim thanked me several months later for giving her her life back.

Being a physician means having the responsibility to:

  1. Listen to your patients
  2. Be a detective and problem-solve
  3. Challenge science, medicine and your own practices
  4. Involve your patients in their health

* name has been changed.

About the Author
Dr. Kelly Simms ND

After earning a BSc in Biomedical Engineering from North Carolina State University, Dr. Simms continued her education at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM) in Tempe, Arizona. Upon graduation, she was selected for the prestigious Integrative Therapeutics STAIR Residency and interned with specialists in gastroenterology, cardiology, obstetrician/gynecologists, and compounding pharmacists. Dr. Simms is currently a member of the Illinois Association of Naturopathic Physicians (ILANP) and the Endocrinology Association of Naturopathic Physicians. In addition to holding a doctorate in Naturopathic medicine, she is a Certified Nutrition Specialist® professional practicing within Balance Health + Wellness.