Hello SOTGC community!
A buzz term has recently captured the attention of many – “functional medicine.” It’s being seen as a new model for addressing chronic illnesses. What exactly is functional medicine, and how does it give you back the radiant health you desire? Read today’s blog post to see if a functional medicine approach may be the answer to resolving your ailment.
Rather than just focusing on symptoms, functional medicine looks “upstream” to get to the underlying root cause of the problem in your body. It does so by identifying events that may have occurred before the illness, pinpointing triggers that create a dysfunctional state leading to symptoms, and looking for other potential mediators that perpetuate the illness. Functional medicine takes a different approach compared to the traditional disease-centered focus of conventional medicine by looking at the patient’s genetic makeup, biochemical individuality, and variations in the environment. As an example, one person might have a gluten food sensitivity contributing to their joint symptoms, whereas, in another person, the same sensitivity might give rise to gastrointestinal bloating and headaches. Many times, a cluster of seemingly unrelated symptoms can be addressed with a functional medicine approach, resulting in a more simple, comprehensive healing plan. Functional medicine is personalized medicine and varies from one person to the next. It connects the dots between all that is going wrong between our individual biologic processes when trying to figure out why chronic symptoms arise and how chronic disease can resolve.
A functional medicine approach will look at environmental factors (such as toxins, infections, diet, physical exercise, trauma), the mind-body connection (psycho-spiritual, and social factors that affect health), and epigenetics (looking at our genetic makeup and how experiences, attitude, and beliefs affect our genetic expression as it relates to illness). Important functional approaches will focus on removing toxins from the body (detoxification), assessing for food sensitivities, restoring hormonal balance, regulating inflammation and immune responses, maximizing proper digestion and absorption of nutrients by focusing on gut health, and improving mitochondria health so proper energy sources are available for our bodies to function optimally.
In my integrative, functional medicine practice, using food as medicine is a cornerstone starting point to begin the healing process. As a functional rheumatologist, I find it imperative to return to the basics when working with patients who suffer from autoimmune, chronic diseases perpetuated by inflammation. By maximizing the healing benefits of food, eliminating triggers that worsen cortisol stress hormone levels, shifting towards a plant-based diet, and eradicating triggers that contribute to the root cause of disease, we can often resolve the core issue and restore vitality. Because we know inflammation causes many of our chronic disease states, this approach can be applied to illnesses ranging from psoriasis, to inflammatory bowel disease, to heart disease, just to name a few.
Functional medicine may be a familiar term or a new term for you. In either case, it is something you will be hearing more about. A leader in the field of functional medicine, Mark Hyman M.D., Chairman of the Board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, is on a mission to educate the public on why a systems-based functional medicine approach to health is the new medical frontier. I have a feeling we are on the brink of another major shift in the modern era of medicine, and I look forward to seeing Dr. Hyman’s efforts successfully move functional medicine into mainstream medicine. For more information on functional medicine, or to find a practitioner near you, visit www.functionalmedicine.org.
If this post helped clarify function medicine and you’d like to see if it could help enhance your life. Please email me at email@example.com to get a consultation set up.