Functional Medicine: Treating the Individual’s Root Causes of Disease
There will always be critics of change and innovation. It happens in virtually every field and healthcare is no different. Some medical futurists believe generations from now, society will be as appalled at the idea of transplanting organs from one person to another, because of 3D bio-printing, as our contemporary society is of 18th and 19th century bloodletting to cure a fever.
Functional Medicine (FM), which is a biological-based approached to treating the root cause of different illnesses, is gaining significant attention and challenging the conventional approach to healthcare – prescribing medication for every condition.
“Instead of asking, ‘what drug matches up with this disease?‘ Functional Medicine asks the vital question that very few conventional doctors ask: ‘why do you have this problem in the first place and what can we do to restore function?‘” writes Mind, Body, Green contributor, Dr. William Cole.
A good analogy for Functional Medicine offered by Dr. Robin Berzin, the founder of Parsley Health, an FM practice and wellness center, is that a person doesn’t suffer from insomnia because of an Ambien deficiency.
Obviously, there are deeper causes, such as sleep apnea, anxiety, hormone imbalances or something as simple as too much blue light exposure from smartphone or computer screens before bed.
Examples of Functional Medicine Health Issues and Root Causes
Functional Medicine takes a simple and common-sense approach to treating many illnesses and health issues without the use of medications, which can interrupt the natural balance of the gut microbiome.
Diseases and Health Issues Treated Through Functional Medicine
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Auto-immune Disease
- Chronic Pain
Root Causes of Many Health Issues
- Improper Sleeping
- Poor Diet
- Immune Imbalances
- Negative Thought Patterns
- Lack of Regular Exercise
- Digestive Problems
- Toxin Exposure
These are only a few examples of health issues and root causes that are examined through FM, and it’s worth considering when all other medical interventions have failed to provide relief.
What are Functional Medicine Approaches to Better Health?
Functional Medicine uses evidence-based approaches to overall health and, depending on an individual’s needs, might include some of the following:
- Simple lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and better sleep
- Testing for hormone imbalances or nutritional deficiencies
- Assessing family medical history and using FM as a means of prevention
- Strengthening the body’s normal healing abilities rather than narrowly attacking symptoms or disease
- Eating whole foods instead of unhealthy processed foods
In conventional medicine, general practitioners see a host of patients every day. In most cases, they’re unable to spend more than 10 to 15 minutes with them.
As a result, physicians often don’t even have the time to question patients suffering from depression about external pressures at home, work, or elsewhere in their life that might be causing their symptoms.
The fix just becomes a prescription for an anti-depressant.
“In my 20 years of practice,” writes Dr. Rajenda Sharma, “true ‘endogenous’ depression, one caused by brain chemical imbalance, is far less common than ‘reactive’ depression triggered by life events. In the vast majority of cases, depression is created by many factors and has an underlying cause.”
Sharma goes on to explain that some antibiotics, which kill good gut-bacteria can cause abnormal bowel flora that creates mood and depression issues. Even cholesterol and high blood pressure medications have shown to affect mood and, in some cases, also leads to insomnia.
Mental Health and Functional Medicine
Mental health issues affect an estimated 40 million adults in the U.S. and living with undiagnosed or untreated depression is a major driver for people to self-medicate with drugs alcohol. Before a person realizes what’s happened, they can develop a dual-diagnosis of addiction and depression.
The Functional Medicine approach to depression, like that with non 12 step addiction treatment, is often successful because it treats the individual person and their unique biology, genetic makeup and external or underlying causes for disease.
There’s no shortage of medical naysayers, claiming “eastern medicine” quackery, despite all the evidence that meditation has been proven to reduce chronic pain or that there’s a body of research about digestive issues and mental wellbeing, known as the “gut-brain axis.”
There are, however, no legitimate FM experts in the medical industry calling for the full-scale repeal of conventional medicine. In fact, contemporary medicine is very advanced, especially when treating emergency trauma, infections and acute diseases.
Conventional medicine will continue to serve society, though Functional Medicine as an approach to overall health, practiced at centers like the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and George Washington University, should not be ignored.
More information can be found on the Institute For Functional Medicine website where they have a link to Find a Practitioner in your local area.
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