The key difference between most natural medicine practitioners and most doctors is that we don’t just treat the what we treat the why – that is we find the cause as well as managing the symptoms. That is what functional medicine is all about. Find out how this patient-centred scientific based medical healing and testing may help you to finally get to the cause of your health issue – from migraines and digestive issues to thyroid disease and hormonal imbalance.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. It seems that our conventional healthcare system focuses only on the symptoms of disease and infirmity part but has lost sight of the complete well-being component of health. This is what sets us apart.
Functional Medicine is a patient-centred medical healing that instead of looking at and treating health problems as isolated diseases, it treats individuals who may have bodily symptoms, imbalances and dysfunctions. As the following graphic of an iceberg shows, a named disease such as diabetes, cancer, or fibromyalgia might be visible above the surface, but according to Functional Medicine, the cause lies in the altered physiology below the surface. Almost always, the cause of the disease and its symptoms is an underlying dysfunction and/or an imbalance of bodily systems.
Named diseases are just the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface, according to Functional Medicine, are the real causes of a patient’s health problems.
If health care treats just the tip of the iceberg, it rarely leads to long-term relief and vibrancy. Identifying and treating the underlying root cause or causes, as Functional Medicine does, has a much better chance to successfully resolve a patient’s health challenge. Using scientific principles, advanced diagnostic testing and treatments other than drugs or surgery, Functional Medicine restores balance in the body’s primary physiological processes. The goal: the patient’s lifelong optimal health.
How does Functional Medicine heal?
Today’s health care system applies a medical management model that works well for acute health problems but it is less successful where it is less successful. If you have a heart attack, accident or sudden lung infection such as pneumonia, you certainly want a quick-thinking doctor to use all the quick-acting resources of modern medicine, such as life-saving technology, surgery and antibiotics. We are all grateful about such interventions. However, jumping in with drugs, surgery and other acute care treatments too often does not succeed in helping those with chronic, debilitating ailments, such as diabetes, heart disease or arthritis. Another approach is needed.
The Two-Pronged Healing Approach of Functional Medicine
To battle chronic health conditions, Functional Medicine uses two scientifically grounded principles:
- Add what’s lacking in the body to nudge its physiology back to a state of optimal functioning.
- Remove anything that impedes the body from moving toward this optimal state of physiology.
Plainly put, your body naturally wants to be healthy. But things needed by the body to function at its best might be missing, or something might be standing in the way of its best functioning. Functional Medicine first identifies the factors responsible for the malfunctioning. Then it deals with those factors in a way appropriate to the patient’s particular situation.
Very often we Functional Medicine practitioners use advanced laboratory testing http://sheenahendonhealth.co.nz/functional-testing/ to help identify the root cause or causes of the patient’s health problem. Old-fashioned medical diagnosis helps too, in the form of listening carefully to the patient’s history of symptoms and asking questions about his or her activities and lifestyle. For treatment, Functional Medicine practitioners use a combination of nutritional and lifestyle changes, natural agents (supplements, herbs, nutraceuticals and homeopathics), emotional counseling, and pharmaceuticals, if necessary to prod a patient’s physiology back to an optimal state. In addition, educating the patient about their condition empowers them to take charge of their own health, ultimately leading to greater success in treatment.
What sort of testing do we do?
One thing that truly sets Functional Medicine apart from conventional medicine is our use of excellent tools and the way that we use them– our functional labs are key.
I use a variety of functional tests from various pathology agents
- DUTCH hormonal testing (endocrine hormones such as cortisol and DHEA as well as sex hormone levels
- Fitgenes genetic profiling
- ALCAT food & environmental sensitivities
- SIBO breath testing (siboinfo.com)
- Nutripath Stool analysis
- SmartGUT Microbiome Testing
- Nutripath Candida testing
- Adrenal stress profile
As an example; The Adrenal Stress Profile involves the analysis of 4 saliva samples which provide insight into viability of steroid hormone balance; a look at circadian rhythm and adaptive stress response; and window into gut function.
- Measures Cortisol, “the stress hormone” levels and patterns (4 individual measurements plus a total) to give a good look at adrenal function, circadian rhythm and adaptive reserve.
- Measures DHEA, Estradiol, Estriol, Progesterone and Testosterone to find steroid hormone imbalances and metabolic inefficiencies in steroid hormone pathways.
- Measures Melatonin “the sleep hormone” which gives us a glimpse into gut function and lends clues to possible sleep pattern issues.
And more. CONTACT ME to discuss which test may be right for you
My aim is to ensure you do not need to see me in 6 months’ time because you are well or on the road to wellness and know what to do without my intervention.
Modern medicine does not employ many of these tools available to evaluate basic human physiology before a condition or illness is evident. In the conventional sick-care model, treatment is only given once a patient has reached a certain clinical level of dysfunction. It is a reactive system. Smaller imbalances and indicators of downward spiraling health are often dismissed as “normal” because they fall within clinical reference ranges. Basically, on paper, the patient is simply not “sick enough” for treatment, even if they are clearly showing signs and symptoms of dysfunction.
Have you ever been to the doctor feeling less than wonderful, but he tells you all your tests are “normal”? Again, normal is a relative term. In the medical community, it means that the level of dysfunction and dis-ease is not yet to a level that requires medications or surgery.
Treating Symptoms VS Treating the Person
In the dominant health care model today, medication is used to get rid of people’s symptoms. If the patient stops taking the medication, symptoms generally return. Functional Medicine approaches health problems differently. Instead of masking the problem, it aims at restoring the body’s natural functioning. Although Functional Medicine practitioners prescribe nutraceuticals, they are used to gently nudge the patient’s physiology in a positive direction so the patient will no longer need them.
For example, in most cases conventional doctors would normally prescribe pharmaceuticals to treat acid reflux or heartburn. When the patient stops taking such drugs, the heartburn symptoms come back. In contrast, a Functional Medicine practitioner might find that a patient’s acid reflux is caused by Helicobacter pylori bacteria. Eradicating the Helicobacter pylori might very well lead to the end of heartburn symptoms, permanently. It’s also important to note that in Functional Medicine, treatment for similar symptoms might vary tremendously for different patients, according to their medical history and results of laboratory tests. Factors that can come into play in producing the same symptoms include toxic chemicals, pathogenic bacteria, parasites, chronic viral pathogens, emotional poisons like anger, and structural factors such as cysts.
The Roots of Functional Medicine
You may be surprised to learn that Functional Medicine isn’t new. It actually represents a return to the roots of modern scientific medicine, captured in this statement by Sir William Osler, one of the first professors at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and later its Physician-in-Chief: “The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.” Another important saying by Osler is “If you listen carefully to the patient, they will tell you the diagnosis.” This encapsulates the importance placed in Functional Medicine on taking a thorough history from the patient.
When you consult a Functional Medicine practitioner, the first step is always your history. Practitioners are trained on how to unravel and make sense of a complicated story. Often clues in the story lead to the identification of key imbalances. The next set of clues may come from a comprehensive physical examination, from thyroid examination to tongue and nail inspections. The final set of clues may come from advanced laboratory testing. Innovative, cutting-edge lab tests help the practitioner look deeply into a patient’s physiology to identify how it has been compromised and how physiological balance can be restored.
After diagnosis and treatment, a Functional Medicine patient can expect his or her symptoms to diminish in severity, with a renewed sense of well-being and significant increase in health and vitality.
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Note: This article has been mostly taken from http://www.yourmedicaldetective.com/public/department50.cfm I went to write my own version and felt these guys had done such a great job of conveying what I wanted to say.