I had a conversation with a friend the other day who brought up something called “Functional Medicine” that he had never heard of before. I found that a little surprising, because I have known about Functional Medicine for a number of years, and what I practice as a Natural Health Practitioner is similar to Functional Medicine.
Functional Medicine is the 21st Century medical model. It is a bridge between Western Allopathic Medicine and Natural Medicine. It addresses the underlying cause of disease using a systems-oriented approach that creates a “partnership” between the practitioner and patient. For example, comparing the two forms of medicine:
Client is biochemically unique Treats everyone with same diagnosis
Focus on cause Focus on symptoms
In general, Functional Medicine is client-focused, works on balancing functional “systems”, integrates physical, mental, and emotional health, pinpoints the underlying cause of disease, based on lifestyle changes, nutrition, exercise, and is interested in outcomes rather than suppressing symptoms.
Let me give you a couple examples. Heart disease is the #1 cause of death in the United States (approx. 597,000 deaths/year.) If you go to the typical Western Allopathic doctor with a heart condition, you are likely to go home with a couple bottles of pharmaceutical drugs such as anti-coagulants like Warfarin (Coumadin), Haparin, Xarelto, Pradaxa, Eliquis, etc. Or, you may get an ACE Inhibitor like Lotensin, Capoten, Vasotec, Monopril, Zestril, Univasc, or others. Other pharmaceuticals include Beta Blockers, Calcium Channel Blockers, Vasodilators, Diuretics, and Statins like Lipitor and Crestor. The amount of pharmaceuticals we consume can make your head spin. Here is a piece of information you may not know: Iatrogenic death (death by doctor) is the 3rd leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer (approx. 225,000 deaths/year.)
Conversely, Functional Medicine (and Natural Medicine) will focus less on taking meds to stop the symptoms and more on the underlying cause of the heart issue and what can be done to boost heart function. So, if you go to a Functional Medicine Doctor or a Naturopathic Doctor, you may go home with a couple bottles of nutraceuticals (pharmaceutical-grade nutritional supplements) that are made up of herbs, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, etc. along with the advice to get more exercise and change your diet and even possibly a detox program. Your Functional Medicine Doctor may prescribe Fish Oil, Folic Acid and other B-Complex vitamins, Magnesium, Anti-Oxidants, and CoQ10. There are also a plethora of herbs that are good for the heart including Bee Pollen, Hawthorn, Astragalus, Garlic, Green Tea, Noni, Royal Jelly, Ginko Biloba, etc.
If you have arthritis, your Allopathic Doctor may prescribe an Anti-Inflammatory like Celebrex, a pain reliever like Oxycodone, Steroids like Cortisone, or others such as Prednisone, Plaquenil, or Trexall. You may just self-medicate with NSAIDs like Naproxen, Aspirin, Ibuprofen (Advil), Acetaminophen (Tylenol), etc. The downside is that NSAIDs can damage your intestinal tract, increase the risk of blood clots, heart attacks, and stroke. COX-2 Inhibitors may increase the risk of serious, even fatal stomach and intestinal adverse reactions such as ulcers, bleeding, perforations of the stomach or intestines, etc. More than 30 billion NSAIDs are sold in the U.S. The estimated number of annual hospitalizations in the U.S. for serious G.I. complications is at least 103,000 with costs exceeding $2 billion. There are over 16,500 NSAID-related deaths each year among arthritis patients.
A Functional Medicine Doctor or Naturopath might approach your arthritis differently. Arthritis may be classified as an inflammatory disorder or an autoimmune disease. Therefore, rather than prescribing a drug that blocks certain bodily functions (COX-2 Inhibitor), a more natural approach that focuses on inflammation and the immune system might be used. For example, the immune system can be negatively affected by, and inflammation can be caused by an overabundance of toxins in the system. Toxins can be bacterial, fungal, or parasitic. They can also come from preservatives, additives, alcohol, and trans-fats in our diet. Toxins are also present in the chemicals such as insecticides, herbicides, solvents, detergents, metals, and plastics in our air, water, etc. So, from a Functional Medicine perspective, we would look at removing inflammatory triggers, decreasing the toxic load to your body, optimize your G.I. (gastrointestinal) health by removing pathogens and controlling dsybiosis (overgrowth of bad bacteria), and correcting nutritional deficiencies. How do we do that? I always suggest starting off with a Detox Program in order to clean out the system. If you aren’t comfortable with that, a Functional Medicine Doctor may suggest an anti-inflammatory diet, have you start taking fish oil or other essential fatty acids, prescribe a Vitamin D supplement, take probiotics, or use anti-inflammatory and/or analgesic herbs such as White Willow Bark, Boswellia, Devil’s Claw, Aloe, Bee Propolis, etc. And, of course, there are a number of helpful nutraceuticals for reducing inflammation and boosting immunity. The good thing about this system is that it is natural and has very little, if any, side effects. Compare that to using pharmaceutical drugs that have a list of side effects a page long.
Functional Medicine is the new 21st Century medicine. It gets away from treating symptoms with synthetic chemicals which may be detrimental to your health in the long run. It is focused on you as an individual rather than lumping you in with everyone else. It is focused on your body’s systems (ie. Detox, Immune, Digestive, Endocrine, etc.) Therefore, I am a firm supporter of Functional Medicine, and I suggest you do some research into it.
As a Natural Health Practitioner, Nutritionist, Herbalist, Massage Therapist, and Personal Trainer, I am able to offer you a “Complete Wellness System” by integrating exercise, relaxation, nutrition, and detoxification into a single program. I utilize herbs, nutraceuticals, massage therapy and bodywork, and personal training to affect your health using multiple modalities. Look at the following list of Dis-eases and the list of potential side effects from pharmaceutical drugs. The choice is yours. If you are interested in getting together and discussing your health issues, please contact me.
Partial List of Dis-eases:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
High blood pressure
Lou Gherrigs Disease
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Restless Leg Syndrome
Partial List of Potential Side Effects from Pharmaceutical Drugs:
Chronic (lasting a long time) inflammation of the stomach
Low magnesium levels in your body.
abnormal or fast heart beat
jerking movements or shaking (tremors)
spasms of the hands and feet
cramps or muscle aches
spasm of the voice box
Serious allergic reactions.