Are you feeling unwell but have been repeatedly told “there’s nothing wrong”? Do you feel that taking pills doesn’t solve your underlying heath issues? Have you been searching for a physician that is sensitive and like-minded? Many physicians have also been searching to fill the void that currently exists in our delivery of healthcare. We are looking at how to help the body heal itself and believe that Functional Medicine is ‘going back to the future’.
Functional Medicine (FM) is an evidence-based, clinical approach that addresses both imbalances that underlie disease and the environmental influences that contributed to them. We realize that when these are addressed, the body can return to its natural state of health and balance. This supposition is not new: it was a basic premise of health postulated by Hippocrates 2500 years ago! He stated:
“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise – not too little and not too much – we would have found the safest way to health”.
Functional Medicine Embraces Six Core Principles:
- Recognizing the individuality and genetic uniqueness of each person.
- Supporting a holistic, patient-centered (not disease-centered) approach to treatment.
- Searching for a dynamic balance between body, mind and spirit.
- Acknowledging the interconnectedness of all internal body functions.
- Seeing health as a positive vitality – not just as the absence of disease.
- Striving to enhance the health span – not just the life span – of each patient.
To better understand this, we use the tree as a symbol. The leaves are your symptoms, the trunk is the systemic imbalances (which develop into symptoms) and the roots are the environment and genetic dispositions that give rise to the clinical imbalances. Stated another way, environmental inputs and genetic disposition (roots) induce clinical imbalances (tree trunk) which then turn into symptoms (leaves).
The Leaves = Symptoms
Your symptoms are equivalent to the leaves of a tree. They are highly visible and an important indication of your underlying health. Rather than focusing on treating symptoms directly, FM physicians use symptoms as guides to better understand the underlying imbalances. Treating symptoms is important but the underlying goal should be determining their cause.
The Trunk = Clinical Imbalances
Like a tree trunk branching into leaves, systemic imbalances develop into symptoms. FM physicians thoroughly explore possible imbalances to gain a holistic view on where symptoms are coming from. In functional medicine, imbalances are categorized within the following systems and processes:
- The hormonal and nervous system
- The digestive system
- The immune system and inflammatory response
- Structures – from the cellular to the musculoskeletal level
- The process of transforming food, air and water into energy
- The process of detoxifying and eliminating waste
The Roots = The Environment and Genetic Disposition
Together, environmental inputs and genetic disposition (roots) give rise to clinical imbalances (tree trunk) which then turn into symptoms (leaves).
Environment: Harmful lifestyle choices and toxic exposures can strongly influence your health. The negative effects may not appear right away because the body is resilient. But over time, they accumulate and eventually cause a chronic condition. To determine the root of an imbalance, these questions may be asked:
- Are you getting the right nutrients and exercise?
- Are you exposed to toxic chemicals or radiation?
- Do you have allergies?
- Could you have parasites (it’s more common than you’d think!)?
- Have you experienced trauma?
- Do you have a healthy support network
Genetic Disposition: Environmental factors are filtered through your genetic (physical, mental and emotional) tendencies. Your attitudes, beliefs and the unique way your body and mind process environmental inputs can influence your susceptibility to developing certain conditions. Often, altering your perception of a situation, processing a traumatic memory or learning how to better manage stress can go a long way in your healing.
Functional Medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease using a systems-oriented approach engaging both patient and physician in a therapeutic partnership.
Rather than giving you medications to mask your symptoms, the goal of a functional medicine physician is to dig to the root of the issue so that you can fully heal from the bottom up. This approach involves exploring every aspect that could be influencing your health and empowering you to take an active role in your healing.