Functional Medicine is a comprehensive framework for determining the root cause of symptoms or disease and how and why illness occurs. We can then focus on restoring health by addressing the underlying causes of symptoms and disease to facilitate the body’s innate ability to heal and recover. Functional medicine providers look at body “function” since cells, tissues and organs start to function poorly long before a disease may manifest. Chronic disease is almost always preceded by a period of declining function of one or more of the body’s systems, so a systems biology approach is utilized to identify the underlying contributors to reduced function. It provides a practical clinical framework for how the body’s physiologic systems are all linked together. This allows us to better understand why people get sick and how they heal. While the functional medicine approach is all about preventing or reversing chronic illnesses, the conventional medicine approach focuses on symptom suppression and disease management.
This approach is also patient-centered and addresses the whole person to identify the most appropriate and acceptable treatment plan to correct, balance and optimize the underlying issues for each patient. One condition may have multiple imbalances contributing to it, but one imbalance may also contribute to multiple conditions. There are a wide range of treatment modalities that may be incorporated into functional medicine treatment plans to deliver the best care including nutrition, acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, naturopathic, and osteopathic, among others. Combining natural and alternative treatment options offer an integrative approach that may occasionally be combined with medications for initial control of symptoms. The goal is to address the immediate health concern while also focusing on prevention of disease progression in the future.
Functional Medicine involves cutting-edge science that looks at the interaction between genes, environment, health and disease. It is the interplay between these factors that promote health or drive disease. Environmental factors like diet, lifestyle, and toxic exposure are the primary drivers of disease and have been collectively called the exposome. In fact, between 70 and 90 percent of human disease is driven by environmental factors opposed to genetics. Chronic disease is a failure of our body to adapt to the environment in which we live, and the challenges of our modern lifestyle combined with our genetics. This fact provides the basis for most of what we do with patients in the clinical practice of functional medicine.
The exposome has been further divided into three categories. One is the specific external factors like diet, water we drink, physical activity, and personal and home care products that we use. Two is the external influences like air pollution, climate and social interactions that make up the broader environment we live in. Third is our internal environment which consists of our metabolism, our hormones, our microbiome and metabolome, inflammation, oxidative stress, etc. According to the World Health Organization, over 50 percent of mortality is related to three factors of the exposome: air pollution, cigarette smoking, and diet.
Genes do play a role in the development of disease, but we now know that they are not the primary determinant and there are limitations on using genes to predict and prevent disease. Put another way, genes may load the gun, but environment pulls the trigger.
We use cutting-edge functional lab testing to properly diagnose and treat patients. There are 8 underlying core pathologies that contribute to patients’ symptoms and disease, GI issues, nutrient imbalance, HPA axis dysfunction, toxicity, chronic infections, hormone imbalance, immune dysregulation, and cellular dysfunction, which can all contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation. Comprehensive lab testing is often needed to distinguish which of these pathologies is the primary contributor or root cause in each patient. This testing may consist of blood, urine, stool or breath testing as well as extensive historical data collection and timeline tracing. This data is all collated to determine where to start with each individual patient, recognizing that the exposome will always need to be addressed with each patient.
In summary, Functional Medicine focuses on unleashing your body’s innate ability to heal itself by uncovering the root cause of your symptoms instead of focusing on symptom suppression. Health concerns like fatigue, chronic inflammation, poor digestion, depression, chronic pain, abnormal weight gain, hormone imbalances and a variety of autoimmune and metabolic disorders are just a few common complaints that patients may present with. We feature various service offerings that provide natural ways to assist and support the body’s innate healing. Functional medicine is the future of healthcare, and it is our best weapon against chronic disease.
We are guided by the ancient Chinese proverb, “The superb physician treats disease before it occurs.”