Functional Medicine is similar to Integrative Medicine, however more focused on addressing the underlying causes of disease. Integrative Medicine takes into account different avenues of diagnosis – pathological; chemical; emotional.
Briefly, we can divide underlying causes into three categories of imbalance;
Tip 1 -Your emotions
We live such busy lives nowadays that we forget stress, anger or guilt actually damages our body in biological ways. Psychoneuroimmunology, pioneered by my (late) friend Candace Pert, is a science proving that emotions are mediated by chemicals, and that these can adversely affect our cellular, immune and nervous system functioning.
We all look for a quick solution of course, and don’t want to hear this. It sounds sympathetic after all, why would we choose to give ourselves embarrassing and painful irritable bowel syndrome? And yet, this is one of the illnesses that is more stress-related. The same goes for skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis and hives, as well as respiratory conditions that are so common such as asthma and even allergies.
Just talking this through with a doctor often highlights the amount of stress that a patient is in and this really helps them look at that area of their life to find a solution to the problem.
Tip 2 – Pay attention to gut health
The intestinal Microbiome is an increasingly hot topic. The number of scientific papers written on gut health/intestinal dysbiosis recently is exponential, linking gut bacteria to mental health, chronic fatigue and allergies, among others.
We know there are good and bad bacteria in the gut and there are specialised tests to look at the number of good bacteria. Often, patients take probiotics thinking this will work for them but they already have very high levels of good bacteria. The problem is they may have some nasty bacteria such as salmonella living in low quantities, or perhaps overgrowth of intestinal candida. “S.I.B.”, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, is a problem of methane gas producing bacteria. Normal people have gut bacteria producing hydrogen rather than lots of methane (cows are the biggest methane producers!).
The good news – having diagnosed these intestinal bacteria by our specialized Functional Medicine tests, we can use an herbal combo which kills bacteria but preserves the ‘good’ bacteria such as acidophilus. This is a lifesaver for people with irritable bowel syndrome and the numerous digestive problems such as bloating and gas from which a lot of people suffer.
Tip 3 – Detox
Even if we don’t drink or smoke, our bodies can accumulate the residue of the many pesticides used on vegetables, and also of chemical pollutants in the air. Certainly, if we don’t have the right detox enzymes, this produces a knock-on effect and in some cases might even lead to breast cancer. In this instance oestrogen in the body is too high (oestrogen dominant) and not being metabolized properly through the normal biochemical cycles. Of course this is an extreme example. However it’s something that women of menopausal age who might be taking hormone replacement need to be aware of.
DNA tests come into their own here in indicating genetic predisposition, as well as OATS test and DUTCH test which check for urine breakdown products of hormones, vitamins and toxins. In either Integrative Health or Functional Medicine, it’s always best to do the appropriate test first, so we can home into the correct treatment in the beginning. That way, both time and money are saved, more importantly, shorter suffering!