How Functional Medicine Can Change Your Life
Published on June 28, 2017 by Dr. Caitlin Gordon
Thanks to a functional medicine approach, I have put two autoimmune diseases into remission.
I began incorporating Western functional medicine concepts into my practice about two years ago. I enrolled in a 2,000-hour functional medicine training program and immediately loved the way it helped bridge the holistic perspective of Chinese medicine with the practical diagnostic tools of Western medicine. My practice is now a beautiful and effective blend of both.
What is functional medicine?
Functional medicine is a system of healthcare that seeks to find the underlying cause of symptoms. Functional medicine uses Western diagnostic tools like blood work, urine, stool, saliva, and hair samples, and breath tests to identify imbalances. We ask detailed questions about your health history, environmental factors, and current lifestyle. Root causes are addressed holistically through nutrition, lifestyle adjustments, herbs and supplements, exercise, mindfulness, and occasionally pharmaceuticals.
Chinese Medicine is the original functional medicine. It’s been around for 3,000-5,000 years. Western allopathic care is finally getting around to looking at the body more holistically again.
For me, it makes perfect sense to transition into using some Western techniques in my practice as well. Chinese Medicine always identifies the underlying pattern of disease and treats the pattern in order to relieve the symptoms. We call this root and branch theory. The root is the cause of your symptoms, and the branch is the manifestation of that cause–the symptoms you experience.
Let’s say you’ve got heartburn…
A conventional Western medical doctor is going to prescribe an antacid or PPI medication. If they’re somewhat progressive they may recommend you cut back on the coffee, tomato, and spicy food. This is treating the symptom but does nothing for the cause. Long-term use of these meds has serious side effects ranging from anemia to increased risk of dementia.
A functional medicine approach would ask some questions first. Are you taking NSAIDs regularly? Have you done a course of antibiotics recently? Have you had a head injury? Do you have other digestive symptoms? We might test for h.pylori or other gut infections, check on stomach acid levels and look into an elimination diet to identify food allergies. Changes to the size of your meals, the pace of your meals, and emotional state while eating will all be discussed. Herbs and supplements that naturally balance stomach acid and improve digestion may be recommended. These do not carry risks of nutritional deficiencies or serious illness down the road.
See the difference? One approach seeks to offer quick relief by masking symptoms, the other seeks to offer lasting relief by addressing the original imbalance.
Who benefits from Functional Medicine?
Everyone benefits from a medical approach that investigates underlying causes to offer safe, effective, and lasting solutions. Outside of emergency care, you should always seek out a medical professional with training in functional medicine, nutrition, and non-pharmaceutical treatment interventions. The following respond especially well to a functional medicine approach:
- Inflammatory diseases: rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, autoimmune diseases, IBS, gastritis
- Energy issues: low energy, chronic fatigue syndrome, poor sleep
- Cardiovascular disease: congestive heart failure, arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, vascular insufficiencies
- Blood Sugar Dysregulation: obesity, type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome
- Hormonal issues: menopause, infertility, PMS, PCOS
- Dermatologic issues: eczema, psoriasis, hives, rosacea, acne
- Other: allergies, headaches, migraines
- Mood issues: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, bipolar. Amaluna specializes in treating these conditions naturally.
Who does not benefit from Functional Medicine
If you are unwilling to change your diet, habits, and patterns, you will feel frustrated with functional medicine. This is not a pill for every ill approach. There are few quick-fixes. Transforming your health requires changing the habits that brought you to where you are today. Supplements and herbs are helpful, but they are not a stand-alone sustainable approach.
If you are having a medical emergency, please seek emergency medical care. Then follow up with a functional medicine provider to support your longer-term recovery, balance any negative effects of medications, and work to prevent future health emergencies.
What to expect during a Functional Medicine consult
Every practitioner and every office is different. At my office, a functional medicine consultation will include an in-depth discussion about your health history, current diet, lifestyle, habits, home and work environment, and family health history. I will take a look at your tongue, your nails/skin/hair, and feel your pulse. I will then write up a treatment plan that includes recommended testing, a nutrition plan, herbs or supplements, and lifestyle adjustments to get you back to feeling 100%.
If you’d like to add in acupuncture to support your healing process, that is always encouraged but never required!
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