Now don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of functional medicine before because I hadn’t either until I started my Health Coaching course at The Institute of Integrative Nutrition but what I found interesting was that I had actually already used functional medicine in some way throughout my journey upon healing myself from chronic migraines without even knowing it.
So what is functional medicine? Functional medicine focuses on the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases. Now I know you are probably thinking well that’s exactly what western medicine does isn’t it? Well not exactly. The difference with functional medicine is that instead of just treating the symptoms of the illness with medication or surgery, the doctor looks at what the root cause of the illness is and how they can prevent it returning in the future. Take diabetes for example, why is their blood sugar so high? What could be the underlying cause of this? What has triggered this? Is it their diet, lifestyle, or perhaps do their genetics play a role too? The bottom line is, that any disease is basically an imbalance in the body in some way or another and a functional medicine doctor’s job is to find out what this is.
Dr Susan Blum, a true pioneer in functional medicine takes a whole body approach in curing chronic diseases and explains this in very simple terms by “the rule of tack”. So if you were sitting on a thumb tack you wouldn’t take aspirin for the pain would you? Instead you would find the tack and remove it and this is exactly what functional medicine does. The main way in which Susan Blum does this in her practice is through personalised nutrition as she believes that this is the key in solving most chronic illnesses. She explains that healthy food creates healthy cells and unhealthy food creates unhealthy cells which then leads to disease and chronic inflammation in the body. Now for the scientific bit – the cell binds with food on a cellular level and can either make anti-inflammatory compounds or pro-inflammatory compounds in the body and this outcome actually changes how the cells in our bodies operate and function. This in turn can affect our immune system and be a common cause of chronic illness which is known as leaky gut syndrome. I know, sounds pretty nasty huh?
Did you know that roughly 7o% of our immune system lies in the gut? Unbelievable right! So in very basic terms, if you look after your gut and maintain a healthy gut flora you are less likely to develop food sensitivities, digestive issues and many other serious health problems. And guess what? This all comes back to food once again. I had no idea before I began training as a Health Coach just how important the food I put inside my body was on so many different levels.
So at an initial consultation with a functional medicine doctor they would be interested to talk to you about some the following areas of your life:
- Do you do any regular exercise and if so how frequently?
- Are you a smoker and if so how often?
- What does your diet consist of – a lot of saturated, trans fats and high fructose corn syrup foods? Are you getting the essential minerals and vitamins that you require for the body to fight disease?
- Are you stressed? If so what do you do to relax?
- How do you interact socially?
- What is your personal story and background?
- How is your spiritual health?
- What is your family history and genetics?
- Do you suffer from anxiety or depression?
As you can see by taking this whole body approach it allows the doctor to view the body as one system and treat the whole body not just the symptoms on the surface as everything is actually connected. You see the symptoms have to come from somewhere right?
Did you know that GPs or physicians get almost none or very little training in the area of lifestyle and nutrition during their endless years at medical school? This totally baffles me as, rather than focusing only on how to treat a disease when it happens, surely it would be better for our healthcare system to invest and spend time looking at prevention methods so that then they wouldn’t have to spend millions on surgery costs and outrageously expensive pharmaceutical drugs!
Luckily enough, due to the voices of Dr Frank Lipman, Dr Mark Hyman and Dr Susan Blum, functional medicine is now becoming a more recognised field which myself as a Health Coach is truly grateful for as the work we do aligns with a similar whole body and mind approach. So let’s spread the word…. functional medicine without a doubt is the medicine of the future!
#Health #FunctionalMedicine #Healing #ChronicDisease #HealthCoach