Why Functional Medicine?

“The doctor of the future will give no medicine but IMG_3149willinterest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.”

– Thomas Edison

Functional medicine is based on the premise that we look at four different areas: the underlying cause for a problem; how does that affect the body(what physiology is affected or damaged by that); what body system is affected (adrenals, thyroid, gut, brain, liver, detox pathways; and what are the symptoms. However, while conventional medicine tends to focus on fixing the symptoms, functional medicine looks at the symptoms as the “outgrowth” of the problem. Functional medicine addresses the symptoms, but also works backward from them to get at the underlying causes for any issue.

Conventional vs Functional Medicine:
A patient is experiencing depression. With conventional medicine, the patient would be given anti-depressants to fix the ‘problem.’ With functional medicine, the depression is seen as a symptom, and we look at the systematic factors that could be causing the problem, such as possibly a gut issue or heavy metal toxicity, an adrenal or thyroid problem. A functional medicine approach would look at not only the symptoms, but “backtracks” from the symptom to see what underlying factors may be causing the depression.)

When looking at any health issues you may have, functional medicine will analyze it from a big picture viewpoint. Whatever symptoms are presented, think:

  • How does it relate to the different body systems (thyroid, brain, ovarian systems, etc.)? what is actually going on here?
  • Why did that system get damaged? Inflammation? Emotional Stress? Food Reaction? What was the catalyst for the trigger?

If you can see that whole picture, the symptoms on one side and the systems and why they are not functioning properly on the other, then you can start to develop a treatment plan (self treatment, diet, mediation, lab-based treatments). Self-care and lifestyle changes are the most important factors in health, not relying solely on doctors to fix your health issue. You can certainly treat specific symptoms (who wouldn’t want to eliminate painful symptoms?), but you must find the reason why they exist. If you choose to only treat the symptoms, you’ll likely find the problem returning. Functional medicine works to find the root of the problem.

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answer “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.

“We have bigger houses, but smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; We have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgement; more experts, but more problems; more medicines, but less healthiness; We’ve been all the way to the 414719-dalai-lama-tibetmoon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour. We built more computers to hold more information. To produce more copies than ever, but have less communication. We have become long on quantity, but short on quality. These are times of fast food but slow digestion; Tall man but short character; Steep profits but shallow relationships. It is a time when there is much in the window, but nothing in the room.”

These are beautiful quotes, and this is exactly the way I was trained to treat patients. Not to focus on individual symptoms, but to treat each patient as the whole personto always look at the whole picture first. Taking medications for individual symptoms is like putting band-aid on the wound. This approach might work for some people, but not for those patients come with long lists of signs and symptoms, or chronic issues. I ask you to fill out a lot of questionnaires upon your first visit; my tool to figure out  the root of your problem. I become a “medical detective,” so to speak. I can see the  smoke (symptoms), but where is the fire (underlying cause)? How and when did it start? The wrong treatment is like pouring gasoline onto the fire. It will make more inflammation on the place already inflamed.

I am happy to help by suggesting supplements and tests that may benefit you, but I would rather treat you with recommendations of diet and lifestyles changes, and of course, acupuncture! ~ Tamie

“Functional medicine is the future of medicine seeks to identify and address the root causes of disease, and views the body as one integrated system, not a collection of independent organs divided up by medical specialties. It treats the whole system, not just the symptoms.”

– Mark Hyman, MD Chairman of the Integrative Functional Medicine

4 Pillars of Health

Every day, patients contact me asking, “Why don’t I feel well?” Patients tell me they haven’t felt well in 6 months, a years, 2 years or more – “What’s going on, Tamie?”

There are so many reasons why you don’t feel well,  and it is often due to reasons that you might not think of. There are four major areas I look at – I call them the 4 Pillars:

  • Adrenal Fatigue –  these are issues with blood sugar, or cortisol. It is very likely tied to Thyroid Issues.
  • Gastrointestinal Issues/Detox – if your liver becomes fatigued and stops methylating, if can cause a variety of problems
  • Food Sensitivities – sensitivities such as gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, corn, oxalic food (swiss chard, spinach and beets greens), and foods high in histamines are often be the cause of major issues. Many supplements can also contain these substances, which can cause problems.
The Four Pillars
  • Lack of Nutrition Knowledge – Trying to figure out what you really need by surfing online is not easy. Much of the information online is so confusing, it’s hard to find out what you really need to know. Not many people are able to afford seeing and MD to find the right supplements, a Dietitian to learn more about healthier foods, an Athletic Trainer to develop an exercise routine to maximize your health, and sometimes and Osteopath or Chiropractor to fix acute problems – why are we seeing so many specialists? I think the problem is front line: the average Medical Doctor (your PCP) is only required to study NUTRITION for 19.6 hours over the 6+ years of Medical School. Often, doctors focus their studies on drugs, anatomy and physiology, but not nutrition and diet. I studied two entire semesters full of nutrition class during 4 years acupuncture graduate school, much longer than the most of MD’s nutritional education. No wonder my patients came to see me with a bagful of supplements, and not only not feeling better, but feeling worse. It’s especially frustrating when fertility patients are directed to the local drug stores to buy prenatal vitamins because “they are all same.” What if medical students had more nutrition and supplementation education? I will elaborate the following topics soon. These are the ROOT of ROOT cause of many of the “chronic” symptoms.