Functional Medicine vs. The Conventional Medical Model
You are NOT a victim of your genetics.
So much of our experience in this life is tied to how our lifestyle plays with our DNA. As we like to say, our genetics “load the gun”. BUT – what we are most concerned with in this analogy is whether the gun ever goes off. The environment is what “pulls the trigger”.
There is a new term in science: Epigenetics. You can think of “epi” as a prefix meaning “upon”. The study of epigenetics is one where the IMPACT of our lifestyle is what drives the behavior of our genes.
We all have genes that code for potentially miserable conditions. BUT – not everybody experiences end-stage organ dysfunction classified as “disease”.
30 Second Functional Medicine Synopsis
Think of it as this: You need to get out of your own way. We need to figure out either where you’re not getting enough of the raw materials your body requires for cellular/tissue health, OR where you’re failing to rid your biology its hindrances. Often, it is a combination of both. One or two moderate-to-severe nutrient deficiencies can be powerful enough to halt entire physiological processes. Likewise, a tiny little bug in the GI tract, classified as an “opportunistic infection” could propagate in your gut for decades. Instead of killing you, its host, it may colonize and over-populate in this haven. From here, it causes direct breakdown of the single-cell layer which is your gut. Once broken down (think: “leaky gut”), there is no longer a solid barrier between the stuff you eat and your bloodstream.
What are the differences between (in most cases) somebody who experiences most of the chronic disease states common in the United States and somebody who doesn’t?
>>One of the biggest differences is LIFESTYLE.
Lifestyle (diet, movement, supplements, stress-mitigation, relationships/social networks, belief systems, exposures, etc.) is where we can make a massive impact in health. We can’t change our genes, BUT we certainly have a lot more control than you might think over which genes are “turned on” and which are “turned off”.
In many ways, the practice of Functional Medicine is one in Epigenetics.
The interplay between environment and genetics is where we live as a 21st century whole body health collective. We are interested in your symptom picture only so far as we are caring and empathetic doctors and nutrition practitioners. Symptoms only tell us what to name something in most cases.
What really matters is WHY you are experiencing your possible laundry list of complaints. In fact, the more symptoms you have, the more likely it is, in our opinion, that there are just a few ROOT CAUSES.
Our mission is to analyze your health, both in depth and breadth. We work tirelessly to uncover what exactly is either causing or exacerbating your condition. From there, our main goal is to remedy the underlying situation, thus allowing your body to slowly bring itself back to a much better state of health.
Deep Dive Analysis: History, Medical Records, Laboratory Results & Chemical Exposure
This deep dive begins with a detailed history and physical examination, analysis of past medical records and laboratory results, and a chemical exposure inventory. We are like your personal health detectives. We will likely ask you questions you’ve never discussed with a doctor. This is your chance to finally feel like you are in the drivers’ seat with your health.
Contrary to much of conventional, symptom-based medicine, YOU are the boss. This is about you, not us.
Through specialty, high-end biomarker studies (think: urine, blood, feces, saliva), our labs analyze your unique physiology (think: hormones, inflammation, immune function/antioxidants, vitamins/minerals, heavy metals, GI tract, amino acids, fats, markers of mitochondrial function, opportunistic infections, stress, etc.). Our goal is to discern how exactly your cells are working. Cells make up organs, which make up organ systems. Organ systems comprise our anatomy, and their health dictates our physiology.
Thus, if we can analyze your physiology and influence it AT THE CELLULAR LEVEL, the cascade of benefits reaches YOU.
No more symptom-chasing. True health. That is the goal of functional medicine treatments.
Many of the tests we run COULD be run by your conventional practitioner; but they are often not run due to insurance companies dictating reimbursement as well as the fact that conventional medicine is not looking for biochemical “glitches”.
Conventional medicine is great when it comes to acute condition care (infection, trauma, etc.) BUT it fails miserably when it comes to chronic disease management.
“Leaky Gut” is NEVER caused by a leaky gut.
An endotoxin known as lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which normally resides in the acidic environment of the gut, can translocate into the bloodstream. From here, the immune system recognizes it and tags it as foreign, kicking into motion a finely tuned cascade of actions. Many of these actions cause inflammation, one of the main ways the body tries to defend itself. During this process of “defense” parts of the immune system start reacting to other proteins. Unfortunately, oftentimes these proteins are part of your tissues which make up your glands. Now, through a process known as “molecular mimicry” you have developed an autoimmune condition.
Your thyroid might start to get “attacked” by your immune cells, thus leading to a quicker breakdown of tissue there than the body is able to repair. NOW – you get diagnosed as having a very common condition, “Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis”, and prescribed synthetic thyroid hormone if the condition is severe enough.
An autoimmune disease has very little to do with the organ that ends up getting damaged; and speaks more about the state of the immune system. A finely tuned immune system allows you to defend yourself against all manner of invaders, both foreign and domestic. An overwhelmed immune system will only react in a limited number of ways: infection, allergy, autoimmune disease, or cancer being really the only options.
Don’t blame the Thyroid when you have autoimmune Thyroid disease. Look to the status of the Immune System.
Above is just one simple example of a common condition that affects millions of people. Our Functional Medicine Center shines most when you are at your wits end. When you feel like you have “tried everything” and have “gone to every specialist”, give us a call. We are used to hearing that from our Functional Medicine patients. We are used to being asked “Why haven’t my other doctors looked at me this way?”. Our answer every time is, “I am not really sure.”
In the future, “Functional Medicine” will likely just be called “Medicine”.
Why have all these specialists not connected the dots? Simply; they were never trained to. To take it another step forward, the system they practice within encourages a separation of the human organism into bodily systems; each treated separately by a specialist. Rarely, in conventional medicine, are you looked at as a whole.
>>Your psychiatrist might put you on a medication that your cardiologist takes you off.<<
They each have their own treatment goals and guidelines. Likewise, your rheumatologist isn’t all too much concerned whether the powerful drugs they prescribe lead to gut compromise. That is something for your gastroenterologist to deal with.
Finally, you have found a system that works WITH YOU, and for you.
We will never say it is going to be easy to bring yourself back from whatever plagues you. BUT – we are saying that, in the end, all the hard work, lifestyle change, dietary adherence, etc. will be so worth it.