How Functional Medicine Differs from Conventional Care
Have you tried multiple doctors, procedures, and medications?
Do you spend hours searching for your symptoms online?
Are you still suffering from a chronic condition?
Are you ready to get to root-cause healing?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, Functional Medicine might be for you.
What Is Functional Medicine?
As defined by the Institute of Functional Medicine; “functional medicine is an approach to health care that conceptualizes health and illness as part of a continuum in which all components of the human biological system interact dynamically with the environment, producing patterns and effects that change over time. Functional medicine helps clinicians identify and ameliorate dysfunctions in the physiology and biochemistry of the human body as a primary method of improving patient health. Functional medicine is often described as the clinical application of systems biology.”
Using the application of systems biology or groups of organs that work together to form a function, functional medicine or holistic health practitioners take a bioindividual approach to every case to isolate the root cause for their clients and patients’ symptoms.
Why Do We Need Functional Medicine?
The philosophy behind root cause healing allows for functional medicine practitioners to help clients heal from what is causing their symptoms.
Functional medicine practitioners support the body as a whole and do not just treat a singular symptom. Supporting an entire function in the body will allow for optimal healing and get the body to return to homeostasis. Our body is always striving for balance.
This is not to say that conventional medicine does not have a place. It absolutely does. If you broke your arm, conventional medicine is the best place to go for immediate attention.
In terms of chronic symptoms and root-cause healing, we believe that functional medicine also has a place in healthcare. The Institute for Functional Medicine finds “chronic disease is almost always preceded by a period of declining function in one or more of the body’s systems,” making the connection between healing and functional medicine strong in terms of chronic conditions/disease.
What Is Chronic Disease?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines chronic disease as conditions that last one year or longer. They are often ongoing and require medical attention.
The Meno Clinic found that the primary driver of chronic disease is the interaction among genes, activities of daily living (lifestyle), and the environment.
Types of Chronic Disease:
- Heart Disease
- Chronic Lung Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease
Per the CDC, below are statistics that provide a pulse on our current healthcare system. These are some of the causes and effects of when healthcare prioritizes symptom management rather than getting to the root cause.
- 6 out of 10 adults in the US have a chronic disease
- 4 out of 10 have two or more
- Chronic disease is the leading cause of death and disability in the US
- 90% of the $3.8 Trillion Annual Health Care Costs are from chronic and mental health conditions
- 1.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer, and almost 600,000 die from it
- 34.2 million Americans have diabetes, and another 88 million adults in the United States have a condition called prediabetes
- More than two-thirds of all deaths are caused by one or more of these five chronic diseases: heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes.
- chronic diseases are responsible for seven out of 10 deaths in the US, killing more than 1.7 million Americans each year
“By 2023, if we don’t change how we confront this challenge, annual healthcare costs in the US will rise to over $4 trillion”. Switching our mindset from symptom management to root cause healing can change the narrative of healthcare in the US and even globally. I hope that we can do this before we reach $4 trillion in healthcare costs.
Functional medicine focuses on reducing these numbers by getting to the root cause issue.
The good news is that “humans are not genetically hardwired for most diseases; instead, gene expression is altered by a myriad of influences, including environment, lifestyle, diet, activity patterns, psycho-social-spiritual factors, and stress. These lifestyle choices and environmental exposures can push us toward (or away from) disease by turning on—or off— certain genes.”
This can be done with functional medicine.
While prevention is what we should strive for, there is still a long way to heal generations of people affected by less than ideal nutritional guidelines, lack of patient-focused healthcare, and lack of root-cause focus.
Going Beyond Symptoms and Finding Root-Cause
Functional medicine practitioners consider all the influences that affect our gene expression. We want to make sure our clients/patients are always moving away from disease.
We also consider digestion, sleep, relationships with food, trauma, toxic loads and other lifestyle factors. Not everyone will have the same reactions to these influences. We cannot take a generic approach to healing, no matter how common the symptoms may seem.
For example, many of our clients come to us suffering from digestive issues. With that information alone, we cannot pinpoint what could be causing this symptom.
The typical recommendations from conventional recommendation focus on the symptoms. This would look like offering antacids for heartburn, stool softeners or laxatives for constipation and gas, and bulking fibers for loose stools.
But this doesn’t get to the root cause issue of why these things are happening.
This client could be suffering from a lack of stomach acid in their upper GI, they could be experiencing bacterial overgrowth in their small intestine or microbiome imbalances in their large intestine.
Functional medicine focuses on the digestive system as a whole instead of focusing on eradicating the symptoms. To get to root-cause healing, digging deeper is required.
Nutrition with Judy and Functional Medicine
We take a bioindividual approach using a meat-only elimination diet for optimal healing.
Working with clients individually and in focused NwJ small groups, we provide personalized care that makes sense only for the individual client. We take the time to listen and learn the entire history of our client’s health, diet, lifestyle and environment.
How can we know what to support next without understanding the complete picture?
Why meat-only or meat-based?
As discussed in Carnivore Cure, meat has the most nutrients and provides the most absorbable form of nutrition compared with any plant-based food. Additionally, no essential vitamins or minerals are missing from the animal kingdom.
A balanced meat-only elimination diet is one part of our protocol, and it facilitates clients to start listening to their bodies. We typically first recommend a meat-only diet, eliminating processed foods, reducing vegetables high in antinutrients, and all sugars (including fruit) so we can bring the body back into homeostasis.
When we get down to meat-only, we can determine if imbalances is from the diet or if there is another underlying root-cause issue. Most people can tolerate some type of meat. When we remove food as a possible threat to the body or the potential for causing illness, further root-cause healing can be found.
As we heal and find a new baseline, they can reintroduce other foods (per the client’s needs and lifestyle wishes.)
The NwJ Nutritionists team also uses tools such as the Symptom Burden Assessment (SBA). With medical history details and detailed questionnaires that focus on current/past physical and mental symptoms and looking at toxin loads, we can begin the hunt for root cause. (All client data is treated with HIPAA compliance).
The SBA tells us about client symptoms in a way that enables the Nutrition with Judy team to see what body systems may need extra support.
We focus on 7 main foundations of health or root causes.
Foundations/Root Causes for Chronic Symptoms:
- Upper Gastrointestinal Health
- Liver & Gallbladder
- Small Intestine
- Large Intestine
- Fatty Acids
- Sugar Handling
If there is dysfunction or deficiency with these foundations, we see consequences. The consequences are the result of an imbalance, not a root cause. This is how the NwJ team gets to see functional medicine in action.
There are also 9 consequences that we track with our clients.
- Vitamin Needs
- Male Reproduction
- Female Reproduction
- Immune System
How to Start Root Cause Healing
If you feel that you are at a standstill with your health, and need additional support to heal and not just manage your symptoms, consider the Symptom Burden Assessment.
While we always recommend doing the SBA first as it provides the most value when it comes to identifying root cause, we also offer other functional tests that assist in uncovering more health markers.
These functional tests allow us to make more science-based recommendations. Before further testing, we always recommend trying the meat-only Carnivore Cure elimination diet with gut supports, such as digestive enzymes and probiotics.
You will spin in circles if you try to test and heal without the necessary dietary changes.
Here are just a few found at NwJ:
- Blood work Thyroid Panel
- Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome Testing
- Comprehensive Hormone Panel
- GI Map Stool Test
- Hair Mineral Analysis
- Mold Toxicity Test
- Organic Acids Test
- SIBO Breath Test
Everyone can benefit from functional medicine. Some people might require more support from clinical doctors, hospitals, and your primary care physician, but having a functional medicine practitioner in your corner can help you heal. Functional medicine support can help guide you towards a life of optimal health so that you can live the best life possible, ideally symptom-free.
If you suffer from chronic illness and persistent symptoms and frankly tired of being sick and tired, you may need to focus on root cause healing.
If you want to learn more about how diet, lifestyle, and the environment affect your overall health and wellness, the Nutrition with Judy team (and Functional Medicine) could be for you.
DISCLAIMER: The content is for educational purposes only. While I am board-certified in holistic nutrition and a nutritional therapy practitioner, I am not providing medical advice. Whenever you start a new diet or protocol, always first consult with your trusted practitioner.