Functional Medicine Approach to Chronic Disease
Treatment of chronic disease is at the forefront of the health care crisis that threatens to bankrupt our government. One in two Americans now suffers from a chronic disease and one in four has multiple chronic diseases. Of the $3.8 trillion we spend on health care in the United States each year, 84 percent goes toward treating chronic disease. Further, 80 percent of Americans are taking at least one prescription medication and 60 percent take two or more. These medications do not ‘cure’ chronic illness; they merely attempt to manage the symptoms. For the most part, conventional medicine has failed to adequately address this challenge.
Your diet, lifestyle, sleep, stress management, home and work environment, and lack of exercise account for the biggest risk factors for developing a chronic disease. These include obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, mental health problems, and autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and others. Symptoms leading to chronic disease may include, but are not limited to, chronic pain, fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, neurological issues and obesity.
Functional medicine, also called systems biology or biologic medicine, is a movement on the cutting edge of an entire shift of the current scientific model of how we view disease. Functional medicine does not reduce disease to its component parts; it provides a way of understanding all of the influences on our biology that are at the root cause of illness. It seeks to promote healing through the body’s natural biologic systems for cellular repair and restoration. Practitioners look beyond signs and symptoms through the entire body’s ecology and environment to find the root cause of a condition.
An understanding of the biochemical uniqueness of each person is at the core of the principles of functional medicine. Patients seeking treatment from a functional medicine practitioner can expect to discuss at length their current complaints and health issues, discomforts, home and work environments, relationships, stress, diets, and levels of activity. Specialized laboratory tests may be used to determine underlying causes of disease including testing for toxic chemicals, mold and other chronic infections, heavy metal toxicity, mitochondrial dysfunction, immune system imbalances, hormonal imbalances, inflammatory issues, digestive, absorptive and microbiome imbalances, detoxification dysfunction, genetic variant evaluations, and vitamin, mineral and accessory nutrient evaluations.
Treatments may include diet and lifestyle changes, detoxification protocols, nutritional supplement programs, and stress management protocols. Practitioners may also utilize acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, naturopathic medicine, relationship and spiritual counseling, health coaches and more.
Dr. John Dixon is an Institute of Functional Medicine certified practitioner and can be reached at the Natural Medicine Group (760) 345.7300.
Sources: 1) https://www.ncbi.nih.gov/PMC/articles/PMC4712869 functional medicine, an operating system for integrative medicine 2) plminstitute.org/author/jeffrey_bland/ 3) www.ifm.org 4) https:www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3149386/