When an illness becomes chronic, it begins to impact all of the body’s systems. Chronic pain wears on the body and mind, while worrying about what the future holds adds an additional layer stress. Some systems overcompensate while others may begin to shut down. Focusing solely on treating the symptoms may mask the root cause of these reactions. Functional medicine delves deeper into the root causes of disease, strengthens the body’s natural restorative ability, and provides new hope for those suffering from chronic illness by:
1. Understanding the Individual
Spending time getting to know as much as possible about the patient is at the core of functional medicine. Understanding your unique lifestyle factors, environment, and genetic makeup is essential to guiding a meaningful change for long-term health.
Before recommending supplements, holistic treatments, detoxification services, or lifestyle changes, your functional medicine specialist will want to know about your:
- Home and work environments
- Pain, discomfort, and less obvious symptoms
- Genetic background
- Family history
- Activity level
- Eating habits
- Stressors and past trauma
- Exposure to toxins
- Anything else impacting your well-being
With this in-depth knowledge of you as an individual, your practitioner can begin to see the big picture and interpret how the interactions between your genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors are creating your symptoms.
2. Focusing on the Causes of Chronic Disease
Acute medical care is an important safeguard against physical trauma and infection. In the early 1900s, the top three causes of death in the United States were tuberculosis, typhoid, and pneumonia. Due to the severity of these diseases and their symptoms, doctors rushed to find the right medications to treat these acute infectious diseases.
While the focus on quickly categorizing symptoms and matching them to a drug still continues in Western medicine today, functional medicine takes a different approach. Using the full spectrum of modern technology and ancient practices, these doctors look deeper to track down the root cause of the systematic dysfunction that is producing the symptoms.
Considering both internal and external factors provides the clues necessary to determine the root causes of:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Heart disease
- Crohn’s disease and IBS
- Sciatica and other nerve pain
- Chronic pain and fatigue
- Degenerative disc disease
- Depression and anxiety
What Are the Causes of Chronic Disease?
Every patient can experience a unique combination of causes which contribute to their illness, possibly including:
- Hormonal imbalances
- Immune system dysfunction
- Chronic inflammatory responses
- Digestive, absorptive, and microbiological issues
- Mitochondrial dysfunction
- Structural abnormalities
- Toxic chemical exposure
- Toxic levels of emotional stress
3. Enhancing the Body’s Natural Healing Abilities
Studies have shown that half of all American adults currently have at least one chronic medical condition and that 25% have two or more chronic illnesses.1 Average citizens spend 20% of their lives with chronic conditions.2 It is clear that a proactive approach to restoring and maintaining wellness is called for to combat this epidemic of systemic disease.
With training in the identification of underlying causes of complex illnesses and a wide array of available treatments to promote optimal function and support healing, your functional medicine doctor will strive to address the cause and cure the disorder, rather than simply attempting to make it more bearable.
How Does Functional Medicine Support Healing?
Striving to support optimal function of the interconnected bodily systems, functional medicine promotes healing by:
- Restoring a healthy digestive system. A healthy gut (gastrointestinal tract) provides optimal nutrient assimilation and is essential to wellness. Dysfunctions of the gut may cause undesirable levels of inflammation and impact the nervous system. Crohn’s disease and IBS symptoms may result from these imbalances, usually caused by bacteria, parasites, or toxins.
- Strengthening the immune system. The immune system regulates healthy inflammatory responses, fights infection, and promotes restorative healing. When this system is out of balance, it may lead to autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue, skin conditions, and a host of other symptoms which may appear anywhere in the body.
- Enhancing cellular energy production. Each cell of your body is a tiny powerhouse, fueled by the mitochondria. Cells must create energy to provide movement and power the circulatory and nervous systems. When cells are struggling to create sufficient energy, symptoms such as headaches, aching pain, dementia, depression, or anxiety may develop.
- Eliminating toxins and stressors. Stress reduces the body’s ability to eliminate toxins and, over time, these poisons may build up in the body and impair healthy functions. Heavy metals and pesticides will persist indefinitely without a focused detoxification program, causing dispersed pain and preventing a return to full health.
- Supporting the cardiovascular and lymphatic systems. Keeping the blood pumping and the lymph flowing is essential to moving nutrients and oxygen to the cells, transporting waste products, and maintaining positive pressure and proper function. When these circulatory systems are impaired, it may cause heart problems, low or high blood pressure, or lymphedema.
- Streamlining communication between systems. Every cell communicates to multiple systems using neurotransmitters and hormones to send or receive messages essential to its function. The endocrine and immune systems carry these signals, along with the nervous system. When the lines go down or get crossed, the symptoms of fibromyalgia, PCOS, hypothyroidism, or diabetes can develop.
- Maintaining musculoskeletal integrity. A strong supporting structure of bones, muscles, and soft tissue is the foundation of a healthy body. Without a sound structure, there may be obstructions to nerve pathways or blood flow. Weakness in the support of internal organs can cause intestinal blockages, and the smooth muscles that surround the gut are essential to its function. Structural abnormalities or misalignments can cause sciatica, acid reflux, or leaky gut syndrome.
4. Utilizing Modern Lab Tests & Advanced Diagnostics
By bringing together traditional Western medicine with alternative and ancient Chinese treatments, functional medicine takes full advantage of modern laboratory testing, MRIs, genetic screening, and food sensitivity testing to see dive deeper than the surface symptoms of the chronic illness. This open-minded and inquiring approach offers effective solutions to complex conditions.
While some acute care doctors immediately label a high blood-sugar level as diabetes and prescribe lifelong medication, the functional medicine practitioner wants to know why the sugar level is high and what can be done to restore healthy levels. He or she can also find out why blood pressure may be too high or hormone levels too low. A single lab test only points the way to which system is out of balance. Long-term healing means restoring healthy function.
5. Incorporating Alternative Treatments
There is a whole world of treatments available to restore optimal function, and this integrated approach to chronic disease may include a wide variety of therapies to promote natural vitality. Utilizing the best of the traditional, ancient, and cutting-edge technology, functional medicine focuses on healing mind, body, and spirit.
Your individualized treatment plan and wellness support might include:
- Functional nutrition evaluation and counseling
- Enzyme replacement therapy
- Chiropractic treatment
- Soft tissue therapy
- Energizing ionic detoxification
- Herbal and natural supplements
- Lifestyle advice, including relaxation techniques
- Corrective exercises
Feeling Good From the Inside Out
Many more people are exploring the benefits of functional medicine to diagnose and treat chronic conditions. Instead of deciding to suppress their symptoms, they are on the path to achieving optimal health and wellness through proactive and forward-thinking medical care.
Here at Pollack Wellness in Commack, NY, we want to help you find relief from chronic pain through this evidence-based and inclusive type of medicine that will empower you to live your best life. Don’t settle for a lifetime of medications that only lessen suffering. Find real relief and new hope by scheduling an appointment today!