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What is Functional Medicine - A deeper understanding

Don’t get me wrong, I love modern medicine and all it has to offer. I love research and science; I love understanding and I love progression in what we already know.

 

I equally love all the knowledge we have gained from generations of medical systems that looked at the body with a different lens – for example, traditional Chinese medicine or ayurvedic medicine. There is so much wisdom within these systems about the nature of the human body, something I feel we have forgotten with the rapid progression of modern medicine.

 

This has morphed our current medical model to focus more on describing disease according to symptoms and ending with treatment, be it a pill or a surgical intervention. A great model for acute medical care, but often falling short in chronic medical care.

 

A great example would be a 17-year-old female presenting with irregular and very heavy menstrual cycles.

Approach one – place on the oral contraceptive pill. This will suppress all her hormones, stop her from ovulating, and create a bleed at regular intervals. She will not have menstrual cycles any longer (even though she bleeds – this is not a menstrual cycle.)

Approach two – ask the right questions to understand why this has happened. Approach the abnormalities in the menstrual cycle as a sign of underlying imbalances and possible pathologies that you can pick up timely.

Rather than mask the symptoms with an oral contraceptive, you investigate the causes and treat those to bring balance back to the whole system.

 

Another way to describe functional medicine is a model that looks at biology as a complex integrated system that aims to create health.

We aim to avoid breaking the body into individual parts of cardiology, immunology, endocrinology, etc. Everything is integrated and can impact other systems.

 

Another example – how gut health impacts hormone health.

We have a well-documented and studied bacteria in your gut that assists in estrogen detoxification. An example of how gastroenterology meets endocrinology. It would be a missed opportunity to only treat your hormone imbalance without understanding how your gut might be contributing to the cause. (treat the whole system not the symptom)

 

Functional medicine is the future of medicine in my opinion. We cannot continue to ignore the root causes and contributors of disease. We must turn our attention to early detection and prevention strategies, and we must focus on creating more health.

 



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