Health Conditions We Can Help With

10 Health Conditions Functional Medicine Can Help With

In This Article

In conventional medicine, there’s a doctor for every part of your body: cardiologists for the heart, gastroenterologists for the digestive system, neurologists for the brain and nervous system, podiatrists for your feet, and ophthalmologists for your eyes.

While these doctors may be great in treating a particular organ or body part, we now know that this model often misses other important factors either upstream or downstream.

In functional medicine, we see the body as an interconnected whole, within a larger environment.

We recognize that in order to treat one part of the body, all of the other parts must also be considered.

In working with you as a patient, we take a step back and try to see common features that might link all the health conditions that you might be experiencing.

By looking for the commonalities and patterns, we can offer interventions that affect multiple pathways, helping you recover your health faster and more completely.

 

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Heart Health

Heart Disease is the #1 Cause of Death.
Despite that fact that Americans consume more heart disease medications than ever before – to lower blood pressure or cholesterol – more people are still dying and suffering from heart and cardiovascular related deaths.

The facts and figures surrounding heart attacks and cardiovascular disease are scary.

For example:

Over 370,000 people are killed annually by cardiovascular disease in the United States. [1]

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. [1]

Every year, about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack and most of them had no prior symptoms. [2]

Unfortunately, and despite medicine's common treatment plan of lowering cholesterol and blood pressure using prescription drugs, more people now die of heart disease with “normal” cholesterol” and “normal” blood pressure.

Why?

While prescription drugs can artificially lower cholesterol and blood pressure, they do little in terms of preventing tissue damage that leads to heart attacks, strokes and related diseases.

In addition, there's a common misconception that high cholesterol is the problem.

While most medical doctors aim to lower cholesterol, they never investigate what is causing the elevated cholesterol to begin with.

Functional Medicine doctors understand that total cholesterol is a poor indicator of cardiovascular health.

A 2008 study by UCLA concluded that almost 75% of patients hospitalized for a heart attack had cholesterol levels indicating they were not a high risk for cardiovascular disease. [3]

Fortunately, much research has been done to formulate a more complete assessment of heart health.

A Functional Medicine approach to Heart Disease doesn't simply relying on Total Cholesterol, “Good” and “Bad” cholesterol, but one that includes multiple parameters of cardiovascular health such as:

  • “Basic Lipids” including Total Cholesterol, HDL, LDL and Triglycerides
  • Blood Pressure over time (as opposed to a single measurement)
  • Biometrics such as Hip-to-Waist ratio, lean muscle mass and visceral fat
  • Carotid Intima-Media Thickness Testing (CIMT)
  • Glucose Regulation including Insulin, C-Peptide, Fructosamine, Uric acid
  • Advanced lipid studies such as LDL-P, HDL-P, ox-LDL, ApoA and ApoB

In summary, there is more to the heart attack story than just treating cholesterol.

You should understand that that there a wide variety of factors to consider and measure when it comes to heart attack risk.

Digestive Health

Over 80% of Your Immune System Lives In Your Digestive Tract
There is no question how important gut health and the health of your entire digestive system is to overall health. We now know that an unhealthy gut not only causes digestive distress—it contributes to everything from obesity and diabetes to autoimmune disease to skin disorders.

Gut health and digestive problems have reached an all time high in the U.S. and abroad.

Consider the facts:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects between 10 and 15 percent of the population
  • IBS is the second leading cause of missed workdays, behind only the common cold
  • 60 percent of adults in the U.S. experience symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
  • Nexium, the tiny purple pill prescribed for GERD, generates more sales revenue than any other drug except Lipitor (a statin)
  • Between 1992 and 2004, there was a 74% increase in doctors visits due to Crohn’s disease.
  • It’s estimated that 80% of Americans have leaky gut syndrome.

Digestive Health begins with the Microbiome – the collection of bacteria and microorganisms that live within our digestive tract.

Over the last several decades, scientists have discovered that our microbiome plays a key role in maintaining gut health and integrity.

These organisms help to digest the food we eat, absorb nutrients and create nutrients, protect our body from harmful bacteria and aid in metabolism.

Anything that disrupts the microbiome – disrupts health.

Conventional medicine has a bad habit of prescribing drugs that destroy the microbiome.

On one hand, these prescription drugs can help with symptoms, but they destroy the very organ system that helps your body to function properly.

Consumption of antibiotics, antacids and related medications create dysbiosis or imbalances in the good bacteria – which leads to further complications.

Additional factors that can cause dysbiosis include:

  • Cesarean section deliveries
  • Formula feeding
  • Frequent usage of NSAIDs, Acetaminophen and Birth Control
  • Diets that consist of high, refined carbohydrates
  • Diets low in fermentable fibers
  • Chronic stress
  • Chronic infections

A Functional Medicine approach to treating digestive issues wouldn't simply throw a bunch of medications or supplements to mask symptoms.

Instead, we would ask why your symptom is occurring and investigate the four pillars of digestive health:

  1. Digestion & Absorption – can you digest and absorb the food you eat?
  2. Detoxification & Elimination – can you eliminate harmful compounds?
  3. Microbial Balance – do you have a healthy microbiome or infections?
  4. Barrier Integrity – is the intestinal wall and lining healthy?

While gut health may be one of the most under appreciated components of overall health and wellness in our current medical model, it's usually the first step a Functional Medicine doctor will take.

Free

Functional

Medicine

Course

Functional Medicine Can Stop the Spread of Chronic Disesae.

Access this free course to learn more about how Functional Medicine can help you.

Diabetes & Metabolism

Type 2 Diabetes is one of the fastest growing health conditions.
If trends continue, within two decades, 95% of Americans will be overweight and 1 in 3 will have Diabetes.​

One billion people around the world now suffer from diabetes and obesity combined.

Obesity in adolescence has quadrupled just in the past 30 years, and now almost 20 percent of kids ages six to eleven are obese.

A recent study found that Prediabetes – a condition wherein blood sugar levels are elevated, but not high enough to warrant a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes – was estimated at 20% among adolescents ages 12 to 18, and 24% among young adults ages 19 to 34. [4]

Studies have shown that becoming overweight is a major risk factor in developing type 2 diabetes and today, roughly 30% of overweight people have diabetes, and 85% of diabetics are overweight.

See the problem here?

Those with diabetes or blood sugar dysregulation have a 50% higher risk of death and a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and losing their toes or feet.

Pre-diabetes, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome are all early signs and symptoms of blood sugar dysregulation and indicate the development of type 2 diabetes.

A conventional medical approach is to treating diabetes is to simply prescribe drugs like metformin to alter the levels of glucose or insulin.

Yes, these drugs can effectively improve the numbers on labs, but these numbers are essentially a lie.

While they alter the numbers, they do not alter the progression of the disease and this puts people in serious danger.

A systematic review of clinical trials examining the effects of intensive glucose control found no reduction in the risk for cardiovascular death or all-cause mortality, and an increased risk for severe hypoglycemia! [5]

More important is the fact that this chronic and debilitating disease can be prevented and even reversed.

A Functional Medicine approach to treating Diabetes would involve optimizing the diet, addressing physical fitness, sleep disturbance, poor gut health and chronic stress; all of which play a role in glucose dysregulation.

Treatments targeted at improving blood sugar control with diet, exercise and better lifestyle habits can give rise to lifelong improvements in quality of life.

Hormone Health

Hormones Don't Just Get Imbalanced – There's a Root Cause.
In a healthy, functioning person, hormones will be regulated and operating as they should, so when they are out of whack, it is a sign that something is not working properly.

Conventional medicine practices a “replacement model” when treating hormones.

For example, if your thyroid hormone is low – a conventional medical treatment would include increasing thyroid hormone with a drug like Synthroid.

However, the two major causes of thyroid disorders are nutrient deficiency and autoimmune disease.

Nutrient deficiencies that cause thyroid dysfunction could include iodine, zinc and selenium.

Whereas, if it's an autoimmune issue, then the cause of the autoimmune problem should be investigated.

A Functional Medicine doctor looks to determine why hormones are imbalanced and aims to correct the cause.

Functional Medicine seeks to determine the source of the problem rather than simply treating a symptom.

Simply adding thyroid hormone will not correct these underlying issues.

So even though your thyroid hormone may go back to normal- the problem continues to exist and can actually create more damage and allow a disease process to continue.

All that said, there is absolutely a right and wrong way to treat hormone imbalance.

Simply increasing low or high hormone levels with a prescription hormone is not the best approach. While you may feel better momentarily, a storm could be developing within your body that leads to serious conditions such as cancer and autoimmunity.

So understand that treating hormone problems can be broken down into two different models of endocrinology.

There's the replacement model and the functional medicine model.

The replacement model simply measures what's low or high and replaces those hormones with a prescription. Let's say you're low in estrogen and progesterone, and you're given estrogen or progesterone to replace those levels and bring them back up.

That's the replacement model.

The functional medicine approach is different. In functional medicine, we are concerned with determining the underlying cause or source of those abnormal hormone levels and aim to address the problem at that level.

And once you've identified the underlying causes of hormone imbalance and correct them, the hormones can balance themselves.

Cancer Prevention

Cancer is the Second Leading Cause of Death in the US and only 5-10% of all cancer cases are caused by genetics.
The conventional medical system has made several strides in the understanding and science behind cancer and oncology. Taking into account all of the information that's been accumulated, we now know that 90-95% of cancer cases have their roots in the environment and lifestyle.

Conventional medicine is really phenomenal in terms of the amount of scientific inquiry that’s gone into understanding what cancer is.

Our understanding of the genetics of cancer is so different now than it was just 10 years ago, and because of that, conventional cancer care is changing.

It’s beginning to shift into a more personalized approach using more targeted therapies – known as molecular-based therapies – and moving away from just using chemotherapy.

Yet, this is where the ball continues to fall when someone is diagnosed with Cancer.

Even though the medical literature understands that Cancer is a preventable disease that requires major lifestyle changes (6), Diet and Lifestyle changes are rarely recommended.

Major lifestyle factors associated with the development of cancer include cigarette smoking, processed foods (fried or packaged foods), alcohol, environmental pollutants, infections, stress, obesity and physical activity.

Given that 30-35% of all cancers are linked to diet, no conventional medical doctor should ever brush off diet as not being a primary treatment.

Yet, so many doctors say, “It has nothing to do with your diet.”

This is where a functional medicine approach to cancer prevention and treatment can help.

There's no doubt in my mind that when people combine lifestyle-based therapies with their conventional treatment, they do better, feel better and their risk for recurrance is lowered.

It's disturbing to think that these basic, yet scientifically proven concepts are not offered to people around the world suffering from cancer.

And it's almost even worse when you go to a chemotherapy center and you see sodas and candy and all the things that these patients should be avoiding in the first place.

It's a sort of institutionalized ignorance that needs to stop.

Fertility & Pregnancy

More than ever, Fertility and Healthy Pregnancies are having the greatest impact on the survival of our species.
In 2005, the New England Journal of Medicine predicted that life-expectancy would decline in the US due to the obesity epidemic. This prediction has happened much sooner. The downward trend in longevity is accelerating as the current generation of children reach adulthood.

Fertility rates in the United States hit a record low in 2018.

When having trouble conceiving, it can be really difficult to decide what the best steps towards finding help can be.

In Functional Medicine, we look to get to the individuals underlying root cause of imbalance within their body.

For many people, infertility can be improved with diet and lifestyle changes.

A few examples include:

  • Reducing Over-Exercising
  • Adding Exercise
  • Reducing Physical or Emotional Stress
  • Improving Sleep Quality
  • Addressing Nutrient Deficiencies
  • Conventional medical treatments for fertility usually involve hormone replacement therapy and/or in vitro fertilization.

As a Functional Medicine practitioner, I work to evaluate all of the systems in a person's body when they are dealing with infertility, including a comprehensive evaluation of their hormonal, nutritional and physical health.

Measuring hormones to optimize fertility involves sex hormones such as FSH, LH, Progesterone, Estradiol and stress hormones including cortisol and cortisone.

Additionally, measuring the thyroid and nutrients in the body are key to understanding nutritional requirements for fertility and a healthy pregnancy.

Another common piece of infertility is toxicity.

This is important because many people develop toxicity issues that do not allow them to get rid of excess hormones or environmental toxins.

Toxins that can impact fertility include BPA, phthalates, parabens and pesticides.

As you can see, a Functional Medicine approach to fertility is one that encompasses many systems in the body and recognizes that these systems are all inter-related.

The good news is that in finding out these root causes, we're often able to reverse frustrating symptoms and regain fertility.

Weight Loss & Obesity

Obesity affects more than 1 Billion people worldwide.
Obesity—together with diabetes and related conditions—affects more than 100 million Americans and 50 percent of Americans over the age of 65. More than half of Americans are overweight, a one-third are clinically obese.

There's no single cause for the obesity epidemic.

Obesity and weight gain or weight loss resistance is a complex process that involves both genetic and environmental factors.

More specifically, obesity is caused by a mismatch between our predominantly Paleolithic genes and modern lifestyle.

This is evident from the observation that obesity is rare, if not nonexistent, in contemporary hunter-gatherer populations.

There's no question that eating too much and not moving around enough play an important role in the obesity epidemic.

But fat loss, metabolism and building muscle are complex processes that require much investigation to get to the root cause of the problem.

While obesity is a big problem, experts are unsure how to handle this condition.

Conventional medical doctors recognize obesity as a chronic illness with vast and potentially dangerous consequences, but they seem at a loss about how to treat it.

Most doctors will simply say, “You should eat better or reduce calories including fat.”

The truth is, while that's a solid recommendation, there's a lot to unpack with respect to eating better, reducing calories and avoiding fat.

We all know it's not that easy.

Most doctors simply lack the time and knowledge to effectively treat obesity.

Seeing a patient for 10-15 minutes is hardly enough to get a complete health update, much less discuss the intricacies of a personalized, optimized diet.

A Functional Medicine approach to weight loss involves a combination of assessing and coaching.

The assessment portion focuses on measuring metabolic, hormonal, environmental and nutritional factors that could be keeping you from losing weight.

The coaching aspect goes much deeper and focuses on WHY you may be having problems picking the right foods or WHAT are the right foods for your body type in the first place.

Autoimmunity

Functional Medicine is the Future of Health, Available Today.
The good news for patients and those suffering from chronic disease is that a better model of healthcare delivery is already available.

There's no single cause for the obesity epidemic.

Obesity and weight gain or weight loss resistance is a complex process that involves both genetic and environmental factors.

More specifically, obesity is caused by a mismatch between our predominantly Paleolithic genes and modern lifestyle.

This is evident from the observation that obesity is rare, if not nonexistent, in contemporary hunter-gatherer populations.

There's no question that eating too much and not moving around enough play an important role in the obesity epidemic.

But fat loss, metabolism and building muscle are complex processes that require much investigation to get to the root cause of the problem.

While obesity is a big problem, experts are unsure how to handle this condition.

Conventional medical doctors recognize obesity as a chronic illness with vast and potentially dangerous consequences, but they seem at a loss about how to treat it.

Most doctors will simply say, “You should eat better or reduce calories including fat.”

The truth is, while that's a solid recommendation, there's a lot to unpack with respect to eating better, reducing calories and avoiding fat.

We all know it's not that easy.

Most doctors simply lack the time and knowledge to effectively treat obesity.

Seeing a patient for 10-15 minutes is hardly enough to get a complete health update, much less discuss the intricacies of a personalized, optimized diet.

A Functional Medicine approach to weight loss involves a combination of assessing and coaching.

The assessment portion focuses on measuring metabolic, hormonal, environmental and nutritional factors that could be keeping you from losing weight.

The coaching aspect goes much deeper and focuses on WHY you may be having problems picking the right foods or WHAT are the right foods for your body type in the first place.

Allergies & Immune Function

Functional Medicine is the Future of Health, Available Today.
The good news for patients and those suffering from chronic disease is that a better model of healthcare delivery is already available.

It could be argued that the beginning of medicine was all about the Immune system.

The health of the immune system is what determines the onset of acute infections which eventually evolve into chronic diseases.

At one point in time, most illnesses were due to infections. This is exactly where medicine shines.

However, after generations of lifestyle changes, chronic diseases have now become a substantial part of health care problems, and treating these conditions in the same fashion as acute, infectious disease is outdated.

To overcome chronic health conditions, we need to focus on supporting the body's innate ability to heal through targeted lifestyle intervention.

When it comes to Allergies and Immune Dysfunction, there is a basic framework that can be used to achieve success:

  1. Reduce symptoms. Yes, medications can provide initial support, but there are also a number of natural products that can replace or support medications.
  2. Remove the source of irritation. This doesn't simply include seasonal pollen, mold or cedar. There are environmental antigens and foods that could be causing the irritation as well.
  3. Repair the barriers. The major barriers that need to be fixed include the gut, skin, lungs and nasal mucosa.
  4. Restore the microbiome. Dysbiosis or imbalances in the good amount of bacteria in your digestive tract is paramount to having a strong immune system.
  5. Replace deficient nutrients. Vitamin and mineral insufficiencies can contribute to decreased immune function.
  6. Rebalance. Research demonstrates that a heightened stress response will promote allergic disease. So correcting lifestyle factors to improve mind/body self care is absolutely required.

Optimizing Health

Functional Medicine is the Future of Health, Available Today.
The good news for patients and those suffering from chronic disease is that a better model of healthcare delivery is already available.

The best part of Functional Medicine is that you don't have to have any health problems to benefit.

Not only do functional medicine doctors aim to address the root cause of disease, but we are trained to help you become the best version of yourself by optimizing health.

If you've ever been to the doctor – had blood tests, x-rays or other diagnostic tests – and were told that “all your tests were normal?”, get a second opinion.

Normal is not Optimal.

In fact, Health is not something that you arrive at and you're done. Rather, you should continuously attempt to building up your health and not wait for problems to arise.

Don't settle for a routine annual check up.

With Functional Medicine, you can identify nutrient deficiencies, weaknesses from genetic factors and even silent dysfunctions that may take years to show up.

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