|Functional Medicine Approach to Healthcare|
|Written by Russel Sher|
Most of us have been conditioned to approach health problems in an isolated fashion, which might mean going to a rheumatologist for our painful joints, a gastroenterologist for our bowel symptoms, a dermatologist for the rash, or a psychiatrist for our lingering depression. Chances are that each one of those practitioners will arrive at a diagnosis and – according to his or her training – prescribe a medication that shows the best fit for a particular symptom. While this approach generally works well for acute problems (e.g., a cast for a broken arm, or an antibiotic for a kidney infection), it fails the patient with chronic problems in several key ways:
Clearly, there are times when medication or surgery can be life-saving. However, it is important to keep in mind that conventional medicine was designed for acute rather than chronic health problems. Chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, chronic fatigue, arthritis, and fibromyalgia, are on the rise today. Clearly a better approach is needed.
Functional medicine represents a dynamic and science-based approach to whole person health care that embraces optimal wellness as the goal. As the name implies, functional medicine is based on the awareness that many health problems are reflections of underlying imbalances in physiology and chemistry. Accordingly, a functional medicine practitioner helps to identify and correct those imbalances as the primary method of improving the patient's health. To do so requires consideration of the human body as a finely orchestrated network of interconnected systems, rather than viewing individual systems as autonomous. For example, imbalances within the intestine may precipitate the entry of toxins into the system, which, in predisposed individuals, can stimulate arthritis through an immune response in the joints. Chronic stress may imbalance the adrenal glands, resulting in blood sugar swings, easy fatigue, inflammation, and menstrual irregularities.
This "web-like" approach includes a thorough evaluation of the patient's environment and lifestyle choices which may have an influence on health. Toxic exposures may precipitate neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease, nutritional deficits may promote the development of atherosclerosis, social isolation may contribute to cancer by suppressing a person's immune system, physical trauma may result in structural imbalances that limit function in various organs. This is "patient-centered" medicine at its best, where "patient care" rather than "disease care" is the priority. As Sir William Osler once said, "It is more important to know what patient has the disease than to know what disease the patient has." Toward this end, the functional medicine practitioner evaluates a patient's health problems in light of the totality of interactions among his or her environment, lifestyle, and genetic predisposition.
The goal of functional medicine treatment is dynamic balance – among the internal and external factors in a patient's body, mind, and spirit. Because "health" is regarded as a positive vitality, rather than merely the absence of disease, the person is assisted in care to a point of optimal wellness. There is no reason that we should settle for anything less.
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 April 2009 16:06 )|