Functional Medicine: How We Will Fix Health Care
What exactly is a disease? We create a definition of each disease based on what it does to us and how it makes us feel. Those with multiple sclerosis feel the fatigue, brain fog, pain, and loss of mobility that result from degeneration of the spinal cord.
Patients who feel ill want a diagnosis. They want to know what disease they have and how they can correct their health. In truth, diagnoses are only names given to a set of conditions based on symptoms, test results, and possible medications to try. Names are frequently the result of studies that look at what treatments, most often pharmaceutical drugs, affect the symptoms.
The problem with this conventional medicine approach is that it only begins to scratch the surface of a patient’s health. Treating just the symptoms doesn’t get to the why, or root cause, of the disease. Scientists are finding that the cause of many diseases begins at the most basic level, the cellular level. The biochemistry of our cells and how those cells communicate is broken. To return to health, the chemistry and communication within and between our cells must be restored to normal. Every disease begins at the cellular level.
Instead of conventional medicine, many patients and even medical practitioners, including Dr. Wahls, are turning to functional medicine. In this article from The Daily Beast, functional medicine is defined as a basic science that works to find and correct root causes of disease. For example, to treat a patient who suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a functional medicine practitioner will, rather than prescribing medication, look at possible food triggers that might be causing the illness. The patient could then be proactive, making changes to his diet and avoiding certain foods that are likely the root of the IBS.
According to The Daily Beast article, while Americans make up 5 percent of the global population, we consume 75% of the world’s pharmaceuticals, and 7 out of 10 of us take prescription medication1. Big pharmaceutical companies are profiting from all the medication we are prescribed, even though these medications do not address the true causes of our health issues. Conventional medicine is still important, but physicians must start adding additional layers to their practice and consider a patient’s health behaviors, toxin exposure, stress levels, nutrition quality, and exercise habits.
Dr. Mark Hyman, chair of the Institute of Functional Medicine, states that IBS, migraines, asthma, autoimmune disease, gut issues, type 2 diabetes, and other health issues are all being treated by functional medicine practitioners1. By identifying the root causes of disease and addressing lifestyle habits, patients can take control of their own health, and physicians can help patients implement low-cost changes that make them feel better and live longer.
For more information on functional medicine, see chapter 2 in The Wahls Protocol. You can find a functional medicine practitioner by searching the database at www.functionalmedicine.org. There are many practitioners around the country and the world.