I often tell the story about my time as a pre-med student when I began seeing the connections between what I learned in nutrition, exercise science, biology, and chemistry classes. This led me to study and become passionate about functional medicine.
Since I began my career in clinical practice and as a public speaker more than 25 years ago, I’ve been talking to patients and audiences about how functional medicine is critical to ending the chronic illness epidemic in our country.
Eleven years ago, I wrote an article that explained the basics of what functional medicine is. In the title of that article, I referred to functional medicine as a new approach to healthcare. Functional medicine was hardly new, but most people were hearing the term for the first time.
Three years ago, after a bitter presidential election and a healthcare reform debate that accomplished nothing, I wrote an article about changing the conversation from health insurance to health care. In other words, embrace the functional medicine approach that focuses on keeping people healthy instead of reactively treating them when they get sick.
Last month, I reintroduced the Pyramid of Health, which outlines what functional medicine is and serves as a model for how we deliver care at Natural Healthcare Center.
When I say I’ve spent my entire adult life spreading the word about functional medicine, I’m not exaggerating. And I’ll continue to write, speak, and educate people about functional medicine for as long as I’m able.
It’s that important.
The Institute for Functional Medicine defines functional medicine as “a systems biology–based approach that focuses on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease. Each symptom or differential diagnosis may be one of many contributing to an individual’s illness.”
Functional medicine is based on the science that says the body’s many systems are interconnected and must be in balance to restore and maintain an optimal state of health. We can only fix health problems by attacking them at the source with treatment plans that are customized for the individual.
Our current healthcare system saves lives every day, whether a patient suffers a stroke, a heart attack, or a gunshot wound. Emergency and traumatic care are top notch. This healthcare system enabled me to have the neck surgery I desperately needed just a few months ago.
But our healthcare system does a terrible job treating chronic illnesses, most of which are preventable and even reversible. In addition to the emergency and traumatic care layer of medicine and a fragmented layer of specialists, I’ve long advocated for a new layer in which board-certified functional medicine practitioners focus on preventing and reversing chronic illness.
One reason why functional medicine is finally gaining traction in our country is the mountain of data that says genetics is less of a predictor of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and other chronic diseases than the lifestyle decisions we make every day.
At Natural Healthcare Center, we use this growing body of evidence to improve the quantity and quality of life for our patients. “Feel better, function better, and live longer” is inspired by the very definition of functional medicine.There is no better example of the transformational impact of functional medicine than advances in gut therapy.
Research studies from the past five to 10 years have taught us to look at the gut as a second brain. Evidence continues to show that hundreds of conditions ranging from thyroid issues to anxiety to autism originate in the gut. By maintaining a healthy balance in the gut, we can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses that are responsible for three-quarters of all healthcare costs in our country.
The first step is for you as an individual to make health a higher priority in your life instead of outsourcing the responsibility. Become educated about how your choices affect your health so you can make better choices.
Second, find clinicians who follow the functional medicine approach. This kind of care has never been more accessible and affordable, which is why many of our patients trust us in the same way they would trust a primary care physician to restore and maintain their health.
Think of it this way. Years ago, we used to put a list of doctors on the refrigerator – the cardiologist, the pulmonologist, the allergist, the neurologist, etc. Our job at Natural Healthcare Center is to keep you from having to call those people.
Instead of seeing different specialists for different conditions, you can see a team who collaborates to keep your entire body in balance by addressing all three components of your health – the physical, nutritional, and psychological.
That’s the difference between our broken healthcare system, which reacts to illness and treats symptoms with medication, and functional medicine, which focuses on preventing and reversing chronic illness by diagnosing and treating the root causes of disease.
To learn more about how you and your family can apply functional medicine to your everyday lives, schedule a complimentary consultation at Natural Healthcare Center.