Functional Medicine is one of the pillars of my practice and, these days, it is getting a lot of press. With The Cleveland Clinic and Dr. Mark Hyman opening a burgeoning functional medicine program it is becoming much more mainstream.
Of course with mainstream comes, ultimately, different views of what it truly means.
So what is functional medicine anyway?
I use functional medicine modalities as a way of identifying the underlying (root) causes of dysfunction rather than merely treating symptoms triggering the body’s innate healing abilities.
In short, I encourage and support the body to restore its own equilibrium by identifying each individual and their symptoms as being biochemically and genetically unique. I look at the individual and their entire story rather than seeing them as a series of symptoms.
I might order tests such as DNA Methylation profiles, Organic Acid Tests, genetic profiles, allergy testing, and detailed thyroid and/or adrenal panels to ascertain how the particular individual is functioning physically but I also listen to his/her story.
The story a person has to tell (and I ask some pretty tough, often intensely personal questions in the course of the discovery process) often clues me into potential root causes and interconnection of dysfunctions. I also examine current lifestyle considering all aspects of mind/body/ spirit to get a complete picture of the big “why” the body is not using its innate ability to self-regulate.
Just remember, hormonal imbalance, thyroid dysfunction and adrenal fatigue does not exist in a mutually exclusive bubble.
I invite my clients to remember that health is positive vitality- not simply the absence of health.
A case study in functional medicine
33 year old Laure came to me with a complaint of severe PMS, low libido, extreme fatigue and weight gain. Her primary care provider gave her birth control pills for the PMS, antidepressants (for some unknown reason), and Levothyroxin for hypothyroidism.
By the time she got to me she was breaking out like a teenager, could not sleep more than 2 hours at a time, her hair was falling out and she had extreme acid reflux.
Many doctors would look at these symptoms as unrelated but during our discovery we discussed many issues such as the extremely stressful job that kept her working from very early in the morning until very late at night with no time to slow down and eat (often grabbing sandwiches to eat at her desk), the marriage that was an added stress due to her work hours, fertility issues, and the constant fights about money, and even the nearly 2 hour commute every day.
Further on in her story she recounted abuse during her childhood and eating disorders during her adolescence along with her parents’ divorce.
When asked how she dealt with conflict she admitted she bottled it all up to avoid arguments.
Physically, her thyroid was low and her antibodies were high and, with a thorough panel of tests behind us, it was clear that she suffered from Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and her gut was a mess from chronic antibiotic use. (Her physician had no problem prescribing Z packs at every sniffle.) Her cortisol levels were off the charts except in the morning (when they should have been high) thus the inability to sleep. Her adrenals were in free fall and her progesterone was low in comparison to significantly elevated levels of estrogen.
Unravelling further she had impaired methylation and several genes expressing less than optimally.
So where to start?
We had to treat her adrenals and get her Hashimoto’s under control first and foremost. 6 months on a healing regimen that included eliminating several allergens that contributed to chronic inflammation her antibodies were under control and her thyroid was functioning. Because her gut was functioning well, her acid reflux reversed.
We cut out as many xenoestrogens from her personal care regimen as possible and addressed the methylation issues and her estrogen levels returned to normal. We gave her pregnenolone to help raise her progesterone so her PMS symptoms were a thing of the past.
We worked on lifestyle changes that involved her working fewer hours and being much more mindful when she did eat. She feared working fewer hours because she thought she would lose her place on the promotion ladder but, upon further discussion, we uncovered that she really wanted to open up her own agency rather than working for someone else. Within six months of beginning her treatment plan she had a firm business plan in hand and 3 year on is now happily running her own successful agency and working less than half the hours she worked as an employee. Even her marriage thrived because she could and desired to devote more time to her husband which made both of them very happy.
We enlisted the support of a local gynecologist who followed my recommendation of an O-shot to help her regain her loss of sexual desire and she loved the results as she felt she could connect on a very physical level with her husband and her own body rather than feeling like she was just going through the motions.
We used kinesiology and other modalities to teach her to use her voice during conflict, release trapped and unexpressed emotion (we used EMDR for past abuse and other traumas) and because she started working fewer hours, her stress levels decreased, her sleep improved, she was eating a nutrient dense enjoyable diet thus her adrenals began functioning normally to support her rather than working against her.
I taught her anti-aging and regenerative medicine bio-design (female biohacking) tricks and tips to support her body and its natural ability to keep equilibrium.
Remember, your body has the ability to heal and prevent nearly all diseases of aging.
2 years later her skin glows, she does yoga and pilates several times a week, she lost the weight effortlessly, has a passionate marriage, a thriving business, and a vibrant life.
She will be the first to tell you, beginning to unravel the knots of dysfunction was not fun, once we began the process much of the secondary symptoms disappeared allowing her body to heal naturally and fully.
Bear in mind, we used several modalities in this case but we worked with not only nutrition but the psychology of how she ate, we used herbs and supplements when needed, healing oils and balms, and, of course, lifestyle changes that helped her align her health, business and life.
In short I use cutting edge health and regenerative medical information in complement with alternative and integrative methods to re-pair and re-set your physiology, so that the body and mind work for you, FOR your soul, FOR your body.
This is alchemy.
Wishing you health, abundance, and beauty,