Functional Medicine – The Future of Medicine
Functional Medicine is the future of how we look at healthcare. A Function Medicine approach to healthcare is a philosophy of patient-centered care. It focuses on addressing underlying causes and mechanisms of disease and dysfunction, not just symptoms. Functional Medicine assess the body as a whole as opposed to treating the body like completely separate organ systems functioning independently of one another. This philosophy of healthcare also looks at the patterns that connect a patient’s symptoms together, instead of looking at each symptom as independent pathologies unto themselves. In our current “sick care” system, which relies primarily on conventional medicine to take care of us, this is exactly how one patient can wind up with a doctor for every inch of their body. A psychiatrist for their depression, a neurologist for their migraines, an allergist for their stuffy nose, an endocrinologist for their diabetes, a dermatologist for their dry, scaly skin, a cardiologist for their heart disease, and so on and so forth. Each doctor makes his or her own diagnosis while only focusing on a few pieces of the whole puzzle, and using drugs are their tools of choice which rarely address the underlying problem. By the way, how’s that working out for us? One of the top industrialized nations the United States is roughly 5% of the world population, we consume 75% of the world’s prescription medications, and we are still among the most sick, fat, and chronically diseased. I say enough is enough, lets try something that actually works!
Its clear that we are facing the worst chronic disease epidemic in human history. Obesity in adolescents has quadrupled in the past 30 years, and now almost 20% of children age 6-11 are obese. 600,000 people die every year in the U.S. from a heart attack. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men suffer from an autoimmune disease. Over 50% of the adults in the U.S. take prescription drugs, and 40% of the elderly take more than 5 medications. The CDC states that autism prevalence has more than doubled since the year 2000 (and its not just form increased diagnosis). The number of people diagnosed with depression climbs by 20% each year, and at the current rates of chronic disease, in 20 years 95% of the U.S. population will be overweight and 1 in 3 will have diabetes. All of this is why epidemiologists are warning us that our children are expected to be the first generation that will life shorter sicker lives than we will. Astonishingly, since health care in the U.S. is 24% of our GDP you would expect our country to be a model of pristine health due to the reversal and prevention of disease while doing minimal harm…or not. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2000, medical care was the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. accounting for roughly 200,000 deaths annually. But since only 5-20% of doctor-induced death is thought to be reported, the authors of the paper speculated that medical care could, in fact, be the #1 cause of death in America!
I refer to our health care system as a “sick care” system because conventional medicine does not, in fact, focus on optimizing health. Instead our system is one of sickness and disease management usually by suppressing symptoms with drugs. Don’t get me wrong, disease management absolutely has its place. Heaven forbid you suffer a traumatic accident, the best place on Earth for that to happen is in United States where we have the best emergency medical care in the world. Conventional medicine has saved countless lives from trauma and infectious diseases, but life in the United States isn’t what it was 100 years ago when infectious diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis were among the top causes of death along with diarrhea and traumatic accidents. In 2017, the vast majority of the leading causes of death and deteriorating quality of life in the United States are due to chronic, lifestyle-induced diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, COPD, and Alzheimer’s disease. The good news is that using a Functional Medicine approach is the best way to diagnose and treat these chronic diseases.
In short, Functional Medicine is common sense medicine. What sense does it make if you have a rock in your shoe to take Motrin or Aleve to mask the symptoms of the pain when what we really should be doing is addressing the cause and remove the rock! Its time we face the fact that if we know that our diet and other lifestyle factors contribute to to over 90% of chronic disease risk, then maybe addressing the diet and lifestyle is the first step we need to take to find our way out of the medical maze and back to higher health. By challenging your doctor with common sense questions, maybe one day they will rise to the occasion and search of the answers. An astute physician will. Somewhere along the line we stopped asking “why?” As in “why do I have acid reflux?” “why do I have depression and anxiety?” “why do I have heart disease?” I wont answer for you doctor, but I’ll give you a hint. It’s not because of the “normal aging process” and its not because your body is deficient in Prilosec, Zoloft, or statins. Don’t hold your breath for conventional medicine or your health insurance company to get with the program, but there are root causes to every chronic disease that needs to be investigated, and once we apply a Functional Medicine approach we can address these underlying causes and really truly heal people.