Chronic diseases are rarely caused by one single factor, but by the interplay of genetic, biochemical, nutritional, environmental and psycho-social factors. It is not only our genes that make us sick, but environmental toxins, diet and lifestyle. And if we catch frequent colds, the culprit is often not just the latest bug, but an immune system that is overwhelmed. Beyond solely focusing on symptoms, we therefore need to take the root causes into account.
This patient centered “Functional Medicine” approach treats the whole person and sees the body as one integrated system, not just a collection of independent organs. Using a systems-oriented approach, Functional Medicine looks “upstream” to consider the complex web of interactions in the patient’s history, physiology, and lifestyle that can bring about illness.
If you struggle with chronic health challenges, a Functional Medicine workup looks at the following factors:
Viral, bacterial, fungal or parasitic infections play an important part in many chronic diseases, even in cancer and heart disease.
Heavy metals, chemicals, mold toxins and other 'Xenobiotics’ can be found in the connective or fatty tissue of most people, the brain included. Due to the body’s limited detox capacity, they often accumulate over time, especially in people who are slow detoxifiers. As xenobiotics produce free radicals, interrupt enzymes and hormones, impair cellular/mitochondrial energy production, cause chronic inflammation and weaken the immune system, they increase our susceptibility toward many diseases.
Nutritional deficiencies of minerals, amino acids, fatty acids and vitamins are widespread, especially in children, seniors and the sick.
Food allergies/sensitivities and dietary imbalances like the over consumption of sugar and starches are an important cofactor in many diseases.
Hormonal deficiencies of adrenals, thyroid and sex hormones weaken our resiliency.
Dysbiosis or an imbalance of the gut microbiome causes leaky gut and chronic inflammation and thereby provokes autoimmune, neurodegenerative and many other chronic diseases.
Lack of exercise promotes many health issues, heart disease topping the list. And a sedentary lifestyle has been dubbed the ‘new smoking.’
The way we cope with stressful life-events and emotional trauma is essential to our health. Research in Psychoneuroimmunology points to the important role our belief systems, attitudes, cognitive and emotional styles as well as our relationships and communities play in keeping us healthy. Ultimately, any disease can be seen as a wake-up call to move toward balance and wholeness. It is a reminder to step off the hamster wheel, get your priorities straight, simplify life, listen to the call of your soul, and live more fully, however that might look for you. But one thing is sure: the only one who can do that, is YOU.