What Is Functional Medicine and How Can It Help You?
Your health is deeply personal – so why does today’s healthcare system feel so impersonal?
Every visit to the doctor seems to end with a new prescription, which isn’t even making you feel any better. And every new symptom seems to need a visit to a different specialist. You end up spending more time and money, but see fewer results.
Living with chronic symptoms is hard enough. If you’re frustrated with the standard medical care, you’re not alone. You need a different approach to healthcare. Functional medicine can help you.
Functional medicine is “root cause medicine.” It is a practice that appreciates the body as a network of interconnected systems. What happens in one area of your body can affect how the rest functions.
In other words, functional medicine focuses on why you’re sick in the first place.
Functional medicine uses modern science to understand how your body functions. Practitioners use all this information to develop an effective, personalized treatment plan.
In this approach, you are the focus, not your symptoms. A diagnosis is just the beginning. You deserve more than 10 minutes of your doctor’s attention. It’s about time you and your doctor became partners in your wellness journey.
Ready to learn more about functional medicine?
Let’s take a look at how functional medicine can help you reclaim the vitality you deserve. Here are six areas functional medicine can help you heal:
Improve Digestion and Gut Balance
Your digestive tract is complex. Starting with your mouth, the food you eat is broken down into their simplest forms, such as sugars. These nutrients then enter the bloodstream by crossing the intestinal lining.
In a way, this lining is like a filter. It controls what goes into your body, and also what doesn’t. It is your ultimate defense against toxins and harmful pathogens.
So why is the health of your gut lining so important?
Toxins, inflammation, stress, and a poor diet can disrupt your protective gut lining. Scientists and medical experts call this intestinal permeability – sometimes referred to as leaky gut syndrome.
When your gut becomes leaky, it loses its protective function. Without this, harmful substances that are normally excreted as waste actually enter your bloodstream. Once there, they can lead to digestive problems and other systemic diseases.
Also critical to your gut health is the gut microbiome. Trillions of microbes call your gut home, where they help regulate and balance your health in many ways. Some of their most important functions include immune system regulation, metabolism, and synthesizing nutrients such as Vitamin K.
But this population of microbes doesn’t stay the same forever. Certain medications, toxins, and diets can allow bad microbes to outgrow the good ones. The result? Here are a few:1,2
- Autoimmune disease
- IBS and IBD
- Sensitivity to odors
- Food allergies
A healthy digestive system can make a world of difference. But when healing the gut, order and timing is everything. Simply adding a probiotic supplement to your daily routine will do little to help. In fact, probiotics could make your symptoms worse.
Gut health is at the core of functional medicine. As your body’s “second brain,” your gut affects every other part of your body. An experienced practitioner may order a stool analysis or food sensitivity tests. They will then use that data to develop a plan that will restore your gut health. Your plan may include nutritional counseling, supplements, or lifestyle changes. Medications are only used when necessary.
Regulate Your Immune System and Control Inflammation
Your immune system uses various methods to keep you healthy. One of those methods is inflammation.
There are two types of inflammation – acute and chronic. The redness you see after stubbing your toe is a symptom of acute inflammation. It also defends your body against viruses and bacteria.
In most cases, acute inflammation works quickly, with symptoms lasting up to a few days. But sometimes inflammation can linger. Scientists and medical experts call this chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation can be a result of:3
- A failure to kill an infectious organism
- Long-term exposure to a low level of toxin or irritant
- A problem in the cells responsible for controlling inflammation
- Recurrent episodes of acute inflammation
- Your immune system attacking itself
Over time, chronic inflammation can lead to damaged tissues and organs. The result is diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and depression. We now know controlling inflammation is critical to preventing these serious diseases.
Functional medicine can help resolve chronic inflammation. Your doctor will review your medical history and order diagnostic tests. Your treatment plan will depend on your results, but common treatments include supplements, herbal treatments, stress management, diet adjustments, and lifestyle changes.
Repair Cells and Tissues
Groups of cells make up tissues, which make up your organs. To have healthy tissues, your cells need to function well. And for cells to function properly, they need to maintain good structure.
All cells are surrounded by two layers of fat called the plasma membrane. A healthy plasma membrane provides protection and nutrients. It also removes harmful waste products produced by cellular processes.
Over time, toxins and other stressors can damage your cell membranes beyond repair. Cells with damaged plasma membranes cannot function as normal.
If you’re experiencing the following, you may have damaged cells:4
- Chronic back and neck pain
- Muscle or connective tissue disorders
- Severe pain
- Heart disease
Your cells can be fixed, but you need a proper diagnosis. A functional medicine practitioner can determine what is damaging your cells and get to the bottom of your pain.
Improve Your Energy and Focus
When you’re fatigued, everything suffers…
Getting up in the morning is a chore.
You’re unfocused and not as productive at work as you’d like to be.
Your relationships with loved ones suffer.
Getting a good night’s sleep can help, but you’re still tired. What now?
The root cause of your fatigue may lie in your cells.
As nutrients from food enter your cells, they feed tiny structures called mitochondria. These powerhouses then convert the nutrients into energy.
The problem? This process is complex, and many things can go wrong. Mitochondria are also sensitive to damage.
When mitochondria become tired or suffer damage, they can’t produce enough energy. That’s when you begin to see symptoms like:5
- Low energy
- Lack of focus
- Memory loss
You don’t need to feel tired all the time. Functional medicine practitioners can help restore healthy mitochondria by getting to the root of their dysfunction and providing support with safe, natural supplements.
Regulate Hormones and Neurotransmitters
Cells communicate with each other using hormones, neurotransmitters, and other signaling molecules. Your hormones regulate everything, from your growth to your appetite.
Sometimes your hormone levels drop. Other times, they fall out of balance. When this happens, your cells have a harder time interacting.
You’re likely already familiar with symptoms of hormonal or neurotransmitter imbalance. Here are a few of them:
- Weight gain despite exercise
- Trouble sleeping
- Brain fog
- Headaches or migraines
- Hair loss
- Low sex drive
- Insulin resistance
- Under-active thyroid
Yes, some of these symptoms may seem unrelated – but they could all have the same root cause. The good news is, you can fix these hormonal imbalances without medication.
Functional medicine practitioners use non-invasive tests to understand your body’s chemistry. Combining these results with your history will give your practitioner the whole picture of your health. From there, we customize a plan to correct any hormonal issues.
You’re exposed to hundreds of chemicals as you go about your daily life. They lurk in everyday items like:
- Household cleaners
- Personal hygiene products
- Some foods
- Water and air
Some chemicals may have no immediate negative effects on your health. But we’re learning that chronic exposure to those same chemicals can make you sick. This constant barrage of irritants can lead to a high “toxic burden”.
With our constant exposure to toxins and the inflammation it causes, our detoxification pathways can easily become burdened. Think of your body as a bathtub. The running water is the steady stream of toxins coming into your body from your environment. As long as you have an “open drain” – or a functioning detoxification system – toxins move out of your body as they should.
The problem comes over time when cellular debris begins to clog the “drain”. The incoming toxins begin to back up and you experience symptoms as a result. This is when you may benefit from detoxification support.
Detoxifying your body isn’t a fad, cleanse, or fast. Successful detox is much more like a long-term habit than a quick fix. It should start at the cellular level and go all the way to the brain. You’ll be able to think clearer, lose weight, and have more energy when your detoxification pathways are working properly.
A functional medicine practitioner can help identify the toxins making you ill. Once they’re defined, they may recommend a detox plan customized to your needs.
Achieve Your Health Goals With Functional Medicine
Health is more than simply surviving – everyone has the potential to thrive.
Conventional healthcare often results in a long, frustrating, and expensive journey. For too many people, this journey never leads to vibrant health. This is because conventional medicine treats the disease, not the person.
Functional medicine offers another approach to healthcare. It doesn’t ask “Which medication will make your symptoms go away?” Instead, it asks “What is making you sick?”
At Benehealth, we understand that you’re more than a collection of symptoms. That’s why our practitioners take time to really get to know you and your health struggles. Our holistic approach enhances your health from the inside-out and from the outside-in.
Are you in the Phoenix area and ready to experience a revolutionary healthcare experience? Find out more about how we help people in the Northwest Valley transform their health. Book your complimentary Discovery Call today.