In the olden days, it was thought that disease was caused by some entity, such as miasma or bad air, that we needed to get rid of in some way.
We now know that this idea of something that we need to get rid of only makes sense in specific cases. Traditional Western medicine works wonders in these areas of infectious disease, surgery and trauma.
But what about preventing or treating auto-immune conditions, depression, heart disease, diabetes, cancer or Alzheimers?
Or complex cases where the patient has an endless list of symptoms (and is often given an endless list of drugs)?
It can be argued that we are merely putting bandages to slow what is thought of as an inevitable disease process. We have a pill for everything but those pills rarely, address the root cause of the disease.
Do diseases actually exist?
You might answer ‘of course they do!’. And you are right, the symptoms obviously exist.
But at the level of our biochemistry, disease is just a result of poor function at the cellular level, which results in poorly functioning organs and body. For example, Dr Dale Brdesen argues that Altzheimer’s is not a single disease, but identifies three major metabolic imbalances that contribute to Alzheimer’s:
- Inflammation from things like poor diet and lifestyle choices, infection, and other issues
- An insufficient amount of supportive elements like hormones, nutrients, and brain-supporting compounds that result in poor functioning and repair of neurons in our brain.
- Toxic exposure to heavy metals like mercury, arsenic, or lead, and biotoxins like mold and other microbes
Based on this understanding, a disease becomes only a convenient label for a collection of symptoms and diseases don’t actually exist in and of themselves. And so Dr. Rangan Chatterjee has boldly declared that he can make diseases disappear. His approach to making ‘diseases’ disappear is largely based in Nutritional Therapy and Functional Medicine, and addressing the root cause of the disease rather than the symptoms.
So, What is Functional Medicine?
Functional Medicine is the identification of the root causes of the imbalances that give rise to disease.
Once the root causes are identified, they can be addressed through personalised and targeted lifestyle interventions such as nutrition, sleep, rest, and movement. Pharmaceuticals may be required in some cases, but lifestyle interventions will always benefit the patient.
In our Alzheimer’s example, inflammation and poor functioning of neurons can be addressed in part by nutrition and lifestyle changes. Similarly, we can reduce our exposure to toxins by changing our environment and take steps to eliminate toxins that are stored in the body (sauna anyone?).
“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.” – Thomas Edison
Functional Medicine sees a return to this care for the body and answers questions such as:
Why do you have this problem in the first place?
Why has function been lost?
What can we do to restore function?
Functional Medicine in Action
Functional medicine is based in systems theory.
A system is a cohesive grouping of interrelated and interdependent parts
Because of this interconnectedness and interdependence, our digestive health may have an impact on our immune system and hormonal system and vice versa. And inflammation and oxidative stress may affect all systems in our body, and are in-turn affected by our diet and sterss levels.
Functional Medicine looks at the functioning of the systems within the body, and looks to improve their functioning to regain or maximise health. We use nutrition and lifestyle interventions (e.g. rest, sleep, movement), rather than a single pharmaceutical. This allows us to target multiple systems in the body at the same time and address root causes, rather than symptoms.
We may look at environmental toxins, genetics, nutrient status, poorly functioning detoxification, cellular energy pathways. Advanced laboratory testing may be used to help get to the root cause where necessary..
This process may take some time and money, but it is generally a very worthwhile investment as it may lead to reduced costs and better health and vitality in the long run.