What is Functional Medicine?

by Amylee Amos MS, RDN

What is Functional Medicine?

50% of adults have at least one chronic disease (1). 25% of adults have two or more chronic diseases (2).

Chronic diseases. Something has gone very, very wrong.

Imagine that your sink is overflowing. Water is splashing and sloshing all over the floor. You’ve got a major problem. The conventional medicine approach is to put a bucket under the sink to catch the water. It actually does work for a while, right? There’s definitely less water falling onto the floor now. But the water is still pouring out of the faucet. Conventional medicine may even go so far as to put a few more buckets under the sink when the first bucket is full. Certainly not useless, but it didn’t ameliorate the problem. Alternatively, functional medicine is the turning off the faucet. If we think about this in terms of medicine and health, functional medicine works farther upstream. It moves beyond the immediate symptoms (the water spilling on the floor) and seeks to address the cause (running faucet).

In a world where chronic diseases are increasing at a frightening rate, functional medicine is the future. Functional medicine is a systems biology approach to treating chronic disease, which means that it views the body as a whole, rather than a series of independent organs and organ systems. The functional medicine approach seeks to identify and address the root cause of disease, rather than simply treating symptoms. Doing so takes a full understanding of a patient’s personal and medical history, their biochemistry, their genetics, and their current lifestyle factors. Finally, functional medicine practitioners and patients form a therapeutic partnership and work together to establish treatment plans, empowering the patient by putting them in the driver’s seat of their own care (3). The result of this type of medicine is optimal health and reversal of what many consider to be irreversible diseases: cardiometabolic, autoimmune, and neurodegenerative diseases, to name a few.

Can you tell I’m a fan? The Amos Institute uses a functional medicine approach to treating cognitive decline because this is the answer to chronic disease. The clients who walk through our doors are not satisfied with the answers they’ve gotten through conventional, or mainstream medicine. The pharmaceutical industry- the face of conventional medicine- and the medications that they promote, have failed us miserably. Not one pharmaceutical on the market can stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, they often result in nasty side effects, while promising to (possibly and minimally) slow the progression of the disease. Despite this, the pharmaceutical industry continues to make billions of dollars, and yet not one person has regained their cognitive abilities following this approach. The ‘pills’ sold by the pharmaceutical companies are the so-called ‘gold standard’ of treatment, which is completely outrageous. This is a band aid approach- and it does absolutely nothing to address the underlying problem. The issue is that conventional medicine looks at disease as a problem with just one organ. In Alzheimer’s disease, it’s the brain. But the body is intricately connected. All of the body systems are affected by each other. And our lifestyle, meaning the foods we eat (or the foods we don’t eat), our level of physical activity, our sleep patterns and sleep hygiene, and our stress level, has a direct impact on all of our body systems. Even our mental, emotional, and spiritual health has a massive impact on our physical well being and the manifestation of disease.

The Bredesen Protocol follows a functional medicine approach because it allows us to identify the metabolic and lifestyle contributors that have contributed to the disease. We can then address the contributors, one by one, to correct imbalances, meanwhile providing you, through lifestyle intervention, with the foundation that will bring you back into full cognitive health. But with all chronic diseases, functional medicine is the future. If we have any chance of getting ahead of the raging chronic disease rates, it’s through a functional medicine approach. It’s not through the next, new, heinously expensive drug.

At the Amos Institute, we are trained in functional medicine through the Institute for Functional Medicine, the gold standard for education and training in the functional medicine approach. More and more health care practitioners are taking part in this cutting edge training. Unfortunately, the healthcare system is centuries behind us. My hope is that someday soon, this type of approach will become the norm, so that we can heal rather than just medicate. Until then, as the educated consumer, ask your practitioners about their training. Ask your doctors, dietitians, nutritionists, nurse practitioners, if they’ve been trained in functional medicine. You are in charge of your own care. The journey of healing starts here.

References:

1.) Ward et al. (2014). Multiple chronic conditions among US adults: a 2012 update. Prev Chronic Dis, 11 (E62). doi: 10.5888/pcd11.130389

2.) Wang et al. (2016). Global, regional, and national life expectancy, all-cause mortality, and cause-specific mortality for 249 causes of death, 1980-2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. Lancet, 388(10053):1459-1544. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31012-1.

3.) The Institute for Functional Medicine (2018). Retrieved from: https://www.ifm.org/