Unlike other areas of Medicine that focus on one particular part of the body, Functional Medicine acknowledges symptoms of diseases or conditions (such as eczema or arthritis) but looks at the overall imbalances within the body to devise a treatment that is unique to that person. After these imbalances are identified, the suggested treatments look to remove the bad, reintroduce the good and bring back balance to the body in order to clear the original symptoms.
The Naturopathic belief is that toxic accumulation in the gut leads to disease and the onset of many chronic conditions. Because of this, the approach of Functional Medicine is often to focus on clearing the symptoms within the gut first and foremost – and this is where colonic hydrotherapy treatments can sometimes play a role in the healing process.
How symptoms manifest and where in the body imbalances or disease can materialize often depends on a genetic predisposition. Now, we all know that we can’t alter or change our genetic makeup – but that doesn’t mean we can’t influence the way our genes behave by controlling the environments we put ourselves in and the lifestyles we lead. In other words, our genes are not our destiny.
Functional Medicine is also known as root cause medicine because it looks at the underlying factors as the origins of the issues – like looking at the roots of a tree instead of focusing on the branches. These ‘root causes’ are also called modifiable lifestyle factors – and contribute considerably to how our genes express themselves.
It’s probably no surprise that diet and exercise are two of the main modifiable lifestyle factors in root cause medicine. Other factors such as the quality of our sleep, how good we are switching off and taking time to recharge, how often we do things that make us happy with family and friends, as well as our ability to keep good relationships and manage our daily stress, can also play a vital part in our overall health and wellbeing.
It’s a belief in Functional Medicine, that imbalances and disease don’t just appear out of the blue. Instead, they build and build from before we’re even born – when we’re conceived, right up to this present moment. In Functional Medicine, there are three main influencing factors that dictate our symptoms, as well as when and how they present themselves.
Antecedents – this relates to genetics and refers to illnesses that run in the family, as well as the stress levels of our mother during pregnancy and her diet, whether we were born naturally or as a result of a C-section, whether we were bottle or breast-fed and for how long.
Mediators – these are generally factors which are on-going in our life, such as a stressful job, messy long-term relationships, or even living in a (literally) toxic environment – for example, living in a moldy house. It can also be related to things which have happened in the past, such as repeat courses of antibiotics as a teenager given for acne, or continuous use of steroid creams for eczema as a child. All these factors can accumulate to cause imbalance within the body.
Triggers – third, and perhaps most crucially, is ‘the trigger’ which together with the two factors above cause our symptoms to manifest. These triggers are often related to a trauma – an obvious example would be the death of a loved one but it doesn’t always need to be something so traumatic. It may be something that we perceive as a stressful time in our lives – a particularly demanding period at work, an important exam, food poisoning while travelling or going through redundancy.
These three factors are the basis of our initial consultation with our clients and help us identify root causes and allows the Practitioner to formulate a personalised treatment plan. Treatment plans can include anything from supplements to diet changes, and may suggest further blood, stool and saliva tests, as well as stress management techniques or referrals to other professionals.
In our next blog, I’ll go into greater detail about the consultation process that focuses on these three influencers, to help find a way forward for our clients through the use and application of Functional Medicine.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about Functional Medicine or our treatments in relation to this field, please do get in touch here.