Functional Medicine is a science based approach to tackling diseases which stems from the advance of scientific understanding of biology based on systems thinking. This systems biology approach is based on biomedical research to understand the picture as a whole whether it is at the level of the organism, tissue, or cell and it is done by putting all the pieces together. Thus the approach towards treating a disease is to treat the person as a whole and not just the symptoms. This is actually been the approach of practices like ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine honed over thousands of years of evolution to promote wellness and healing rather than focusing solely on “treating” a disease. The connection between mind and body are also taken into consideration since it was known that for healing to take place we need to look beyond the body to include mind and spirit as well. This means that mindfulness and lifestyle choices are equally important for maintaining health and treatment of any medical condition.
The “why” of a chronic condition
The focus of Functional Medicine is on finding out the “why” behind the symptoms rather than only the “what”. This is done to provide a way of understanding all the influences on our health which are at the root of illness. At the same time, this is also to understand how our lifestyle and environment interact with our genes to create imbalances which can then lead to symptoms and disease. The disease occurs as the body tries to correct any imbalances and if this is not addressed, the condition can progress and worsen.
However, for treating any acute and urgent medical condition like an infectious disease, heart attack, physical trauma and other acute illnesses which need prompt diagnosis, conventional medicine can work wonders and save lives. Conventional medicine has become extremely effective in developing techniques and using technology to treat these acute problems.
The healing process
Functional Medicine believes that the body has an innate ability to heal itself. As we remove the obstacles in the way of the healing process and provide the body with all the nutrients that it needs, we give our bodies a fighting chance to heal itself. This is true for anyone suffering from a chronic condition and was also true for my daughter’s healing journey.
She suffered from extremely severe eczema for many years and was under very strong medications (oral steroids and immunosuppressive medications) to manage her symptoms. I started her on Functional Medicine medicine treatment in mid 2015 when she was 9 years old and we focused on healing her gut which was in poor shape. With help of proper nutrition, lifestyle changes ( which I had already started earlier) and some natural supplements, her eczema disappeared over time and she went off all medications last October. As the root cause was identified and treated, the disease went away.
Functional Medicine and chronic conditions
I have already written about how chronic conditions are on the rise in the 21st century. We are actually seeing an epidemic of autoimmune conditions, allergic and asthmatic diseases all over the world. There is also an increase in cancer, obesity, heart problems, diabetes and cognitive decline. We all know of this either personally or through the suffering of someone close to us.
But it doesn’t have to be this way
By finding out the root cause and tailoring the treatment to each person, Functional Medicine can support the normal healing powers of the body rather than just attacking the disease itself. This kind of treatment is personalised, participatory and preventive; the hallmarks of Functional Medicine. In this paradigm, the relationship between the caregiver and the patient is collaborative in nature as the patient learns what works and what doesn’t. As people learn to become more resilient, they can maintain balance and respond effectively to various health challenges like germs, toxins, stresses and lifestyle.
We need to remember that health is not remain merely an absence of disease; instead it is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing. (Courtesy: WHO)
By changing our approach towards health, we can stop living and starting thriving…
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