how the new "normal" for children's health has become chronic illness a rise in chronic inflammation in children leading to eczema, allergies and asthma
gut health and immunity
honouring the body's innate ability to heal
how to get started
I have mentioned in my earlier post about how chronic conditions are increasing worldwide. And inflammatory chronic conditions like autoimmune conditions, allergies, asthma and arthritis are increasing at dramatic rates. Hidden food sensitivities, stress, toxins, inflammatory foods and poor lifestyle are usually the real reason for these inflammatory conditions.
Autoimmune conditions prevail when your body's immune system attacks it's own tissues rather a potentially dangerous foreign substance like an allergen, bacteria or virus, a toxin. The immune system fails to differentiate between the foreign molecule and parts of your body and develops antibodies against itself rather than the intruders. In some cases it’s your thyroid under attack, in others it’s your intestines, or your skin, your brain, your pancreas, or another organ. There are more than 100 types of known autoimmune diseases that have been classified. For instance rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease among many others.
Various symptoms associated with autoimmune conditions (but not limited to) are
joint pain, muscle pain, weakness or tremor
feeling tired or fatigued, weight gain or cold intolerance
dry eyes, mouth or skin
difficulty focusing or concentrating
weight loss, chronic diarrhea
The role of chronic inflammation
Apart from a complex genetic component, research shows that all autoimmune conditions have an epigenetic component as well. That means that a large part of the risk for developing an autoimmune disease is due to lifestyle factors; in other words, how much you move, what you eat, how you live your life, your social connections and your exposure to environmental toxins play a very large role. Due to this reason, chronic and systemic inflammation due to the misplaced immune response is an underlying factor for many autoimmune conditions. The good news is that by finding out source of the inflammation can help in managing the condition. This is where Functional Medicine can play an important role.
There are only a handful of Functional Medicine practitioners in India as of now; you can find them on the Institute of Functional Medicine website. There are many medical professionals (based in the US and UK) who are trained in the Functional Medicine paradigm whom you can reach out to as they do consultations online.
Some things to think about
Since autoimmune conditions develop due to the body's immune system going rogue, the solution lies in getting the immune system back under control. I will discuss this in more details in a separate post later, but there are some basic steps that you can take today to move towards health and vitality-
Consume a maximally nutrient-dense diet and avoids foods that you have a sensitivity towards (this can be identified by doing a comprehensive elimination diet)
Reduce your toxin exposure
Move your body and activate and use your muscles.
Control your stress hormones using restorative practices (yoga, tai chi, massage, deep breathing) and meditation
Maintain or build social connections with supportive people
My role as a Health Coach
My role as a Functional Medicine certified Health Coach is to guide and support you in taking the steps mentioned above. Even with knowing what needs to be done, it is not always easy to make the necessary changes. Keeping the principles of Functional Medicine in mind, I guide my clients through the process of making important lifestyle and dietary changes.
In my coaching sessions you can expect customised guidance and support on
– sleep and relaxation
– social relationships and connections
– mindfulness and stress management
If you are interested in knowing more about how I can help you, please feel free to contact me using the form below
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…
Reading Time: 2minutesChronic non communicable diseases are on the rise like never before making them a global epidemic just like infectious diseases like plague, cholera, small pox in the past. In the modern world health issues like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, dementia, autism spectrum disorder in children, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, osteoporosis, depression, autoimmune conditions have become alarmingly common in the developed world and India is fast catching up. In fact as far as diabetes is concerned, India and China are leading the pack with the projected number of diabetics in India expected to touch 79.4 million in 2030 from the 31.7 million in 2004. A more than 100% increase from the levels in 2004!
Also a recent report in 2017 has found that one in three Indians over 30 years of age are suffering from one or more lifestyle related diseases like diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, thyroid and cancer.
Chronic diseases like these lessen the quality of life, shorten our lifespan, shorten the lifespan of future generations and have a huge adverse impact on the economy. Most of these diseases are due to our diet and lifestyle and are mostly treatable and preventable and yet, currently every year they kill twice as many people around the world than infectious diseases.
We are unfortunately slowly starting to think that living with a chronic condition is “normal”. Also, the consequences of living with a chronic condition are profound and its killing us all slowly. Conventional medicine was constructed to deal with acute conditions like infectious diseases (which are due to a single agent like bacteria or virus), medical emergencies like acute injuries, stroke and heart attack. It is thus not able to effectively deal with the multifactorial and multifaceted chronic diseases arising due to various causes. Chronic diseases are difficult to manage, can last a lifetime and usually require more than one doctor. Infact recent studies show that genetic factors are not the major driver for chronic conditions, 85 percent of chronic disease is caused by diet, lifestyle and environmental toxins.
We thus need a completely different approach and mindset while dealing and treating chronic health conditions. A treatment which is long term in nature with frequent interaction with the patient with an emphasis on finding and treating the root cause of the disease, encouraging behaviour change and a collaborative healthcare team consisting of doctors, health coaches, nutritionists and other allied health professionals would be required. One such system exists today and is called “Functional Medicine” and I cover more about this in my next post.