As you get older, do you fear you are destined to suffer from the same chronic diseases that have plagued your parents, grandparents or other relatives? Those practicing functional medicine say there are ways to avoid this.
Once we reach a certain age, chronic disease is often taken for granted. If a particular condition runs in our family, we accept that we might get it too. For example, joint pain, chronic inflammation, hypoglycemia, sinusitis, migraines, irritable bowel, osteoporosis, fatigue, hormone imbalance, mental illness, ADD/ADHD, depression, anxiety or food allergies are all common health problems that run in families. Before you accept that you'll be afflicted with a family disease, however, consider your options.
Functional medicine practitioners say that it’s now possible to identify markers for certain conditions before they become a serious problem. Once identified, small changes in lifestyle and eating habits may be all that’s needed to prevent them from affecting you down the road.
Functional medicine is a growing field that examines core clinical imbalances that underlie various disease conditions. Rather than focusing on an isolated set of symptoms, practitioners address all body systems and how they interact and affect each other, addressing the whole person. This represents a shift away from the conventional disease-centered focus of most medical practice and a more patient-centered approach. Functional medicine practitioners advocate prevention by focusing on the fundamental underlying factors that influence every patient’s experience of health and disease. They determine what a person could do to avoid the problems of aging that their relatives may have experienced.
“Functional medicine practitioners spend more time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health,” said Christine Spiroch, Ph.D., PA-C, an Akron-based Physician Assistant who utilizes functional medicine techniques in her practice.
Acting as a “medical detective,” the functional medicine practitioner takes a detailed medical history and runs comprehensive tests (usually from a blood test). Once this data is collected, a treatment plan can be developed which may include nutrient recommendations such as vitamins, herbs, medical foods and/or prescription medications. Patient and practitioner work as a team, at a pace that is comfortable for the patient.
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