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Can you stay healthy with functional medicine?

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With the latest research as evidence-based fuel, there is a resurgence of interest in integrative medicine, as consumers choose to combine their conventional medical treatment with nutritional and dietary changes and mindbody techniques which help manage emotions and behaviors.

A doctor who looks at brain health in this way is practicing functional medicine (FM). Functional medicine (FM) blends the strengths of both conventional allopathic Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine to help her patient heal on a holistic level. The strengths of allopathic conventional medicine lies in the ability to use technological diagnostic tools, such as detailed blood panels and other sophisticated testing tools to actually clinically detect and record metabolic imbalances in the individual.

Of course, there are many other sophisticated life-saving techniques that allopathic medicine uses as well. And, in allopathic medicine, there is a tendency to treat the symptoms of metabolic imbalance with a pharmaceutical drug, rather than treat the root cause of the imbalance. Of course, this is not the allopathic approach all the time, but many allopathic doctors find that they have limited tools when dealing with chronic diseases such as diabetes, allergies and depression.

The strengths of an ancient traditional medicine such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) lies in its tendency to use supportive and nutritive therapies to repair metabolic imbalances at the root cause. The TCM practitioner, often an acupuncturist or herbalist, takes a very detailed history of this patient, and then clinically reads the pulses, complexion and pulses of the individual. This model strive not to just treat or mask the symptom with a drug therapy, but heal the deeper chronic imbalance. And of course, this model has its limitations as well, most specifically in treating acute cardiac events and other emergency situations.

The newer model of functional medicine, developing since the 1990s, is an evolutionary progression of Western allopathic medicine. As doctors reached the limits of allopathic medicine with their patients, some sought to move beyond these limitations.

In concept, functional medicine (FM) is a systems biology approach, which is a sort of holistic Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approach. The doctor of FM has all the assessment and diagnostic tools available to the modern conventional doctor. Plus, the FM doctor has access to the latest body of research about how the human gastrointestinal, endocrine and immune systems interact with the environment, how different foods affect the physical systems and ultimately brain functioning. And the FM doctor then has access to a wide range of evidence-based nutritive, pharmaceutical and integrative therapies to help his patient heal the root cause of his chronic condition.

The systems based approach is a departure from the “organ based” practice of medicine, where doctors were specifically trained in discrete specialties. Their patients then run all over town seeing one specialist after another for different aches and pains that might be related to the same basic cause!

When choosing a doctor of functional medicine, choose carefully, make sure he or she has the proper medical credentials and training. Some practitioners of functional medicine have made false claims and yet others are reputable medical doctors.

Fearless Parent, and Green Medical Information are two websites that have information about integrative medicine or functional medicine. Grain Brain, The Surprising Truth about Wheat Carbs and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killer by Dr. David Perlmutter is an interesting book about inflammation and brain health.

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