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Mainstream Medicine vs. Functional Medicine

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The problem with our current healthcare system is that it isn’t healthcare at all—it’s disease management. If patients complain of stomach pain, they’re given an acid-suppressing drug. If they have high cholesterol, they’re given a drug to lower it. If they have a skin rash, they’re given a steroid to suppress it. There is rarely any investigation into what caused the problems in the first place.


What’s more, if a patient has a health problem—like an autoimmune disease, digestive disorder, or even something as simple as fatigue—that can’t be fixed by taking a pill or having surgery, conventional medicine has very little to offer.

We desperately need a new approach to medicine—one that focuses on treating the underlying causes of chronic disease, rather than just suppressing symptoms, and recognizes that our diet and lifestyle are the primary factors that contribute to health and disease.


The Ideal Approach: Functional Medicine Meets Ancestral Health

We need new clinical skills to address the emerging health problems of the 21st century


Functional medicine foundation

Functional medicine is a new model of medicine that is neither “conventional” nor “alternative.” It is a combination of the best elements of both, and it represents the future of medicine. Functional medicine is:

  • Investigative. It addresses symptoms by focusing on the underlying cause of the problem, which leads to more profound and longer-lasting results.

  • Holistic. Envisions the body as an interconnected whole that is in dynamic relationship to its environment and recognizes the importance of these connections in health and disease.

  • Patient-centered. It treats the patient, not the disease. Treatments are highly individualized based on patient needs.


An ancestral perspective

Like all living organisms, humans are adapted to survive and thrive in a particular environment. When that environment changes faster than the organism can adapt, mismatch occurs. This mismatch—between our genes and our diet and lifestyle—is the driving factor behind the modern epidemic of chronic disease. This ancestral perspective:

  • Asks better questions. It’s a critical component to the trends that will define the future of healthcare.
  • Provides new insight. It deeply informs our understanding of diet, physical activity, stress management, sleep, and other lifestyle factors.
  • Realigns genome and exposome: It provides the key to offering customized nutrition and lifestyle plans for patients.

3 Reasons Mainstream Medicine Is Failing You + What To Do About It

by Dr. Will Cole

The United States spends more than $3 trillion each year on health care. That’s more than what the next 10 countries spend combined! There could be justification for spending that exorbitant amount of money if it produced results, but what does research show?

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, out of 13 industrialized nations, the United States is last when it comes to the most years of life lost for adults and the highest infant mortality rate. The World Health Organization and the National Research Council claim that out of 16 industrialized nations, the United States has the highest chance that a child will die before age 5, the highest rate of women dying due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth and the second-highest rate of death by coronary heart disease and lung disease.

Mainstream medicine and its care for the millions of Americans struggling with chronic diseases leaves many with little hope or answers. The standard model of care for conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, low thyroid, acid reflux and autoimmune disease is inadequate, to say the least. Having coached people all over the world in reversing conditions such as these, I’ve been able to pinpoint three reasons why mainstream medicine is failing you:

  1. A lack of individualized care.

Mainstream medicine has become a colossal “one size fits all” system. The focus has been to diagnose a disease and match it with a corresponding drug. This medicine matching game doesn’t take into account that we’re all different; every person is genetically and biochemically unique. There are no “magic pills.” What works for one person may not work for the next. We should take into account biological variability and tailor a solution for the individual.

  1. A policy of treating symptoms.

Pharmaceutical drugs are, for the most part, not designed to heal, but to manage symptoms. Because this is the case, when a patient with a chronic condition is given a medication, he’s often told he’ll have to take the drug indefinitely. This is also why, as time goes on, medication lists normally get longer and dosages become higher.

We should see symptoms as the body’s “check engine light.” What would you think if I covered up the check engine light and kept on driving as usual? In terms of health, we should find out why the symptoms are there in the first place. Very few people are sick from a pharmaceutical deficiency. Clinical investigation of the underlying issues is the only way this can be accomplished.

  1. An overload of side effects.

A good question to ask yourself when deciding between healthcare options is, “What is the most effective option that causes the least amount of side effects?” If a drug fits this criteria, then it might be the best option for you. It just so happens that medications often do not fit this criteria.

Have you ever watched a drug television advertisement before? Prescription drugs killed more people in 2009 than heroin and cocaine combined, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the Journal of American Medical Association, more than 100,000 people die each year from the proper use of prescription drugs. Not from overdosing or taking the wrong drug, but from the side effects of the “right drug.”

So where does this leave us? We need to do something dramatically different to fix a dramatically failing model of care. Admittedly, it would be a daunting task to change the trajectory of the entire system, but you can change your trajectory. Alternative care such as functional medicine attempts to be a solution to the standard model of care. In functional medicine, we design health programs for the individual by clinically investigating the underlying dysfunctions. It is truly hope for the millions falling through the cracks of conventional care.


The 5 Principles of Functional Medicine

by Dr. Will Cole

The term “Functional Medicine” can seem rather ambiguous. Although this field is becoming more mainstream due to voices like Dr. Oz, Dr. Frank Lipman, and Dr. Mark Hyman lauding it as the future of health care, Functional Medicine is still generally unknown to the public. The term and field of Functional Medicine refers to something completely different than what we have now come to know as conventional medicine or the standard model of care. To fully understand what functional medicine is, it is important to contrast it with conventional medicine.

Traditionally a medical doctor uses drugs or hormones as therapeutic tools to deal with dysfunction or disease. For various conditions including low thyroid, diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and so on, the standard model of care is generally all the same. Your general practitioner could decide to treat you, or could elect to refer you to a specialist. A GP and specialist have access to the same basic tool: medication. The training in the standard model of care is to diagnose a disease and match that disease with a corresponding drug. The standard model of care works well for acute diseases, trauma, infection, and emergencies. Sadly, it fails miserably in the care of the chronic diseases that affect over 125 million Americans.

Chronic conditions – such as allergic, digestive, hormonal, metabolic and neurological problems – which most Americans suffer from on a daily basis, are finding solutions in the field of Functional Medicine.

So what exactly is Functional Medicine and how can it assist the millions of Americans dealing with chronic disease?

Here are 5 basic principles that define Functional Medicine:

1) Functional Medicine views us all as being different; genetically and biochemically unique. This personalized health care treats the individual, not the disease. It supports the normal healing mechanisms of the body, naturally, rather than attacking disease directly.

2) Functional Medicine is deeply science based. The latest research shows us that what happens within us is connected in a complicated network or web of relationships. Understanding those relationships allows us to see deep into the functioning of the body.

3) Your body is intelligent and has the capacity for self-regulation, which expresses itself through a dynamic balance of all your body systems.

4) Your body has the ability to heal and prevent nearly all the diseases of aging.

5) Health is not just the absence of disease, but a state of immense vitality.

Here lies the clear distinction and definition of Functional Medicine. Instead of asking, “What drug matches up with this disease?” Functional Medicine asks the vital questions that very few conventional doctors ask: “Why do you have this problem in the first place?” and “Why has function been lost?” and “What can we do to restore function?” In other words, Functional Medicine looks to find the root cause or mechanism involved with any loss of function, which ultimately reveals why a set of symptoms is there in the first place, or why the patient has a particular disease label.

When I ask prospective patients what they miss the most in their life, the word I hear the most is: Freedom. Freedom to live their life as they choose, to do the things they love, to not be bound by medications with horrible side effects and chronic disease. Their health struggles are robbing them of freedom!

It struck me that when we give patients the answers and solutions they have been looking for through Functional Medicine, the underlying, ineffable quality they regain is that freedom. By running the proper labs, clinically investigating and tailoring a program for the individual, we are restoring not only their health , but that lost freedom.

Being unhealthy keeps not only your body in chains, but it affects your mind, family, and life as a whole. I am so thankful to be put in the position to be able to help people regain that priceless health and freedom in their life.


What Is Functional Medicine + Is It Right For You?

by Dr. Will Cole

“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.” Thomas Edison uttered these wise words more than 100 years ago at the start of the 20th century, the century that would become the expansion of the conventional medical system we know today.

Sadly, the last century was in many ways a complete departure from Edison’s words. Away from looking at the foods we eat and prevention and toward the Big Pharma, sick care system: diagnose a disease and match it with a corresponding drug. Despite spending more on health care than the next 10 top-spending countries combined, the U.S. has the most chronic disease and shortest life span of all industrialized nations.

According to a comprehensive study by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, American men ranked last in life expectancy, and women were ranked second to last. When it comes to the health of a pregnant mother or her child, the U.S. has the highest mortality rate among all developed nations. The U.S. also has the third-worst mortality rate from nutritional deficiencies, and the highest absolute age-adjusted mortality rate among all developed nations!

Despite the amazing advancements in life saving surgeries and emergency care, when it comes to chronic health conditions and longevity we are doing something abysmally wrong. Seeing the darkness surrounding the conventional health care system, functional medicine is attempting to offer a sustainable health solution.

Many people don’t fully understand what functional medicine is, or why they should try it. Well, here are six compelling reasons to give functional medicine a try:

1. Functional medicine interprets labs differently.

On your labs there’s typically a reference range that tells you what is considered “normal.” Anything outside of this reference range is typically labeled as “high” or “low” in bold font. That reference range is determined by a statistical bell curve average of the population of that particular lab.

If your lab is one number away from being outside of the reference range, you’re still classified as “normal.” But disease doesn’t start as soon as you go outside of that range. You’re either trending toward disease, outside of the reference range, or you’re trending toward optimal health.

There are a lot of people who go to their doctor to find out why they’re struggling with health issues, and their labs come back “normal.” They’re told there is nothing wrong with them and left with no answers or solutions. A functional medicine lab analysis really sheds light on unanswered health questions that fall through the cracks of the standard model of care.

2. Functional medicine practitioners often run more extensive labs.

In addition to interpreting the labs that mainstream medical practitioners run, functional medicine goes beyond the label of the disease to look at the full scope of a patient’s physiology. Typically the labs in the standard model of care diagnose a disease so that it can be matched with a corresponding pharmaceutical drug. The labs your doctor runs are adequate if he’s just prescribing medications, but they’re very much incomplete from a functional medicine perspective.

Comprehensive labs to look at underlying deficiencies, imbalances, infections and dysfunctions, give amazing insight into these often overlooked pieces of your health puzzle.

3. Functional medicine practitioners customize health care.

Once you’re labeled with a disease in mainstream medicine, you’re given the same medications everyone else with that disease is given. This cookie cutter approach works sometimes, but more often than not, it fails miserably. Functional medicine takes into account that we’re all designed a little differently, so what works for one person isn’t necessarily best for you. A tailored, comprehensive health program addresses you as the unique individual that you are.

4. Functional medicine practitioners spend more one-on-one time with patients.

Mainstream medicine is really bogged down with symptom care. That is why every six months you typically wait an hour at your doctor’s office for a five-minute visit. This system is failing millions of Americans suffering from chronic health conditions.

In terms of crisis care, emergencies and surgeries, we have one of the best health care systems in the world, but when it comes to chronic health care, the U.S. is one of the worst industrialized health care systems in the world.

5. Functional medicine practitioners address underlying dysfunctions.

While mainstream medicine is structured to manage symptoms, functional medicine is primarily concerned with addressing the underlying dysfunctions of the body that give rise to symptoms. For example, if someone has high blood sugar, he’s typically given medications that stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin, which brings the blood sugar down.

Functional medicine asks why a patient has high blood sugar in the first place. Very rarely is someone sick from a medication deficiency. They may have cellular insulin resistance, brain-adrenal axis dysfunctions causing high cortisol and a chronic gut infection, all contributing to their high blood sugar!

In this example there is nothing actually wrong with the pancreas, so while the medication will make their blood sugar numbers look nicer on a lab, it doesn’t address the reasons they’re high in the first place. So, in conjunction with your primary care physician, functional medicine can be the missing link to getting off medications and getting healthy!

6. Functional medicine practitioners don’t shy away from natural treatments.

Functional medicine is not anti-medication, but asks what the patient’s most effective option is, and what causes the fewest side effects. If a medication fits that criteria, it maybe the best option. But it often isn’t.

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said thousands of years ago, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine thy food,” and functional medicine agrees. Food is used as medicine in a condition specific way. Herbal and micronutrient medicines are used to address the underlying dysfunctions found on the labs to support normal healthy function.

It’s important to remember, though, that even with natural options and foods, what works for one person may not for the next. We need to tailor the program for the individual instead of being the alternative version of mainstream medicine, with its magic pills and “one-size-fits-all” approach.


What Does A Functional Medicine Program Look Like?

A question we get on a regular basis is, “What would my Functional Medicine program look like?” It’s a great question. To answer it we need to first understand the bigger picture of Functional Medicine.

Another term for Functional Medicine is mechanism medicine or systems medicine. We look at the underlying mechanisms in the body that make us vibrantly healthy and alive when they are working well and chronically sick when they are not.

The thing that makes Functional Medicine so effective is the fact that it is individualized to meet each individual patient’s needs. There is no cookie cutter program. This is not a calorie counting diet. This is not a special “pill” that will change your life. This is an intervention into your health. We make sure that we are finding your underlying issues. It’s an all encompassing approach to your health.

Before we determine the specifics of your case there is a two part process to figure out the best approach to your case. First things first we would suggest setting up a free 15 minute evaluation over the phone or webcam with me or another staff member. This gives me an idea of if we think a more extensive look at your case is pertinent.

The second things we need to do is have a consultation with you. This allows for a detailed look into your health history and to determine if Functional Medicine is right for you and in what capacity.

We go over your health history, recent labs, assessment forms, and your goals. We want to make sure what you are hoping functional medicine can help you with. After reviewing your case in detail, we can then look at what your program would consist of.

The first thing we need to take into consideration is how long you will be a patient here at our clinic, whether in person or virtually via phone or webcam consultations. Every case is different from severity, length they have been dealing with their specific health issues, what disease pathology they are dealing with and how much health knowledge they have.

Most patients are with us 5-12 months. How often they are having appointments during that time is based upon those variables, but that’s the general time frame.  Our goal is not to have a patient for life, but to instill knowledge, habits and stabilize their health with a sustainable foundation. Offering people answers and solutions is our goal.

The second thing we need look at is what specific lab testing would be necessary. For example, a 21 year old dealing with Lyme Disease who is a school teacher in Utah is going to need entirely different testing from a 68 year old war veteran living in New York. Both cases are radically different as is with most of our patients.

Toxic environment, heavy metals, molds, medications, genetic mutations, autoimmune responses, chronic inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, past treatments, length of health problem, food sensitivities/intolerance, hormonal imbalances, gut/microbiome issues, brain issues and chronic stress are all things we need to keep in mind when determining what type of testing would be necessary for you. We don’t want to under-test but we don’t want to over-test either. We want to be proficient in testing, while still being cost effective as well.

Insurance considers this testing elective so we want to be reasonable with the patient in terms of what they can do. The typical type of testing we are looking at ranges from standard blood panels (possibly through insurance), expanded comprehensive specialized blood testing, immunological labs, urine, hair testing, stool testing, and saliva testing. All those labs can test for different things dependent upon patient’s unique needs. With this approach we can piece together the different aspects of your health puzzle and provide you answers.

The last part of your program we will need to figure out is your food medicine and natural medicine protocol. Different foods affect people differently. What is seemingly healthy for someone may not be for you. We have seen many issues with people trying to do the right thing with foods and supplements but it was making them worse!

We want to make sure what we are doing for you, works for YOU. Everybody’s body reacts differently and needs different things. This is just as important as picking specialized testing for your needs. Customizing proper recipes, eating out guides and meal plans as well as condition-specific natural medicines allows us to meet your needs.

So that’s why when people ask us “what will my program look like?” we can only be so specific. We have to meet with you as an individual with individual needs, but those are the factors we need to figure out what your program will look like. Your length of care, testing, and food medicine and natural medicine protocol will be unique to you. As always, our top priority is giving you the specialized natural health care and the attention you deserve. You were wonderfully and perfectly made and we want to make sure we do the things your body needs to start healing.

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Edited by SkinDeeply
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Money is the root of all evil. We are slaves to the medical industry. Keep people sick, you will always have customers to fill your pockets. 

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