By Esther Sears FNP, AOCNP
Have you been diagnosed with something like diabetes, obesity, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, or chronic fatigue? Has your health care provider handed you a prescription that basically treats the symptoms but does nothing to address the underlying cause or restore your health? Learn about the unique approach that functional medicine takes to address your health issues.
Western (or allopathic) medicine is geared towards a “diagnose and treat or prescribe” model that must fit diagnostic codes in order for insurance companies to reimburse health care institutions and patients. Most treatments are based on large studies that yield data that drive decision making. Most of the research being done is driven and financed by the pharmaceutical industry which funnels the information to providers through lunches, dinners and very expensive mailings including pamphlets, brochures and glossy booklets that fill our mailboxes almost daily. Unfortunately, this model does not address the fact that for each disease, the path to get there differs from person to person. For example, one person may have type 2 diabetes because of intestinal issues that set the stage for it while another person’s underlying cause may be hormonal issues. Obesity is most likely NOT caused by overeating and bingeing on junk food but hormonal issues, intestinal dysbiosis, food sensitivities, or consumption of the standard American diet, or any combination of these things. Because of coding regulations, practitioners are often forced to try to fit a patient’s symptoms to fit a diagnosis. Many “diseases” are often just symptoms of underlying issues that may not fit a diagnostic code.
Functional medicine takes a different approach to health issues by looking for the underlying CAUSES of diseases and working on correcting them. Read Sheri’s story for an example of how functional medicine made a powerful impact in her life:
Sheri came to me with symptoms of intermittent and sometimes severe abdominal pain, bloating after meals, fatigue, constipation and excess weight that she could not get rid of. She had seen her doctor who was at a loss as to what was going on with her and suggested she wait and see how she felt in the spring. After doing a thorough history I suspected she was suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. The next question was WHY did she have an irritable bowel? There are several conditions that can contribute to IBS including decreased acid production, eating habits, excess bacteria in the small bowel, food sensitivities, bacterial pathogens, yeast overgrowth, surgery, certain medications, or a history of binging and purging. Many of Sherie’s symptoms suggested she might have an overgrowth of bacteria in her small bowel (SIBO). To confirm this, she agreed to do hydrogen and methane breath testing which confirmed severe SIBO. We discussed treatment options including special diet with herbal treatments for 4 weeks or diet with antibiotic treatment for 2 weeks. Sheri chose the antibiotic treatment with the FODMAP diet as she wanted to get things under control as soon as possible. We did not set a goal for weight loss as I suspected that with normalization of her gut flora, some weight loss would most likely occur. The result? A few weeks after treatment, Sheri reported that her symptoms of abdominal discomfort and bloating had resolved. Her level of energy improved and over the next couple of months she dropped 2 dress sizes and lost over 15 lbs. She is now feeling great and training for a marathon, something she could not have done had her symptoms persisted.
Are you satisfied with how your “Disease” is being managed? If not, come and see me and let’s see if we can get to the root of it!