When I tell people that I am a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach, I’m met with wide eyes and a look of perplexity. I do realise that Functional Medicine(FM) doesn’t mean much for most people, especially in Europe. As I explain on the FAQ part of my website, I am trained to speak the Functional Medicine language as it was developed by the Institute for Functional Medicine. However, none of the things I work on with my clients contradict standard medicine. On the contrary, a balanced lifestyle is universally acknowledged as contributing to good health (though FM puts a much bigger emphasis on it than conventional medicine).
Just to get this clear right off the bat: thank God for doctors! Conventional medicine has been and will continue to save lives. If you break your arm, if you need surgery, if you have any acute illness, please go and see a doctor. I am also not blaming any doctor for viewing chronic disease (autoimmune disease, diabetes, arthritis, dementia, etc.) the way they do – they are simply applying what they were taught.
The difference between FM and conventional medicine can be seen in the ‘tree’ visual below.
In FM, the most important factors are the foundational lifestyle factors; sleep, exercise, nutrition, stress levels, relationships, and genetics. These are the roots and soil, which are in turn influenced by specific predisposing factors (antecedents), discrete events (triggers), and ongoing physiological processes (mediators), and may then result in fundamental imbalances at the trunk. These can eventually result in the signs and symptoms that are grouped into a diagnosable constellation that we call disease, represented by the branches and leaves.
If you have a disease, and you go to a conventional doctor, he/she will look at the top of the tree (branches and leaves), make a diagnosis, give you a drug associated with the symptoms and that’s the end of the story. A functional medicine doctor will seek, identify and address root causes of disease, viewing the body as an integrated system, not a collection of independent organs, divided by specialities. FM is the medicine of the why, not the what. In order to keep a tree healthy and allow it to flourish, you need to support the most basic and essential elements first; the foundation: the roots and soil. Similarly, if a tree is not healthy, the first place you should look for answers is those same foundational elements.
If you’re curious to find out more about Functional Medicine and haven’t yet given Santa your wish list, here’s a collection of thought-provoking and super interesting books. By the way, I am not being paid by anyone to promote these books or authors, I just happen to find them amazing:
Dr. Bland is one of the founders of The Institute for Functional Medicine and considered one of the founders of functional medicine. This book is an excellent introduction to the foundational principles of functional medicine.
So many people I know have Hashimoto’s (thyroid autoimmune disease). This is a very detailed book about treatments specifically for this disease. Dr. Wentz details her own personal story of treating her own Hashimoto’s (yes it’s treatable!) and lays out the findings of her years of research that lead to her discoveries. This is a great book but a little complex, maybe not ideal for someone as a first read but if you want to understand autoimmune diseases and specifically Hashimoto’s then this is a great read.
A personal favourite of mine. In this book, Alisa explains how women can maintain health and vitality with a food-based program to rebalance their hormones. Alisa Vitti found herself suffering through the symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and was able to heal herself through food and lifestyle changes. A must-read for any woman, whether you’re experiencing hormonal issues or not. Along the same lines is The Period Repair Manual by Dr. Lara Briden, looking at solving period problems in ways other than prescribing the contraceptive pill (which is anything but a “solution”).
Mark Hyman himself described this book as the “no-nonsense guide to achieving food peace and ending food anxiety”. When it comes to diet, there’s so much changing and conflicting information flying around that it’s impossible to know where to look for sound advice. This is a comprehensive book that takes a close look at every category of food we eat and explains what we’ve gotten wrong, revealing which foods nurture our health, and which pose a threat. It literally answers the question, “What the heck should I eat?”
Dr. Wahls is professor of medicine at the University of Iowa where she conducts research on Multiple Sclerosis and Lupus using her medicinal dietary protocol. She developed this protocol after her own Multiple Sclerosis failed all the current conventional treatments. She then embarked on her own research to treat herself and in the ensuring years she developed her protocol that eventually resulted in the remission of her Multiple Sclerosis. This book is a great primer for those who would like to learn about other treatments for autoimmune diseases including MS, Lupus, Rheumatoid, etc.
If you’re not a book person but are still curious, here’s a great TED talk on looking at disease differently:
Hopefully this has sparked your interest, and also helped you realise how important it is to work on your own lifestyle.
How do your roots look like?
This website is for information purposes only. By providing the information contained herein we are not diagnosing, treating, curing, mitigating, or preventing any type of disease or medical condition. Before beginning any type of natural, integrative or conventional treatment regimen, it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.