THE BLOG

Functional Medicine May Save Your Life

11/13/2013 12:19 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Many of you may have already heard of the term "functional Medicine," an emerging buzzword in the arenas of health and wellness. That being said, you may still be slightly in the dark as to what this cutting-edge medicine is really all about, and how it can benefit you. The reason I'm writing this post is that functional medicine may literally save your life. Period.

This may sound like a dramatic overstatement, however, let me continue. I have been fortunate enough to have been trained by, worked with, and mentored by some of the most progressive/evidence-based and forward thinking doctors on the planet. Doctors such as Jeffrey Bland, Mark Hyman, Dicken Weatherby, Peter Osborne, etc. are all pioneers helping to pave the road for a health care model that helps identify the root cause(s) and triggers of chronic illness -- not merely suppress the symptoms.

It is outstanding physicians like these who gather a highly-detailed insight into their patient's underlying biochemical imbalances, thus allowing them to provide a customized treatment program specific to the needs of each individual -- not merely treating labels. This is not intended to shun traditional western medicine (which is essential and highly effective in an acute care setting), rather, it is to recognize that we are living in the middle of a chronic disease crisis. Our current model is neither sustainable financially, nor is it getting ahead of the rising chronic disease statistics that are plaguing us on a global scale. Something has to give.

So what is functional Medicine all about? Sir William Osler, one of the first professors at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and later its Physician-in-Chief famously said:

"The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease."

Simply put, your body naturally wants to be healthy and in a state of balance. However, despite our best intentions, many of us would agree that "life" happens at times, and our healthy habits can fall to the wayside. Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership.

It is an evolution in the practice of medicine that better addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st-century by allowing practitioners to spend time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that influence long-term health and chronic disease. In this way, functional medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.

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As the above image of an iceberg shows, a specific disease such as Diabetes, Cancer, or Fibromyalgia might be visible above the surface, but using a functional Medicine approach, the real cause lies in the altered physiology caused by factors found below the surface and not easily seen. If the traditional health care model treats just the tip of the iceberg, it rarely leads to long-term relief, vibrancy and well-being. Identifying and treating the underlying root cause(s), as functional Medicine does, offers a more thorough approach and a much better chance to successfully resolve a chronic health challenge.

Another way of looking at this is when your "check engine" light comes on in your car. Should we simply unscrew the light bulb so the indicator light goes off? OR should we take the car in to the mechanic so they can lift the hood, run a set of detailed diagnostics uncovering the reason for the indicator -- then fix it? Sadly, I think most of us take better care of our cars than we do ourselves.

Functional medicine looks at your entire health picture by addressing fundamental factors of your biochemical, physical, and emotional well-being. Each of these three components are part of your optimal health spectrum, and each of these do not stand alone but rather all work together to keep us and our families looking, thinking, and feeling our best.

Yours in good health,

Dr. John Dempster

This post also appears on www.thedempsterclinic.com