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What is Functional Medicine?

Functional medicine determines how and why illness occurs and restores health by addressing the root causes of disease for each individual.

The relationship between stress and inflammation has been studied rigorously in the past decade, with researchers finding evidence that the inflammatory pathway is pivotal in the pathogenesis of many chronic diseases.1 In fact, 75% to 90% of human disease is related to stress and inflammation, including cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and neurodegenerative disorders.1 Studies suggest that chronic stress results in glucocorticoid receptor resistance that, in turn, results in failure to downregulate inflammatory responses.Many diseases stemming from chronic stress and inflammation have early warning signs, meaning some cases can be prevented or improved with lifestyle changes that help manage stress. The Functional Medicine model focuses on identifying stress as a cause of dysfunction and utilizing specific interventions like exercise, meditation, and yoga that work for the individual patient. Tools such as the Functional Medicine Timeline can also help clinicians identify areas of life where stress may be problematic and design treatments that focus on improving stress management.

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Gastrointestinal Health

The gastrointestinal tract plays a central role in many chronic, systemic diseases. In Functional Medicine, the GI tract is often an important starting point in improving overall health. A complex, living system, the intestine protects the body from external influences based on three constituents that are in permanent dialogue with one another: the microflora, mucosal barrier, and immune system. Dysfunction in this system can wreak havoc throughout the body, and has been linked to allergies, arthritis, autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue, and more.

Close to 100 million Americans suffer from some form of digestive problem. More than 40% of people worldwide have functional gastrointestinal disorders, with women reporting greater prevalence than men. Functional medicine practitioners can incorporate new research on barrier integrity, digestion, absorption, gut flora, and nutritional insufficiencies into the diagnosis and management of patients with digestive dysfunction and chronic diseases.

Fatigue

When a patient is fatigued, their quality of life suffers. Morning routines may turn into energy-draining chores, work can become unbearable, and personal relationships might decline. 

Functional Medicine is uniquely positioned to help patients with fatigue, as this model of care examines an individual’s individual life course for underlying causes and helps patients change their lifestyle to promote improved function and quality of life.  Low levels of the cellular energy currency adenosine triphosphate (ATP) lead to having weak metabolism and feeling “slow”; more ATP allows us to experience life with more energy and vitality. Improving mitochondrial function, or correcting dysfunction, can increase the amount of ATP energy available for use by cells and improve fatigue symptoms.

In a review of research articles on mitochondrial disease, carnitine is the most studied mitochondrial function marker; the most studied enzyme is CoQ10. Patients with mitochondrial myopathy who received L-carnitine daily for two months enjoyed an increase in their pain tolerance limit and oxygen consumption during constant exercise. Damage to the mitochondria from peripheral inflammation is also implicated in the fatigue felt by patients with neuroinflammation, chronic fatigue, and some autoimmune conditions. Even in healthy individuals, CoQ10 supplementation may reduce the symptoms of physical fatigue. Finding the underlying cause of fatigue is a critical part of patient care. From there, clinicians can design individualized treatment plans that address the cause and support the underlying energetic needs of cells, improving the patient’s quality of life.

Detoxification

In the modern world, everyone is exposed to a mixture of chemical compounds daily, as well as many foods and nutrients that can upregulate the body’s natural processes of eliminating those toxicants. An overloaded detoxification pathway may lead to clinical patterns such as immune dysfunction or endocrine disruption that indicate potential toxic exposure. Food and nutrients that support liver biotransformation may help alleviate toxic burden, allowing the body to operate more efficiently and improve resilience.

A strategic Detox Food Plan benefits patients by helping them eat more of those foods that support pathways in the liver for healthy elimination, as well as reduce additional exposures to toxic compounds. In functional medicine, practitioners often utilize the phytonutrient-dense Detox Food Plan to support intestinal and liver function during the metabolic detoxification process. Advanced lab testing as well as genetic testing can guide a practitioner to apply targeted supplement plans to aid an individual's detoxification status to achieve better health. 

Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases have increased dramatically worldwide since 1939,1 encompassing more than 80 disorders. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are among the more common.

 

While prescription medications remain at the forefront in the battle against autoimmune disease, researchers are identifying other treatment modalities to help improve patients’ quality of life. Functional medicine offers an alternative to symptom suppression—by addressing the underlying mechanisms that cause autoimmunity, we can prevent, and in some cases reverse, autoimmune diseases. To further functional medicine practitioners’ knowledge and expertise on autoimmune conditions, the Institute for Functional Medicine, in partnership with the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, offers a first-of-its-kind eBook, Autoimmunity: A Functional Medicine Guide. This guide includes a range of toolkit items and details a comprehensive functional medicine approach for the evaluation and treatment of patients with autoimmune conditions.

Optimal Health

A functional medicine approach to wellness perfectly lends itself to achieving optimal health. By considering how all body systems interact and are interconnected and applying principles to achieve optimal function of all systems, an individual can achieve their full health potential. By applying functional medicine principles to achieve a normal inflammatory response, a balanced microbiome, hormone balance, methylation function, non-fluctuating, ideal weight and activity levels and making healthy lifestyle choices for vitality, longevity, energy and strength (to name a few) we can achieve our full health potential and live our best lives. Advances in genetic testing can also be applied to evaluate for predispositions or "problem areas" that we can then address to further achieve optimal health.

 

Dr. Moyer is a certified practitioner for 3X4 Genetics and utilizing this breakthrough in clinically relevant testing can significantly aid an individual in achieving their full potential. 

Stress

The relationship between stress and inflammation has been studied rigorously in the past decade, with researchers finding evidence that the inflammatory pathway is pivotal in the pathogenesis of many chronic diseases.1 In fact, 75% to 90% of human disease is related to stress and inflammation, including cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and neurodegenerative disorders.1 Studies suggest that chronic stress results in glucocorticoid receptor resistance that, in turn, results in failure to downregulate inflammatory responses.Many diseases stemming from chronic stress and inflammation have early warning signs, meaning some cases can be prevented or improved with lifestyle changes that help manage stress. The Functional Medicine model focuses on identifying stress as a cause of dysfunction and utilizing specific interventions like exercise, meditation, and yoga that work for the individual patient. Tools such as the Functional Medicine Timeline can also help clinicians identify areas of life where stress may be problematic and design treatments that focus on improving stress management.