Functional medicine is an approach towards health that looks at conditions not just based on treating symptoms, but rather by looking at the whole body and uncovering hidden deficiencies and imbalances that are causing health problems. Functional medicine seeks to discover the underlying root cause.
Any health condition can benefit from this holistic, whole body approach. However, there are some conditions that benefit greatly from functional medicine. Many of the health problems discussed in this piece are ones that traditional, modern medicine claims are not fully understood, or that the cause is unknown. The reality is that these causes are complicated, and there is not one blanket reason or treatment for these conditions.
Functional medicine will approach each case of diabetes, every autoimmune disorder, each bout of depression as a unique, individual case. There is no one size fits all treatment methods; rather tailored treatment plans that are designed based on the results of testing and exploring a patient’s history that reveal the underlying causes of illness in an individual.
If you are suffering from any of these conditions, working with a functional medicine practitioner will result in a deeply therapeutic and individualized treatment plan to heal your body and ultimately halt and possibly reverse the progression of your disease.
Chronic fatigue:Chronic fatigue syndrome is a debilitating disorder characterized by extreme exhaustion, difficulty sleeping, and brain fog. Traditional medicine does very little to address chronic fatigue or even recognize it as a legitimate medical condition. There are many imbalances and causative factors to consider such as adrenal fatigue, food sensitivities, hormonal imbalances, hidden chronic infections, impaired methylation, biotoxins, and mitochondrial dysfunction. Chronic fatigue is a very complicated condition, but functional medicine gives you the tools needed to get to the root cause and start creating change.
Fibromyalgia: Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes muscle pain throughout the body. While modern medicine now acknowledges fibromyalgia as a medical condition, treatment options are limited, and the condition is misunderstood. Functional medicine recognizes that fibromyalgia is a condition that stems from inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation can be caused by vitamin deficiencies, leaky gut, candida overgrowth, or other factors, which can be uncovered through specific testing. Functional medicine will examine gut health, explore the possibility of food sensitivities, analyze the liver, and delve into a patient’s history to uncover the causes of inflammation and fibromyalgia.
Autoimmune disorders: Treatment of an autoimmune disorder through a traditional medical doctor will involve medications that work to suppress the immune response, but will do little to address the underlying causes of inflammation and autoimmunity in the body. Functional medicine weeds out these causes and focuses on cooling inflammation and halting the body’s autoimmune response.
Diabetes: Of all the conditions listed, type II diabetes is probably the most commonly diagnosed and the best researched. Unfortunately, this fact has done little to change the traditional approach to treating diabetes, which involves monitoring and controlling your blood sugar through medications. Functional medicine promotes the management and treatment of diabetes in a more holistic way, largely through diet and lifestyle. In fact, in my functional medicine practice, it is common practice for patients to no longer need diabetic medication and stabilize their glucose levels and insulin naturally.
Irritable bowel syndrome: Functional medicine recognizes that the gut is the center of our body’s immune system – nearly 70% of our immune cells live there. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) occurs when our gut health is compromised. Like other conditions, this can come about through a variety of causes ranging from yeast overgrowth to stress. In fact, some studies indicate SIBO (Small Intestinal Bowel Overgrowth) is responsible for the majority of IBS cases. Testing and an examination of one’s lifestyle will help to reveal the reasons behind IBS and will inform the creation of a treatment plan.
PMS: PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is characterized by a range of symptoms that occur in women as part of their menstrual cycle. Common symptoms of PMS include irritability, mood swings, fatigue, and depression. Many women accept these symptoms as part of their regular cycle; however, PMS is a condition that you do not need to live with. PMS is caused by hormonal imbalances in the body. Functional medicine looks towards treatments that naturally restore the body’s hormonal balance. This may involve lifestyle changes (increased exercise), dietary changes (a low sugar, low carb diet), balancing gut bacteria, improving liver health, and restoring estrogen/progesterone balance.
Obesity: Obesity is a nationwide epidemic that results from a variety of factors ranging from diet and lifestyle choices to genetics. A functional approach to obesity is not a quick fix but will require lifestyle changes that address the causes of obesity and incorporate a comprehensive treatment plan that will help you shed pounds while addressing underlying health problems.
Depression: Did you know that approximately 1 in every 10 Americans in on an antidepressant? Depression has become a blanket term for anyone suffering from sadness or other related mental illness. Depression and associated symptoms such as anxiety and brain fog are enhanced and often due to imbalances within the body. Functional medicine can reveal micronutrient imbalances, neurotransmitter deficiencies, MTHFR mutations (an enzyme deficiency), infections, and other sources of inflammation that may contribute to the cause of depression.
Dr. Crystal Whisler, DC,RN
Dr. Crystal Whisler is known for helping patients live their best life possible with purpose and joy. She is one of a few certified functional medicine practitioners in the country. She listens to patients concerns, and uses cutting-edge functional diagnostic testing to help patients uncover the root cause of their health issues. She uses lifestyle and nutritional medicine as a primary method of healing.
Dr. Whisler has a unique perspective on health, as she suffered from many chronic and debilitating health issues. She found functional medicine to be the solution for her own health conditions and achieves tremendous results with her patients using these same principles and a personalized health paradigm.