The prevalence of chronic disease in our population is on the increase. Such conditions as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, lung disease, mental illness and autoimmune disease are a heavy burden to more and more of us and our families.
Conventional medicine addresses this burden by focussing on acute care, i.e seeking the diagnosis of a symptom and providing a specific treatment – usually surgery or drugs. However, acute care often isn’t sufficient to deal with the complexities of chronic disease. The patient is often required to accept an offered choice of treatment and learn to live with their condition and its symptoms, and manage their way through the side effects of medication.
Functional medicine is an alternative, effective approach that aims to uncover and rectify the causes of dysfunction, disorder and disease in the body. Rather than medicating to subdue an isolated symptom, the functional medicine doctor will look closely at the whole body’s integrated systems and how they interact with each other and affect one another to influence health. These systems – the cardiovascular system, the immune system, the nervous system, the digestive system, the reproductive system, the endocrine system etc. are interconnected and work in balance. When systems move out of balance and become dysfunctional the functional approach establishes the flaws in the systems and provides the clues that lead to the solution.
Through a process of thorough, in depth consultation with the patient, the functional medicine doctor establishes a full picture of health and how normal function has broken down by making use of advanced testing techniques and looking at life history, genetics, lifestyle, diet, environmental factors and stress.
Then, a combination of conventional medical practice along with integrative practices that may involve nutrition, lifestyle, exercise, detoxification, and stress management are utilised to put the body’s systems on a pathway that moves them towards optimum function. Often very quickly. It’s exciting that patients can experience impressive results, with significant rapid turnarounds in health, especially after suffering through much time, pain and frustration while following conventional treatment paths. Feeling good and having your health back can be a wonderful reality instead of a distant, fading hope. Next we’ll look at how blindly following the accepted norm of conventional treatment can prevent this transformation in “The Conventional Problem.”