What is Functional Medicine?
...and what does a Nutritional Therapist do?
Functional medicine aims to determine how and why illness occurs, and to restore health by addressing the root causes of disease for each individual.
Instead of just treating the symptoms, the functional medicine approach looks to identify the underlying imbalances in the individual that are resulting in the pattern of presenting symptoms. The functional medicine model is an individualised, science-based approach that empowers the individual to take greater control over their health by learning to eat and live in a way that supports their health. It is both preventative and complementary health care.
A nutritional therapist uses a functional medicine approach and works together with the individual to identify the underlying causes of disease and promote optimal wellness. It requires a detailed understanding of the individual’s genetic, biochemical, and lifestyle factors, and uses that data to direct personalised nutrition & lifestyle plans to support the body in naturally reestablishing optimal function. A nutritional therapist may work together with you and your doctor for optimal outcomes.
By addressing root cause, rather than symptoms, practitioners become oriented to identifying the complexity of disease. They may find one condition has many different causes and, likewise, one cause may result in many different conditions. As a result, the functional medicine approach targets the specific manifestations of disease in each individual.
Most of the chronic diseases we suffer today were uncommon or non-existent in humans just a few hundred years ago. The industrial revolution and the resultant change in our diets and lifestyles are the key drivers of most chronic disease we see today, from type-2 diabetes/metabolic syndrome/obesity, and digestive disturbances, to imbalances of the immune system, spanning allergies, intolerances, atopic eczema, seasonal allergies, and autoimmune diseases (eg. auto-immune thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, alopecia, Sjögrens, lupus, etc), and even cancer.
The surge in these diseases is not just a result of an altered diet, it is also caused by stressors, from emotional stress to performance-achievement driven stress, to exposure to environmental and ingested toxins, lack of exposure to diverse microbes, overuse of antibiotics, chronic sleep deprivation or insomnia, and of course reduced physical activity throughout the day.
Genetic risk factors: Many people feel that there is nothing they can do about genetic predispositions, that it’s just a waiting-game or Russian roulette, with a certain percentage risk of particular chronic disease occurring. However, in most chronic disease, genetics plays a minor role and environment is the biggest player. Thanks to medical and genetic research, with understanding of the risk-factors for disease, in most cases, we can shift these percentage risks in our favour by providing our bodies with favorable conditions that counteract the negative effects of these genetic predispositions. In fact, all common genetic variants provided some kind of advantage in the past. That is why they persisted. It is only the different diet/lifestyle/environment of today’s humans that is less compatible with certain genetic variants.
So, what can we do? Well, we cannot change the past, but in most cases, there is still A LOT, we can do to help our bodies reestablish balance. It can take a good deal of motivation and dedication from you, but when you experience results, that is motivation in itself.
Book an initial nutritional therapy consultation and let me do some detective work with you, to identify the imbalances in your body and life, and guide you to optimising your health and wellbeing.
A few clarifications:
A nutritional therapist does not diagnose, treat or prescribe medicine.
A medical doctor diagnoses and prescribes medicine.
A nutritional therapist recommends diet and lifestyle modifications, and may also recommend nutritional supplements, herbal supplements and other neutraceuticals.
A nutritional therapist may conduct regular blood tests like those done by your doctor or advanced functional tests to help investigate imbalances underlying your health issues. Your pattern of signs, symptoms and health history however can give a LOT of insight into what is going on even before doing any testing, and testing is often not necessary for a nutritional therapist to help you address the imbalances underlying your symptoms.
Where an as yet undiagnosed health condition is suspected, your nutritional therapist may refer you to your doctor for further investigation.