Maybe you have heard the term ‘functional medicine’ and then again, maybe you haven’t.
Even if you haven’t, you probably have a good idea what it means- medicine focused on proper function of the human body, not just treating diseases.
The fact that we have such a term is strong evidence that we have gotten away from true healthcare. What many of us take for granted in our drug- & disease-oriented culture is that the human body actually has many complex mechanisms for regulating and healing itself. You know this intuitively- when you get a cut on your finger, it heals on its own. Well guess what? Your body also has mechanisms for regulating it’s pH, blood sugar, blood pressure, energy production- even searching out & destroying cancer cells before they become invasive tumors.
What this means to you is that once you have developed a disease like diabetes, heart disease, or even cancer, your body’s physiology has been out of whack for so long that it can no longer regulate itself. This can take years to develop, but once it does, it is very difficult for the body to effectively regulate itself again. This is when pharmaceuticals become necessary to manage the fall-out from these non-existent control mechanisms.
But what if there was a kind of doctor who could ‘catch’ these things before they developed in to full-blown, chronic disease? What would this doctor use to see this future cascade? Tea leaves? A crystal ball?
Or how about a basic blood test?
Yes, the very same thing your doctor is already using to tell you about your current state of health can also be used to ‘predict’ your future state of health. The difference is a matter of perspective.
There is essentially two different lenses with which to view this information. One lens, the one most commonly employed is what I call the ‘disease lens’ while the other is what I call the ‘functional lens.’ Here’s an example of these two lenses at work: You have annual blood work done and your TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is 3.8. The ‘normal’ range is usually .45 to 4.0, so 3.8 looks good right? You are judged to be free of the disease of hypothyroidism.
But just because you are proclaimed disease-free doesn’t mean you are healthy. What if you feel tired, sluggish and are cold all the time? You certainly don’t feel healthy. This is one of the reasons why I use a functional lens to look at these measures. The functional range for TSH, a range that supports health, not just the absence of disease, is 1.8-3.0. Through this lens, a TSH of 3.8 would indicate the early stages of hypothyroidism. And if you were having the symptoms described above, this would be further evidence of hypothyroidism. If the cause of the hypothyroidism is determined earlier enough, the need for synthetic replacement hormones may be avoided. Imagine- preventing the need for life long medications!
Functional medicine and its practitioners are dedicated to finding and reversing problems before they become disease. If that wasn’t exciting enough, the even better news is that when problems are found early enough, they can generally be corrected with diet, exercise, and herbs. So in the future, you may want to look for a functional medicine practitioner to add to your healthcare team.