What are Functional Medicine Doctors and How are They Different? If You Don’t Know, Read This! It Could Save Your Life.

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Dr. Terry Wahls is uniquely able to help explain what the differences are between functional medicine and conventional medicine doctors as she’s been both. Do you want to get to the root cause of why you and your family are developing chronic diseases like autoimmune diseases? If so, it may be time to find a Functional Medicine practitioner says Dr. Wahls. Unlike conventional medicine which relies on prescription medicine, Functional Medicine focuses on helping people get to the root cause of chronic disease and is thus a better approach to healing.

Consider this: 80% of Americans are taking prescription medication. 60% of Americans are taking more than one medication. But these medications are not curing chronic illness! They merely only try to manage symptoms. Conventional medicine does not treat the root cause of disease and thus is often ineffective. This is why I’ve become a functional medicine doctor, but more on that in a little bit!  

How do we best treat and prevent chronic disease? It turns out that diet and lifestyle have a much larger impact than genetics on the risk of developing chronic diseases like obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, mental health problems, and autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis and more. If you are suffering from pain, fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, neurological issues, obesity, diabetes or other chronic health issues, a Functional Medicine evaluation will give you the best chance of returning to optimal health. There really is no other choice for preventing and treating chronic illness. Drugs cannot create health in the absence of health-promoting dietary and lifestyle choices.

I am a professor of medicine. When I went to medical school, we expected to solve the epidemic of chronic diseases by sequencing the human genome. Back then, I believed that the newest drugs and technology would heal all. Ironically, we thought drugs would solve the epidemic of chronic disease. We thought better developed drugs would resolve the pain, improve our mood, our energy, keep us working and save the system money in the long term.

Instead, medications have not cured chronic illness and tremendously increased the cost burden on our health care system. More importantly, drugs cannot help patients improve their cellular health, which is fundamental for overall good health and for healing chronic disease. When cells or organs malfunction and cause a symptom, conventional medicine treats symptoms with a prescription for medication. But if the factors that led to poorly functioning cells are not addressed, the cells and organs will continue to decline. More symptoms will develop, and existing ones will worsen. More drugs will be prescribed. Pain will increase. Brain fog will increase. Mood will worsen. Disability will develop. Side effects will arise. Work will become more difficult, and then is some cases, no longer possible. In-home nursing care will be needed, then nursing home care will be needed.

Chronic diseases cost families a great deal. Doctor visits and lab tests are expensive.  Medications are pricey, as well, and most of these drugs are to be taken for the rest of a life, adding up to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. Then there is the lost income for those who must leave the workforce early. And ultimately this treatment plan does not make illness go away. This is a terrible downward spiral that I believe can be avoided with the adoption of functional medicine.

The Functional Medicine Approach:
Functional Medicine offers the best approach for chronic disease. Functional Medicine is different. Functional Medicine practitioners look at the whole picture of your health to understand why your cells are functioning improperly. It turns out that tobacco use, poor diets and low physical activity levels account for 70 to 95% of the risk for developing these diseases. We now consider all these illnesses to be diet and lifestyle diseases, which is why addressing diet and environmental exposures is an effective way to reduce symptoms related to chronic disease. It also explains why relying on prescription medication and ignoring environmental factors fails to stop the progression of these chronic diseases.  

Functional Medicine works to improve your overall health by examining gut health, immune cell function, detoxification processes, hormone balance, mitochondrial efficiency and structures of the cells and body. Practitioners want to understand your dietary and lifestyle habits, determine which of these habits promote disease and which promote health, and prescribe new habits to improve cellular function and bring about health.

Functional Medicine doctors understand that we are a human ecosystem. Diet quality, stress-reducing practices, activity level, toxin exposure and the quality of our social network determine the health of our ecosystem. Prescribing medication without attending to those issues will not improve a sick ecosystem.

Good health comes from the right diet and lifestyle choices, and Functional Medicine practitioners guide patients toward the right choices, which lead to improved health and decreased disease. The process is simple, though not easy, and it takes time. While dietary and lifestyle choices can transform our health, it takes determination, patience and support to implement and sustain these changes.

How should you find a Functional Medicine practitioner? Look for one in your area with whom you can consult about your medical issues, keeping in mind that Functional Medicine practitioners often have very long waiting lists, sometimes a year or more. But this is hopefully changing as more doctors join the field. Their evaluations are comprehensive, closely examining the various environmental factors that contribute to health. These factors include toxin body burden, digestive health, food sensitivity, hormone balance and underlying genetic makeup.

The choice is yours. Whatever you decide, I wish you good health!

To learn more about me and my approach to health, visit http://www.terrywahls.com or for more information on the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, visit http://www.nationalmssociety.org/About-the-Society/News/National-MS-Society-and-University-of-Iowa-Launch

If you have MS or Parkinson’s disease and are following the Wahls diet already, you may be eligible to participate in a Bastyr University study. To learn more, visit:

http://bastyr.edu/research/studies/complementary-alternative-medicine-care-multiple-sclerosis-cam-care-ms

http://bastyr.edu/research/studies/complementary-alternative-medicine-care-parkinsons-disease-cam-care-pd

The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life – a cookbook to treat all autoimmune conditions
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Want to read more?

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Success Story: After a Longtime Struggle, How I Finally Beat MS

Why You Could Be Doing Paleo All Wrong. The One Change This Doctor Says You Need to Make

 

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