Let’s say you have a splinter in your finger. This splinter is causing quite a bit of misery. It throbs, it’s swollen, and tender to the touch. (Acute inflammation at work) You go see the doctor for your splinter and he/she puts you on painkillers. Wait, what? Why prescribe painkillers to treat the symptoms of the splinter when the doctor could remove the splinter and treat the cause of the pain? If this sounds all too familiar, it’s because it’s unfortunately the way conventional medicine works. Far too often, people see their doctors with a laundry list of symptoms, simply to be prescribed medications that only treat the symptoms or work to shut off the body’s response to create these symptoms.
The functional medicine approach takes an investigative route. It tries to find the root cause. Instead of throwing medicine at your symptoms to try to cover them up, it seeks to find out what’s causing the symptoms. Our bodies are extremely smart. They don’t create symptoms for no reason. They create symptoms as a cry for help to tell us that something isn’t working the way it should. Symptoms we need to start listening to, as covering them up has proven to be detrimental to our health.
We live in a world with incredible technological advances, where great leaps have been made in the field of medicine. Yet we also live in a world that has a chronic illness epidemic. There’s heart disease, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, cancer. And there is a medication for all of it. High blood pressure? Take a pill. High cholesterol? Take a pill. Heart burn? Take a pill. Your pill for inflammation making you nauseous? We have a pill for that too! All of these things are symptoms of a bigger issue, not conditions that should be solely addressed. High blood pressure is a sign of metabolic syndrome, which can turn into cardiovascular disease or Type II Diabetes. Instead of trying to lower it with a medication, it can easily be lowered with diet and lifestyle changes. High cholesterol is your body screaming that it’s full of inflammation. Instead of lowering it with a statin (please don’t ever take a statin without doing your research first), it can easily be lowered with diet and lifestyle changes. Heart burn is a sign of low stomach acid, not too much, as is commonly believed. It can be treated through supplemental enzymes that help to replace the low stomach acid, instead of suppressing it with harmful antacids. Are we seeing a pattern here? So many things that can easily be treated with diet and lifestyle changes. Autoimmune conditions that can be put into remission, metabolic disorders that can be reversed, weight that can be lost.
It’s time we stop taking what our doctors say as gospel. It’s time we start investigating the cause. It’s time we start asking why. Instead of asking what can I take to get rid of my symptoms, it’s time we start asking what’s causing these symptoms to occur and treat the root cause. Everything has a root cause, and more often than not, it starts in the gut. Start by looking there. Perhaps it’s an infection or parasite, like h.pylori or SIBO or yeast overgrowth, like candida. Perhaps it’s leaky gut syndrome and you have particles leaking through your intestinal tract and into your bloodstream and that’s why your body is mounting an autoimmune attack. Perhaps your body is full of inflammation from a diet high in refined grains and sugars and industrial seed oils, and it results in fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. Functional medicine views the body as a whole and interconnected system. If you’re seeing a doctor in conventional medicine, you’ll see one for your heart, another for your joints, another for your hormones, etc. How can they ever work to figure out your root cause when they focus on viewing the body as separate parts? Symptoms that show up in the joints can start in the gut. Symptoms that show up as high cholesterol can start with hormonal imbalances, mainly insulin dysregulation.
Now, I’m certainly not anti-doctor, but I believe they need to be used for times of acute care. They are great in emergencies and trauma situations. Broken arm? Absolutely, get thee to a conventional doctor. Unfortunately, they aren’t so great at preventative and integrative care. What’s it going to take for you to put your health and well-being first? Are you tired of feeling like you’re not being heard? Tired of feeling like your doctor isn’t treating you, as a person, but instead treating you, as a condition? There is a better way and it all starts with you. The greatest takeaway is that your body doesn’t simply manifest symptoms and conditions out of thin air. You need to be the best advocate for your health and start asking questions. Start asking why, and if your doctor can’t tell you why, find someone who can. Don’t resign yourself to taking a pill for the rest of your life, no questions asked. Don’t resign yourself to blindly following your doctor’s suggestions without learning about it on your own. There is so much information out there now that ignorance is no longer an excuse! Knowledge is power and you deserve to have that power in your hands.