What makes people sick?
It’s the ultimate question one must consider when struggling with an illness.
When I was in school to become a physician assistant and was learning how to treat illnesses, my therapeutic toolbox almost exclusively relied on a medication of some sort. Since this treatment approach is the status quo in the conventional medical model, I never really questioned it, that is until I became sick.
I began suffering with chronic digestive issues and dreaded going to the doctor because every time I went hoping to find out why I was having my problem, I left with another prescription. I felt frustrated and disillusioned with modern medicine. I didn’t just want my symptoms to go away because I was taking a medicine. I wanted to get to the root cause so I could resolve my symptoms for good.
So I set out to find answers for myself. This journey has not only helped me, the patient, but it has led to an evolution in the way I approach the individuals who come to see me for medical care.
Using a functional medicine approach to patient care has helped me realize that the only way to truly get people well is by uncovering and addressing what made them sick in the first place.
I like to use the imagery of a leaky pipe. If the pipe is not fixed, the water will continue to accumulate on the floor. Modern medicine approaches this problem by wiping up the spill on the floor, but until the leaky pipe is found and repaired, the floor will stay wet because the root cause has not been addressed.
Because of the complexity and interconnected nature of the body, there are typically multiple “leaky pipes” contributing to an individuals illness.
We are able to help our patients find real answers to the cause of their chronic medical conditions by completing a comprehensive medical history review, performing an in-depth physical examination, and assessing relevant lab studies with the intent to identify the imbalances (leaky pipe) in the body that lead to the disease (spill on the floor).
Below I’ve outlined the four most common imbalances that contribute to poor health in the patients I see. By assessing and addressing these imbalances, we are able to help facilitate the body’s natural ability to heal itself.
Digestive dysfunction – Dating back to ancient times, digestive health has long been considered the foundation of health. Problems with the digestive tract can create problems in other areas of the body. This is because virtually all body systems interact with the gut. Digestive disorders often contribute to fatigue, brain fog, mood disorders, autoimmune disease, allergies, chronic pain and more.
Improper digestion can be caused by a variety of factors. Advanced gastrointestinal testing helps us to identify issues like poor digestion,malabsorption, inflammation, imbalanced flora in the gut (low good bacteria) and infections (overgrowth of harmful bacteria, yeast, parasite).
We are also able to test for both food allergies (immediate reaction) and sensitivities (delayed reactions) using Meridian Valley Lab’s Combo E-95 & A-95 Panel which checks 190 different food antigens.
Healing the gut is often the first step on a patients journey back to health.
Nutritional deficiencies – Food is the fuel for the body so a lack of adequate nutrients can lead to poor performance of the body – fatigue, weight gain, mood disorders and more.
Just like a Ferrari requires high octane fuel, so do we! The standard American diet is NOT the high octane fuel our body requires to run at its highest level. It tends to be higher in processed foods which usually contains too much bad stuff (salt, sugar, bad fats) and not enough of our essential nutrients (antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, etc).
Poor digestion can also contribute nutritional deficiencies in the body.
In addition to standard nutritional testing (iron, B12, folate), we also offer advanced nutritional assessments, which can help us identify deficiencies in antioxidants, B vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids.
Chronic inflammation – Inflammation is a huge buzz word and for good reason. It is important to identify and treat increased inflammation because we now know that it plays a role in the development and progression of most chronic illnesses including cardiovascular disease, Alzheimers, autoimmune diseases, and diabetes.
It can be argued that the most common cause of inflammation in the body is diet based. The modern American diet has seen an increase in processed foods containing high amounts of salt, sugar, and trans fats combined with a lack of whole, plant based foods like fruits and vegetables.
These changes have contributed to a surge in inflammation based chronic diseases. That being said, it is important to note that almost all chronic disease can be improved or resolved by changing the factors that fuel inflammation, especially diet.
Hormonal imbalance – Hormones are chemical messengers produced by glands in the body that regulate virtually every aspect of human physiology including digestion, metabolism, sleep, stress, growth, reproduction, mood, and more. Needless to say, hormonal imbalance can create significant health issues.
Depending on the age and symptoms a patient is experiencing, we check a variety of hormones including: thyroid hormones, cortisol, DHEA-s, progesterone, estrone, estradiol, testosterone, insulin, leptin, prolactin, and insulin like growth factor (measures growth hormone).
We also investigate factors that can contribute to hormonal imbalance including nutritional deficiencies, environmental toxins, chronic infections and chronic stress.
When we know what’s making us sick, we have made our first step towards recovering our health. For more information or to schedule your functional medicine consultation call us at 706-688-9355.