It was in 2010 that I heard about functional medicine for the first time. 5 years later, I started training with the Functional Medicine University. Although I am not a doctor, but a kinesiologist, this training allowed me to open up my horizons and my overall understanding of several health problems. Functional medicine is not yet well known in Quebec despite the fact that more and more health professionals are interested in it. Coming from all walks of life, they are among others, doctors, nutritionists, chiropractors, pharmacists, naturopaths and all have a common interest in integrative health.
Functional medicine has a different vision and approach from conventional medicine. There is more interest in the individual as a whole and the impact of their environment, their actions, choices and habits on their health. Obviously, the doctor practicing traditional or conventional medicine is also interested in his patient. On one hand, in the case of atherosclerosis or high blood pressure problems, this practitioner will quickly suggest the appropriate medication, and with a little luck, a referral to a nutritionist and a kinesiologist. Functional medicine, on the other hand, will be interested in quickly delving into the reasons why the circulatory system is bogged down. Are there chronic inflammation issues? Is the oxidative load too high and failing to be compensated by the body’s antioxidant mechanisms? Is the patient a smoker? Do they work in a polluted environment? Are they sedentary? All of these questions and more can lead the functional medicine practitioner to direct their intervention to eliminate not only the symptoms of the disease, but often the disease itself.
It is very important to understand that conventional medicine is important and excellent for diagnosing a medical condition. Cutting-edge research pushes the boundaries of treatment and diagnosis every day. It also makes it possible, thanks to the specialists, to treat a particular system very precisely. So, in the case of a problem with the skin, the dermatologist will do an excellent job of diagnosis and treatment and the same will be done for the cardiologist, the gastroenterologist, etc.
The functional medicine practitioner will have a less specific and more global view in order to find solutions related to nutrition, physical activity, sleep, stress management, or certain natural health products.
To quote Dr. Hyman, an American physician practicing functional medicine and author of several books on the subject, “Diseases do not exist, they are only the result of several dysfunctional mechanisms from which we have an impact.” Although it seems ambitious to say that diseases do not exist, it is still interesting to interpret them as the culmination of different biological processes and mechanisms that do not work as they should. Thus, an imbalance of the oxidative load of Jacques, for example, could lead to low-grade inflammation which will push his LDL “bad cholesterol” to oxidize in the endothelial wall and to accumulate gradually until heart attack or stroke. Is the problem the stroke, atherosclerosis, inflammation or oxidative load? None of the above. The problem is that Jacques hardly eats vegetables, consumes a lot of red meat, is sedentary despite his daily 15-minute walk to take the dog out, as well as the fact that he does not get enough sleep. This is where the problem should really be treated as a priority even if so, taking an anticoagulant would be wise to give him time to improve his habits.
In short, our health system focused on disease and pharmacological treatment does not leave enough room for alternative treatments and prevention.
For more information on healthy lifestyles that have a major impact on maintaining health, you can consult a functional medicine practitioner or an information platform such as Human 360 (www.humain360.com) which brings together a lot of content touching on this vision of preventive health.