Functional Medicine is a new health care paradigm for the 21st century. We have become a country focused on disease and the use of medications to combat isolated symptoms of disease. As a functional medicine practitioner, I work with my patients to restore and maintain health. The goal is to unleash your body’s natural ability to heal itself and function optimally. When this is accomplished, disease can be prevented, instead of expected, and you will feel better and have a better quality of life. As an osteopathic physician, I was trained to treat my patients with a holistic perspective. One’s health is influenced by lifestyle, environment, psychology, and physiology, and these are all considered with any treatment plan.
Detoxification is an important aspect of weight loss and health. We live in a very toxic world and are exposed to an ever growing quantity of toxins through our everyday lives. There are toxins in our food supply, our water supply, the air we breathe, and the chemicals we use at home. We expose ourselves to chemicals with the products we use to keep ourselves healthy, such as soap or toothpaste. Fortunately, we all were designed with the expectation that bad things would enter our bodies, and we have mechanisms to defend against toxins. On the other hand, many of us become overwhelmed with toxins. We can no longer defend against the load of toxins to which we are exposed, and we have difficulty clearing them from our body. Toxins start to accumulate and interfere with the way we function. It’s as if no one is taking out the garbage at your house. Garbage would build up and your daily activities would become more and more difficult to accomplish. When we accumulate toxins, our immune system becomes less efficient, our metabolism becomes sluggish, and we have trouble producing energy. We need somewhere to put these accumulated toxins, so our body maintains fat to keep them stored. This makes it very difficult to lose weight and can also cause many other problems that will drag your overall health down. A large toxic load can manifest with a variety of symptoms such as fatigue, pain, anxiety, depression, or skin problems, just to name a few.
When this happens, we need to actively clear toxins from our body and restore our body’s ability to process and remove toxins. I have heard of many ways people attempt to do this and many detox approaches make me cringe. Fasting, juicing, lemon water with maple syrup diets, and colon flushes are a just a few of the “programs” I have heard about through my patients. To design a quality detox program, one must first understand how we naturally detoxify and then try to enhance this process. When toxins enter our body, they are eventually carried to the liver. The liver is a complex organ with a network of enzymes that help to chemically convert toxins into a form the body is able to eliminate. Once the liver completes its chemical conversion of toxins, they can be carried out of the body through the gut (stool), kidneys (urine), skin, or through breathing. This process takes energy, so you need to have good nutrition throughout the process. You also need to stop putting toxins into your body. You can’t put a fire out with water, if you have a gas leak dripping into the flames. While detoxing, you need to limit your exposure to environmental toxins and eat a diet that limits toxic exposures and limits the impact on your immune system and digestion. You also must simultaneously enhance kidney, gut, and skin function. Additionally, targeted supplements must be used to enhance liver function and help mobilize stored toxins. It takes a comprehensive approach to address the entire detox system. It sounds complex but can be done easily with right guidance. Detoxification is a great way to jump start any weight loss or health maintenance program.
If your gut is not healthy, you will not be healthy, and it will be difficult to lose weight. Our gut is one of the main interfaces between the outside world and our internal environment. Medical research is just beginning to scratch the surface of gut function and enormous impact on our health. If your gut is not healthy, you will not absorb the nutrients you need to produce energy and keep your body healthy. Your immune system, which is intimately tied to your gut, will be activated to fight against your body, instead of protecting you like it should. An unhealthy gut will cause you to absorb toxins and generate inflammation, which will interfere with the bodily processes meant to keep you healthy. It is difficult to underestimate how important a healthy digestive system is to health. In a nut shell, an unhealthy gut puts you at risk for a variety of health issues.
Enough gloom and doom. If you have poor gut function, there is hope to restore your health. The treatment depends on each patient’s particular situation. A comprehensive approachcan offer solutions for poor gut health. Testing can reveal sources of inflammation, food sensitivities, infections, or the need for digestive enzymes or healthy bacteria. The goal is to remove what is irritating your gut, restore a healthy gut environment and repair the damage that may have already been done. Over time, the gut will heal and function well again, and so will you.
Inflammation is a general term that refers to how your body responds when it is disturbed. The response comes in the form of internal chemical reactions. There are too many to mention here, and I wouldn’t want to bore you with a bunch of biochemistry. Inflammation could often be a good thing. When you are injured or ill, you need an inflammatory response to help you repair tissue or fight illness. However, inflammation also has the potential to damage tissue and interfere with metabolism, detoxification, and immune function, so you don’t want it going on all the time. It’s sort of like inviting a contractor into your house. They can build or repair things, but they also disrupt your house and life while they’re there. You wouldn’t want them around all the time. Unfortunately, something as ordinary as eating can generate unhealthy inflammation. If you eat foods that are high in sugar or eat foods to which you aresensitive, you will generate inflammation. Long term inflammation can lead to a variety of problems, such as:
|Skin Rashes||Autoimmune Disease|
As you can see, it is vitally important to control inflammation. The first step is trying to identify the source of any chronic inflammation and try to eliminate it. Once inflammation is found, it is a constant battle to keep it under control but can be done through a comprehensive health maintenance program.
Metabolic Syndrome is a combination of conditions. It is defined by poor blood sugar control, high blood pressure, increased abdominal fat, low HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and high triglycerides (fat particles in the blood). Metabolic syndrome significantly increases one’s risk for cardiovascular disease, which leads to heart disease, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease. It is a dangerous condition, but in most cases, preventable and treatable. Commonly, as we develop problems associated with metabolic syndrome, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and poor sugar regulation, we are placed on medications for treatment. This approach ignores the cause of metabolic syndrome. The disorders that make up metabolic syndrome often occur when the body is not functioning well because of things we do to it. Although genetics plays a role in metabolic syndrome, our genes are strongly influenced by our internal environment. Poor nutrition and lifestyle choices cause our genes to be expressed in a way that leads to many of the problems associated with metabolic syndrome. Other issues, such as poor gut health or hormone imbalance, may not be due to lifestyle choices but can contribute to metabolic syndrome just the same. I address all of these issues with a functional medicine approach. By treating hormone imbalance, inflammation, toxicity, gut health, and poor nutrition, the body will function better. When it does, metabolic syndrome can be reversed, and the debilitating problems associated with it can be avoided.
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