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What is Integrative & Functional Medicine?
Integrative & Functional Medicine
The practice of Medicine that better addresses chronic disease.
We live in an age where Functional Medicine is the solution to the ongoing worldwide chronic disease epidemic. This specific area of medicine focuses on a few key things: finding the underlying cause of a patient’s health problems, using a laboratory based analysis system to determine what is wrong, using supplements to correct problems with medications as needed, and focusing ever more and more on lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, sleep and meditation. Integrative medicine is a term that is used more broadly. An integrative medicine clinic, such as Akeia, has many facets. Our body’s physiology is interconnected – organs, blood, biochemicals, and so on. It encompasses all the modalities that have evidence to work avoiding the use of pharmaceutics and surgery wherever necessary. Functional medicine considers the whole person, not just localized symptoms. This systems-based approach often uncovers hidden conditions that explain an assortment of symptoms including digestive disorders, fatigue, foggy brain, low mood, menopausal concerns, recurring infections and food sensitivities.
Expect to work closely with your integrative functional medicine doctor, beginning with an in-depth look at your medical history, environment and lifestyle. Specialized laboratory testing helps identify the complex interactions between these factors and forms a picture of your unique health characteristics.
Using the information provided by discussions with you, personalized testing, and, if appropriate, targeted nutritional consultations, your functional medicine doctor creates a personalized treatment plan to address dysfunction in different organ systems (sometimes before symptoms show), incorporating the traditional, complementary and cutting-edge therapies that you both consider important to your healing.
Patient Stories - A comparison of Conventional vs Functional Approach
IBS - Irritable Bowel Syndrome
A middle aged woman (44 years) had a ten year history of suffering from chronic fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome. She had thus far seen 5 physicians, with her condition worsening with every passing day.
Conventional Medical Approach
Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder that affects the large intestine, causing cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarhoea. Testing involves a colonoscopy, flexi-sigmoidoscopy and an upper and lower gastrointestinal study with a CT scan. Treatment involves relieving symptoms with drugs - for constipation laxatives (linaclotide), for diarrhoea anti-spasmodics (hyoscine/cimetropium), for bacterial overgrowth antibiotics (rifaximin). If these don't work then steroids are added, after which the patient deals with more medication, ultimately to control the side effects of the very medications used to treat the condition.
Integrative Functional Medical Approach
In functional medicine the most important aspect is peeling the layers to get to the root cause. It understands the above - but goes into more detail to the systems biology approach. The initial assessment involves a thorough history, physical examination and full panel of tests to assess organ functions and further a stool analysis to assess the bacterium causing the inflammation in the digestive tract (pseudonomas aeruginosa and citrobactor fruendii - both found to cause diarrhoea in medical journals). Allergy testing is recommended - allergens also cause inflammation in the gut that leads to constipation or diarrhoea (she was allergic to gluten and rice).
We therefore prescribed an elimination of the two allergens and two natural antibiotics to kill the specific pathogens, and a probiotic to rebuild the good bacterial flora. This is a summary of the treatment, during a span of three months regular visits and careful change of lifestyle and medication, she was symptom free and did not need any more drugs.
Steven, 57 Years Old Came To The Clinic To Improve His Blood Sugar Control. He Was Diagnosed With Diabetes 15 Years Ago. Six Months Ago He Started Having Fatigue, That He Could Not Shake Off. He Would Sleep 7-8 Hours And Still Feel Extremely Tired At Work. His last HBA1c report was 12.5% - showing out of control blood sugar readings.
Conventional Medical Approach
Diabetes is a chronic disease entity defined by a random sugar over 8.5 mmol/l, three fasting sugars over 7.0mmol/l or a hemoglobin A1c of 6.5 or greater. Once one of these levels is reached, then the first line medication of Metformin is started. Diet and lifestyle changes are recommended. If adequate control is not reached then second line meds are begun (i.e.- Januvia, Galvusmet, Diamicron, Forxiga). If these don’t result in control, then other medications and ultimately insulin injections are started. When blood sugar is not controlled it leads over time to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.
Integrative Functional Medical Approach
The above would be recognised when treating Diabetes, although getting to the root cause would lead to better health for this patient. An individualised systems biology approach would look at further factors leading to fatigue and blood tests to investigate it. For his case he was experiencing adrenal stress, which was raising his blood sugars and making him chronically fatigued. He was treated with specific nutrient supplements to improve this, and provided a guided step by step protocol to making diet and lifestyle changes. In functional medicine this approach is unique to each individual. One person could have pancreatic insufficiency resulting in incomplete food digestion and inadequate nutritional absorption which can affect blood sugar regulation. Another may have detoxification issues resulting in overall vascular inflammation and insulin resistance. Someone else could have an immunologic reaction with a certain food like gluten causing vascular inflammation and insulin resistance and a fourth person could have all the above. Diabetes is a part of a larger spectrum of diseases commonly called Metabolic Syndrome, and therefore when we addressed his underlying issue in 3 months his HBA1c was 6.5%, and his fatigue was gone!
The Bottom Line.....
By addressing each individual’s unique biochemical composition, identifying the underlying causes of chronic health conditions and reducing the risk of degenerative disease, functional medicine has been recognized as the future of medicine. Today, in East Africa we are the first clinic to fully incorporate functiona medicine. By comparing the individual’s assessments with normal physiological ranges, doctors practicing functional diagnostic medicine can pinpoint abnormalities and factors that contribute to health problems, often exposing the real causes of chronic illness and degenerative disease..