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healingways Functional

Medicine Taking the Whole

Toolbox Approach by Kathleen Barnes

Once called “alternative” medicine, then “holistic” or “comple- mentary” and later “integrative”, the newest evolution is “functional” medicine, designed to search out the underlying causes of illnesses in order to carry out effective treatment.


onventional medicine is like a carpenter that only has a hammer to work with, while functional medicine doctors are work- ing with a full toolkit,” says the author of From Fatigued to Fantastic, National Medical Director of Fibromyalgia & Fatigue Centers, Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, of Kona, Hawaii.

Conventional medicine addresses symptoms instead of diseases, explains Los Angeles functional medicine practi- tioner Dr. Hyla Cass, author of 8 Weeks to Vibrant Health: A Take Charge Plan for Women. “It tends to treat the symp- toms with more and more medications that cause a host of other side effects that also need to be treated and can result in declining health, rather than increased vitality.”

“Functional medicine, rather than simply ‘chasing symptoms’ while ignoring the causes, searches for and addresses environmental factors, nutri- tional deficiencies, genetic tendencies, biochemical dysfunctions and emotion- al and social stressors that can together cause the development of symptoms,”

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adds Dr. Adiel Tel-Oren. He operates Eco-Health Clinics internationally (the U.S. site is in Minneapolis, Minnesota) and serves as president emeritus and professor of nutrition and functional medicine with the California-based University of Natural Medicine. In every case, it takes some investigation to get to the heart of the problems, and the solutions can take many forms. “For example, depres- sion, insomnia and obesity aren’t dis- eases; they are symptoms,” says Cass. “If we can find the underlying cause of these symptoms, we can address the problem permanently.”

An allopathic approach, on the other hand, would routinely recom- mend a pill to lower temperature for high fever, prescribe a synthetic pill to elevate mood in treating depression, or look to pharmacological anti-inflamma- tory drugs for simple immune reactions. Tel-Oren is among those that link a vast number of illnesses to stress: “Diverse conditions such as fibromy- algia, irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease, diabetes, mood and cognitive

disorders, various autoimmune disor- ders, premenstrual syndrome, tem- poromandibular joint issues, chronic pelvic pain, interstitial cystitis, chronic low back pain, chemical and food sen- sitivities, allergies, asthma and cancer all seem to share common courses of formation. The common denominator for these disturbances appears to be chronic stress.” Dr. Mark Hyman, chair of the Insti- tute for Functional Medicine, in Lenox, Massachusetts, elaborates: “Functional medicine seeks to create balance in the body by looking at seven keys to achieving wellness: nutrition, hor- mones, inflammation, digestion, de- toxification, energy metabolism and a calm mind. We work through the entire system, help people identify patterns and return the body to balance.” Hyman is a strong advocate of nu- trition as the basis for restoring balance to the body. “Food is the most powerful medicine we have, more powerful than any drug, more powerful than anything you’ll ever find in a pill bottle,” he says. Teitelbaum notes, “Conventional medicine is basically run on econom- ics, so doctors are too often influenced by drug company marketing messages masquerading as science that encour- age expensive treatments, regardless of their toxicity.” In stark contrast, “Func- tional medicine instead looks for the lowest cost treatment that is supported by medical evidence.”

Conventional Medicine Case

in Point Fibromyalgia, for example, encom- passes a basket of symptoms, usually beginning with overall body pain with specific pain points. Other com- mon symptoms can include extreme fatigue, facial pain, irritable bowel syndrome, memory loss and brain fog, depression, numbness and tingling, palpitations, insomnia and headaches, including migraines.

“Until a few years ago, conven- tional medicine decided you were crazy if you complained of these symptoms,” advises Teitelbaum. “Then some expensive medications came out—promoted by $210 million a year

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