What Conditions Does Functional Medicine Treat?

Woman with headache

Functional medicine is a model used to treat chronic health conditions, which result from underlying causes such as infection, dysbiosis, stress, environmental toxin exposure, poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, and genetic weaknesses.

Understanding and treating the underlying cause of chronic health conditions is not only more effective, but also healthier for the human body as a whole.

Acute medicine (traditional, Western medicine) is fantastic for the treatment of a broken bone or a heart attack: However, it is not the best treatment for chronic health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, endometriosis, and gastrointestinal disturbances (just to name a few). Understanding and treating the underlying cause of chronic health conditions is not only more effective, but also healthier for the human body as a whole. For example, providing medication to help to better control blood sugars in someone with diabetes will not “fix” his/her poor lifestyle habits (diet, sleep, physical activity), rebalance his/her gastrointestinal flora (bacteria), lower his/her stress levels, treat an underlying, chronic infection, or strengthen his/her immune system, which all may be causing his/her high blood sugars. Medications also often have negative side effects.

Endometriosis is another example of a chronic health condition that responds positively to a more integrative medical approach.

Endometriosis is a wonderful example of a chronic health condition that responds positively to a more integrative medical approach. Many women come to us after trying hormone replacement, surgery, and other Western medical approaches as stand-alone treatments. Endometriosis is a multisystem health condition, meaning that it is caused by the breakdown of several different bodily systems resulting in a laundry list of symptoms. These symptoms often appear unrelated, but when viewed through a more functional medicine lens, it becomes obvious that many of the symptoms are related to one another. For example, if someone has an overgrowth of fungus and potentially pathogenic bacteria in their intestines, the fungus and bacteria will make toxins. These toxins need to be detoxified by the liver. The liver is also responsible for metabolizing and detoxifying estrogen. If the liver is too overwhelmed with detoxifying bacterial and fungal toxins, it will not be able to adequately metabolize and break down estrogen. This will leave more unmetabolized estrogen and more toxic forms of estrogen in the body. In addition, the liver excretes metabolized estrogen compounds into the gut, which are then removed from our bodies through our feces. Certain strains of bacteria actually repackage this estrogen into a more toxic form of estrogen, which then gets reabsorbed through the gut into the blood stream. Both of these changes in estrogen metabolism lead to an increased load of estrogen. This will lead to an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone. In addition, estrogen acts like fertilizer for endometriosis, which will further fuel the fire. You can see how simply doing surgery or hormones alone without fixing the underlying problem can worsen or lead to a reoccurrence of endometriosis.