Here at Body Brain Medicine, we look to those connections between our mental and body health. We attempt to understand the ways in which one influences the other, as they are both, not isolated, but pieces of a larger whole. They work with, off, and at times against each other to determine our overall wellbeing. It is in that pursuit to understand that we recently came across Dr. Hyman’s Broken Brain series, which further illuminated the connection between the two. But that’s not what we are writing this piece for. We are writing this piece because it stands as a foundation of our Body Brain Medicine ideology, and it is shared by many health professionals, Dr. Hyman included.
That’s the concept of functional medicine.
Much like our own outlook, functional medicine approaches illnesses from a different viewpoint. It looks not just from symptom to cause, but into the cause and how to fix it there at the base. Traditional doctors use symptoms to identify what is broken or ill and then prescribes based on that. Functional medicine looks deeper, specifically when it comes to chronic illnesses to identify ‘What triggers these events?’ In knowing what does, we can adequately plan for and around and almost avoid the illness entirely.
Perhaps we went too deep too fast. Let us illuminate with a story first.
Barbara is a 30 something woman. She is tackling her job, wrangling kids for school and sports, and in the midst of all this has started feeling terrible. She is losing weight though she is not trying to. Her hair turns brittle, losing its luster. Every day, she walks about as if she is in the midst of a cold.
She sees her family doctor. He is an old friend of the family and she’s been seeing him for years. After a battery of tests, several appointments, and more than one missed family function, it is discovered: a thyroid disorder.
Now this, the doctor understands. He prescribes a pill to combat the symptoms, an artificial enzyme that helps regulate and you go about your life. The problem is, the symptoms are still there, even with the meds to fight them. How do you stop the symptoms before it gets any further?
Functional medicine looks to address that. In this story, functional medicine would dictate that we discover what causes the thyroid
disease to flare up. Are there certain conditions that agitate it more? In taking a holistic approach, they view the thyroid not as a small gland with a problem, but as a critical piece of the complex puzzle that is our bodies. Searching out those conditions, often called triggers in the field, a functional medicine practitioner would work to eliminate any triggers from their lifestyle, to avoid having their disease constantly in an uproar.
Why Use Functional Medicine
We appreciate the functional approach in medicine because it matches our philosophy so clearly. They are one and the same, understanding the complex organism that is our bodies and our health. But there are specific reasons why functional medicine may be a better path to take for some.
One such reason is found in the way functional medicine and traditional medicine differ when it comes to caring. Traditional medicine often focuses on ‘acute’ care. Specific illnesses or traumas that are short term. Things like a broken bone or cold for instance. You see the doctor, you say ‘Here’s the problem,’ they fix it. For a long time that was good enough for most. But the unfortunate reality of our world is that there is a staggering rise in complex, chronic diseases. Heart disease, diabetes, mental illnesses, and autoimmune disorders are not simple fixes. Once they develop they are constant, but the pain they bring doesn’t have to be.
Functional medicine practitioners, places like the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine work with the newest science and research to adequately perform that holistic care that chronic illnesses see the best results from. If someone develops heart disease, that heart disease is a part of their life and has to be managed for and over the long term. Functional medicine practitioners are more focused on that long-term lifestyle benefit and care than their acute treating brethren.
For us, the biggest thing is how right it feels to our bodies. As we said, functional medicine and body-brain medicine are the essentially the same, two names for the same larger idea and approach to health. Looking for the connections, between body and brain, lifestyle and health, and so much more. No man is an island, no illnesses are isolated. Everything is connected and influences one and other, it is about seeing how and making changes where possible to ensure the best health. That’s the functional medicine approach, that’s the Body Brain Medicine approach.