Today we have an article from a guest writer, Dr. Douglas Husbands. His interesting subject concerns chronic disease treatment. I wanted to be certain that I understood exactly what was meant by "functional medicine" and here is the dictionary definition:
Functional medicine is personalized medicine that deals with primary prevention and underlying causes, instead of symptoms, for serious chronic disease.
In the raging national debate over health care, prevention gets almost zero mention – yet that is exactly what we should be concentrating on. preventing disease, rather than 'curing' it!
DR. HUSBANDS: The 2004 update on cholesterol guidelines from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) emphasizes the importance of therapeutic lifestyle changes for cholesterol management. Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) refers to the intensive use of nutrition, physical activity and weight control. In this update, Scott Grundy, MD, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and chair of the NCEP guidelines group stated that “Lifestyle changes continue to be an essential part of controlling cholesterol. TLC has the potential to reduce cardiovascular risk through several mechanisms beyond LDL lowering”. Furthermore, the National Cholesterol Education Program’s (NCEP) guidelines state that TLC should be the first line of management for cholesterol reduction, heart disease, diabetes and many other chronic diseases.
If you have been told by your doctor that you have high cholesterol, diabetes or heart disease, did he/she mention TLC? If so, were you given specific and detailed instructions on it? I bet most of you did not. Receiving a prescription for medication is more likely. This is because in medical school, there is essentially no training in nutrition for treatment of disease.
The Functional Medicine Approach
At the heart of the doctor-patient interaction lies each individual patient’s unique story. The story is typically told as the chief complaint, medical history, family history, supplement and medication history, lifestyle, exercise and social history, physical exam findings and laboratory evaluation. In conventional medicine, the aim of this information gathering is to arrive quickly at the diagnosis. In abrupt onset or acute problems arriving at the diagnosis takes on greater importance, while the rest of the patient’s story takes on less of an emphasis. For example, in a patient presenting with squeezing chest pain, arm tingling, shortness of breath and sweating, you want to quickly rule out or rule in the diagnosis of a heart attack. You can give a drug that will radically affect a person’s chemistry for this acute situation to save a person’s life, without concern for the side effects… for the time being. However, problems arise when this acute-care approach is used to address long term chronic health issues.
According to the Centers for Disease control, the leading causes of death in the U.S., namely heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lung infections, and diabetes, all are chronic long term processes that require a different approach. That different approach must:
1. address the underlying processes in a health promoting way
2. be dedicated to early assessment of imbalanced processes from optimal
3. influence clinical imbalances at multiple levels
4. and the treatment must focus on restoration of each person’s functionality to optimal levels… without doing short term harm
Is there an established health care discipline that meets all these criteria? Yes! That approach is called “Functional Medicine” or “Functional Health Care”. Functional Health Care is dedicated to prevention, early assessment, and improved management of complex chronic disease to correct underlying imbalances. This is done by intervening at multiple levels (diet, supplemental nutrients, lifestyle modification, environmental factors, structural body alignment, etc.), which restores each person’s health functionality to the greatest extent possible.
Functional Medicine is not limited to one medical discipline, but training in functional medicine is applicable to all medical disciplines. Doctors trained in Functional Medicine learn to think of processes involved in conditions, rather than focus on the diagnosis. This concept of process-oriented approach in health care is not new. A 1949 paper published in the Journal Lancet states that, “The syndrome has its basis not in specific disease entities, but in a chain of physiologic processes”. When you influence the processes involved in health issues, the effects cut across all organ systems with multiple benefits. The name of the disease or the diagnosis is not as important as influencing the processes involved that will restore an individual’s health.
Proof of Concept
This Functional Medicine approach is being applied successfully. The proof is best given by the people who have benefited from it. Here are some comments from some of my patients:
"I am 54 and thanks to your care, I don’t remember feeling as healthy as I do today! I am exercising regularly and have effortlessly reached my healthy body weight (reducing by about 25 lbs). I have lost my craving for starches and am surprised that I now typically cook meals without them. When I started treatment with you, I had discomfort from extreme vaginal dryness and that has also healed thanks to the supplements I have been taking. My cholesterol has dropped without medication or a change in diet (other than reduction in starches). I appreciate your thoroughness in designing my treatment plan and your patience when I wasn't able to follow your instructions to a “T”." – patient from Mountain View, CA
"My husband and I began seeing Dr. Husbands in May of 2006 for a variety of health problems. Through thorough testing by Dr. Husbands, I was diagnosed with CFS, hormonal and glandular dysregulation. We began supplementation and some lifestyle changes as recommended by Dr. Husbands, and we saw almost immediate results in how we felt.” -patient from Cottonwood CA.
“I have been a diabetic for 25 years. I have Type II diabetes and had been able to control my blood sugar levels with diet and exercise. As I grew older this approach became less successful and I commenced many years of ingesting larger quantities of prescribed medications to control the daily blood glucose levels. Some of these medications had undesirable side effects and therefore I was placed on different medications. The reality of my situation became clear in November 2007 when my HGBA1C tested at 8%, my triglycerides tested at 310, my LDL was 106 and my HDL was 36. In addition, my cholesterol was 204 and my weight was 196 lbs. I heard about Dr. Husbands via my daughter who was successfully treated by Dr. Husbands for cysts on her ovaries. I began a program with Dr. Husbands in February of 2008. The goal was and is to drastically reduce or eliminate my dependence on glucose control medications and their side effects. As of early May 2008, about 2 ½ months into the program, my latest test results have shown the following improvements. My HGBA1c has dropped to 7.1%, my triglycerides are 91, LDL is 92, HDL has leaped to 55, my cholesterol is 165 and my weight is 178 lbs. Happily, much of the weight loss is in my waist, and I know I have lost fat, not muscle, from the body composition tests Dr. Husbands performed. I feel very well and energetic. Dr. Husbands also performed a chiropractic adjustment on my back in a very comfortable manner. I am continuing with the diet and the supplements and have not had a problem with hunger pangs. But here is the best news. I have been able to eliminate entirely one diabetic medication (Actos) and am currently taking only ¼ the daily dose of the other medication (Glipizide). I have reviewed this with my medical provider (at Kaiser) and he is extremely pleased with the results. My daily glucose readings are routinely in the 90 – 110 range. Oh yes, as a kicker, my blood pressure is 119/60. This program is succeeding, and I am most pleased with the results to date.” – patient from Redwood City, CA
With this approach, besides addressing the reason for consulting with me, it is not uncommon for the patient to report “side effects” such as increased energy or weight loss. Overall, the patients’ experience better quality of life. Functional Medicine truly is the best approach.
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About the Author:
Dr Husbands has been helping people resolve chronic health problems and improve their health for over two decades. He is a natural healthcare physician in the San Francisco Bay Area. He graduated from San Francisco State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology/Human Physiology in 1983. In 1991, he graduated from Cleveland Chiropractic College of Los Angeles and became a Doctor of Chiropractic. In 1996, he earned his post-graduate board certification as a Certified Clinical Nutritionist with the International and American Associations of Clinical Nutritionists, and in 2000, he became a certified Anti-Aging Health Care Practitioner with the American Board of Anti-Aging Health Practitioners. In 2003, he completed training in Functional Medicine with the Institute for Functional Medicine. Dr. Husbands has been sought for expert opinion by national health magazines and been published in peer-reviewed journals. He has taught many classes and lectured extensively to a wide variety of audiences on natural health topics and functional medicine. He sees patients at the Athens Chiropractic Clinic in San Carlos, CA. He offers phone consultations for those who live outside of the area.