The Power of Functional Medicine

I like to think of Functional Medicine as the science of “why”? In the conventional healthcare model, you wait until you get sick, the doctors diagnose you with a disease, and then treat the symptoms. Functional Medicine is different – the diagnosis doesn’t matter. Instead, a Functional Medicine Practitioner looks at dynamics affecting your whole body, looking for interconnectedness that explains why you feel the way you do.

A not-so-uncommon situation I see in my practice: A client comes to me feeling run down and bloated, and now they’ve developed a new food sensitivity. They’ve gotten a diagnosis from the doctor that they are just “stressed” and need to exercise more. The doctor hands the patient an anti-depressant and sends them on their way. Sound familiar?

The Functional approach is different. I’ll likely ask you, “what happened immediately prior to you feeling this unwell?” You’ll tell me a story, perhaps about how you went to the Dominican Republic on vacation and had hot chocolate at a cute little coffee shop. Oh, but on vacation, you were walking so much more than normal and felt sore at the end of the day, so you started taking daily ibuprofen to prevent pain from interfering with the rest of your trip. This story will prompt me to ask you about testing what’s going on in your gut with something like a GI MAP, which looks at digestive function, gut flora, parasites, etc.

When we get that test back, we notice several things. Markers indicate that you might not be making enough stomach acid. We see H. Pylori (the bacteria that causes ulcers) has overgrown into the large intestine. We also notice there is A LOT of gut inflammation, and several opportunistic bacteria have started to grow.

We could choose to do more testing, or we could get right to work. We know that H. Pylori can lower the acid in your gut, blocking your absorption of iron and B-vitamins, both critical to energy production. We begin by taking some herbs that can help rebalance H. Pylori, determining how much stomach acid we need to supplement, and adding in a B-12 and iron supplement for good measure.

After a month or so, the overgrowth is gone and you have more energy, but we don’t stop there. Ibuprofen can cause the stomach lining to thin, so we take herbs and probiotics designed to help your body restore the stomach lining and barrier function between the gut and the immune system. The probiotics do double duty, crowding out the opportunistic bacteria. In a few months, you add the food you had grown sensitive to back in to your diet with no noticeable effects. You have more energy from the temporary supplements, and your stomach is properly making stomach acid so you can get these nutrients from food again. You also walk away knowing that all magic comes with a price, and that ibuprofen shouldn’t be taken preventatively if you want your gut lining to remain intact.

Which outcome would you rather have? Tell me in the comments!


Barbara Iachini is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner. She educates, inspires, and empowers people to use the principles of Functional Medicine to reclaim wellness and live beyond their diagnoses.

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