What is Functional Medicine?
This is a science based field of health care that deals with the underlying causes of chronic illnesses.
How is Functional Medicine different than other modalities?
What distinguishes Functional Medicine from other systems is an understanding of how different systems in the body relate to each other. Within alternative medicine, there are those who specialize in the immune system, hormones, detoxification or nutrition. Functional Medicine doctors understand the interrelationships between all those systems.
For example, a hormone specialist will just try to give hormones to replace low levels. A functional medicine doctor will ask why a hormone is low to begin with. For example, progesterone is frequently low in post-menopausal women. A functional medicine doctor might investigate if weak adrenal glands are the cause and if so, identify the cause of weak adrenal glands which could be due to stress or chronic inflammation. Correct the inflammation or stress then the adrenals then the progesterone levels will correct.
Moreover, functional medicine doctors do not treat diseases. They attempt to understand why the disease exist and correct the causes at a deeper layer.
What kind of testing do Functional Medicine doctors use?
They can analyze blood, urine, stool, saliva, and hair to see the body is functioning. Some of the tests that Dr. Ou runs include:
Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis - This is a more in depth analysis of the blood work that conventional physicians typically run. In Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis, a stricter standard of what is ideal in blood work is used instead of what the laboratory calls normal. In other words, abnormalities in digestion, nutrition, and hormones can be suggested in blood work which most labs and M.D.'s call "normal." Additional tests that most M.D.'s don't run including a more comprehensive look at vitamin D, B vitamins, and thyroid function can be done.
Stool analysis by Metametrix - 60-70% of the immune cells in the body are located in the gut so GI health is critical to overall health. Testing is used to identify imbalances of bacteria, yeast, or parasites in the gut. . This can frequently identify the cause of reflux, gas, bloating, IBS, constipation, and diarrhea. These imbalances are also associated with chronic fatigue and can contribute to chronic inflammation, malnutrition, and autoimmune diseases. These imbalances can also interfere with normal detoxification. Stool tests can also help identify if the GI tract is producing enough acid and enzymes needed for proper digestion.
Saliva Analysis by Diagnostechs of saliva can be done to measure hormone levels such as cortisol, DHEA, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Many functional medicine doctors believe saliva tests are often more accurate than blood tests because they measure the amount of active, bioavailable hormones whereas blood tests tend to measure inactive hormones. Abnormal cortisol levels often explain fatigue, insomnia, and weak immunity.
Organic acid testing by Metametrix- this is urine test that can help tell how well cells are burning fuel, the status of various nutrients and detoxification. The information is often useful in identifying causes of fatigue
Heavy metal testing by Doctors' Data - According to the CDC, nearly all Americans have been exposed to heavy metals such as lead and mercury. In some people, high levels of these metals cause fatigue, muscle pain, brain fog, and immunodeficiency.
Food allergy testing by U.S. BioTek - In many people, sensitivities to food can lead to digestive problems, fatigue, pain, and skin disorders. Identifying and avoiding those foods can quickly bring about changes in health.
Genetic testing by Genova Diagnostics - this can be used to determine if someone has genetic mutations that indicate a greater need for certain nutrients than the average person or explain why someone has sensitivities to medications.
Omega 3 fatty acid testing by OmegaQuant- over 90% of Americans are deficient in omega 3 fatty acids and testing can help determine the ideal dose for an individual.
Antibody testing by Igenex
Blood testing by Quest Diagnostics and Labcorp including those confirming biotoxin illnesses and chronic inflammatory response syndrome as described by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker.
What kind of treatments do Functional Medicine doctors use?
Functional Medicine doctors believe the first place to start is a healthy lifestyle. This proper nutrition, sleep, and stress management.
The next step is to use nutrients and botanicals. Dr.Ou uses professional grade nutritional supplements that are sold only to health care professionals because they are better quality than those sold to consumers and he wants to make them available to his patients. However, patients are under no obligation to purchase any products.
If necessary, pharmaceuticals can be used as well.
Where can I learn more?
Watch this introductory video by Mark Hyman, M.D.
The UltraMind Solution: The Simple Way to Defeat Depression, Overcome Anxiety, and Sharpen Your Mind by Mark Hyman M.D. is probably the best introduction to Functional Medicine
Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal: A Revolutionary Breakthrough In Understanding Hashimoto's Disease and Hypothyroidism by Datis Kharrazian is probably the best book on thyroid disorders.
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