Are you low on energy? Do you feel anxious or irritable? Or is your digestive system a constant source of discomfort and worry?
Do you have aches and pains that don’t seem to go away, skin problems or difficulty sleeping?
Is your sex drive lower than it used to be, or are you having a hard time with your menstrual cycle?
If so, functional medicine can almost certainly help.
My name is Dave Hompes, and back in 2007, I felt truly awful. I was a fit and supposedly healthy personal trainer on the outside, but a wreck on the inside.
On almost a daily basis I struggled with nausea, heartburn, acid reflux, loose stools, dandruff and athlete’s foot.
I wasn’t sleeping well and needed 2-3 cups of coffee to feel human in the morning. On top of that, my moods swung from anxious to depressed to irritable on a regular basis.
Worst of all, my sex drive was on the floor, affecting my intimate relationship at the time.
As well as feeling generally awful, I was worried that my symptoms would ruin my relationship and prevent me from growing my business and finances.
Whilst bringing great results for my clients, plain old good nutrition and exercise weren’t even putting a dent in my symptoms.
Eventually, I decided enough was enough. I contacted a functional medicine doctor in the US who recommended I ran some home lab tests.
A stool test revealed I had a stomach infection called H. pylori, as well as, intestinal parasite and mold overgrowth.
A salivary hormone test showed I had low testosterone, and my other hormones were low in the morning when they should have been high, and high at night when they should have been low.
I then found that I was low in several key nutrients, including vitamins B6 and B12, carnitine, potassium, and magnesium.
The test results explained everything.
To cut a long story short, I used herbs to rebalance the bugs in my gut, and a specific hormone support protocol to improve my hormone balance, whilst topping up my nutrient levels.
Within 90-days, 90% of my symptoms had melted away.
I was so impressed with the results that I decided I had to learn how to deliver functional medicine to benefit my clients and since then, we’ve worked with more than 2,500 clients in 23 countries.
What exactly is Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine is an emerging discipline in which the principles of conventional western medicine are combined with those of natural or alternative medicine to deliver the best possible health rejuvenation outcome.
Functional medicine is based on six key principles:
- First do no harm
- The healing power of nature
- Identify and treat the cause of the problem
- Heal the whole person, don’t treat the symptom
- The physician or practitioners as a teacher, not a preacher
- An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
What conditions can we help?
In conventional medicine, your body is compartmentalised – there’s a doctor for every part, but there isn’t really a mechanic who knows how it all fits together:
- Dermatologists for your skin
- Cardiologists for the heart
- Gastroenterologists for your digestive system
- Neurologists for the brain and nervous system
- Gynaecologist for your female reproductive system
- Endocrinologist for your hormones
- Urologist for your kidneys, bladder, and urinary tract
In functional medicine, we view your body as an interconnected whole and that in order to correct a symptom in one part of your body, we may need to focus on balancing a seemingly unrelated part, such fixing your digestion to resolve a skin problem.
To keep it simple, we’re able to assist with improving symptoms in these broad categories, which I call The Seven Areas of Health:
- Digestive problems – heartburn, reflux, IBS, bloating, constipation
- Sex and reproductive challenges – PMS, menopause, low sex drive, etc.
- Energy problems – general low energy, hyperactivity, energy slumps
- Aches and pains in your body – arthritic conditions, myalgia, headaches
- Imbalanced moods – feeling low, anxious, irritable, hopeless
- Sleep problems – getting to sleep, staying asleep, feeling fresh in the morning
- Symptoms involving your skin, hair and nails – rashes, acne, pimples, dry/oily hair, hair loss, brittle fingernails
We dig deep to find the root cause
Functional medicine practitioners consider themselves to be “health detectives”. We focus on identifying and addressing the underlying cause of a particular symptom or condition.
The cause may due to problems with your structure and mechanics, in which case an osteopath or similar can really help.
Or, the cause may be due to stress or trauma, in which case a psychotherapist or hypnotherapist could assist.
Finally, the cause could be biochemical, which is where nutrition and functional medicine come in handy.
In the context of functional medicine, symptoms, and health challenges, tend to be a combination of the following:
- You have an unmet special need to be rid of something (you have too much bad stuff in your body):
- Damaging foods, parasites, bacterial or fungal overgrowth, toxins, radiation, stress
- You have an unmet special need for something (you don’t have enough good stuff in your body):
- Nutrients, hormones, friendly bacteria, movement, rest, rhythm, sunlight, love
Health rejuvenation can only happen if you find out what bad stuff you need to avoid or get rid of… and get rid of it, and what good stuff you need to put back…and put it back.
As such, we use a variety of tools in our detective investigations, including modern laboratory techniques (hair, blood, urine, stool and saliva testing), food diaries, simple home measurements, questionnaires and a medical history.
We then use nutritional therapy, herbal medicine, supplements, stress management techniques, exercise/movement, and detoxification to rejuvenate weakened body systems.
Deep healing and lasting health are only possible when the root cause is addressed. Many chronic illnesses may be prevented or even reversed by understanding core body systems, how they are affecting each other, and how their function can be restored.
Your body systems are intimately connected. This is why, for example, a problem in your stomach and intestine can contribute to any of the following:
- Depression and anxiety
- General malaise
- High blood pressure
- Insulin resistance
- Heart disease
- Neurological conditions
- Thyroid disorders
- Reactive arthritis
- Skin problems
- Low libido
- Increased morning sickness in pregnancy
But why and how could a digestive imbalance contribute to all these symptoms? Here are a few ideas:
- Low stomach acid and lack of digestive enzymes result in poor nutrient absorption, which can affect any part of your body
- Inflammation in your gut can spread around your body like a fire spreading around a house, leading to symptoms in different tissues and organs
- Stress in your gut caused by inflammation can activate stress hormones, which can influence every cell in your body.
Vitamin D and back pain
An excellent example of how functional medicine can add value to seemingly unrelated issues is the connection between vitamin D deficiency and back pain.
Writing about “idiopathic lower back pain”, which just means back pain with no known cause, Dr. Alex Vasquez states:
“The exemplary study by Al Faraj and Al Mutairi showed that among patients with ‘idiopathic chronic lower back pain’, 83% were vitamin D deficient and supplementation with 5,000-10,000iu/d cholecalciferol (vitamin D) for 3 months alleviated or cured the lower back pain in more than 95% of the patients.”
Who’d have thought a simple nutrient deficiency could contribute to back pain? Now imagine the possible effects of other nutrient deficiencies and how much better you might feel by finding and addressing them.
Considering you as a unique individual
Whatever symptoms or health challenges you have, the reasons you’re not feeling yourself are unique to you.
Yes, there are certain common threads, but you are a unique individual with a unique set of genes, life experiences and stressors.
Functional lab testing gives you the ability to check many areas of your metabolism, including:
- Blood chemistry (we conduct a functional blood chemistry analysis)
- Digestive function
- Liver and detoxification function
- Hormone balance (thyroid, adrenals, sex hormones)
- Nutrient status
- Toxins, including heavy metals like mercury, lead and arsenic
- Neurotransmitters and brain chemistry
We have found that people love to uncover the reasons they’re not feeling well, and no matter how long you’ve felt unwell, you can find the reason why.
Rest assured that by considering your nutrition and lifestyle and digging deep with functional lab testing, we can create an effective, customised series of protocols to help you feel yourself again.
I hope this short summary of functional medicine helps you understand how we might be able to assist and welcome any questions you might have!