THE BENEFITS OF FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE

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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:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression and anxiety
  • General malaise
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Insulin resistance
  • Heart disease
  • Neurological conditions
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Skin problems
  • Urticaria
  • PMS
  • 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
  • Genetics

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!

Best,

Dave Hompes


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What is functional medicine?

Functional medicine practitioners view the body as one main system made from other, smaller interconnected systems. We believe that symptoms result from dis-ease or dis-order in these systems. Because each system is connected to the other, a problem in one area of the body may be triggered by something elsewhere in the body. For example, an H. pylori infection in the stomach, or an allergic response to a food in the intestine, may trigger a migraine headache. Finding relevant imbalances in your body and helping you correct them may resolve symptoms and even some chronic diseases. We also believe that symptoms can arise from mechanical problems in your body or mental and emotional stress. As such we believe in having a team of clinicians in a referral network, each with a variety of skills, to ensure you achieve the optimal outcome. These clinicians include osteopaths, dentists, and stress counselors.

Can you diagnose diseases?

No, only a physician can diagnose a disease or disorder. Our job is to uncover imbalances in your physiology and metabolism that may be leading to, or have led to, the symptoms that are bothering you. We may spot imbalances in your functional test results that warrant referral to a doctor. For example, if your iron level is high or low in a blood or hair test, we can refer you for additional anaemia or haemochromatosis testing with your doctor.

Do you treat symptoms and disease?

No, we strictly work on uncovering physiologic and metabolic imbalances. We then work with you to bring your metabolism back into balance. During this process, our goal is to help you resolve the symptoms you may be experiencing by addressing the underlying imbalances causing them. We work closely with your physician or specialist to make sure you get the best possible care from both conventional and alternative medicine.

What is nutrigenomics?

Nutrigenomics is the study of how nutrition and nutrients influence the expression of your genes. We each have a unique genetic makeup that constantly interacts with our environment. It’s the interaction of our genes with the environment that creates health or dis-ease, wellness or illness, function or dysfunction. By assessing your genome and looking at specific genes associated with symptoms and illness, we can design a laser-focused protocol that gives your body the nutrients it needs. In so doing, we may help reduce your risk of developing health challenges in the future.

What is a functional blood chemistry analysis?

A functional blood chemistry analysis is a much more detailed way to assess standard blood testing done in the medical system. Typically a doctor will run a complete blood count (CBC) and blood chemistry / metabolic panel as a check-up. Unfortunately, most people have ‘normal’ results even though they feel really under the weather. There are many problems with the way these tests are interpreted in the medical setting, and it’s our goal to help you overcome these challenges. By narrowing the reference ranges we’re able to spot subtle changes in your blood count and chemistry that provide key information as to why you’re not feeling well.

What genetic testing can you do?

Testing your genetic susceptibility is easy. Some labs run separate/individual tests for genes we know are associated with illness, such as ApoE, HFE and MTHFR. These are ok, but your genes all work together and looking at them in isolation only gives a small part of the picture. You can have a very broad array of genes tested through 23andme, which is a US company with European distributors that will provide you with your genome. It is not essential that you do this and may not be necessary at all. Most of our clients are very happy to do it because they have an urge to see their genes. It is important that you know results may be checked by insurance companies and in the future, you may be denied insurance on the basis of your results. 23andme has information on their site regarding this issue:

https://customercare.23andme.com/hc/en-us/articles/202907860-Could-my-genetic-data-make-it-hard-for-me-to-get-insurance-coverage-

We are currently exploring other options for comprehensive genetic testing to remove any discomfort about the insurance issue.

It is very important to understand that we do not ‘treat’ gene mutations. We simply support mutations using detoxification and anti-inflammatory strategies, along with specific nutritional interventions to bypass your mutations and restore metabolic efficiency. This work is incredibly effective.

What nutritional testing do you do?

A functional blood chemistry analysis can provide excellent information regarding your nutritional status, especially in terms of nutrients such as zinc, iron, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and vitamins B6, B9 (folate) and B12. We also use kryptopyrrole, amino acid and organic acids testing (simple home urine tests), hair tests and zinc/copper ratio tests to identify key nutritional imbalances. Only the zinc/copper ratio test requires a blood draw – the rest can be done at home.

What digestive health testing can you do?

Your digestive system is often the key to optimizing your wellness you’re your gut is imbalanced, for many reasons it’s really hard to improve your metabolism and overcome your symptoms / optimize performance. Parasites, H. pylori, Candida, SIBO, dysbiosis, low stomach acid, poor liver, gallbladder and pancreas function, inflammation, gluten sensitivity and an imbalanced immune system can all jeopardize your progress.  We use advanced stool testing, urine testing and breath tests to assess these features of your digestive system. All these tests can be done at home. Your doctor can also perform more invasive diagnostic testing such as endoscopies, colonoscopies, and scans, which may be needed from time-to-time.

What heavy metal tests can you run?

It is not easy to accurately check for a heavy metal burden. Initial screening via accurate symptom, health history, family history, diet, and lifestyle provides clues about heavy metal exposure and possibly toxicity. Urine tests, hair tests and blood tests can be used to assess approximate heavy metal burden. We prefer to use testing developed by Dr. Christopher Shade at Quicksilver Labs, which helps identify blood mercury levels, as well as hair and urine levels. These tests tell us which form of mercury is in your body and whether you are able to excrete it effectively. We can then tie your results into your nutritional status and genetics to determine whether heavy metals are likely causing problems. We also use urinary porphyrins testing to check for the possible toxic effects of heavy metals. We do not use DMSA challenge testing as this is potentially problematic and provides misleading results. Furthermore, DMSA challenge testing may stress the kidney and liver, leading to symptom exacerbation.

What hormone tests can you do?

We’re able to run tests to check adrenal hormones, thyroid function and metabolism and reproductive hormone levels. Adrenal and reproductive hormones can be assessed in saliva and/or urine. Saliva enables you to assess your daily cortisol rhythm and a month long test helps map out oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone (and other hormones) across your menstrual cycle. Thyroid hormones can be checked using a finger prick blood test at home. If we feel a full blood hormone test is necessary we will refer you to the appropriate lab.

blood-100x100Are there any other tests?

Sometimes we recommend very specific tests to check for blocks in certain metabolic pathways. These include histamine, sulphation and methylation tests. You may or may not require a blood draw, depending on the test that is required.

Do I need all these tests?

Most certainly not – most people only need 3-4 tests, and some don’t need any testing whatsoever. It all depends on your individual symptoms, history, and goals. That’s why we run such a detailed case review and initial consultation process – to make sure we guide you along the most efficient and cost-effective path.

For more information and to book a consultation, contact our Functional Medicine Practitioner – Dave Hompes.