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Functional Nutrition

greens A Scientific Nutrition Plan

There are approximately 7.8 billion humans on this planet. Each of us is unique with our own lifestyle, health history and genetic makeup. With that in mind, your nutrition plan should be customized to your specific requirements. This is the primary idea behind functional medicine: we consider every aspect of one's health history, lifestyle, current health, current and past diet, genetics, and results of blood tests. If you're one of my patients or you read my articles, you have likely heard me talk a lot about functional medicine.

To review, functional medicine is an evidence-based approach to identifying the root cause of disease. Every symptom and differential diagnosis can be one of many issues contributing to an individual's illness. We can identify the onset of disease before it's too late.

So, what's different about this compared to the blood testing you do with your doctor? We look at what's called the functional range. We use a smaller degree of deviation within the "normal" range, which identifies the risk of disease before it develops. The pathological range (what medical doctors look at) is used to diagnose disease, which, of course, is critical. Functional medicine is meant to prevent you from reaching too high or too low of levels within the pathological range.

There are many reasons why your primary care physician (PCP) will not advise you regarding these functional ranges. A PCP must
have a diagnosis code to treat the patient. Most PCPs bill insurance and the insurance company will not pay for certain codes. The code has to match the testing they do. Let's say you go in for back pain. The insurance company would say it's unnecessary to test for a hormone panel for back pain. In the scope of practice for a PCP, they diagnose conditions determined by the CDC. Just stress without a major anxiety disorder would not be a diagnosable disease. Mild blood sugar imbalances without being diabetic would not be a diagnosable disease. The Western medical system is not set up for preventive medicine very well. It's not a failure of your PCP, but a failure of the system and it's part of the reason why our nation's overall health is so poor.

Over 50 percent of all American adults have at least one chronic health condition, 25 percent have two or more chronic conditions, and 86 percent of all health care costs come from chronic disease. All of these numbers are increasing year after year. The Institute of Functional Medicine defines functional nutrition as an approach that "emphasizes the importance of high-quality foods and phytonutrient diversity to address clinical imbalances and move people to the highest expression of health." For healthy people, it's that simple: eat a high-quality diet with veggies, fruits, protein and healthy fats. Avoid drugs, alcohol, candy, smoking, toxins, and you should remain healthy. However, the stats just showed us that only half of us are free from chronic disease. At my clinic, we have each patient fill out a subjective assessment questionnaire seeking in-depth symptoms that they have. Once we establish primary complaints, we then look at blood tests. This gives us objective markers.

Digestive issues are among the most common complaints. Issues arise from many variables that all contribute to one common digestive issue. Let's say patient A indicated higher liver enzymes, lower kidney function, and low B vitamins. This falls into the category of a low functioning detox system. The solution is a specific diet rich in leafy greens, berries, vitamin B rich foods, organic eggs, and chicken or beef. We would also prescribe specific herbs and supplements that assist the liver with detoxing until the detox system grows strong enough to function with food alone. Additionally, we would apply medical acupuncture and focus heavily on the liver and kidneys. The best part is, we can actually see the results in future blood tests!
Now let's say patient B comes in with similar digestive complaints, but they displayed stomach acid and microbiome problems. Typically, their blood tests will show low protein, low globulin, low blood urea nitrogen (BUN), and high neutrophils. For this patient, we would work on increasing their stomach acid using apple cider vinegar and digestive enzymes. Depending upon their presentation, we would recommend a diet that increases prebiotics and prescribe a probiotic supplement that will not exacerbate possible SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Another major success of functional nutrition is found with athletes. Nobody self-prescribes more than athletes, and nobody takes the wrong supplements more often. Athletes buy the most supplements and they are constantly inundated with potentially dangerous fads. We suggest stopping any pre-workout or protein shakes containing sucralose. From there, we apply the same approach of customized nutrition, but we also account for the type of performance desired. Nutrition for endurance athletes is very different from nutrition for a power athlete. We also clarify the confusion and controversy they encounter. For example, when should you have your protein shake? There's a lot of debate over this question. Functional medicine has given a scientific answer.

The best part about functional nutrition is that it takes the subjective bias out and we customize a diet and lifestyle for each person's unique needs. Furthermore, we use our
findings and apply them to medical acupuncture for truly customized and targeted treatments. Patients reach their goals faster with less need for medication, supplements or dangerous fad diets. This is genuinely a one-of-a-kind system that has great results.
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Thursday, 18 July 2024