What causes illness?
As a functional medicine practitioner, I need to find out as far as possible why or how the person who has consulted me has acquired the illness they’re presenting with.
It would be unusual for someone to come to me with a cold. A cold is an example of a self-limiting illness that’s caused either by a bacterium or a virus. This type of illness is usually going to get better on its own and within about the same time for everybody. You can find out incubation times and how long the illness will last, and those are pretty much the same for everybody.
What motivates someone to seek out the help of a practitioner who is trained in Functional Medicine is usually something that has not been addressed by conventional medicine.
Our hard-pressed GPs have very little in their tool box for treating most chronic disease.
The NHs gives these examples of chronic conditions, that is those conditions that require ongoing management over a period of years or decades.
Examples of Long Term Physical Health Conditions include:
• Cardiovascular (e.g. Hypertension, Angina)
• Chronic Respiratory (e.g. Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD))
• Chronic Neurological (e.g. Multiple Sclerosis)
• Chronic Pain (e.g. Arthritis)
• Other Long Term Conditions (e.g. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Cancer) etc.
And using the definition of chronic disease as ‘something that is continuing or occurring again and again for a long time’, we would exclude something like a broken leg as a chronic condition, but would include reoccurring lower back pain, or hormone-related migraine headaches, for example.
I would actually add to this list thyroid conditions, hormone related conditions, even including infertility. After all, how is infertility usually resolved by orthodox medicine? I would also add conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, increasingly being found to be related to diet.
And what about the cost both personal and private, of these long-term conditions?
In 2014, looking after people with chronic health conditions cost £70% of the NHS budget, and the costs rise every year.
Also in 2014, an article on the NHS choices website says that half of women and 43% of men were taking prescription drugs. Half of people aged 65 to 74 were taking at least three prescription medicines.
As a functional medicine practitioner, and naturopath, my view about these conditions that keep people in misery, is that they are all caused by things that influenced the individual during their early life, and that they can all be influenced by a functional medicine approach.
Some conditions that cause misery such as low back or neck pain are amenable to naturopathic bodywork.
Degenerative diseases like arthritis can be addressed by functional medicine strategies using diet, supplements and specific exercise. High blood pressure, many heart-related conditions, infertility, asthma, eczema, stomach and digestive problems, Crohn’s disease and other autoimmune diseases, and many more, can be helped by approaching the disorder in a Functional way.
One factor universally implicated in chronic conditions is inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s defensive response to something it can’t cope with. This response is necessary to deal with an emergency situation such as an illness or injury and is a powerful weapon of the immune system to deal with the emergency as part of the body’s wall of defence.
But if inflammation is not switched off after it’s needed, it becomes a slow-burning fire, continuing to produce pro-inflammatory immune cells that attack healthy areas of your body.
What are the symptoms of chronic inflammation?
Chronic inflammation generates a wide range of symptoms.
• Pain: generalized pain, in muscles and joints with associated intermittent swelling and stiffness. Usually dull and achy in nature.
• Fatigue: fatigue is constant, with associated insomnia or poor quality sleep.
• Depression and anxiety: inflammatory cells and molecules within the central nervous system can disrupt the metabolism of mood-related neurotransmitters such as serotonin. It’s thought that this imbalance can potentially lead to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.
• Gastrointestinal issues: abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea, gas and acid reflux.
Learn more in my next blog about how functional medicine can help to restore life and health.