Nurturing a holistic, mind-body-spirit approach: Why functional medicine is gaining traction

It offers time-tested, traditional, non-invasive, global ways of achieving and sustaining emotional and physical well-being

By Alisha Moopen

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Published: Thu 26 Jan 2023, 9:34 PM

After the pandemic, if there is something on top of everyone’s mind, it is wholesome wellness. If nothing, the last couple of years have taught us the importance of physical, emotional and mental well-being — all covered under the umbrella of functional medicine.

The body is a complex system of multiple systems working together. It is highly likely that one health problem doesn’t stem from one issue or affect one system alone. Functional medicine, also known as complementary, holistic or integrative medicine, views health from this perspective that wellness must be seen as a whole and not in isolation. ‘Health is not just the absence of disease’, perfectly describes functional medicine’s biology–based approach that focuses on identifying and addressing the root cause of disease. It offers time-tested, traditional, non-invasive, global ways of achieving and sustaining emotional and physical well-being by nurturing a holistic, mind-body-spirit approach.

Each symptom or differential diagnosis may be one of many contributing to an individual’s illness. As obvious as that sounds, it is unfortunate that most medical inquiries stop at one or two underlying reasons at the most. For example, until recently, respiratory issues were seen as just lung issues but in the recent past, it’s become evident that it has to do as much with gut health as with lung health. Another example could be that depression can be caused by many different factors, including inflammation. Likewise, a cause such as inflammation may lead to a number of different diagnoses, including depression. The precise manifestation of each cause depends on the individual’s genes, environment, and lifestyle, and only treatments that address the right cause will have lasting benefit beyond symptom suppression.

It is paradoxical that most healthcare providers have been more focused on sick-care, treating those who are ill. There is a need to provide integrated healthcare with more focus on preventive care that lives upto the age-old saying that prevention is better than cure. But it is important that people look at their health holistically and proactively.

Functional medicine uses a holistic approach to treat chronic disease, with a focus on nutrition. The right nutrition, combined with lifestyle and behavioural interventions can help everyone take charge of their health and lead a healthier life — from inside-out. Integrated medicine providers spend time listening to you and gathering your medical history to use this information to identify the root cause(s) of the illness, including triggers such as poor nutrition, stress, toxins, allergens, genetics and your microbiome (the bacteria living in and on your body). Once the triggers are identified, a healthy living plan is customised just for you and will address many aspects of your life, from physical needs, including nutrition, exercise and sleep, to mental and emotional stressors related to social, work and community life.

‘Patient care is everything’ is the approach taken by integrated medicine. When treating chronic disease, functional practitioners acknowledge a patient’s biochemical individuality and involve patients in their healthcare plan. It’s the patient’s chronic illness, so it makes sense that they should be equal partners in planning their wellness, right? This approach towards treatment focuses on the long-term health of the whole person.

As one of the most trusted proponents of integrated medicine worldwide, Dr Frank Lipman, says, “I believe that we all have the ability to live a healthy and vital life. As a leader in functional medicine, I practise what I call good medicine, an appropriate blend of cutting-edge, modern medicine with age-old healing techniques from the East. This integrative approach takes into account your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social well-being.”

Combining the best of conventional medicine and alternative therapies by identifying root causes, functional medicine is a modern and preventative approach to treatment.

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