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by Dr. Will Cole
The world is full of conflict – in politics, in religion, and even in healthcare. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to think or believe, especially when it comes to managing your own health, but I would like to make a case for why functional medicine is the kind of healthcare we all need today, to bring us together and help us move forward healthier and happier.
Functional medicine is a form of medicine that respects and utilizes all the research and technology we have access to today, but that also puts an emphasis, not on some model of symptoms and disease names uniformly applied to all, but on individual differences and unique manifestations of health and disease in each person. We believe you cannot possibly diagnose or treat someone if you assume they are the same as anyone else.
Functional medicine concerns itself with what improves lives and labs, what increases energy levels and improves mood, and what allows each individual patient to live and thrive optimally. Those of us who practice functional medicine do so because we believe that this is what health care should be all about. We are all in this life together, but each of us “does life” a little bit differently. To honor the individual, as well as the health and unity of our entire world population, here are five ways functional medicine is the best form of healthcare for a harmonious future.
1. We aren’t OK with the current trajectory of society’s health.
Whether you’re a staunch vegan, love eating a paleo diet, or eat whatever and whenever you want, you can’t look around and be OK with the decline of our collective health. It seems no matter what we do, our population is getting sicker. Here’s a rundown of the problems we are facing:
Horribly, someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds, and every 60 seconds, someone in the United States dies from a heart attack or stroke.
It’s hard to believe, but 50 percent of us are now prediabetic or have full-blown diabetes.
A full half of men and one in three women will get cancer at some point in their lifetimes. Also, autoimmune diseases are now the third leading cause of death and disease in the world, affecting over 50 million Americans and millions more struggling with autoimmune-inflammation spectrum problems.
Nearly 20 percent of adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. Depression is now the leading cause of disability worldwide. Anxiety disorders affect more than 40 million Americans and Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, a 2013 report found that since 1979, deaths due to brain disease have increased by 66 percent in men and a whopping 92 percent in women. Autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have skyrocketed over a short period of time. In 1970, an estimated one in 10,000 children were found to be autistic, in 1995 it was one in 500, and in 2001 it became one in 250. Today one in 68 children are diagnosed as autistic.
2. We see the holes in mainstream medicine.
The United States spends more on health care than the next 10 top-spending countries combined, and even though we spend trillions of dollars, we rank last among all industrialized nations when it comes to living long, healthy lives. Not good. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the United States is the worst out of 13 industrialized nations when it comes to years of life lost for adults, as well as, unbelievably, infant mortality rates.
3. We know that nobody is sick from a medication deficiency.
Can you believe that 81 percent of Americans take at least one medication a day? Just because something’s common, doesn’t mean it’s normal. Prescription drugs now kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined. According to JAMA, more than 100,000 people die each year from the proper use of prescription drugs, not from overdosing or taking the wrong drug. Yep, you heard that right – they die from the side effects of the medications they are taking correctly – side effects the pharmaceutical industry has decided are okay, as long as they are disclosed. Meanwhile, the drug industry is funding most of the scientific research we read today, which hardly makes those research results unbiased.
It’s no small matter that, according to the World Health Organization, the global pharmaceuticals market is worth $300 billion – a figure that is expected to rise to $400 billion dollars within the next three years. The WHO agrees that the current pharmaceutical system has “an inherent conflict of interest between the legitimate business goals of manufacturers and the social, medical and economic needs of providers and the public to select and use drugs in the most rational way.” Because of this conflict of interest, when it comes to chronic and autoimmune disease, mainstream medicine is trained to diagnose a disease and match it with a corresponding medication. In other words, conventional health care is, to put it simply, a medicinal matching game that leaves many frustrated when they don’t fit the “model” and the medicines they are taking don’t make them healthier.
That being said, know that functional medicine is not anti-medication. We recognize that many people are alive because of medications, surgeries, and other technological advancements modern medicine has brought us, especially in emergency care. However, we must ask the question: For any given person with any given health issue, what is the most effective option, that causes the fewest and least life-impairing side effects? For some, a medication may fit this criteria, but for many, there are better options, which functional medicine is willing to explore.
4. We realize DNA is not destiny.
Research like the Danish Twin Study has shown that over 90 percent of our longevity is determined by the choices we make – not by genetics. Sure, people can have a genetic predisposition for certain diseases (most of us have some), but whether or not those disease genes are ever triggered and expressed has more to do with lifestyle factors than the simple existence of the mutation.
The famous Okinawa study showed there is no reason why the majority of us can’t live at least 100 disease-free, healthy years. It’s the interaction between our genes and our environment that determines our health. The foods we eat or don’t eat, our stress levels, sleep, activity and exposure to toxins are constantly and dynamically instructing your genetic expression. This is a revolutionary message of health empowerment and responsibility, and functional medicine believe this should be the standard by which we all measure our health and our healthcare options.
5. We believe the best medicine is at the end of our forks.
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said thousands of years ago, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine thy food.” How far have we strayed, that the words of the founder of modern medicine are considered by some in the industry to actually be threatening to modern medicine?
With the strong influence that the pharmaceutical industry has on government policy, it’s no secret that using foods as medicine is not profitable, and therefore not a high priority for the profit machine that is conventional health care. You only need to eat hospital food once to know that in that world, food is not a priority. Believe it or not, under current laws, it is illegal to say foods can heal. That’s right! The words “treat,” “cure,” and “prevent” are in effect owned by the FDA and can only be used in the healthcare setting when talking about pharmaceutical drugs.
Functional medicine is growing, and for good reason.
Rather than blindly believing what any doctor tells them, the contemporary healthcare consumer is getting better informed and taking more control of their healthcare. Because of this, more and more people are seeking out functional medicine, because its principles ring true and make logical sense to anyone trying to be healthier or beat a chronic disease. Eventually, when enough consumers demand it, conventional medicine will catch on, and this is already happening. For example, the Cleveland Clinic is taking the initiative by starting a functional medicine center. Progress! I have a lot of hope for the future.
Functional medicine experts like myself are making it our mission to make sure functional medicine is accessible and affordable for everyone. And developments like webcam consultations are helping us make “healthy” not just possible, but viral. The take home message? We can’t depend on the drug companies or the government to make the best decisions for our health. The people whose health is impacted by a broken system can collectively rise up to take responsibility for the health that is the birthright of each and every one of us.
Share these words with your friends and family and let this be the manifesto for all of us that want to make the world a healthier place.
If you want to learn more about your own health case please check out our free health evaluation. We offer in person as well as phone and webcam consultations for people across the country and around the world.
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