Prevention is Better Than the Cure: How Functional Medicine Can Change Your Life

Integrative approaches to health are becoming more and more common. In the city of Tyler, the
Adventum Mindfulness Triathlon is a mind-body wellness approach that has been gaining some traction. It involves a two-mile run or walk, doing yoga for 45 minutes, and ends with 20 minutes of meditation. The triathlon also offers sessions with counselors, chiropractors, and other specialists. Meanwhile, in Amarillo, the ReCODE Program which is based on preventing and reducing inflammation, optimizing nutritional intake, and the systemic elimination of toxins in the body has been the first program to actually improve the mental state of dementia patients. These integrative approaches to treating both mental and physical ailments are reminding patients and doctors that the old adage still holds: prevention is better than the cure — the core idea behind the practice of functional medicine.

Functional medicine (FM) is a scientific approach to holistic medicine. In a nutshell, its aim is to keep you not just alive, but healthy, happy, and well. The main difference between FM and conventional medicine is that the former is focused on prevention, while the latter is about treatment. For instance, A post by Parsley Health on ‘5 Reasons Why Functional Medicine is the Only Kind of Health Care You Want’ explains that while the conventional triage approach is the best way to prevent death or further trauma when treatment is needed, it has nothing to do with your health and quality of life outside the emergency room or clinic. In contrast, FM is focused on what can be done now to mitigate or prevent trauma and disease later.

This doesn’t mean that FM is opposed to conventional and other forms of medical treatment. Far from it — treatment begins with anything and everything that can significantly improve your health, quality of life, and resistance to chronic diseases and conditions. This approach begins with knowing your medical history. Questionnaires and interviews allow FM specialists to find out every bit of information that can be used to improve their patients’ overall health and wellness. This assessment of your medical history determines the program that you need to follow.

FM programs are mostly personalized lifestyle changes geared towards long-term wellness. The biggest factor that dictates our physical and mental health is nutrition, which is where these programs begin. This is hinged on the fact that we are what we eat — scientifically speaking, whatever we consume inevitably ends up being used by our bodies to repair and maintain daily and special functions. This is why FM specialist Dr. Robin Berzin doesn’t recommend any specific diet for health purposes, but instead suggests following personalized nutritional plans to meet every person’s unique needs. For most patients, this means eating a greater variety of plants while also decreasing their intake of highly processed food. The actual recipes or meal plans will be determined by the current state of your health as well as your goals.

Also, by optimizing daily food intake, you can either avoid having to take pharmaceutical medication that might have long-term adverse effects, or at least supplement their positive effects so you’ll need less potentially harmful medication. For instance, for sufferers of gout or chronic joint inflammation, sticking to an optimized diet means not having to take too much non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which are known to wreak havoc on the liver. Through nutritional programs, FM specialists can help you decrease or completely avoid the long-term consequences of certain pharmaceutical treatments.

Regular exercise factors into FM programs as well. There’s a ton of research that shows how regular physical activity improves health. Our article on ‘Defeating Obesity with These Isometric Exercises’ shows how even the simplest, safest exercises can help mitigate and prevent chronic disease. Meanwhile, strenuous exercise has long been shown to help people deal with insomnia.

As for mental health concerns, FM specialists also either provide consultations or refer patients to mental health practitioners who can provide talk therapy and, if necessary, prescription medication. FM recognizes how the mind influences the body’s ability to heal and stay healthy, which further illustrates the value of taking an integrative and inter-disciplinary approach to health and wellness.

By combining these different approaches to human health, FM seeks to address the root causes of illness. The mind controls the body; the body affects the mind — what we do and consume with both determines the state of our health.