Conditions We TreatDiseases & conditions treated by functional & integrative medicine
There are many diseases and conditions that can be treated by a Functional Medicine and Integrative Medicine practitioner. Below is a basic list to give you some of ideas of the conditions seen on a routine basis and how they are viewed within the systems biology based model of Functional Medicine. There is overlap and interconnection in all the condition categories.
This list is not exhaustive and the summaries are brief. It is intended to give the reader an overview of conditions treated by a Functional Medicine Physician.
This list, once short twenty years ago, is now a growing list of over eighty different diseases. Today 1 in 12 individuals in the US have some type of autoimmune disease. The immune system is closely linked with mental health, cardiovascular health, endocrine function as well as growth and repair in response to physical and environmental stressors. Autoimmune diseases are conditions in which a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks their own body, and it loses the ability to differentiate self from non-self. A Functional Medicine physician looks for the root cause of the disease and doesn’t simply treat the symptoms. A small listing of the potential factors in autoimmunity include dysbiosis, chronic infections, neuro endocrine disruptors, heavy metals, chemical mitochondrial toxicants, environmental toxicants, aerosolized petroleum micro particles, mineral and vitamin deficiencies, etc. … This approach has to be individualized due to the multiple causes for immune system dysregulation.
Endocrine & Hormonal Disorders
The central nervous system, through the control of the hypothalamus and pituitary, sends signals to the hormone producing organs of the body to help regulate metabolism and reproduction. These hormones interact back with the brain as well as the organ systems that are affected by the hormones themselves. Hormone production, transport, sensitivity and then detoxification can be evaluated to determine where in the chain of function that there is a missing or mismatched link. Usually hormone dysregulation can be address by balancing the system. This requires addressing issues in a systematic manner and not jumping straight to hormone therapy. As a last result, hormone therapy may be employed but this is not the first step in treatment.
Cardiovascular & Metabolic Diseases
One aspect of this arena has been subcategorized into the field of Lipidology. These conditions have metabolic dysfunction and endothelial (artery wall) inflammation as a major component. There are over 300 biomarkers to help us evaluate this category. Biomarkers are specific tests that measure a defined biological function (i.e.blood pressure, lipids, hsCRP, myeloperoxidase, Lp-PLA2, arterial pulse wave analysis, etc.). A thorough analysis helps to elucidate where in a person’s complex of metabolism, there is a dysfunction and then these are addressed step by step. This include intensive life style modification, detoxification, inflammation reduction, nutrient support and more.
Gastroentestinal Functional Disorders
Hippocrates once stated that death begins in the bowels and now we know why he came to this realization over 2000 years ago. 80% of an individual’s immune system is found in the GI tract and up to 90% of serotonin is produced as well. For these reasons GI issues area rarely found alone and often complicate other medical diseases. A thorough GI evaluation includes a thorough health history beginning at birth.
Advanced testing may be used to help clarify GI dysfunction:
- Digestive function testing
- Enzyme testing
- Permeability testing
- Bacterial DNA analysis
Due to the immense interactions of the GI tract, GI nervous system (ie- gastroenteric nervous system), food interactions/absorption/breakdown, GI immune system, most integrative evaluations include some sort of GI evaluation and treatment.
Autonomic Dysregulatory Disorders
This is a difficult category to characterize because the autonomic nervous system interacts with the entire body. Disease entities are not clear cut and often overlap with multiple other conditions. Mitochondrial disorders are closely related to Autonomic dysfunction. This group of conditions is one of the most difficult and requires the most diligence on the part of both the clinician and patient in discovering the underling root causes.
Unfortunately, once neuron cells are lost they cannott be recovered, but through neuroplasticity improved function can be achieved. At the time of this writing, there are three Alzheimer’s prevention clinics in the country, the first being started at Cornell. We use research from these institutes in combination with vascular biology and movement medicine to help slow and even prevent some of these neurodegenerative disorders. Nerve function is optimized through nutritional as well as nutraceutical support and all modalities from the Functional Medicine paradigm and Integrative literature and utilized. Proper nerve function is often disrupted by environmental toxicants and systemic toxins which must be addressed.
These conditions were once considered rare genetic disorders but we have discovered over the past decade that though the genetic diseases are rare, functional mitochondrial dysfunction is rampant. Similar to autonomic disorders, these cover a large interconnected matrix of conditions and to date there are not any specific non-genetic diseases that have been characterized.
Chronic Pain & Fatigue Syndromes
This heterogeneous group at first glance appears to be a small grouping of conditions but it interdigitates with multiple other disease states. Some chronic infections such as Chronic Lyme’s Disease are placed here due to their mix of symptoms and close association with Chronic Fatigue syndrome. The group of conditions overlaps with mitochondrial disorders, digestive disorders, immune system disorders and psychiatric illness.
New discoveries have shown a close symbiotic relationship between our body and the bacteria/virus/parasites in our environment. Dysregulation can result in recurrent herpes infections, shingles as well as Chronic Lyme’s Disease and others. The group is rapidly expanding and as of the writing of this, new discoveries have shown the DNA of H. pylori and Chlamydia pneumoniae in coronary plaques of the vascular system. Now chronic oral infections (periodontal disease and tooth infections) have been seen to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, premature labor and small for gestation births. As of 2015 bacteriophages (viruses that kill bacteria) have been shown to live in our GI tracts and affect our immune system modulation. This grouping can interact with all other systems of the body and at times will require highly personalized treatment protocols.
Functional Psychiatric & Mental Health
Over the last decade with the reclassification of mental health diseases by the DSM-V manual in addition to new discoveries in neuropsychiatric function we have learned that many mental diseases are more like disease syndromes that have a neuroinflammatory component. These range from Depression, Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, to Attention Deficit Disorder, Bipolar, Chronic Insomnia and more. These have a close association with conditions that affect brain health. There is an interconnected web between mental health and all the above disorders. A thorough mental health evaluation will include all the systems form the IFM Matrix as well as their interactions the individual in relationship to themselves and those around them.
Many times advanced immune regulatory testing is required in addition to other therapy modalities. These include PT, OT, Speech, Interactive Listening, PEMF, Tong Ren (a type of vibration therapy) and other modalities. Parental interaction is paramount in these cases. Dietary modifications may include the GAPS Diet, gluteomorphin/casomorphinn avoidance (i.e. dairy and wheat) and supplementation with neuroprotective supplements.