The Art of Functional Medicine

person holding maple leaf near coffee cup

By Dr. Ben Galyardt

“He who has health, has hope; and he who has hope has everything.”

What is your definition of health? Is it just the absence of disease in your body like many in the entrenched insurance-based model think? Or is it something more?

In the Functional Medicine model, health means we have vitality and excitement for life because we feel vibrant; physically, mentally and spiritually. This state of mind and definition of health is where I’ve chosen to reside during my career. Influenced from the start, when my Mother overcame Multiple Sclerosis by stopping all medications and letting her body heal from the inside out … 20 plus years ago. But sadly, there are many people claiming to practice in the Functional Medicine Model, that are not truly looking for the underlying reasons for patient’s symptoms. They are still in a “this-for-that” model – if someone has this symptom, use that thing to fix it – the traditional insurance based sick-care treatment.

Instead of using a synthetic medicine to deal with a symptom, they will use a “natural” herb or vitamin … I call it VRT or Vitamin Replacement Therapy. It’s a mindset philosophy that many practitioners have a hard time coming to terms with because of their previous trainings that were based on symptom care. In order to truly help patients heal, practitioners must dedicate themselves to study and learn how to understand the interconnectedness of the body. Many find it much easier to give magnesium if a patient is constipated or St. John’s Wart if they are depressed, rather than to dig deep and maybe realize that a head injury 15-years ago could have triggered a cascade of health issues. Even to the extent of the small intestine lining stimulating the immune system, that now over reacts to mold and foods and continually is revving up the attack on its own body tissues – autoimmunity. Now that person cannot have a bowel movement on their own accord because of poor vagal nerve tone and damage to the intestinal lining which leads directly to depression … interconnectedness. Is magnesium and St. John’s Wart going to fix this person? Or do we have to go through the whole process of figuring out that their blood sugar gets too high and too low and each time that happens it stimulates more destruction of the bodies tissues. Or maybe rebuilding the adrenal glands that have been whipped into submission from dealing with blood sugar issues, the stresses of raising children, job pressures and spouse and relationship challenges. Or correctly identifying what part of the microbiome (the universe of organisms in our gut) is out of balance and working to remove toxic pathogens. Or perhaps replace enzymatic activity, repair the damaged tissue, and re-inoculate the gut flora with the most appropriate types of probiotics.

In a true Functional Medicine practice, we choose to find the interconnectedness and treat the cause of the patient’s illness, not just mask or relieve the symptoms. Sometimes a natural supplement will be used to have a short term effect on a patient’s symptoms for reasons of comfort and to feeling better as quickly as possible. But if the cause of the problems that are taking place are not addressed, in most cases the symptoms will return upon stopping the protocol.

There is an art and science to health care. Science is advancing every day into where disease is coming from, and the true art is figuring out how to reverse the path and give people their health back.

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