Are you hearing that term ”Functional medicine” thrown around online and from your friends and family members?
Are you asking yourself: ”What is Functional Medicine anyway?” and “How does it differ from traditional medicine?”
I became very interested in this discipline when my health took a turn and was suffering from daily migraines and constant back and shoulder pain, a few years ago. I went to see a physician and nutritionist who specialized in functional medicine, and they helped me discover that I was “sensitive” to gluten (found in wheat products), dairy and peanuts.
Simply put, Functional Medicine doctors look at the whole person, instead of just the organ system or disease processes that they specialize in. They spend time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking for factors that influence long-term health and chronic diseases. Most physicians aren’t adequately trained to identify the underlying causes of complex chronic diseases, whereas a functional medicine doctor integrates traditional western medicine with alternative medicine, focusing on prevention through nutrition, diet, and exercise, they use very specific lab testing to diagnose underlying chemical imbalances and toxicities, and use a combination of drugs, herbs, supplements, detox programs and stress-management techniques, in order to support the health and vitality of each patient.
Although I was resistant at first ( and skeptical) I followed the instructions of my functional doctor, and within a few weeks, I went from feeling like I was old and arthritic, to feeling like a young spring chicken again! It was a true Aha transformation!
Since that time, I have been revealing some of these principles to my clients and patients and providing a resource that few traditional pediatricians talk about in their practices.
Let’s face it, with our food being genetically engineered, and processed to the max, how are our bodies supposed to digest and absorb these ” alien” foods?
What is a parent to do to ensure a healthier lifestyle and environment for their children?
In brief, think of the 4 pillars of health as follows:
- Hydration: Water is what is best! Drink 1/2 your weight in ounces per day. So a child who weighs 50 lbs ought to drink 25 ounces a day. Avoid sodas and other sweet drinks like juice and tea, due to the toxic effect of sugar on the body, and extra empty calories. Also, water is a great detoxifier for the body!
- Sleep: Depending on the age of the children, they could need 8-10 hours, as their brains are going through huge rewiring healing and growth during the sleep period. Eliminate extra stimulation like video games, phones, radios, tv’s, and keep the room cool, dark and quiet, for the best conditions. The bedroom should be a true sanctuary for rest and regeneration.
- Diet/Nutrition: Focus on eating 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. That will replace a lot of the junk food that we naturally gravitate towards. Add healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, and coconut oil, and if needed, look at dairy substitute like coconut milk or almond milk (unless allergic to nuts), as well as substitutes for gluten-containing foods ( look for labels that indicate Gluten-Free). In general, I recommend a daily multivitamin and omega-3 supplement for all my patients but can make specific supplement recommendations on a case by case need.
- Exercise: The surgeon general recommends an hour a day for optimal fitness. But even 30 min a day will do a great good. Start where you can and increase the time gradually. You want the activity to make you sweat, as the skin releases a lot of toxins that way, and takes the pressure off the kidneys and liver. Vary the activities to avoid boredom, to round out the body’s conditioning, and to avoid overuse injuries.
There is so much to be said also about stress management, but that may be a topic for another post. I truly enjoy customizing the stress management tools for my young patients. If your child is dealing with situations or conditions that are causing increased stress, please see me the next time you visit the office, so I can help.