Frequently Asked Questions: Functional Health Assessments
- East Meets West
- Have you ever wondered if your bloodwork can give you information about your nutritional status?
- Has your memory declined lately? Do you experience brain-fog?
- Example of analyzing hypothyroidism from a functional perspective:
The practitioners at OHS have been studying and applying functional medicine as part of our holistic practice since 2008. We are happy to report that patient feedback has been extremely positive.
Wikipedia defines functional medicine as an alternative medicine that focuses on improving physiological function as a primary method of improving the health of patients with chronic disease. It is a science-based field that is grounded in the biochemistry of each individual’s physiology, and is patient-centered. It looks at health as a web-like interconnectedness between organ and endocrine systems which work synergistically together like a finely tuned orchestra, rather than individual systems functioning autonomously and without any effect on each other.
For example, functional medicine principles tell us that digestive problems can impact neurotransmitters, thereby influencing moods and feelings; thyroid imbalances affect digestion, potentially leading to poor absorption, high cholesterol, and gallstone formation; immunological factors can promote cardiovascular disease; and dietary imbalances can lead to hormonal problems.
When we carefully interpret a patient’s health history from this perspective, we can address health problems with Eastern methods as we have traditionally done, and also fine-tune imbalances by supporting physiology with nutrition and botanicals from a Western viewpoint. We have found that combining East and West has made our results more profound and longer lasting.Top
Our food consists of various components such as water, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, enzymes, minerals, electrolytes, sugars, and amino acids. These nutrients, once ingested, are converted into energy, blood, and myriad cellular building blocks, all of which are necessary to sustain a healthy body and mind.
It is common for people to eat improperly: one can eat too much or too little, eat under stress or in rushed situations, have digestive imbalances, or eat foods inappropriate for one’s body type. As a result, many people develop nutritional imbalances from an improper diet.
Prolonged nutritional imbalances can cause fatigue, general discomfort, or may lead to physiological imbalances that result in actual disease. Possible physiological imbalances include hormonal problems, toxicity, gut inflammation, adrenal imbalances, poor memory or concentration, depression, anxiety, mood swings, fatigue, weight problems, food cravings, chronic pain, and many others.
A comprehensive blood nutrition panel can identify nutritional and physiological imbalances. These imbalances can, in many cases, be remedied using natural dietary supplements and/or making dietary changes. The goal is to balance the system to help patients achieve optimal health, vitality and well-being.
However, many problems exist with conventional lab blood tests. The reference ranges to analyze blood work are much wider now compared to what they were twenty to thirty years ago. The labs’ normal ranges can vary from lab to lab, and even between different areas of the country. The overall population of this country has become progressively less healthy, which has caused the lab reference ranges to become broader. In addition, physicians can only run those tests that are deemed “medically necessary” by the insurance carriers, further limiting the utility of laboratory tests.
Many of our patients here at OHS have the goal of achieving optimal health. Hence, it behooves us to look beyond the current limits of conventional laboratory tests. We utilize more narrow, functional or nutritional ranges with which subtle but important factors can be detected and treated with botanicals, nutrients, or dietary changes. We will, of course, make appropriate referrals for medical intervention if appropriate.
Patients can choose to review the results during their regular acupuncture visit or during a separate 30 minute consultation. Cost of analysis & testing varies based on tests requested as well as the complexity of the findings and will be discussed with you before tests are ordered.Top
Do you experience insomnia, memory loss, poor concentration, anxiety, depression, mood swings, low libido or low stress-tolerance, fatigue, or constantly search for certain words while speaking?
The nervous system is affected by stress, blood sugar fluctuations, toxicity, allergies, digestive imbalances, and improper diet. This can, over time, lead to an imbalance of neurotransmitter function. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that act upon the nervous system. Some of the most important neurotransmitters include serotonin, which is involved in mood and appetite regulation; gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which inhibits neuronal activity to promote relaxation and sleep; and acetylcholine which, among other functions, is involved in muscle contractions.
The brain, which is the central command for all vital bodily functions, degenerates throughout one’s adult life. This is a progressive process that accelerates as we age. However, for some people, neurodegeneration occurs at a younger age than normal, which could be caused by physiological imbalances.
Neurons need stimulation, glucose (blood sugar) and oxygen to survive. For this reason, people with chronic low blood sugar and those with insulin resistance or type-2 diabetes are more prone to memory problems. By addressing any of these conditions both with foods and supplements, the brain can be nutritionally supported and neurodegeneration significantly slowed.
Sensory-based therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, and aroma therapy have been shown to enhance brain function. In addition, specific nutrients can help slow the brain’s aging process and therefore, optimize brain function and performance.Top
Symptoms of low thyroid hormones are quite varied and sometimes difficult to categorize. Hypothyroidism has far reaching effects on the entire body as every cell in the body has thyroid hormone receptors.
Symptoms of an under-functioning thyroid include: fatigue, weakness, weight gain, difficulty losing weight, coarse, dry hair and skin, hair loss, cold intolerance, catch colds and other viral/bacterial problems easily and has difficulty recovering, slow wound healing, muscle cramps and aches, constipation, depression, irritability, memory loss, needs excessive amount of sleep to function properly, abnormal menstrual cycles, infertility, and decreased libido.
The thyroid gland is the main gland handling all metabolic actions in the body. If the thyroid is not working properly, a patient may have a difficult time losing weight. However, the thyroid does so much more:
Decreased thyroid hormone levels can contribute to high cholesterol and triglycerides.
Low thyroid hormone can contribute to the formation of gall stones
There is an increased risk of mental retardation in children whose mothers had low thyroid function during pregnancy.
Decreased thyroid hormone levels leads to poor digestion, insufficient digestive enzymes, slowed peristalsis, and therefore causes constipation.
The thyroid and other hormones are intimately connected:
For example, thyroid hormone increases progesterone receptor sensitivity. A good example of this could manifest for a woman with monthly premenstrual symptoms who may actually have a thyroid issue as a causal factor.
Decreased thyroid hormone may affect neurotransmitters:
For example, low thyroid hormone can cause low dopamine levels, leading to loss of motivation and willpower.
The above points make clear that the thyroid gland is extremely important for almost all bodily functions. However, the thyroid is very sensitive and can be negatively impacted by a number of external chemical influences such as chlorine, fluoride, some heavy metals and other synthetic chemicals. Given that we are exposed to many of these chemicals on a daily basis, this is certainly one reason why there are so many thyroid issues today.
A comprehensive functional assessment of the thyroid involves 24 unique patterns. These thyroid patterns are often overlooked in conventional lab tests and analyses, however, we will refer you to your doctor if necessary. Thyroid problems may be further complicated by an auto-immune condition, called Hashimoto’s. Functional treatment addresses the immunological component of the disease, which in many cases, can arrest or dampen the auto-immune activity.
In summary, combining contemporary, Western functional medicine with traditional, Eastern medicine addresses the web-like interconnectedness of the body. The combination deepens our understanding of the human body, and enhances the treatment results far more than would be possible with each individual method alone.Top