Do you know what Functional Medicine Is?
The new wave of medicine
I’d be surprised if you haven’t heard of Functional Medicine. It’s quickly on the rise and becoming the preferred method for healthcare by more and more people. I have been practicing Functional Medicine for over 10 years now, and I am happy to say that all the attention it is finally getting is very well deserved. Finally people are starting to realize that treating the underlying problem, what is causing your symptoms, is better and more logical than just slapping a “band aid” on the problem. Functional medicine is the new wave of medicine, and it’s not just for internal issues but also for muscle and joint issues as well.
Time for change
Let me introduce you to the concept of functional medicine just in case you are not familiar with it. The concept is so simple it is hard to believe everyone does not think this way in healthcare. I bet if you ask a hundred people on the streets here in the Houston area, not one of them would know what you are talking about. How can that be? How is it that there is a changing paradigm in healthcare happening around you and you don’t know about it? It is not your fault, but rather ingrained models of healthcare that are ready for a change. You can imagine in a city with a medical center as well recognized as Houston, change might come slow.
What is Functional medicine?
Functional medicine is the idea of providing the body the constituents that it needs to allow it to function as God intended it to. When the necessary precursors are given to the body, the biological systems will work as they should. Such constituents might be as simple as antioxidants and minerals, but nonetheless they are what is required for normal physiologic function. The end result is that allowing the systems of the body to carry out their role provides a restoration of function. When function is restored, the symptoms that manifested are alleviated.
Medicine is usually just a band aid.
Functional medicine is a different mindset than traditional medicine. Patient symptoms and complaints drive the majority of healthcare. The burden on the healthcare system is not derived from acute injuries, but from chronic conditions. Chronic ailments are a manifestation of a change in function of the body. With this change come symptoms. Classic approaches to symptoms have revolved around masking the symptoms with medication or the use of surgery to remove the offending problem. These approaches to medicine, while necessary in some case, don’t often address the underlying issue.
Functional medicine gets to the root of the symptom. The underlying cause.
In contrast, functional medicine looks at the symptom in a much different manner. The symptom is the alarm. Something is wrong and action needs to be taken. When patients present with a symptom, as a practicing functional medicine doctor, I begin to ask why. Why does a person have joint pain? I may determine that it is due to dysfunctional muscles that need support. Why are the cholesterol levels going up? A possible explanation for my patient might be that their stress is on the rise causing an increased demand for cholesterol to support hormone production.
Functional medicine is the way healthcare should be.
Having decided to become a functional medicine doctor means that I have also decided to think out side of the box. It’s in my nature. I just have to know and determine why. Rather than being restricted and limited to the algorithms of traditional healthcare, I decided to brand myself as a doctor my patients can trust and rely on to get to the root of the problem, one that will take the time to look at the whole picture and listen carefully to what patients are telling me. I also spend a lot of time with each patient usually 45 minutes to an hour. It’s important to hear what patients are saying to me so that I can accurately test them, assess their needs them and design a comprehensive protocol that specifically fits their needs. One size does not fit all. So you see, the movement has already begun. Functional medicine, is being backed by more and more research, and will become increasingly established as part of the medical system, even in cities with medical traditions such as Houston.
If I go Paleo, How am I going to make a Sandwich?
It’s just a habit
“How can I eat a sandwich if I give up bread?” There is a very simple answer for that, you just don’t eat them. I hear this question a lot. No one ever said that we are not habitual creatures, and sandwiches are something we Americans have always had as long as we can remember. And the longer you have been used to doing something a certain way the harder it is to change the routine. Wanting to change does not come natural to us. Especially with food. We as people associate food with much more than just satisfying hunger. Therefore, when giving up certain foods we are also giving up rituals, and experiences associated with that food.
Giving up sandwiches is un-American!
In my Houston practice, I often see patients that are stifled by the thought of not being able to eat a sandwich any more. That might seem funny at first, but if you think about it, sandwiches are a part of American society. We have “hamburger joints” and hot dog stands. It is part of the American culture. When you go to the baseball game, the great American game, part of the ballpark experience is partaking of these foods. When you pick up the menu at most restaurants, there is a dedicated section to sandwiches.
But, sandwiches are so easy!
Part of the allure about sandwiches is their simplicity. Lay down 2 pieces of bread, add some condiments, toss on the meat and maybe a leaf of lettuce for your vegetable and you have a meal. How many lunch boxes or bags are packed with sandwiches every day for this very reason? Not to mention that they are quicker to make than preparing a true meal. And don’t forget how easy they are to eat at your desk while you continue to work through lunch. With these attributes, why would you every want to give up sandwiches?
Sandwiches require bread, which means that it is derived from grains, primarily wheat. Grains come with a fairly long list of concerns. The two most noteworthy are the negative effects on glucose and on the stimulation of the immune system. There are many different types of bread, but the one consistency among all of them is that they are higher in carbohydrates than fat or protein. This inherently makes them metabolically disturbing. Add to this that they are among the highest allergenic foods and seemingly becoming worse.
Alternatives to bread
But can you really give up bread and enjoy a quick meal that tastes good? Of course you can. Bread and sandwiches are only a mainstay in the Standard American Diet because we have been indoctrinated in this style of eating. You can just as easily enjoy your meat and side dishes without eating breads. If you are looking for something to hold your collection of ingredients together, many will use a lettuce wrap or even a cabbage leaf. These are both excellent options that keep you Paleo.
The real question is: is it worth it to change your habits? Take a look at this testimonial from one of my patients. When you see changes, making a change becomes much easier.
I have to be fair and let you know that there are other options for bread out there. The reason I am hesitant to mention them is because I don’t want you to focus on these breads. That’s not healthy for you, the idea behind the Paleo diet is to eat more vegetables, fruits, proteins, and healthy fats, not find a way around them. But! I trust that you are trying your best to change your health, make the right choices and not cheat the system. There are recipes out there that are made from almond and coconut flour. You can also purchase pre-made breads at health food stores and in some grocery stores in the gluten free section. Yes they are Paleo, but should only be used as part of your rotation diet and not be eaten every day.
What do I eat to feel full? (Feeling satiated on the Paleo Diet)
Dietary change does not have to be difficult
We all know that changing can be difficult. It’s most evident when we are talking about a dietary change. Changing your food. As more and more people are taking stock of their health, they are realizing that being more careful with food, with what they put in their bodies, is the most important thing. From as far as our minds can remember most of us are ingrained with making the right food choices. And those ideas can range from the FDA food pyramid to the latest fad diet. Even then changing your diet can be difficult. But if you have the correct knowledge about the foods you are eating, and you know how to use the foods you eat, you are better prepared when you have to make substitutions, or when life happens. It definitely makes a difference.
Are you full? or Stuffed?
I am often asked by my patients, “What do I eat to feel full?” This can be a little bit of a misleading question. When we feel full, are we saying that we are stuffed, or rather just satisfied? Making a habit of eating until you are stuffed is not a good idea. Instead, you want to eat until you are no longer hungry or until you feel comfortably satisfied. However, when eating to a comfortable point, some will find that they are hungry again in a relatively short time. When this happens, we have to make some subtle diet changes.
Paleo diet satisfies all aspects
Making the Paleo Diet work for you is not that difficult. You simply have to know when to consume certain foods. As it relates to feeling full, the Paleo Diet is inherently designed to help satisfy your desire for additional foods. This is based largely on the breakdown of “Paleo Food”. In contrast to the Standard American Diet, which is high in carbohydrates, the Paleo Diet tends to be more abundant in high fiber vegetables, protein and fat. If no other aspects of diet are compared except these macronutrients, it becomes evident of the differences. It is these differences that you must emphasize to feel satisfied after eating.
The key is protein, fat & fiber.
The rate at which food leaves the stomach determines how quickly you become hungry again. The more rapid the transition of food out of the stomach, the faster the onset of hunger. In contrast, the longer food stays in the stomach, the more likely you are to stay satisfied. Carbohydrates increase stomach emptying. Food rapidly leaves the stomach and within a short time you are hungry again. Proteins, fats and fiber act in opposition. They act to slow down stomach emptying and tend to keep you satisfied longer. Good examples include meats, oils and fiber-dense vegetables such as broccoli.
Add more fat!
So now you understand, that adding more high-fiber veggies, protein and fats is the key to feeling “full” or more satisfied. Surprisingly, of those 3 the fats are the ones I have to remind my patient to eat more of. It’s so easy to add fat to your meal. Maybe it’s a little extra dressing, or cooking in olive or coconut oil, or maybe just adding some avocado. If you do these things, you will be and stay satisfied longer after you are finished eating. The most important thing to remember is that when eating Paleo, it’s not about how much you eat but rather what types of foods you eat that determines your success!
Functional Medicine Starts with Good Detoxification
A lot of people think that a detoxification means that you take some supplements and then run to the bathroom all day, I am here to tell you that is not what this is and not what I’m going to talk about. That is not a detox, it’s a colon cleanse aka “colon purge”. That is a short term solution to a specific problem, there are no long term benefits when you go that particular route. What I am talking about here, is giving the support your body needs to clean out toxins and impurities and function the way it needs to. The toxins inside of you come from your own body as well as the out side environment. If you do not remove them, they will cause your body harm.
Getting back to basics
Now that we have lined out exactly what detox is not, let’s talk about what it is. And it makes more sense to talk about it from a functional medicine stand point. As in, we need to support the functions of our bodies, by using detoxification as a medicine. If you look at it from that perspective it means going back to basics. You cannot realistically expect your body to function well when it is overrun with toxins.
Toxins come from many sources. Most realize that toxins can be found in the air and water. However, a lesser known source includes food, and not just the chemicals on it, but in the case of genetically modified food, the food itself. Additional hidden sources are also new carpet, paints and common household solutions. The point that I am making here is that toxins are ubiquitous in our environment. Here in Houston, we are not only a metropolitan area, but also close to the petrochemical industry. Toxins lurk around every corner. If nothing else, they are in the air you breathe. You cannot run from them. Likewise, we also make toxins internally daily. So even if you are in an ideal environment free of toxic burden, you still need to have an adequate detoxification system. Adequate detoxification should be part of any health maintenance strategy.
What is detoxification
Yet, detoxification is not a guaranteed process. It can become sluggish. This is where functional medicine and detoxification meld. Detoxification as the term is commonly used implies a theoretical process that the body must undergo for a defined period of time to rid itself of a buildup of toxins. It assumes that once the detox process is complete, the body will have rid itself of the toxic accumulation. In reality, this is not the way in which detoxification functions. Detoxification is about taking a fat soluble substance and modifying it to water soluble, thus made easier for excretion. This process happens daily and is dependent on having adequate nutrient availability, specifically B vitamins, antioxidants and amino acids. However, hindrance of detoxification can be secondary to thyroid dysfunction, poor sleep habits, and hormones just to name a few.
Detoxing is a lifestyle not an event
When you go through a poorly executed detoxification, there are usually symptoms present. These usually include headaches, skin problems and hormone imbalances. Underscoring function as the primary importance in human biochemistry, functional medicine ideally the best route to go when you are wanting to realign your systems functions and overcome impaired detoxification systems. There are a plethora of reasons. As I practice functional medicine, I am thinking big picture not thinking of 1 single system. It takes many systems functioning together to make a proper detox happen. If you are only looking at one system from a reductionist’s standpoint you are singling out the other systems that are just as important in the process. Also, functional medicine as an approach, can help guide you in many aspects of your life while trying to learn to detox your body, because it affects more than just your diet. When you start thinking along the lines of a science based approach, the impediments and causes of impaired detoxification can be addressed completely. What this mean is that you will learn to support your detoxification daily not just for a short period of time. This is a lifestyle. The best part about it is that you won’t be falling for those “detox” gimmicks that claim they will detox you, you will actually be taking care of your body all of the time so that you will not get to a point where you feel the need to detoxify yourself. You will be caring for your body the way you are supposed to.
We have a 14 day Detoxification kit available that I recommend. It is comprehensive and includes everything but the food. It even has a meal plan to help aid your body and the supplements in the detox process. This can jump start you into a new healthier lifestyle. Please contact our office if you would like to set up an appointment to discuss this with me.
Health care needs a face lift, and this is how it needs to be done.
The Affordable Care Act
For a long time now we have known that we need a change in Healthcare. It seems more people are getting sicker, and that increases the demand on services and its getting harder to pay for these services. And now we have the the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare, which promises to insure a new paradigm in medicine. The one thing the new healthcare law has in common with the current administration of medicines, is that they are both designed to alleviate symptoms rather than treating the underlying problem.
Sick care or Wellness??
Our state of healthcare has many many problems, the the problem that stands out the most is that people are treated for being sick. “Sick care”. When we need to be focused on “Wellness”. This is just one of the reasons that the new healthcare system will do very little to fix you health problems. The idea of the new legislation is to make care available to everyone. In theory, this is a good idea, but follows the way of socialized medicine, which by all accounts is a system patients do not want to be seen in. Moreover, clinicians are limited in their ability to deliver care in such a system due to restrictive guidelines. The question must be asked, “What kind of care are we talking about delivering?” The emphasis of a doctor visit is to attend to your immediate needs, not guide your health down a path of wellness. How is this acceptable?
The focus of medicine has to change if we expect the burden of healthcare that each of us shares to go away. Medicine needs to take on a new image. That image is functional medicine. Functional medicine is based on the idea that if all aspects of the body are functioning as intended, health abounds and sickness is subdued. The body is an integral system with all areas dependent on each other. To understand how to support health, a doctor must have the time to listen to your concerns and procure a better understanding of your health limitations. This is not our current model. The current model, even with the new legislative oversight, limits the doctor-patient interaction to insure that everyone is seen. Everyone may be seen, but at what cost?? Both financially and as it relates to your health.
Your ailment is just the starting point to find out whats really wrong with you.
Finally people are starting to recognize Functional Medicine, people are starting to understand how functional medicine can keep you away from the Doctor. Wellness is the future. Taking care of yourself, getting tested eating correctly instead of “dieting” this is the future. To prevent sickness. It is the only way to limit or remove what we spend on sick care. If we use it less, it costs us less. If you keep thinking that you should only see a Doctor when you are sick, or ailing, the wellness message will continue to be lost. Functional medicine points out a different path. We need to focusing on wellness from before time of conception until passing.
If you could imagine having a Doctor focus on every aspect of your life, how you feel inside and out, what you eat, what is your outlook on life, are you satisfied, how much do you exercise. That is Functional Medicine, this is the future. Most people still view Functional Medicine as something new and unusual, but less so now. People are educating themselves more, they are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Literally. The reason it’s changing is because people want someone to care about the way they feel. Someone that will really listen to them and look a little deeper. One size does not fit all, antidepressants do not heal everyone. Not everyone that cannot sleep needs medicine. What are the reasons? Why does this person feel this way? These are the questions that need to be asked. You don’t have to be a prisoner to the constraints of limited, system oriented care. You don’t have to wait until Functional Medicine is popular, you can do something now. You can see a Functional Medicine Doctor, and find out why you feel the way you do, and how to fix it forever naturally.
Weight loss Do’s and Dont’s
Time to lose weight and feel better!
So maybe you have gotten through Thanksgiving, the holidays, or you are tackling your New Years resolution, but it’s time to get that weight off! If you are new to the Paleo diet, that’s ok, follow these 10 easy steps, and I guarantee you will start losing weight and feeling better. I recommend that you do these steps in conjunction with the 14 day detox kit I give to my patients, but with or without the detox you will feel better.
1. Stop eating ALL sweets for seven days straight. This includes sugar in your coffee and tea. Detoxify yourself of sugar in order to gain control of
your cravings and increase your energy.
2. Do not use any margarine, Crisco, or hydrogenated vegetables oils. These are adulterated oils and block weight loss. Instead, use extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil, walnut oil, flax oil, hazelnut oil, and coconut oil.
3. Avoid white flour. This includes white rolls, bagels, and pasta. The two greatest weight gain foods are bread and pasta.
4. When possible, avoid grains. Most common grains contain gluten, which is known to inhibit weight loss. ( This includes corn!)
5. Drink at least 8-10 eight-ounce glasses of water each day. Water from a home filtration system is best
6. Do not skip meals. There should be no more than two to three hours between each main meal. Eat snacks in between meals only if you are truly hungry – not because you are bored or stressed. Healthy snacks, see 1, 3 & 4.
7. Eat protein every meal to stabilize your blood sugar levels. This will help control your appetite and reduce your cravings for sugar and starches.
8. Review the Modified Mediterranean / Paleo Diet for specific examples of foods that you should be eating.
If you have any questions or would like to purchase a 14 day detox kit feel free to contact us.
Don’t forget to exercise moderately to increase your weight loss and also to feel better and more motivated.