today may be living longer, but often they’re living with
significant health issues. While conventional medicine routinely
relies on medication to treat symptoms, another approach, which
focuses on identifying the cause of health problems, is gaining ground
in the health care industry.
recently, we haven’t done a good job of trying to understand the
underlying causes of health issues," says Dr. Kristen Reynolds, a
family practitioner with Aurora Health Care who specializes in
functional medicine gaining a foothold in the health care industry,
doctors are beginning to look beyond pills and prescriptions. Using
basic science, functional medicine focuses on identifying the root
cause of health issues rather than just treating the symptoms.
"Functional medicine digs deeper," explains Reynolds.
Anne Sherman, a nurse practitioner in Brown Deer who has incorporated
natural remedies into her practice for more than 25 years, functional
medicine looks at how the body functions and heals itself.
a growing patient demand for functional medicine," says Sherman.
embracing the approach as both a preventative measure and a means for
treating chronic health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure,
fibromyalgia and arthritis. "If people’s symptoms don’t
improve with conventional treatments, they’re willing to explore
other options," says Reynolds.
pharmaceuticals may be used temporarily to control potentially
life-threatening conditions like high blood pressure, functional
medicine focuses on lifestyle changes, including nutrition, stress
management and using supplements, vitamins and herbs to get people’s
health back on track.
and Sherman say nutrition is a fundamental component of functional
medicine. The approach advocates eliminating processed foods and
incorporating more whole foods. In some cases, doctors may prescribe
an elimination diet to identify food allergies or sensitivities that
may be triggering certain health issues.
believed that most health problems can be alleviated through good
nutrition and by removing stressors that impede the body’s normal
functioning and ability to heal," explains Sherman.
meeting a new patient for the first time, Reynolds asks, "When
was the last time you felt well?"
to the patient’s story so I can understand the evolvement of events
and identify any major stressors or trauma that triggered dysfunction
in the body."
Reynolds orders a battery of lab tests, from routine blood work to a
toxic metals screen to genetic screening. She may also recommend
dietary changes, as well as a regimen of vitamins and supplements. At
a follow-up visit six to eight weeks later, treatment plans are
tweaked based on lab results and patients’ specific needs.
Sherman are quick to point out that functional medicine is not an
alternative to conventional health care. "Functional medicine isn’t
an ‘either or’ scenario," says Reynolds.
Oncology is one
area that successfully uses both conventional treatments like
chemotherapy and radiation, coupled with lifestyle changes advocated
by functional medicine to support patient healing.
research available to support treatments commonly associated with
functional medicine, people have become more interested in the
approach as a complement to conventional health care," says